On India’s Republic Day, January 26, the Birhor living in a small village in the state of Bihar were connected to the electric grid with the rest of modern India. Two days later, the Hindustan Times published a description of the village and the ceremonies involved with turning on the electricity.

Birhor village residents
Birhor village residents (Cover photo from the book The Birhors of Chotanagpur Region by Sudhir Kumar)

Light bulbs flickered on in the village of Dudhimati, in the Nawadi District of Bihar that day. The correspondent writing the story colorfully referred to the village, in the words of the Google translation, as a bunch of “houses without windows and doors.” But the people finally joined, in a few ways, the mainstream of Indian society. The local Sub-divisional Officer, Chandrashekhar Azad, had taken the initiative in bringing modernization to the village.

About 100 people live in the 20 dwellings in Dudhimati. Except for one house which already had an electric connection, the administration has provided new light bulbs in all the other homes.

Birhor woman with children
Birhor woman with children (Screen capture from the video “Birhor—a Tribe Displaced for Nothing” by VideoVolunteers on YouTube, Creative Commons license)

The Republic Day ceremonies in the village (in India, Republic Day is essentially their Independence Day) also included a special gift for the Birhor children. Karyanand Sharma, President of Bright Career Educational and Welfare Trust of Nawada, pledged to support primary education for free for the 21 children in Dudhimati. Support from the trust includes an arrangement whereby a teacher in a nearby school will begin teaching reading to the kids. They also are providing school clothing for the children plus pencils, pens, and copy books.

Furthermore, administrators decided that the village needed to have road access—the footpaths to the outside were no longer good enough. Heavy equipment was used to cut a new roadway through foothills to reach the community. Soon the road will be paved. Also, a water tank and public toilets are in the works.

During the Republic Day ceremonies in the village, the oldest resident, 89-year-old Arjun Birhor, raised a flag held by Chandrashekhar Azad , the Sub-divisional Officer. Prakashveer, the local member of the legislative assembly, attended as did other administrators of the subdivision. The people of the village reportedly crowded around, quite curious to see what was going on.