Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee |

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Where have the small villages gone?

Political commentator Mohan Guruswamy has recently written what we have been witnessing in Odisha for a long time now: small villages are fast disappearing.

“Data from the Census of India show between 2001 and 2011, villages with population of less than 1,000 have sharply declined across all states. People have moved to larger villages, pretty much as urban people move to more connected colonies in search of better jobs and education opportunities.

The number of uninhabited villages in India was 45,000 in the 2001 Census. That number has risen, though the 2011 Census does not provide precise numbers. It instead shows that of the nearly 640,000 villages it had counted, over 13 per cent or 82,000, had a population size of less than 200 each. Less than one per cent of the rural population lives in these villages and many of them are likely to fall off the inhabited map by the time the next census comes around”.

Why is this happening? Major reasons are: livelihood issues, more opportunity to earn, better living condition, opportunity for education for children, and medical facilities.

As small villages are deserted, big villages are not necessarily getting bigger, as there is migration from those villages to nearby towns and from towns to big cities. The infrastructure of big cities is unable to cope with the migrating population leading to several problems.

Steps must be taken to a. stem the migration, b. improve the infrastructure of big cities and c. create new cities with proper planning for future expansion.

Save Wetlands

Wetlands are essential for humans to live and prosper. They provide freshwater and ensure our food supply. They help sustain the wide variety of life on our planet, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.

But unfortunately we are destroying our wetlands in the name of development. And we are reaping the consequences. Look at Bhubaneswar. With its hilly terrain with natural drainage system, there should not be any water logging. But because of blocking of the natural drainage system and filling of wetlands- the city is experiencing heavy water logging in the rainy season and water crisis, with receding ground water level in the summer. This has happened and is happening in several cities big and small across India. The recent unprecedented flood in Chennai and almost regular flooding of Mumbai could be partially blamed on this.

We need to save our wetlands before it is too late. With this objective 2 Feb is observed as World Wetlands Day. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat provides outreach materials to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands.

The Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands have decided the theme of 2019 Wetlands Day: Wetlands and Climate Change. Theme for 2020 is: Wetlands and Biodiversity. .

Book Fair

More and more book fairs are being organised in different parts of Odisha. Bhuaneswar has more than five book fairs a year now. Almost all towns are now having book fairs. As per a conservative estimate over 70 book fairs are now organised across the state.

But when it comes to the sales of books, things are not very encouraging. In the fairs the bestselling book categories are: religious books, children’s books and how to books. So much so that some book fairs have been organised only with this category of books. Books related to literature and other subjects gradually are losing ground so far sales is concerned.

Many of the book fairs are now turning to kind of mela with umpteen numbers of food stalls and stalls selling stationeries and knickknacks including feng sui articles. The literary and intellectual discussions generally organised at the book fairs are losing attraction. The organisers collectively need to think something out of the box to revive the attraction of the Book Fair.

Tailpiece 1: 40 years of marriage

A married couple in their early 60s was celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in a quiet, romantic little restaurant.  Suddenly, a tiny yet beautiful fairy appeared on their table.

She said, ‘For being such an exemplary married couple and for being loving to each other for all this time, I will grant you each a wish.

The wife answered, ‘Oh, I want to travel around the world with my darling husband.

The fairy waved her magic wand and – poof! – two tickets for the Queen Mary II appeared in her hands.

The husband thought for a moment: ‘Well, this is all very romantic, but an opportunity like this will never come again. I’m sorry my love, but my wish is to have a wife 30 years younger than me.

The wife, and the fairy, was deeply disappointed, but a wish is a wish. So the fairy waved her magic wand and poof…the husband became 92 years old.

Moral: Men who are ungrateful should remember fairies are female.

(Courtesy: An anonymous Email forward)

Tailpiece 2: Pyar ka Panchnama

Mera pyaar Rafale jaisa hai…. Tumhein iski keemat kabhi pata nahi chalegi. (My love is like the price of Rafale Jet. You won’t never know its real price.)

(Courtesy: Social Media Forward)

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Journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Central Odisha town Dhenkanal. An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat has been compiled ibnto a book. For a free e-copy of the book, write a mail to him.

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