By Jayprakash Panwar ‘JP’
There is an idiom popular in Uttarakhand that the water and young people never benefit the region. However, there are young people like Govind Singh, who came back to his village roots and is doing extraordinary work. Today, he is in the news for the construction of a road connecting to his village.
The story of Govind begins in 2003 when he left his village in the quest for employment. He migrated to Mumbai with his uncle and struggled much to get a job. After a few months, he joined as an intern news cameraman with DRISTHI, a local cable television news network in the Baasi area of the city. Along with his internship, Govind enrolled in the National Institute of Photography, Thane-Mumbai, and completed a diploma course in professional photography. He did not stop there and wanted to learn more about film cinematography. To fulfill his desire, he went to Pune and got admission to Bakshi Institute of Media Studies. This institute was then run by Mr Bakshi, a retired professor from the reputed Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Govind got another diploma in advanced cinematography and went back to work with DRISTHI. During his duties, he covered big news stories like American President Barak Obama’s visit to Mumbai, the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, the Dadar bomb blast and many more.
“Though I was working in Mumbai, my heart always beat for my village,” says Govind. While visiting various places in Maharastra, he experienced that the people of the state have strong belongingness to their roots, culture and language. Govind felt his emotions getting stronger by the day, which persuaded him to return to his roots. He kept looking for an opportunity to come back to his home state of Uttarakhand.
Finally, in 2012, Govind Singh returned to Dehradun and joined a news channel. In the meanwhile, he got married. From 2012 to 2019, he worked for ETV, News 18, and Zee News. During this period, he covered many important news stories in the state. However, time was again not in his favour. Zee News reduced its staff and Govind lost his job. He was on the road; he tried but found no solution. In the same period, in 2019, Village Panchayat elections were due, with the state government likely to announce them soon. Govind took this as an opportunity to go back to his roots. He packed up and finally back to his village with his family.
Though his father was not happy with his decision, his mother backed him.
After having 17 years of job experience in various media channels, Govind covered many success stories of village and community development and was always inspired to do the same at some point in his life. He was mentally prepared and fully motivated to work in this direction. He started organising the villagers and his friends to contest the Panchayat election as Pradhan. He became a popular candidate as an elected representative of his village. However, time again was not on his side. The seat of Pradhan was reserved for women. Govind was upset and, seeing this, his wife, Manisha Devi, volunteered to fulfill his long-lasting dream. Govind experienced hope again and accepted his wife’s decision. He discussed this issue with the villagers and they stood behind him. Finally, the election was held and Govind’s wife was elected Pradhan of Tunda Chauda village of Pithoragarh district.
Now, Manisha was in the driving seat of village development. Govind started supporting her in village planning. The first priority was to repair the old water pipeline and, after a few months, they succeeded in accomplishing this. In the follow-up, they achived another success by getting sanctioned a new water scheme worth Rs 90 lakhs. It has been temporarily halted due to the Covid-19 crisis. Before this, they have also completed the construction of 4 cement concrete village paths and 5 big water ponds for rainwater collection, conservation, and recharge of local streams. Govind’s efforts have continued for the maintenance of the electricity line, installment of a mobile tower, and big achievements are awaited.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, many youths of his village came back. They discussed constructing a bike ride path to the village through voluntary work. Road connectivity has always been part of Govind’s mission, but he was not able to find a way to do it. He had made efforts in this direction but felt hopeless due to the attitude of officials and local politics. The migrant youths’ idea gave him hope and Govind called a village meeting to obtain consent. Many villagers were not in favour of motor roads due to loss of their agricultural land. After several attempts, finally the Tunda Chauda villagers not only gave their consent for this but also extended their support in the contribution of voluntary labour. And the mission of motor road construction began. Simultaneously, Govind interacted with the neighbouring villages, Itana, Dubai and Aagar, as their support was necessary to accomplish the construction up to the main roadhead at Kandara Chhina, a local market.
Very soon, the efforts of the Tunda Chauda village youth became an attraction for the media, local and state politics, and the government. Govind coordinated all these with a very patient and cool mind. He urged his local MLA, Meena Gangola, for her support for the technical road survey. She informed Govind that she would construct this road with her MLA fund. However, Govind wanted her support for the road survey, only, as he had already stepped into the mission. Finally, the next day, the MLA sent a surveyor. Soon after, other adjoining village youth, women groups joined hands in the road construction. In the meanwhile, a local JCB operator sent his machine for the road cutting. The news reached the Chief Minister’s office and the Media Advisor, Ramesh Bhatt, offered Govind whatever help he needed. Govind asked that, if possible, the district administration could help by providing at least 2 JCB road cutting machines. Within three weeks’ time, 75% of the road construction work was completed. Meanwhile, local politics intervened and, suddenly, the PWD withdrew the road cutting machines without completing the task. Govind’s mission was again halted. However, he did not get disheartened. He appealed to all the villagers for monetary contribution to complete the task. His appeal worked and, soon, he had succeeded in collecting Rs 2 Lakhs. He engaged a new JCB machine on a per hour rent basis and within 10 days, finally, he accomplished his mission by completing the construction of about a 3 km road to his village, Tunda Chauda. Three neighbouring villages also got the benefit of this mission and were linked to the road connectivity.
Today, vegetable and grocery shops have shifted from Kandara Chhina local market to Tunda Chauda village, and LPG as well as taxi services have started. Govind’s aged uncle traveled to the bank to fetch his pension after 11 months.
“When, for the first time, villagers saw that local taxis had reached their village, they all were mesmerised and moved,” said Pradhan Manisha Devi.
“This is just an initiation, the list of tasks is long but now, together, we are both feeling more confident and committed to the village development mission,” adds the newsman of the hour, Govind Singh.
(The Writer is a Freelance Journalist, Radio & TV presenter and a Documentary Filmmaker.)