Beyond the skyscrapers of "Millenium City" Gurgaon lies a village called Palra. A village of 7,000 people which has seen only one case of COVID-19 so far but has donated Rs. 21 crore to the Haryana government's coronavirus relief fund. It is among the five villages of Haryana that have together donated Rs. 50 crore to the fund. None of these villages, however, are facing a Covid crisis. The money has been donated by the village panchayats, from the development fund of the villages.
Haryana has over 42,000 COVD-19 cases. Across these five villages, there have been a total of only five cases; one case in Palra and four in Nasibpur. The other three villages have not seen a single case.
While Palra village, which is in Gurgaon, has donated Rs 21 crore, Sersa and Rampur in Sonipat district have donated Rs. 11 crore and Rs. 2.5 crore respectively. The village of Bal Jattan in Panipat district has donated Rs. 10.5 crore and Nasibpur in Narnaul has contributed Rs. 5 crore.
Villages in these areas tend to have funds running into crores due to compensation for frequent land acquirement projects. Palra still has Rs. 23 crore left.
But residents of the village narrate the lack of basic facilities. The only school in Palra is only up to Class 10. Many girl students are struggling as other schools are several kilometres away.
"All parents worry about how to send their girls alone for such distance. There is no conveyance. It's very troublesome to travel.
Sometimes the auto takes too much time. We also hesitate in travelling alone and our parents also get anxious. Our school should be till Class 12 so that all girls can study here itself without getting stressed. Parents also won't have to be worried," Jyoti, a student, told NDTV.
Panchayat members claim they have proposed the expansion but the government is yet to approve. Rajendra Kumar, a panchayat member, said, "The main issue is our school. We are building rooms with our own panchayat money. We are requesting the government that our school should be till Class 12. Our daughters travel long distances to study."
In Sersa village of Sonipat, Rs. 11 crore has been donated for Covid but residents complain that electricity comes for only two hours during the day and that the village does not even have a primary health centre.
Rinku Ritlan, a resident, said, "It is a huge issue. During the day, electricity is there only for two hours. In the evening too, it's there only for a few hours. There are frequent power cuts. All houses have inverters and they manage only because of that. We have to go to private hospitals. There is no dispensary. We have to go to Singhu which is 3 km away."
But the Sarpanch of the village, Neelam Devi, claims that a proposal for installation of solar panels at each house has been pending for over two years and defends the donation, saying it's meant to help poor people. She said, "Electricity is a big issue and we have been trying to get solar panels installed at each household so that in each house, at least one fan can run and kids can study in the light. But this file is stuck with the government for 2.5 years. We are not helping the government or officials but poor people. We may not be able to directly interact with many people, but they are going through a lot of trouble. We will give (funds) to the government so they can then give it to people struggling with money, food and medicines. We can't reach all such people directly."