27 October, 2020

A Thar Spring

A woman sarpanch rewrites the script in an 'inured' Rajasthan village

Jitender Gupta
A Thar Spring
The border between the districts of Churu and Nagaur in Rajasthan is the perimeter of the Thar desert, where the soil beneath the foliage starts turning to loose sand, and the groundwater further down becomes infested with salt. It is the beginning of camel and chinkara country. It is not, however, where you would look for one of India's most radically successful panchayats. Pinned down on one side by an ungenerous state government, and by a society suspicious of change on the other, panchayats in Rajasthan have little history of promoting anything other than political careers. The more remote villages here are, in the words of Union panchayati raj minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, "about as inured from the outside world as it is possible to be in the 21st century". Still, there is room for exceptions. It's only by searching through deserts that you find the oases.

It takes some searching to find the village of Gopalpura, in Sujangarh tehsil. The nearest large city, Jaipur, is two hundred kilometres away. Most of the six thousand residents still...


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