Day 2 - Story of Pukhar Kala (Pukhrala)

The Sachiv of Pukhrala village joined us and we went to his village. We also picked up a school boy who lived in the nearby village. It was a good 10 km+ ride on very poor roads. I wonder how school kids from those villages traveled to the high school especially during extreme weather conditions.

After dropping the boy, we went one of the wheat farms in Pukhrala to check out the dug well and chat with the farmer there.

Wheat Farms and some of us near the dugwell with Dhannalal and his brother

Now let me tell you at the outset that it was the Sachiv who took us to this farm. So it is very likely that he would only show his and the government's success story. So yes, what we know may be biased and colored.

The dugwell was made under the Kapil Dhaara scheme. It was a scheme by the government which combined with the NREGS to achieve dual goals of water conservation and providing employment. Over 70-80% of the funds were provided by the Government and the remaining was put in by the farm owners themselves. It would cost above Rs.70,000 to build a well of this kind.

From what we heard, the dugwell had transformed the life of Dhannalal and his brother. The land seen above was arid and almost nothing grew on it before this well was dug due to water shortage and lack of irrigation facilities. The dug wells also helped the administration deal with another issue : Fertile Soil Erosion.

Since the last 2 years had been good for Dhannalal's family they made sales of over Rs. 2 lakhs last year by selling the crops sold on this very land. Dhannalal and his brother also earned under the NREGS by working over 50 days in the year.

They spent a lot of money renting diesel pumps from the rich farmers to draw up the water from the well and irrigate their farms. It cost them 3 times more than normal electricity. However, electricity supply was irregular, sporadic and uncertain. Power as we saw and now you shall see is the major problem in India.

They were extremely aware of the benefits of education. They also belonged to a reserved category and they waned to use the benefits of reservation. They were disappointed that their children didn't want to study further. One son had quit after Class 10 and one daughter after class 8.However, there was another daughter who was still pursuing studies till Class 12. They did not want their children to go through what they went through.

Next we move to the village itself. We checked out the toilets made under the Total Sanitation Scheme. The entire village was there staring at us all the time! They followed us wherever we went. Plus,it didn't help that we had Mitesh who looks as if he is from Europe.

Click to enlarge

Top picture : Toilet under TSC

Middle Left: Bhoomika and Anusha with a calf

Middle Right: Anganwadi in the village

Bottom two: Inside the Anganwadi

Under the Total Sanitation scheme, the government through the panchayats had helped build toilets in each house and in the community.However, it is difficult to actually coax people into using it. People have been used to defecating in the open since centuries. It was very difficult for them to change their habits now. Plus, we saw that most of these toilets did not have doors! How would a woman be comfortable using it?!

The Sachiv told us that they were trying to educate children in schools and the teachers would ask the students to use the toilets in schools. At least the new generation would be more habituated.

We also saw the quality of the houses and the sheds where the cattle were kept. I can promise you there is something unique about these houses. It is very cool and comfortable in there even without those gadgets that we use.

We checked out the 'Anganwadi' also. It is a very important institution in a village. It is the place where women with very young kids are educated. Also, kids in the age group of 2-6 play and learn there. Check out the pictures above. It was situated right in the middle of the village. For more on Anganwadi please click here.

We then went to the Sarpanch's house. Bhoomika and Anousha went to meet one of the women who was part of the Panchayat. Also, the Sarpanch of the village was a woman - she was the wife of the Sachiv! By the way the Sachiv was a M.A in sociology. I think his thinking was very smart. He had done a lot in the village. And all the villagers we spoke to considered him as some kind of a boon to the village. His logic was simple. "For me to do my work it is important to have a good and non-interfering sarpanch. Plus, this Panchayat had a women reserved seat. It made sense for my wife to stand." She was elected unopposed. In fact, the whole Panch was elected unopposed.

All the elders and the influential people of the village who were available were invited to the Sarpanch's house to meet us. We spent about 90-100 mins with them talking about various issues. We also checked out the bio-gas plant that was present in the sarpanch's house. It was the first time I was seeing it. Had only seen it in school textbooks. And trust me its very different!

Mini Bio-gas plant. The rectangular pit is where all the cattle waste mixed with the human waste. The black wire/pipe in the top pic comes out from under the earth where the sludge is filled.

Meeting the Villagers at the Sarpanch's house.

The time we spent interacting with the villagers was quite enlightening. Some of them made very pertinent points:

Power, Power and Power: All their progress depended on them getting this one thing. There used to be times when people would reach home late in the evening at 8pm and rush back to their farms at 9pm just because electricity supply had resumed and they needed to irrigate their farms.

NREGS money came in late. There was a 15 day time gap. They wanted that gap to reduce.

They wanted a high school in their village. Awareness about benefits of education was very high. Girl students were encouraged to study at least till Class X

They were puzzled with the fact that the road leading to their pack of villages was so bad. During medical emergencies it become extremely difficult for a patient to reach the hospital on time.

Hence, they wanted a medical centre with certain basic standards in the village.

Use of banking was low - No bank was available nearby and also because paper work in banks confused them. Hence,lending was still at exorbitant rates

People from Ruchi Soya buy a lot of Soyabean from them. That was the maximum corporate involvement they knew of. None of them had ever heard about e-choupal.

Solar energy run devices interested them. Harshil spoke at length about a few products. (15 days after the trip -The Sachiv after reading something similar happening at Gwalior in the newspaper called Harshil for more help to get Solar LEDs)

No idea about Insurance. Some had heard about it but never felt the need to do anything about it.

All bright youngsters ran away to the city in search for a better job. Few like the Sachiv(who is on government salary) stayed back to help the village grow.

Smokeless Chullas were a flop concept. Never really helped anyone.

Bio-gas plant at the scale at which it is being done isn't so useful. They need to establish a huge plant with better planning and infrastructure.

A lot of other things were discussed which I don't think I would be able to recollect now. All in all terrific experience. Mind kept on absorbing. For once I was only listening.It reminded me of my visit to Mamurabad village of Jalgaon district back in May 2007 when I was researching on the MCX-IndiaPost initiative. Will write on that experience too someday. But I had spent only half a day then. Nothing compared to what I was feeling now.

We ended the day by eating at the Jain Dhaba. Did I forget to mention that all these areas are Jainism influenced historically. There are lot of Derasars(Jain Temples) in this area.

We ate like there was no tomorrow. It's funny I am always in a group where there are at least 4-5 like me :P

Some more village pictures. Do check out the political campaign pictures.

Left : Aravind in a village house Right: Click to enlarge. It is Self explanatory

Above: Wise old men in the village

Below: Political grafitti

Left: Potato Harvest, Right: Lunch cum Half dinner at Jain Dhaba