Indian villages are governed by a local council called a panchayat – ‘panch’ meaning five, and the panchayat being the council of five citizens, elected by the villagers, on a five year cycle, to govern their affairs and control such monies as government puts their way.
The man or woman getting the most votes is the chairman of the panchayat – the ‘sarpanch’.
Some elections are straight, while some are not.
Some panchayats govern well, and some do not.
Our panchayat presides over three villages – Baas, Gairatpur Baas and Pandala. Their combined population is just short of two thousand and with seven classes in school year 10/11 we have 290 children registered.
The school lies alongside the main road through the village, looking over the village tank (lake) towards the temple, shrouded under the three hundred year old banyan tree. The Baba (holy man) is very supportive of our efforts.
It lies on village common land, which has been nominated for 33 years for educational purposes via a panchayat resolution now in the laborious process of being registered in the state capital Chandigarh. Also in that resolution it was stated that as we build the buildings they are given to the panchayat, and further, that the management and development of the school is devolved upon the Baas Educational Trust. This gives the project substance which we trust donors will find comforting.
The result is that the village are progressively becoming more supportive (every child in our age group comes to school and pays a little to do so) and they will, we hope, become ready to pay more for their education as our added value becomes clearer, nothwithstanding that the Govt should give it free, but fails to do so.
The three villages are about fifteen kilometers south of the Haryana city of Gurgaon, our local administrative centre – putting them about 50 Kms south of the centre of Delhi. This traditionally muslim-rich area was well denuded of population at partition in 1947 and the remnants lack any social cohesion or structure. There are no old houses, old lineages or ancient families.
There is a state run school in the first village Baas; and our original purpose was simply to put the primary school in the middle village so that Pandala children found it easier to attend. But when the state school was seen to be dysfunctional we had to convert ours into being a private school.