In order to make it easier for the Equator Prize 2012 Jury to compare candidates for Special Recognition across thematic area, we ask that you provide short descriptions of your organization’s work (including activities, innovations, and proven impacts) in each of the following categories:
Each description may be up to 1-2 paragraphs in length (200 words maximum) and you may include photos that are specific to each category. The deadline for submission of these descriptions is 16 April 2012.
Though Shashwat has been quite active in this area two initiatives of Shashwat – i) creating mass movement against cutting of traditional temple forest grove by the local ethnic communities resulting in withdrawal of the order by the Government and, ii) creating mass awareness through its activity – PEOPLE’S FOREST RESEARCH INSTITUTE have yielded visible results in the conservation of biodiversity and are still fresh in the Government circle and in the minds of people in Pune area.
Way back in 1985 Shashwat Vice-President Ms Kusum Karnik had organized the local ethnic communities against the proposal of clearing the temple forest grove of village Ahupe, the largest of traditional sacred grove in the area. The entire tribal communities of the area came forward to hug trees to protect them. The movement ultimately forced the Government to withdraw / cancel its order. Members of civil society of Pune visited the sacred grove in large numbers due to newspaper reports written by Kusum.
Shashwat has for long been advocating for the active participation of local ethnic communities in wildlife sanctuary management and has brought the plight of people relocated from such protected areas across India to the eyes of public in general. Shashwat initiated a unique activity – the PEOPLE’S FOREST RESEARCH INSTITUTE, motivated ethnic communities to make a detailed study and write a report on the people – forest interface and biodiversity of the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary thereby re-strengthening of relationship of the tribals (ethnic) with the forest. Shashwat also had plant nursery activity for collecting indigenous seeds & saplings to preserve biodiversity. Govt. was finally convinced and agreed to let the local ethnic communities stay in the area. Our Forest – Our Mother is the belief of the tribals, they subsist on the milk of the mother and not on her blood. Shashwat has created mass awareness by making several such studies which helped in conservation of biodiversity through people’s participation in other Protected Areas of Maharashtra. The State Human Rights Commission, Forest Dept. and other Govt. agencies were also involved in the state & national networks of voluntary organizations.
The entire population of 38 villages of ethnic communities located in the hilly, high rainfall, well-forested 300 sq. km catchment area of the Dimbhe dam have barely 12000 hectares of sloping land available for cultivation. Rice is the main crop grown on barely 9% area, with shifting cultivation practiced on the rest of the land to produce minor millets. Shashwat initiated community programme with the active participation of local ethnic communities to develop paddy terraces with stone bunds on their own steeply sloping lands by modifying their traditional system of Padkai. This innovative but co-operative programme of self-help, by which a small group of ethnic people – men, women and bullocks, came together to work on the fields of each group member for one day turn by turn. It took 5 days for completing one person’s terrace of about 500 sq. meters area each. By resorting to this modified paddy farming practice food availability increased from 5-6 months to 10-11 months. Shashwat supported each family of 4 villages to make one such terrace every year for 4 years. Shashwat and the local communities decided to approach the Govt. to support this activity. Govt. appreciated this innovative and progressive move and sanctioned a pilot project in 2002 for 4 villages for 1 year at one-third cost. Shashwat provided another one-third support by mobilizing donations. Village youth were trained for the measurement work which was then only cross checked and certified by the Government staff. Persistent lobbying and advocacy efforts by the local community & Shashwat over 8 years led to sanctioning of the modified Padkai scheme by the Govt. in 2010 for all the 38 villages in the Dimbhe catchment. Work was carried out in 5 villages in 2010-11 at an outlay of Rs. 78,00,000 and in more than 20 villages in 2011-12 with an outlay of Rs. 500,00,000. The Govt. of Maharashtra allocated Rs. 4300,00,000 under a separate budget head for this scheme in 2010. Another major benefit of this system of paddy farming is the reduction in the amount of silt flow into the Dimbhe dam waters as it is intercepted in such paddy terraces on the upper slopes, thus significantly increasing the effective life of the dam. Community participated initiative and its application has led to contribute significantly to the food security of the disadvantaged and remotely located ethnic communities.
