I visited Kushgram Village in Baruna panchayat (local government area with cluster of villages) under Kaliyaganj block in Uttar Dinajpur district on 21 Dec, after 18 years of my last visit. The place has changed a lot. Entire stretch from Hat Kaliyaganj village had been upgraded from mud road to metal road under the PMGSY scheme of the government, and indeed about 2 kilometers of road in and just ahead of Kushgram had been already so badly damaged that it was practically non-motorable. Lots of houses had come up along the nearly 10 kilometer long road that there was hardly any empty space but for a few paddy fields.
Not many people, all of them tribals from the village remembered me. I could not recall anyone’s name, except I remembered a family where there was a blind girl of about 5 years old who would get excited just at hearing my voice. I used to walk the muddy streets during my three or four visits to that village at that time. So, I told the people about the girl. One of the elders in the village said that she died about 8 – 9 years ago due to malnutrition and lack of care. Her father also died about 5 years ago. The gentleman reached me to their home. I sat on a bench outside. One of her sisters, Mariam greeted me. She could recognize me although she was too young at that time. She spoke about the family issues, about her father Mr. Jiten’s death, and then took me, just by impulse and by hoping that I would help, to another family of “Churki” (I shall speak about Churki and her family in my next blog.)
As we were about to just walk across the street to go to Churki’s family, Mariam said, “Let me lock the door and come!” I got a shock! 18 – 20 years ago no family in this area would lock their homes. There was huge trust among the families. No one would steal another’s. If someone required something from another’s family, they would ask for it, or if the other is not present would take it and inform the family, or return it later. But, lock? Never. I watched other doors too. All of them had padlocks. Has with civilization we have become more alert? Or, have we become more alert because there are more thieves around? Has the sense of insecurity increased along with any sign of prosperity that is visible? Who has taken away these people’s innocence and honesty? Who is the threat to their property and little wealth they have? Questions continue to bother me, as I left Kushgram.
Kushgram, the name means a village of happiness, has turned out to be not so Happy any more!