Introducing Go Rurban: A social event that connects the urban with the rural

​​​​​​​Making the most of the global pandemic, a small group of urban youth visit various villages in Madhya Pradesh to learn about non-violent economy.

Go Rurban: A social event

A 34-seater bus travels through the kaccha roads of rural Madhya Pradesh intent on transporting its 16 urban passengers before sunset to the nearest village. While most city-folk would have tired of a week-long journey across mainland India with a minimum network, members of the Go Rurban Yatra and Camp make the most of the event-mantra “disconnect to connect.”

“Go Rurban essentially focuses on the shift from an urban lifestyle to a sustainable rural lifestyle. We believe in the Gandhian teachings that promoted the assimilation of rural with urban, thus using the word “rurban,”” says one of the event coordinators Anand Jaiswal.

Organised by Gandhian organisation Ekta Parishad and youth organisation Ansh Happiness Society, Go Rurban is a social event that aims to bridge the gap between urban and rural with an active inclusion of youth. Organisers pick a diverse route that connects various villages with a thriving economy.

“The idea is to encourage youths to break away from a wasteful urban life and reintroduce them to their roots in villages,” says Jaiswal.

This year, they selected a route from Itarsi village in Hoshangabad district to Katni village in a district with the same name from November 17 to November 24. The tour will be followed by a four-day camp wherein participants will present their findings.

Organisers selected villages seeking to understand the impact of Covid-19 on rural economy and to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Manav Jeevan Vikas Samiti (MJVS) another parent company of the Go Rurban initiative. 

Explaining the coronavirus lockdown theme Jaiswal says, “We wanted to understand the impact of the reverse migration during the lockdown. At the same time, we also wanted to think of employment opportunities at the local level. Our participants consist of students who are interested in such initiatives to recreate models of economy.”

Over days, participants took an interest in organic farming that discourages the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides. Urban folk would call it a “sustainable way of living.” However, Rurbans prefer to call it a “non-violent economy” because the method involves no exploitation either of people or of natural resources.

“We have a student from Odisha in our group who came for the camp to explore non-violent means of agriculture,” says Jaiswal.

On their third day of the journey, the group visited Chhedka village in Sohagpur district, also known as “Gandhi Gram” for adopting Gandhian lifestyle. Here participants learnt how women villagers revived the village’s dying economy by making organic soap. According to Jaiswal, once villagers succeeded in marketing the product, the profits helped invest in further organic farming and rainwater harvesting.

Rurbanites were also taught about Adivasi lifestyle and their endemic troubles during the trip. For instance, the group learnt about the Janadesh movement of 2007 in Toda village of Sagar district where members of the Ekta Parishad – that is also known for their prominent role in land rights movement – worked with indigenous folks to assert their forest and land rights.

“Many participants had no idea about the struggles of Adivasi communities in India. They learnt all about the movement and realised the importance of forest rights and how forest rights officials in the area allegedly harassed locals,” says Jaiswal.

Four senior Ekta Parishad members guided the group through the history of the movement that talked about tribal exploitation. They also introduced some of the rural youth who talked about contemporary troubles such as better quality of education, medical facilities. They illustrated why rural people preferred to migrate and stay in urban areas that offered better facilities.

Participant and psychology graduate Tanvi Makkar says, “Initially I thought the two groups would not interact much. But I was surprised to find so many similar topics of discussion. I realised in the end that both groups want development. That’s human nature.”

While one of the rural youths told Makkar such meetings with urban folk gave locals the confidence to talk about their culture and their troubles, the Go Rurban stood firm on their thought that rural areas have more to offer to urban folk rather than the other way around. Both Makkar and Jaiswal appreciate the community feeling that the tribals shared not only amongst people but also with the nature around them.

“Urban folk can only take such knowledge from rural areas. We have nothing to offer. However, we would still like to help out in developing ways to generate employment in villages so that people do not have to travel long distances for quality of life,” says Jaiswal.


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