Water resource management, including freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems
Shashwat started organizing the displaced ethnic communities in 2003 and tried to create livelihood opportunities through utilization of fisheries potential of Dimbhe reservoir. The ethnic (tribal) community resettled along the periphery of the reservoir were assisted in securing the lease of the Dimbhe dam in 2006 for managing the fisheries and fishing. Shashwat was instrumental in mobilising the technical assistance of Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) – Deemed Fisheries University of the Govt. of India and the State Fisheries Department for supporting in the stocking of reservoir with fish fingerlings. With such convergence of support the ethnic communities living in the vicinity of the reservoir got trained in various aspects of reservoir fisheries management, developed their technical and managerial skills, acquired more boats and fishing nets, able to stock the reservoir with appropriate size and number of fish seed of desired species and significantly enhanced fish production and profit. The boats were also built by the communities using the locally available materials and their labour. Today, the reservoir is being managed absolutely on the line of Community Based Fisheries Management (CBFM) and has become demonstration model in India for FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of UN) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. A total of 203 ethnic people run the Dimbhe Tribal Co-operative Fishery Society which harvests up to 27 tonnes of fish (Rohu, Catla, Mrigala and Chela) per year. In 2010, the total catch has been 14721 kg, with 4381 kg Chela and 10340 kg Indian Major Carps (IMC), in 147 fishing days. The community has built 138 flat-bottomed boats, owns over 2000 kg of nets, and uses a fibre-glass motorboat to ply the catch across the reservoir. Besides these communities have also participated in CIFE led action research programme and developed state-of-the art Cage Culture & pen culture techniques to rear fish fingerlings in the reservoir and to be stocked in the reservoir.
Net size regulation and closed season (no fishing period) are strictly maintained by the society, whose members resolved back in 2003, that they would not use destructive fishing gears or resort to any destructive fishing practice such as poisoning or use of explosives for fishing.
Rearing of ornamental fish – gorgeous orange and silver creatures has been introduced in floating cages with support of the National Fisheries Development Board. 20 women, trained in the upkeep of these fish, are now fabricating glass aquaria & rearing few varieties of ornamental fish which are being sold in local towns and Pune. Rearing of fish and ornamental fish trade is exclusively for women members of the community.
Shashwat has been able to influence policy through advocacy and on-ground demonstration of visible results. Few of such deserve mention.
Shashwat has supported local ethnic communities to study and document the biodiversity of the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary as also the human-forest interface and the traditional practice / wisdom of conservation of forest and its wild life under their activity People’s Forest Research Institute. The documentation has provided strength to the ethnic forest dwellers and on-going advocacy efforts have led to the Govt. agreed not to displace them. The sorry conditions of those displaced from many Protected Areas in India, has been brought out by Shashwat. Their lobbying / advocacy have brought the role of local tribal communities in conservation of forest areas to the fore.
The ‘Padkai scheme’ of development of innovative terraced farming on steep slopes has been approved as a Govt. scheme for 38 villages of the Dimbhe dam for the first time in India. As a program of asset building of tribal farmers, it can lead towards food security of tribals in other hilly areas as well as for reducing slit deposition in dams.
The journey of the ethnic communities living in the adjoining area of the reservoir through the past 8 years in developing a barren water source to a productive one in a manner which gives strength to community based fisheries management, using state of the art technologies, shows another path towards increasing the availability of high protein diet for fisher-folk.
Planting of green manure crop Dhencha on lands around the dam lake which get submerged in the reservoir waters, has helped to increase the productivity of the reservoir. This practice has also been initiated for the first time in the fisheries management of reservoir in the world.
The use of drawdown land which emerges on the edges of the dam reservoirs when the dam waters go down, for taking irrigated crops with the use of pump-sets, with legal permits for land use issued by the dam authority, has proved to be an important measure for rehabilitation of those partially displaced by dams. The Govt. of Maharashtra halved the amount of user-fees taken from farmers. In partnership with local Govt., Shashwat could provide over 165 farmers with pump-sets & pipelines, resulting in stoppage of migration from 7 villages as they are able to grow enough food for their families in this time.
