NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Vimlendu Jha is the founder and head of Swechha -- We For Change Foundation which is based in India's capital, New Delhi.
"For the rest of the world India is powerful, but for many residing in the countryside, India is still disempowered, hungry and naked."
Swechha started out as an organization to combat the pollution of the city's main waterway, the river Yamuna. Today it deals with the environmental issues that affect several aspects of Delhi.
Vimlendu leads volunteers and local children to key sites around the city to tackle the ecological problems, as well as to raise awareness of the issues. Follow his efforts in his blogs and video diaries.
October 18, 2007
We traveled, along with 100-odd kids from one of New Delhi's most progressive schools, The Shri Ram School, to the rural part of our country, to Kempty Village in Uttaranchal.
The purpose of the visit was to expose these young minds (ages 15-17) to the existence of another India.
Most of us have an illusion of India becoming a powerful nation and it is on a phenomenal growth trajectory. We are not so much seen as a developing nation but a developed nation. One wonders what actually makes a country developed, when most of the parameters of development are skewed, as is the case of our country. For the rest of the world India is powerful, but for many residing in the countryside, India is still disempowered, hungry and naked.
Up to 70 percent of Indians still live in villages. Most of the time these villages are neglected and are centers of poverty. Development around India's cities has brought a flood of people from the rural areas who come in search of jobs. This population comprises the "urban poor" which is more vulnerable than the rural poor.
Imagine, India still has more than 260 million people (26 percent of the population) living below the poverty line. In the last 10 years, we have had at least 40,000 farmer suicides in the country -- indicative of the growing gap between the poor and the rich.
The purpose of this trip was to learn, and unlearn, about village stereotypes or notions we live with. The village in Uttaranchal wasn't as extreme an experience as other remote villages of India, but it was indicative of the hardships that people live with.
Another reason for the trip was to celebrate the simplicity and generosity of the villagers vis-à-vis we, the insecure urbanites, and also to understand their hardships, due to our over-consumption and false assumption that our wrongdoing does not necessarily influence the rural population -- when we know it does.
For many students, it was a first-time, first-hand experience of a village. Some were overwhelmed with the beauty and many were saddened by the villagers' plight. The outing also gave them an opportunity to contribute in some way. Students worked in the fields, helped the villagers in agricultural work and breathed the clean air.
It was a wonderful experience, aimed at understanding the gap between the two exisiting worlds; to bridge the gap between these two worlds. E-mail to a friend