A short documentary on Chai Gramutsav can be seen.

Chai Gramutsav Model: Initiating Development

Many personalities from Uttarakhand, who have had a humble village background, have made their names in various fields at the national level. But if one looks at the villages of their ancestors, one sees that their villages are still underdeveloped in all aspects of the economy. In Uttarakhand, many villages are getting abandoned and turning into ghost villages due to permanent migration and if this continues, the villages will finally turn into ruins. It is therefore imperative that some of them start writing the social history of their villages – for posterity!

Even after the formation of the new state of Uttarakhand in 2001, the trend of out-migration has not stopped. The development indicators do not seem to have improved down the years to check migration. However the new generation of people is now showing some concern about the conditions of their villages and feel the need to do something about the issue of migration and development.

Doing something on this issue, began in a small way in the village of Chai, in Lansdowne sub-division of Garhwal District in Uttarakhand. It all started with a three-day gramutsav-village festival in the year 2010 on the occasion of Ganga Dashera. Most of the Chai village families do not live in the village now, being only visitors to their village on various occasions though not collectively. The author along with other village decision makers decided that besides the rituals and Pujas, the three day long programme must also include discussion on issues related to history and development, besides having some local cultural program. For the discussions, many local and other experts were invited to the gramutsav.

The families who were planning to come after many years were rightly anxious about the logistics (arrangements for the lodging and boarding) as their village houses were not in proper condition to put up in, particularly bathroom/toilet facilities for ladies and children who were not used to open defecation. The organising committee predicted these problems and made adequate arrangement for bedding through the local ‘tentwala’, which included a community kitchen for the three day fest.

Today in 2021, due to the gramutsav, the village water and sanitation situation has improved and all families have bathrooms and toilets. The funding for the gramutsav came through contribution from villagers settled outside the village. Finally, there was more revenue collected through people’s contribution than the actual expenses incurred. Now besides cultural programs, the festival has incorporated regular health camps assisted by the state health department, literature distribution and talk on disaster management by the state government. Puppetry, theatre, Science workshop for students and lively debates on development issues by various experts and individuals from the development and NGO sectors.

The Village festival-gramutsav has been successfully conducted since 2010 and is fully sustainable. Though Chai gramutsav has been inviting and calling neighbouring villages to participate, it is time other villages all over the state and also in other states conduct their own gramutsav and participate in their development process.

Despite tragedies faced by families, the gramutsav continued uninterrupted, as it was amply clear that the village festival was not a family or group function but a collective function to promote culture and tradition and to expose the new generation to the various social issues facing the village and ultimately the country. The point was also to see what way one contributes toward village development, and thereby to the nation building at large. In the year 2020 and 2021, due to Covid-19, only the pooja rituals was conducted, which was also low key affair with social distancing protocol. All cultural and other activities were cancelled.

The gramutsav can be initiated by community based organisations all over the country thereby encouraging people’s participation in development process as well as in preserving rich cultural heritage. The gramutsav should be encouraged and supported by the state government through the Panchyat Raj Department.

We hope the gramutsav becomes a tradition and may lead to an interest amongst the coming generation for an affinity for villages thus becoming partners in nation building.

A power point presentation is attached above on Chai Gramutsav: A Model for Development and Culture Wanted your opinion as I feel – ‘DEVELOPMENT IS A MANAGEMENT ISSUE’.

With Regards Devendra Kumar Budakoti