Knowledge Sharing and Replication
Local control in decision making is high in the work style of Shashwat. Of 9 full-time staff and over 50 volunteers, barely 3 staff are non-tribal & outsiders (the founders Anand Kapoor & Ms Kusum Karnik and school manager Ms Pratibha Tambe), the rest being tribals belonging to this area. Hence there are greater chances of the initiatives continuing even if outside funding becomes difficult. Organizational sustainability is thus on the higher side. Gender sensitivity in their work is further ensured by 4 women Trustees (and 3 of them main office-bearers) being on the 8 member Governing Council of Shashwat.
The methodology of land tenure securitization (official ownership documents) is well known to the local tribal village volunteers as they have been directly involved in implementation of this activity.
The tribal development dept. has introduced the Dimbhe type-boat to other tribal areas in the state. 2 local tribal persons have learnt how to make these boats.
The local tribal men and women are by now well versed in advanced techniques of cage & pen culture as well as rearing of ornamental fish. They are handling marketing and taking management decisions themselves. They are maintaining transparency in accounting procedures of their fish cooperative by ensuring close involvement of tribal fisher persons from different villages in the day to day work of the fishing cooperative including collecting cash for sales & depositing it in the bank. They are now able to plan & implement programs as also to argue and put forth their points of view to other stake-holders.
We wish to share our fisheries knowledge with the mostly tribal fisher-folk living around six medium to large dams within about 50 km of Dimbhe dam; for some of whom such help is already being shared.
Dimbhe Dam in Ambegaon Taluka in Pune district was constructed in year 2000 on Ghod River as a part of Kukadi project, with the sole purpose of irrigation. 12 villages were submerged and 13 villages were partially affected which were situated on the banks of Ghod and Bubra rivers. Fertile farming land was lost at it was submerged under the dam’ reservoirs, which earlier were used to cultivate paddy, wheat and vegetables. Rehabilitation of the dam affected villages whose inhabitants belonged to Adivasi, Mahadev Koli, Thaakar and Katkari tribes did not take place, thereby forcing them to practise farming on mountain slopes or take up odd jobs.
Spread over 2202 hectares of land with a capacity to hold 12.5 cu mi of water, Dimbhe dam irrigated many villages of Ambegaon, Junnar, Shirur talukas and Ahmednagar district. However, poor rehabilitation had forced the villagers to become labourers and stop farming. No doubt, Dimbhe dam contributes to Maharashtra’s development and provides water to large population, yet it has displaced many villages in its wake. ‘Gaalper Sheti’ was first practised in 2002 by the villagers as a source of livelihood and to reduce their hardships. Shashwat undertook a study of all 19 villages that lay on the fringes of the Dimbhe dam. It opined that the villagers could cultivate the reservoir banks and take a single crop each year.
The concept of ‘Gaalper Sheti ’or ‘Reservoir Farming” is thus – Every year between December to June, water is released from the Dimbhe Dam Reservoir for irrigation purpose. This would shrink the water level in the reservoir and expose the land along the reservoir banks spread across 500 to 600 hectares. This land was cultivatable. However, the villagers could not do so for several reasons. Firstly, villagers/ farmers did not have the necessary equipment like engines and pump sets to siphon off water from the dam. Secondly, farming was allowed on procurement of license from the State government for a period of 11 months or 18 years. Furthermore, the process of acquiring this license was lengthy, costly and complex. Lastly, license procurement for engines and pump sets from Adivasi Development Department and Panchayat Samiti was again a difficult one.
It was decided by Shashwat and the villagers keen to take up this type of farming to procure the license and legally undertake this farming. The license fee for 11 months was `2,000 per hectre which were too high for the villagers. With the help of Satish Bhingare, former Director of Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI), Aurangabad, this fee was brought down to `1,000 per hectre for the Dimbhe Tribal farmers. Shashwat followed up with the Adivasi Development Department to help the tribal farmers to receive engine and pipes. Light weight engines were required by tribal farmers, so that they could move them from one place to another. Shifting of pumps would be required to be done as Dimbhe reservoir was located on a steep slope due to which water would flow down quickly on being released thus leading to low water level near the banks. Shashwat undertook all the above tasks for the farmers.
