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Posted at: Feb 11, 2018, 1:43 AM; last updated: Feb 11, 2018, 1:43 AM (IST)

A Karnal village caught between TV and smartphone

Parveen Arora in Karnal
A Karnal village caught between TV and smartphone
Mundigarhi villagers say community TV watching promotes social bonding. Photo: Sayeed Ahmed

Parveen Arora in Karnal

Across the communication technology’s all-embracing spread, it is not that every wrinkle is smoothened out, or every speck of ‘ignorance’ is dusted off. Come visit Mundigarhi village, about 35 km from the district headquarters, you’d find a menagerie of religious beliefs tending to outweigh harsh socio-economic necessities in a delicate balance of social bonding. Guess, what keeps the life going in the village of over 400 families? Community TV watching — something we witnessed decades ago — in the age of the smartphone. 

The television has completed 20 years in Mundigarhi, the last village of the district in Gharaunda block on the Haryana-UP border. The first television set came to the village in 1997. Since then only 20 villagers have bought TV sets and have converted their ground floor-living room (baithak) into a hang-out zone, where neighbours are welcome anytime to watch a common popular programme. 

Though elders in the Muslim-majority village have not imposed any viewing restrictions, the residents on their own avoid programmes that tend to promote violence or exaggerate family tensions. “All of us - women, children, boys and girls — watch family programmes, movies and news channels together. The attempt is to keep the impressionable minds away from certain aspects of modern-day culture,” says sarpanch Asjad. Yet there are stereotypes like 37-year-old Mohammed Nazim who stick to their own interpretation of religious texts. “Islam me terah saal se upar ke logo ke liye television dekhna haram hai (watching TV is prohibited for the people above 13 years of age).” The sarpanch, a business graduate, quickly counters him: “There is no such thing. One should watch decent programmes.” Ishak (65) goes a step further: “People bond better when they watch TV together. In any case, how can you stop anyone from watching anything when most youths already have android phone.”

The sarpanch says the village has only one primary school with over 300 students. But the village’s two madrasas have over 500 students, including girls. The village is perhaps the most neglected part of the district: it has no health facility for humans or domestic animals. Approach roads are unpaved and the residents depend on neighbouring villages for their daily requirements. 

The general impression is the school does not encourage girl students to study further. The village boys, though, go to nearby villages to study. Suleman, who has two daughters and two sons, says his 18-year-old daughter is completing her Islamic education after completing her fifth standard, while his elder son is in second year of graduation. The younger son is in eleventh standard and younger daughter was in fifth grade. “This is a kind of tradition; the girls study only up to the fifth grade. I have seen only two girls who have reached the college level.”

Gharaunda MLA and HAFED chairman Harvinder Kalyan says the village school has now been upgraded to the eighth standard. “I am very serious about girls’ education. I will try my best to upgrade the school to a secondary level in the coming days. I want to reduce the girl school dropout level,” said Kalyan. “I have also arranged a public transport service for the residents of all the five Haryana-UP border villages. The connectivity of this village with other villages is being strengthened,” he said. There is also a need to spread awareness about benefits of information technology, he said.

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