In a country where the tail often wags the dog it is hardly surprising that 31.16 percent urban population also sets the national agenda for the whole of India, including 68.84 percent rural population.
In cold statistical terms a little over 377 million urban Indians dominate more than 833 million rural Indians when it comes to the country’s development discourse, policymaking and economic direction. You can also think of this as the tail leading the cow.
Although successive Indian governments have poured hundreds of billions of rupees in rural subsidies since India’s independence in 1947 and made a significant difference in rural poverty, the country’s 640,867 villages remain visibly backward compared to its over 14,000 towns and cities.
The rural-urban divide has always been so stark in India that Indians make a distinction between Bharat (the country’s traditional name) consisting of its vast rural, often impoverished and toiling masses and India consisting of its urban, often prosperous population.
My friend and fellow journalist Neelesh Misra (Read The mayor of Memory Town) and some of his close associates will launch “Gaon Connection” (Village Connection), described as “India’s rural newspaper’, tomorrow. The basic idea is to create an entirely rural-focused newspaper staffed predominantly by rural journalists. Its mission is to “Give a voice to rural India” and help bridge some of the rural-urban information divide.
While some of India’s 11,000 newspapers and journals do have elements of rural focus, there are not too many that are entirely driven by rural content and concern. ‘Gaon Connection’ begins first in all the 40 districts of India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh, home to over 155 million rural population which is India’s largest in a single state accounting for over 18 percent of the national total.
Neelesh eventually intends to publish ‘Gaon Connection’ nationwide in many other languages. He says he is taking care to see that while content will be of immediate interest and consequence to those living in villages, its construction and execution will be very professional in terms of writing, layout and technology.
I strongly recommend the readers of this blog, as few as they are, to visit ‘Gaon Connection here to get involved and possibly make a donation. It is a worthwhile cause.
On a personal note, I have decided to write a column for the newspaper. For the first time in my life I will write prose in Hindi. After writing my inaugural piece, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my Hindi is not half as bad. Remember Hindi is not my mother tongue.