Tale of Divided Villages

On my recent travel to Agra, I was impressed beyond words to be travelling on 165 km long six lane( convertible to 8 lane) super highway. I guess that’s the only road in India which is at par with international standard highways. It surely is a pride for nation like India to boast of super highway. But there was a lesson for small nation like Bhutan to learn from that super highway. The massive 13,300 crores Rupees pumped into the highway was an initiative of Uttar Pradesh Government contracted out to Jai Prakash. Jai Prakash now owns highway for 36 years. They charge toll fees  and also make money from other facilities along the highway including the refreshment services like tea and coffee which costs about Rs. 50 per cup. Inside Indira Gandhi International Airport, tea costs Rs.30.

What surprised me more is the fact that the whole stretch of road from the first point that highway begins right till it ends is the fencing on both sides of the road which divides one villages across the road to another on the other sides of the highway. The villagers have no access to the road.  If they have to go to their neighbour on the other sides, they will have to take detour on their dust tracks. Villagers can only see the cars and buses almost flying on the road but in no way use it because their roads are not connected to it. Two worlds are created by the road: Better world is owned by a capitalist and the lesser ones by those who have lost their voice and that also in their own village. The capitalist goes to the extent of monopolizing not only the road he has been contracted out but also the essential services and other facilities and that also for 36 years. If lifelines like road are to divide society, neighbours and businesses with its long fences, super highways or any other development will have no meaning whatsoever.

It may therefore be important for us to study not only the immediate monetary benefits that some mega projects may bring but also the dividing lines that may break society, neighbours and country folks.


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