Saturday, March 31, 2012

Demystifying Village ‘Dhaanis’ in Peri-urban Gurgaon – Insights from Jhanjhrola Khera

Jhanjhrola Khera, one of the intervention villages in Gurgaon, has about 50 households located in the village fields/agricultural land, away from the main settlement area of the village. These settlements are called ‘Dhaani’ as per the local dialect. As a researcher, one always wonders what led to such settlement pattern, when it happened, what status do they have in terms of voting rights, how is the settlement named, where is it located etc.

In Jhanjhrola Khera, settlement of people in Dhaani has taken place over last 10-15 to 50 years. Also, not all 50 households are located at same place. They are divided across 15 small groups, each comprising of 3-4 households. In terms of caste composition, Yadavs are in preponderance, with close to 46-47 houses. Pandit, Jaat and Rajput community have a single household each. In terms of access to main roads, people can either go to the adjacent village viz. Mubarakpur, or take the highway and reach Sultanpur village or walk down through the settlement area of Jhanjhrola Khera. In terms of voting right, these households belong to a specific ward number from the village and are allowed to cast votes. Their access to water is through the same water supply pipeline that supplies to Jhanjhrola Khera, Sultanpur, Iqbalpur and Mubarakpur. In order to understand the flow of water with respect to Jhanjhrola Khera Dhaani, one needs to know that water first reaches Jhanjhrola Khera. The main pipeline that supplies to Jhanjhrola Khera goes further ahead and supplies to Mubarakpur. Jhanjhrola Khera Dhaani is in between these two villages. So, households have taken connections from this pipeline in order to meet their daily water demand. One may wonder, if the village Dhaanis exercise same level of rights, as the main village, in case the water supply system fails!

Settlement of people in these Dhaanis has been driven by numerous factors. For instance, farmers who had smaller plots in the village settlement area, decided to settle down in their own agricultural land, which were big and thus allowed more individuals to live together in a family. Thus, increase in family size could also be a factor that has led to settlement of people in Dhaani. Farmers whose agriculture fields were far away from the village, also moved to the village Dhaani. This way, they could save the time needed to reach their fields. It also saved time needed by women to carry lunch to their family members working in fields. Carrying fodder also became easier. As per a farmer from the village, people who did not mingle much with other villagers, also decided to settle down in Dhaani. Apart from these factors, movement of people to Dhaanis have also been driven by easier access to sweet water. A common remark from people, when asked about how they used to access drinking water in past is, “pehle to hum kheton se paani bhar laaya karte the”, i.e. we used to fetch water from the fields. In Sultanpur, a nearby village, settlement of people outside the official village settlement area, has been solely driven by availability of sweet water! Thus, availability and access to water is another important factor that is responsible for movement of people to village Dhaani.  

Being an integral part of any village, Dhaanis do have interesting dynamics associated with them, especially in terms of their access to resources. Thus, it is important to take them into consideration and understand these dynamics, as part of research work.  

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