There are no Yoga teachers in Palsunda

There are no Yoga teachers in Palsunda. Of course, there aren’t. There are no washer men, vegetables vendors or even chai shops. People don’t work for others as maids, drivers or cooks. The two small grocery shops in the villages sell an anemic selection of goods. Why is this important? Because, it impacts rural poverty and inequality significantly.

Palsunda is a small village — around one hundred families large — in the tribal block of Mokhada in Thane district. The jungles in the area have long been decimated. The copious amount of water that falls in monsoon runs off almost immediately because of the low moisture absorbing capacity of the topsoil. Hence, nearly everyone grows just one crop. In the seasons other than monsoon, people migrate to cities to look for work.

I have visited the village a few times and my last visit was just after Diwali. The place looked different as many migrant villagers were back for the festival.

There were brick kiln workers, a couple of young men who worked in Amazon logistics in Bhiwandi and a government schoolteacher who lived in a nearby town. Their earnings — ranging from a high thousands to many tens of thousands were much higher than the earnings of villagers from farming. These young, educated and smart guys were happy to spend this money on their families back home.

The big bucks went on electronics and transportation — refrigerators and television and motorcycles and this naturally happened in the city, as there is no chance of a distributor setting up shop in the village. It is just too small.

There were no avenues even for small spending. Families cook for themselves, clean their own homes and launder their own clothes. Nobody steps out for a snack or a chai because there is no restaurant. Most people would not even buy biscuits or fire crackers in the local shop, as the selection there is meager. A non-migrating farmer told me that his family of 5 spends around only Rs. 50–60 a day. This money is spent on basic necessities like sugar (1 kg every two days), oil and spices. Everything else is discretionary spending. If it is done, it is done outside the village.

In a way, this lack of trickle down comes from a culture of self-reliance and is admirable. However, this has implications for poverty and inequality in rural India. In cities, people earn money and spend it on goods and service delivered in the city. People from Palsunda also spend money on goods and services delivered in the city. So families that have members with good jobs in the city do well financially. Others, not so much.

What can be done about this? I have no idea. In fact, I am not even sure if this lack of trickle down is a widespread phenomenon or is restricted to very few villages in the country. Although, I suspect that many of more the 6 Lakh villages in India have this problem to varying degree.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many people have studied this issue. Do leave a comment below if you have observations on this topic and / or if you have come across good writing on this subject!

Palsunda Diaries: Observations from visit to rural India. These are not based on rigorous analytical studies and hence there is a good chance that my observations are wrong or not indicative of a wider phenomenon.

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Yogesh Upadhyaya

Yogesh Upadhyaya

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Entrepreneur. Economist. Investor. Actor. Technophile. Policy wonk. Comedian. I love to explore places where these worlds intersect.