Bikaner, also called the city of camels, is a 500-year old desert district in north western Rajasthan. It is situated at an elevation of 238 meters above sea level with coordinates 27°58’49″N and 73°18’30″E.

Village Gharsisar is a small settlement on the outskirts of Bikaner. History says that about 200 years back, it was one of the districts in the republic of Godara Jats in Jangladesh, whose chief was Pandu having 700 villages in his state with capital at Shekhsar.

For administrative purposes, although Gharsisar has come under the city limits since about two years now, yet it continues to resemble a loosely underdeveloped and impoverished village.

The inhabitants living in the 400-odd households of Gharsisar, mostly belonging to minority communities, primarily Muslims, are from a poor socio-economic background. Parents and children toil for daily wages in factories, homes, in agricultural fields and as unskilled construction workers that usually do not even meet their daily requirements.

On an average, the families dependent on daily wages get employment for about 15-20 days in a month, which again, to a large extent, is dependent on the agricultural cycle, rains and the prevailing market. The average income for a family here is small and they are only able to buy the very basic necessities. Most families have borrowed money from money-lenders at high interest rates, which add to their vicious debt cycle. Amongst other factors, the exceptionally low level of education and social awareness make them vulnerable.

Potable drinking water is a serious problem and Gharsisar like several other villages still has to do without its own captive ground water source, having to rely on illegal water connection outlets. One can see women and children walking to the nearest water point with mud pitchers precariously on their heads. Even the smallest children take part in this regular and time consuming task. There however exists a community water harvesting structure built by the ruler of Bikaner which is now in a pretty bad shape, lying uncared for.

Access to basic amenities like primary health care, drinking water, primary education, large family size and lack of opportunities of securing adequate livelihoods have emerged as the major problems faced by the poor households. The houses belonging to poor families have one or two semi-pucca rooms, which the inhabitants themselves build using locally available materials like unfired mud bricks and plastered with a mixture of mud, cow dung and mud. The houses do not have toilet facilities and the family members have to go out in the fields. They cook food on firewood and cow dung cakes collected from nearby fields. Very few houses have underground water storage tanks (Kunds). Of late, illegal tapping of electricity has become a widely ‘accepted’ practice here.

Chewing of Gutka is common phenomenon in Gharsisar religiously practiced by both, young and the old, men as well as women.

The communities have been living here for generations and their way of life is steeped in customs and traditions. A traditional practice in the rural Thar is that girls post marriage go and stay with their husband’s family. In the Thar, it is a practice to get the girls married off very early but she continues to stay with her own family. By the time they are 14-16 years of age, a small ceremony called ‘gauna’ is performed and the girls are sent to her husband’s family. It might be noted here that the average child bearing age in the rural regions of Rajasthan is around 15 years.

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