The Other Vidarbha

When villagers are free to do what they want

Jaideep Hardikar of DNA reports something that P Sainath somehow manages not to (linkthanks Neelakantan). A village in Vidarbha that refused to take up the UPA government’s “debt relief” measures and…is doing rather well for itself.

The Girata SHG, to which he’s a mentor, is imitating his mode—farming and live stock management that reduces risks and shields them from volatilities. “We transport milk in autorickshaws to Washim, where we sell it,” informs Prakash. The dairy collective clocks a monthly income of Rs4 lakh with a net profit of Rs1 lakh, which is shared equally by its 20 members. That comes to a modest Rs5,000 a month-per head or Rs60,000 per annum, in addition to the returns from agriculture. Each member contributes Rs100 to the collective as his monthly saving. Thus the 20 members save Rs2,000 every month, or Rs24,000 annually.

A majority of the villagers are now linked to this activity. Now, the neighbouring 23 villages have decided to follow the model, with Girata as the epicenter. “We’ll increase our production, form a 23-village federation, and diversify into processing,” says Prakash. The collective that owns an autorickshaw, a tractor, and a deep-freezer now wants to buy a van with a chiller for better milk transportation. The SHG has also set up an outlet at Washim to sell milk to consumers. Two women’s collectives of the village have taken on the responsibility of keeping the financial records of the village dairy. [DNA]

Imagine the UPA government’s policy initiatives had focused on building good roads and reliable power supply instead of seeing the problem as one of “debt”.

The Girata initiative is an experiment—it’s too early to tell whether it will succeed. But what it shows is that people take the initiative to help themselves. Imagine the government stopped discouraging from doing so.

Related Links: Vidarbha whodunit; half-baked solutions; and Suvrat Kher’s post on groundwater management that was published in Pragati.

6 thoughts on “The Other Vidarbha”

  1. Very encouraging indeed.

    More such stories are needed and needed to be heard. The media and its vested interests frame the narrative in debt terms and that soon takes a life of its own and becomes conventional wisdom.

    Takes more effort and thought to understand a problem than I give our dhimmedia any credit for.

  2. Interesting piece. Concerning this:

    Imagine the UPA government’s policy initiatives had focused on building good roads and reliable power supply instead of seeing the problem as one of “debt”.

    Vote banks apart, do the government’s policies also reflect a fundamentally flawed viewpoint that does not adequately recognize the value of self-reliance? A remnant of socialist thinking, perhaps? Just speculating 🙂

  3. photonman,

    a very cynical view of why governments like to frame the problem in terms of debt is that credit is very convenient ideologically. Handing out cheap loans ensures that you can provide funds to political allies and then nudge-wink when they default. Creating a regulatory environment for insurance and savings, which are far more important, doesn’t benefit your allies.

  4. Instead of responding to Sainath’s work you choose to spin media reports to your own ends.

    He reserves 30 per cent of his 10-acre-farm for food crop: mainly sorghum. “It was our region’s time-tested model,” he says. “But the farmers shifted to cash crops and forgot to grow jowar, bajra, millets. These provide food security to my family, and fodder to the animals. Plus, they help me do organic farming, which reduces expenses on chemicals,” he says.

    Shrawan challenges the industrial and development models.

    On an aside, isn’t your comment caveat ironic:

    “Backing up your opinion with your real name adds more credibility to it”. Why doesn’t The Acorn come out and declare his/her identity? A little rich, no?

  5. peace be with you,

    I’ll attribute your comments to a lack of familiarity, or a passing interest, in this blog.

    Sainath has been responded to. Both on this blog, and in Pragati, which I’m the editor of.

    The Acorn is the title of my blog. Not my pseudonym. I’ve never had the need to use a pseudonym.

  6. I travel quite a bit around Vidarbha and often get to talk to farmers. It is true that many of them do not have the resources to break out of the vicious cycle that they are now trapped in. But it is also true that many of them simply do not have the will either, even if they have the resources. A farmer in Buldhana I talked to a couple of weeks ago gave up growing grapes because ‘it was too much work, and his sons were studying’. And he is not alone. Many do not bother with crops that require more planning and effort, even if it means giving up a better income. So even if the government actively encourages alternatives like Sericulture, takers are few, usually because of the work involved.

    Besides, very few villages are actually united enough, or have strong, focussed leadership, to be able to do what the people in Girata have done. Age old caste and religious divisions (actively cultivated by local politicians eager to create their own vote banks) ensure trust is never allowed to take root.

    The result is that every faction has its own leader, competing for a percentage of the money the government is supposed to spend on rural development. Ofcourse, a good proportion of that development money finds its way into the election funds of these parties via various channels.

    More power to the people at Girata. It remains to be seen how inspiring they will prove to the rest of the region.

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