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Notes on the Geography of Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva

Three villages within a day's drive of Delhi are shown here. The first is Rani Khera, on the far western fringe of the Delhi metro. The second is Khaluwas, a couple of hour's farther west, in Hissar District. The third is Maheva, east of Agra and in the Etawah District. The first benefits from the nearby capital, the second is a "pristine" village, the third played a once-famous role in India's efforts to modernize its many thousands of villages.

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Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 1

Rani Khera or Kheri, a village now on the western outskirts of New Delhi, looks traditional but is being swept along in the tide of development.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 2

Consider electricity and the new architectural style just a bit further along the same street.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 3

The previous pictures were taken about 1990; the next few, in 2006. What changes had occurred?

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 4

The approach here is from the west, in other words Delhi lies ahead.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 5

A branch canal, an important part of the economic history of the village.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 6

Maturing wheat in a landscape that seems, for lack of machines, timeless.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 7

Farmer's grief: lodged.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 8

Smack in Rani Khera. Forget subdivisions. There weren't any, but many homeowners now had the money to build their own castles.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 9

Another example.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 10

Street scene, with an old though now paved lane and a fine display of family wealth.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 11

A different kettle of fish. This is Khaluwas, a village south of the town of Hissar, or Hisar.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 12

It seems deserted.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 13

Actually, this is a more prosperous village than it seems, thanks to irrigation, which has arrived in the last few decades. New canals have drawn many residents to houses, out in the fields, leaving many old houses as cattle sheds.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 14

One family was still resident behind this gate. That circular object visible through the gate is probably a manually operated fodder chopper.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 15

Agribusinessmen of Khaluwas, posing next to the irrigated land that is their wealth.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 16

The source of the water.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 17

Village women now have piped water.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 18

Where do such improvements come from? They're the result of a century of community-development work. One important chapter in that saga began here in Maheva, in the Etawah District east of Delhi. This was the site of the first great, post-Independence push by the Government of India to transform a nation of villages.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 19

However severely you want to judge the results of the Etawah District pilot project, Maheva itself is certainly a very different place now than it was 50 years ago. The bicycles alone, let alone the motorized rickshaws and paved road, hint at the transformation.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 20

This village alley may not seem much changed, but the brick path was one of the accomplishments of the development project, and it replaced one of dust and mud. The project was the brainchild of an American named Albert Mayer, who devoted himself to this project for years, with the support of Nehru. The place attracted a lot of attention: even Eleanor Roosevelt visited.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 21

A government fertilizer warehouse, built as part of the project but made circular only because a circular foundation was available under the ruins of an old jute facility. Jute itself is gone from the district.

Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva picture 22

Mr. Tripathi, living near the warehouse because bandits threatened him in his own home, down in the jungle alongside the Yamuna River. The conversation drifted to Hindu-Muslim relations. His views would have been welcome to the most ardent Hindu nationalist. Anyone wanting to understand Muslims, he said, should study Israel's experience.


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