To enable maximum use of engines, 32 groups of 5 to 6 farmers across 14 villages on the fringes of Dimbhe dam reservoir were formed. Shashwat collected funds and procured 13 light weight diesel engines of Greaves Company with 5HP power weighing 62 kgs each and 500 feet long pipes to 13 groups, on experimental basis in 2008 – 09. This enabled the spread of ‘Gaalper Sheti. The farmers cultivated 253 quintals of grain in 2008 -09, as against 5 quintals in 2007 -08, courtesy the engines and pipes employed by the farmers.
To improve the results even further, WALMI imparted three day training to 97 women and men of 14 villages on the fringe of the Dimbhe Dam reservoir, to encourage them to undertake horticulture. They were trained given training about the type of flowers, seeds, manure, fertilisers and water content to be used for the same.
Between 2008 – 09 and 2011 -12, the number of licenses to practise the farming has jumped up from 80 to 150 as 114 engines and pipes were provided to farmers during this period. Credit must go to Shashwat for extending support in every way to the villagers to procure licenses, engines and pipes from Adivasi Development Department and Panchayat Samiti, Ambegaon.
This resulted in zero migration by farmers to other places in search of livelihood in 2011-12, as they cultivated 143 hectares of land and harvested 700 quintals of Bajra. Representatives of WALMI, Aurangabad and Experts from the Irrigation Cooperation Institute provided vital guidance to villagers.
Use of Taag/Dhencha to increase Hydro Productivity:
In June 2006, scientists of CIFE, Mumbai had conducted a water analysis to check the hydro fertility of Dimbhe Reservoir. They found that it was only 50 % of the standard expected requirement for Fisheries.
In 2007, Shashwat, Local Tribals farmers and CIFE, Mumbai decided to sow ‘Dhencha’ seeds in the reservoir after the first spell of rain over 5 areas where farming was being practised. With more rains, these seeds germinated into little plants, attracting large – mouthed fish like Katla, Rohu and Mrigal. When later on water was released for irrigation, farmers sowed wheat in these areas. It was found that productivity in these areas had increased! Dhanaji Bharmal of Phulwad village harvested 4.5 to 5 quintals of wheat against earlier harvest of 3 quintals.
CIFE conducted another soil testing in these areas and found that it had become rich in Potash and Nitrogen!
In 2009 – 10, 20 quintals of ‘Dhencha’ seeds were sowed in the reservoir soil. Shramik Adivasi Machhimar Co- operative Society bore half the cost of these seeds as they had greatly benefitted from the earlier sowing of ‘Dhencha’ in terms of increased fish produce that year. In 2010 -11, CIME sowed 20 quintals as research project and the results continued to be outstanding! It was also experienced that one sowing activity continued to give good results for next two years. Use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides was also not required as it would affect the fish.
Revival of traditional water channels on mountains for farm irrigation:
In 2010, in Patan village, it was decided to revive the traditional water channels to bring water from distant ponds and streams located on the mountains. Students of IIT, Mumbai and ITI conducted a survey and helped in this task of identifying the location of these channels. With financial aid from Shashwat, villagers revived 4 -5 channels. These helped 27 farmers to harvest 97 bags of wheat.
Undertaking such revival tasks under Rural Employment Generation Scheme would reduce cost of diesel and other irrigation cost.
Study of suitable Diesel Engines by IIT, Mumbai:
In 2012, two students of CTARA conducted a study to find out the most suitable diesel engine for ‘Gaalper Sheti’. The adivasi Development Department & Panchayat Samiti were providing three brands of diesel engines then, namely, Laxmi, Comet and Trishul, out of the five being used by farmers.( the other two being Kirloskar and Greaves). Framers opined that for the last two years Trishul was performing dissatisfactory and hence the research by CTARA.
To separate grain from cobs, farmers used bullocks to tread on the cobs, as threshing machines were not easily available to them. Where 4 -5 machines were required, a farmer had to make do with only one.
Shashwat stepped in to solve this problem. It set up Self-help Groups which would deal in Threshers. It mobilised funds for the groups to purchase 1 thresher in 2012, thus benefitting farmers from 3 villages.
