Rural Tamilnadu- Project Description and Execution (2018)

         Rural India/Tamilnadu- Survey and results

               In 1997 I edited a review book, Tamilnadu- Yeserday-today and tomorrow. Status of several topics were analyzed starting from agriculture, economy, center-state relations etc. to dance, drama and cinema. The analysis was carried out by experts in the respective topics. The review books were distributed freely to libraries in Tamilnadu and Pondicherry. Dr. K.P.Aravanan functioned as India coordinator and Gopal Rao Rajaram served in the editorial board. The book was well received by the newspapers and researchers in India.

As a follow up to the above work, I thought of assessing Tamiladu by common people through their direct experience. The project focus was now changed to rural Tamilnadu. I discussed with my friends Rajaram of Connecticut and S.Ramakrishnan of Virudhunagar/Chennai. We decided that we will hire field workers to interview villagers in all major districts of Tamilnadu and get their input on their problems and expectations. A questionnaire was developed to touch upon various areas affecting daily life and the field workers conducted the survey in the year 2000. About 1000 people from 23 districts were interviewed. Statistically it is a small sample size compared to the large number of rural people. However, we have to start somewhere to get the feedback of the people. Assume that it is a representative sample of one grain for a pot full of cooked rice.

The survey results were tabulated and summarized by S.Ramakrishnan in the year 2002 in the form of a brief report.  Ramakrishnan picked top ten issues from each district and listed in a table for all 23 districts. I am summarizing the issues mentioned in the table here.

  1. Hospitals
  2. Ration
  3. Water
  4. Panchayat Administration
  5. Alcohol
  6. Agriculture
  7. Caste
  8. Government Help
  9. Road
  10. General Hygiene
  11. Transportation
  12. Fair Price Marketing
  13. Toilet
  14. Employment
  15. Housing
  16. Small Industry
  17. Telephone
  18. Wastage
  19. Religion
  20. Excessive interest rate for loans
  21. Graveyard availability
  22. Environmental
  23. Loans
  24. Land
  25. Communication
  26. Street Lighting
  27. Law and order
  28. Irrigation
  29. Library
  30. Temple

It is of Ramakrishnan’s view that the following ten problems are the most important ones.

  1. Drinking water
  2. Healthcare
  3. Ration
  4. Transportation
  5. Lack of employment
  6. Caste Discrimination
  7. Lack of government subsidy
  8. Toilets and Public Hygiene
  9. Fair trade of rural products
  10. Safe housing

In addition to the above, following areas were identified as problematic during the survey.

  1. Agriculture
  2. Family
  3. Education
  4. Newspapers, TV and Cinema
  5. Law and order
  6. Electricity and street lighting
  7. Panchayat Administration

Ramakrishnan  tried to find a common thread among  these problems. Inefficient Panchayat administration and Government departments, lack of knowledge of government assistance programs  by the village people, negligent attitude of Government officers when approached by villagers, interference from politicians and the discrimination fueled by caste system are some of the culprits behind these problems. It was also observed that people from villages are migrating towards urban centers due to changes in their family structure, education and lack of employment.

For several years, I tried to identify experts to comment on the thirty issues surfaced in the survey but I was unable to complete it due to various reasons.  It will be useful to follow it up now and analyze the problem areas identified by this survey.

It is important to note the distinction between individual complaints and collective polls and surveys when they are publicized. Individual complaints can be easily ignored by the Government and its officials. But when grievances are put together and presented to the public, the administration comes under spotlight and it will be hard for the Government to ignore the public scrutiny.

I have uploaded the hitherto unpublished report into this blog on the occasion of 71st anniversary of India’s independence from British rule. How valid are the results of the survey after 18 years? The true answer can come only from experts and social workers monitoring rural India. However it is my belief that a healthy discussion on these topics should generate positive outcome for rural India/Tamilnadu.

Thanks to S.Ramakrishnan for hiring the field workers, documenting the survey results and writing the report. Thanks are also due to numerous field workers and like minded friends who helped Ramakrishnan’s survey in India.  Last but not least, the survey participants in 23 districts of Tamilnadu deserve our special appreciation.

Natarajan Muruganandam

New Jersey, Aug 15, 2018