An off-lying village in Kamareddy district of Telangana has put in place a special rule for outsiders. To enter, they need to produce an Aadhaar card as proof of identity. The rule has been around for about 10 years and was formulated by the village head, panchayat members and locals. An outsider must deposit the Aadhaar card at the village secretariat on the outskirts and provide personal details.
The small village of Pedda Pothangal has a population of around 2,500. Most residents rely on farming-related activities to make a living. The villagers lock their homes in the morning and leave for the fields, returning only in the evening after finishing work.
According to locals, many years ago a person draped in saffron clothes and vibhuti (sacred ash) smeared on his body had entered the village during the afternoon hours. He went to a house and told the lone resident that he was a noted ‘Swamiji’. Looking at his appearance, the villager was easily convinced.
The outsider then persuaded the resident to perform a puja for well-being, good health, increased wealth, and a better future. For this, he asked the villager to get gold ornaments and place some photographs of deities. The ‘Swamiji’ said that the gold jewellery would double in amount after the puja and the gullible resident believed him.
After a little while, the villager went inside the house to get something sought by the stranger. However, when he returned, the ‘Swamiji’ was nowhere in sight and the gold was also gone. A search was organised by some locals but they failed to find the stranger.
They then decided to establish a screening system and settled on Aadhaar cards. Even after outsiders provide the identity proof, villagers keep watch on them for the duration of their stay in Pedda Pothangal: be it someone’s relatives, or hawkers and small-time vendors.
While leaving the village, the outsiders can collect their Aadhaar cards from the secretariat.
Locals say since enforcing this rule, there has been no case of theft or cheating in the village.