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In the dawn of new era, cities are constantly facing problems with rapid growth. Both, in population and in economy. On the other hand, the rural areas are left behind in this race. Owing to which, rural youth is lured into migrating to cities in search for better opportunities. But this only increases the problem. The already strained cities cannot afford to take in new individuals. Moreover, the people migrating leave behind valuable resources that can be put to better use. Talking about living standards, the incoming people struggle to lead a peaceful life. Ownership of new property is out of the question. Hence, renting is the only feasible option! Here we ask – Why can the rural population not stay at home and try to improve the living standards there?

Such problems can be looked after in an initiative that not only provides income security but also helps in improving livelihood in rural areas. The first step is to understand the reasons for this rift between the Rural and Urban. The rural has always been looked down upon by the ‘advancing’ urban sector. Moreover, owing to industrialization, many villages in the outskirts of cities have been converted into huge production units, which have their own drawbacks: ranging from environmental issues to health and housing. But the worst and the most basic drawback is what we call ‘Home-alienation’. The whole corporate and social scenario has so evolved that being independent and free is considered a taboo. The rural population, which used to depend on agriculture, has thus alienated from a free, self –sustaining and independent life style to a system of specialized labor. The pace of infrastructural development thus left the rural areas far behind in such a way that many of these areas lack basic state supplies like roads, electricity etc. Thus, one of the prime objectives of Hidden Treasures is to decrease this existing gap and thereby curb exodus of rural population to cities. Moreover, to make the rural population feel ‘wanted at home’. Being a holistic approach, Hidden Treasures also tries to send a message in society which asks one to break free from the calibrated money- brick – cement and iron lifestyles and lead a life closer to their essential nature.

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The very first initiative taken by the company is called “Life in Kolti”. Kolti, being a small village 5km from Mussoorie, is one of those where roads haven’t reached yet. Life in Kolti is a travel program which makes one understand the daily challenges faced by the people of Kolti to sustain themselves. As one walks through the cart-tracks between the hilly forests, one feels the hardships involved in transporting village produce to Mussoorie daily. Moreover, induced activities like birding, reveal to one the beautiful world of nature, which has been long forgotten in the cities. The cultural program during night, gives one raw cultural experience as no special artists perform on stage. Rather, the village people gather themselves at the chaupal and begin to sing and dance on the beats of ‘Dhol’ and ‘Damau’. Regional food adds to this beautiful life experience.

Now, mentioning the other side of this program. As many as 12 people are given work under this program. These people cook, collect wood, maintain the campsite, and also initiate cultural proceedings. Thus the travel program should initially be instrumental in securing the income in the village. Gradually, to make the village self-reliant, activities like agriculture should be encouraged, this would add to the income security. Thus, a part of the problem is solved!

At the same time it is also necessary to match the rural knowledge systems with the ever progressing urban knowledge systems. Thus, as a first step, a small public library has been opened in the village. This should enable the village to widen its horizons in terms of knowledge. Moreover, this knowledge can then be reproduced in regional languages, thereby saving the dying language communities.

Once the project starts generating income and solving problems of basic necessities, Hidden Treasures plans to move out of the village, giving the village full control of the project, thus completing the task of empowerment.

And for the people with free traveler spirit, this program should not only be a simple and deep raw cultural experience but also an opportunity to be a part of a beautiful process of change. Kolti is a place for anyone lost in the city existence to find themselves again in the heavenly, almost spiritual surroundings.

As mentioned earlier, Hidden Treasures, is a holistic approach towards rural empowerment, it is therefore not feasible to mention all the minute details of the program. But the things that should be noted are: ‘Life in Kolti’ is a Cultural- eco Travel concept, where the daily functioning of the village is not intruded in any manner, be it the ecology, the resources or the lifestyle. The camping site is developed above the village and is lighted using solar lamps. No food is wasted, nor is the area polluted with plastic or any other substances. Any waste produced is carried back and dumped in proper dustbins at Mussoorie.

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