While driving through the green fields of western Uttar Pradesh, I stopped at Buxar for a cup of tea. Buxar (also spelled Baksar) is a small village near the sugar town of Simbhouli in the Ghaziabad district of UP. The stopover that was intended to be 15 minutes extended to well over three hours once I began a conversation with the local people.
Buxar is located just 112 km from the National Capital on Delhi-Lucknow National Highway (NH 24). It is inhabited mostly by sugar farmers. Most of them are economically well off. Their children are studying in English medium schools. Girls are encouraged to go to school. Many of them travel to Simbhouli town, 9 km away, to attend their English medium schools.
TV, tractor, mobike and smart phones have taken prominent place in the villagers' life. With this, potato chips, chocolate, pasta, noodles and porn have also surreptitiously entered the village life.
A decade ago the community leadership (Khap Panchayat) was dominant and parochial, and hence feared. The situation has changed perceptively in past one decade. The community leadership is now supportive not restrictive. I met a local Jat leader who emphasised that educated girls can only check the degeneration of the society and culture
. Village life
Interestingly, no one in the village was aware that Buxar is also a district in Bihar that enjoys a prominent place in the Indian history. A few in the village have never taken a vacation. The tourism to most of them still means pilgrimage to Haridwar (with a day trip to Mussoorrie), Char Dham in Uttrakhand and Mata Vaishno Devi in J&K. As per one village elder, the tourism for their generation was limited to a visit to the Braj Ghat (Bank of Ganga in Garh Mukteshwar, 19 km from Buxar) during annual Ganga Mela in Hindu month of Kartik or a visit to the Dargah of Hazrat Matru Shah Miya in Rampur District, 144 km from Buxar.
In the past 10 years, many youth have travelled to Nainital, a popular hill station in Uttrakhand 225 km from Buxar, for their honeymoon. I was informed that recently, two newlywed couples had their honeymoon in Goa.
It is not the financial affordability that has kept these people confined to their village. It has to do more with the perceptions. Most middle-age people I spoke to, felt that tourism is for the elite and educated. However, the youth and children do not necessarily concur with this view. They have heard stories of Mumbai and Dubai from their friends who have gone to work there. Many of them aspire to visit Goa and Bangkok to experience the freedom of life. Lack of English speaking skills is the primary reason that inhibits them from venturing out for tourism purposes.
I am sure the day is not far when the children studying English in schools will grow up and would want to explore the world around them.
One glimpse of the future was shown to me the following day, by the owner of a midsized hotel in Nainital. He said, "The number of tourists from smaller towns has increased manifold in recent years. These are not necessarily low-budget tourists but do not like to spend on 'room rent' and good food. Their social etiquette does not really match the traditional tourists to Nainital, who were essentially urbane and educated. Consequently, the traditional tourists are now avoiding this destination and opting for overseas travel. There are frequent traffic jams and brawls. Some upscale property owners are already finding it hard to sustain and many low-end property owners are extending their facility in an unauthorised manner with the connivance of the local administration."
From what I observed, I feel:
(a) If the current trend continues, we might need to develop more than five thousand new tourist destinations in next decade, in the states of UP and Uttrakhand alone.
(b) The sustainability and ecological issues if not addressed immediately and very strictly, the situation will be beyond reparation in the next one decade and the consequences that would follow could only spell disaster.
(c) All curriculums must include training in social etiquette and road etiquette as integral part of the school education.
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Vijay Kumar Gaba explores the treasure you know as India, and shares his experiences and observations about social, economic and cultural events and conditions. He contributes his pennies to the society as Director, Equal India Foundation.