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June 6, 2000
Nyala 'unaffected' by Clinton visit
Kamla Bora in Jaipur
United States President Bill Clinton may still be telling audiences the world over about the information technology revolution sweeping rural India and the grassroots democracy (panchayati raj) that he saw at work here. But for the residents of Nyala, the nondescript village he visited last March, nothing has changed for the better. Their hardships and struggles continue.
The media hype has died down and life is back to normal. "People used to talk about Clinton's visit in their leisure hours. Now we have our own problems to worry about," says Chiranji Lal Khandelwal, a shopkeeper.
Discussion centres on the coming monsoon. They inquire whether it will be normal, solve their drinking water problem. Taps are running dry most of the time. Even otherwise, the pressure is so low that people have to collect water by digging holes beneath pipelines outside their houses.
Residents depend on handpumps installed in public places, many of which are not functioning. Mistaking this correspondent for a government official, an illiterate Santo Devi pleaded with folded hands to do something about the water problem. "Please provide us water or we shall die of thirst," she pleads.
Local officials concede that drinking water is a problem. The ground water level in and around Nyala is precariously low. Ditches and the local taalab, or tank, have gone dry and people are banking on the monsoon, expected in the first week of July, to provide relief.
What about the IT revolution in the village, the computerised milk co-operative society of women and much-hyped internet-connected panchayat, a first in Rajasthan?
"Our panchayat is yet to get a telephone connection and you ask about the internet," says sarpanch Kalu Meena. The computer on which 'tutored' women members of the co-operative demonstrated their skill to President Clinton is lying unused.
The freshly painted building, where Clinton spent more than an hour and danced with local womenfolk, is the only reminder of the big event. The public health centre housed in the complex has two new tables and an instrument to measure blood pressure, a gift from the US president. The nearby higher secondary school got 40 chairs from the VVIP guest.
However, Meena reveals that the panchayat had refused to accept any gift from the Americans. "We were asked to purchase anything worth Rs 5,000 as a gift from the president. The panchayat politely refused the offer. We would have gladly accepted even a small gift had Clinton given it to us. But this was different." "Accepting such an offer is below our dignity," he says.
We thought the event, which brought our village's name on the international map, would transform this township into a big tourist attraction, bringing prosperity in its wake. However, it seems Nyala does not even exist for the administration, comments another member of the panchayat, Dharmendra Khandelwal, mincing no words while expressing his dissatisfaction with official apathy.
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