Travel to Northern India: Rani Kheri, Khaluwas, Maheva
Three villages within a day's drive of Delhi are shown here. The first is Rani Kheri, close to Delhi. The second is Khaluwas, a village farther west, in Hissar District. The third is Maheva, east of Agra and in the Etawah District. The three are significant as different ways: the first as benefitting from a nearby city, the second as representing a "pristine" village, the third as representing India's efforts to modernize its many thousands of villages.
For much more on Maheva and Etawah, see Village Development.
From Rani Kheri, a village now on the western outskirts of New Delhi. The picture shows several traditional elements, but the village itself is being swept along in the tide of development.
Tides? Consider electricity and the new architectural style just a bit further along the same street.
The previous pictures were taken about 1990; the next few, in 2006. What changes had occurred? A plausible expectation was that the village had been swamped by new subdivisions and was now part of Delhi.
The appraoch here is from the west, in other words Delhi lies ahead, on the other side of Rani Kheri.
A branch canal, an intrinsic part of the economic history of the village.
Maturing wheat in a landscape that seems, for lack of machines, timeless.
Farmer's grief: lodged.
Smack in Rani Kheri: forget subdivisions. There weren't any. The village was still just that, except that many homeowners now had the money to build their castles.
Street scene, with an old though now paved lane and with a fine display of family wealth.
A different kettle of fish. This is Khaluwas, a village south of Hissar settled some generations ago by Sufis from the desert to the south. There was a curious spookiness to the place.
It seemed deserted.
Actually, this is a more prosperous village than it seems, thanks to irrigation, which has arrived in the last few decades. Those canals have drawn many residents to new houses, out in the fields. Many of these old houses are now only cattle sheds, creating a kind of Indian ghost town.
One family was still resident behind this gate. That circular object visible through the gate is probably a manually operated fodder chopper.
Agribusinessmen of Khaluwas, posing next to the irrigated land that is their wealth.
The source of the water.
Village women now have piped water.
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, east of Delhi in the Etawah District. This was the site of the first great, post-Independence push by the Government of India to transform a nation of villages.
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.
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.
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.
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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