Almost every family in Hariharpur village in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh has a musician. Nearby Nizamabad village is famous for pottery made of black clay and silver embroidery. A third village in the district, Mubarakpur, has world-class handloom weavers. Despite such rich culture, the three villages are poor and lack even basic education and healthcare facilities.
The Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD) is trying to conserve and nurture the rural heritage of the three villages for sustainable economic growth through ensuring livelihood to rural residents in their traditional habitat.
ITRHD is working towards setting up a music academy and a museum of musical instruments in Hariharpur village. The organisation, which is headed by former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister S.K. Misra, is also trying to set up temperature-controlled kilns for the potters village of Nizamabad. They have also trying to get world class designers to the village of weavers, where they can be taught about fashion and their work can be popularized.
"On the one hand, we are trying to popularize the local culture of the three villages. And on the other, we are trying to set up schools and healthcare facilitates in the villages," said Misra, who was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2009.
ITRHD is in the process of setting up a primary school at Hariharpur. The organization has selected six women from the village who are either graduates or have cleared their 12th exam to teach at the school. The six women are undergoing four months training in Varanasi after which they will take care of nursery classes in the school which will start functioning in February 2013, in two local houses taken on rent for that purpose.
"Five out of the six women are daughter-in-laws, which means they would always be in the village," said Misra.
Meanwhile, the British Council has decided to construct the primary school building. "A team of three architects — Clem Blackmore from the UK and two others from Norway visited the village and decided our school project deserved support. The British Council will provide Rs 11 lakh for the construction of the school building and the three architects will camp in the village for three months to oversee the operations. The building will be low cost and in vernacular style with no use of cement. Local people will also be trained in building operations such as carpentry, plumbing etc," said Misra.
The organsiation is also in talks with hoteliers in Varanasi, which is close to an hours' drive from the three villages, to have a day-long tour. "Varanasi attracts a lot of foreign and domestic tourists every year. We are planning if they can we brought to the village where they can shop in Nizamabad and Mubarakpur through the day and can have attend a music concert at Hariharpur in the evening," said Misra.
ITRHD has also started a magazine, Explore Rural India, that attempts to highlight rural works and projects that are being undertaken all over the world.