All these efforts have led to a boom in Gaalper Sheti/ Reservoir farming. Farmers get a yield of Bajra sufficient to last for a year. In 2011 -12, 143 hectares of reservoir land was brought under cultivation and irrigated. If more farming resources are provided, additional 500 – 600 hectares of land could be used for farming. Migration to other places in search of livelihood has stopped. Malnourishment has reduced as villagers get grains that last for an entire year. Normalcy is slowly but steadily returning in the lives of the dam affected villages, courtesy Gaalper Sheti!
Dimbhe dam was constructed in Pune district’s Ambegaon taluka which nestles in the Western Ghats. This dam submerged cultivatable land taking away livelihood of the inhabitants forcing them to adopt traditional & contractual methods of adopting fisheries as a source of livelihood. Commercialization of fishing by contractors led to prevention of fishing by local inhabitants. Contractors employed labourers from other states and adopted use of chemicals and explosives for fishing, which led to conflict between the local tribals and contractors. Shashwat offered its timely and valuable assistance in rehabilitating 200 tribals displaced by the construction of this Dam and provided livelihood through fisheries and generated a turnover of five to seven lakh rupees and continues to flourish till date.
Manchar based non- government organisation, “Shashwat “came forward to help the tribals to resolve the issue and help them to undertake traditional fisheries using advanced techniques. At that time, Mr. Anand Kapoor, founder of Shashwat”, was working on rehabilitation of people affected by construction of Bargi damn in Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh with veteran social worker Medha Patkar. They have initiated a co-operative fishing society to create employment for the Bargi Dam affected people. The annual turnover of such societies was Rs. 250 crore. Shashwat was mulling on the idea of replicating the same project for the Dimbhe Dam affected tribals. Members of Bargi Dam affected Association, Mr. Rajkumar Sinha, Rajesh Tiwari, Munnalal Burman along with Vidya Bal, Kusumtai Karnik and Anand Kapoor visited the Dimbhe dam affected tribals. From 2003, with active participation of Budhaji Damse, Shashwat took initiative to transform the lives of tribals.
A Co-operative society named Dimbhe Jalashay Shramik Fishermen Society was formed for inhabitants of 20 villages in the area under the Chairmanship of Mr. Shivaji Kale. Membership was given to only those fishermen who were fishermen, did not use chemicals in fishing and did not use small fishing nets. Various tribal communities like Thaakar, Mahadev Koli, Kaatkari and thirty two Self Help Women Groups like Varsubai Vandev Mahila Bachat Gat, Tambedeshwar Mahila Bachat Gat, Varsubai Mahila Bachat Gat, Kalamjai Mahila Bachat Gat, Muktabai Mahila Bachat Gat etc. became members.
Dr. Dilip Kumar, Director of Central Institute of Fisheries Organisation (CIFO), Mumbai was approached for assistance to help the tribals to adopt scientific fish farming techniques. Dr. Kiran Dubey-Scientist and Dr. M.P.Singh Kohli of CIFO gave a positive response to impart training to the tribals. It was decided that India Council of Agricultural Research’s “Cage Cultivation” project be adopted. Chief Scientist Dr. Kiran Dubey; Dr. M.P.Singh Kohli, Dean, Aquaculture Department also extended their support. Mr. Prabhakar Karandikar, former Departmental Commissioner and Dr. Nitin Karir, Commissioner also extended their co-operation. Poverty Eradication Programme at Dimbhe Dam was implemented with active contribution by Tribal development, Fisheries, Forestry, Revenue departments and NABARD Bank.
‘Cage Culture’ began with provision of four old cages by CIFS. Small fish were then let into these cages to grow. Appropriate amount of fish food was fed to them based on their stage in the life cycle. It was observed that excess food led to over production of carbon dioxide leading to death of fish. To overcome this problem, food would be administered during predetermined time only. Size of fish was measured on a regular basis. When fish grew from 10 – 15 mm to 150 – 180 mm, they would be released into the dam.
Before the ‘Cage Cultivation’, the survival rate of fish- small and big was very poor. Small fish would be released directly into the dam and when water levels would rise, the currents would knock the fish against rocks and boulders and lead to their death. ‘Cage Cultivation’ put an end to this problem.
Cage Cultivation and resultant change:
Species of fish like Rohu, Mrigal, Katala, Cyprinus etc. began to be cultivated. Businessmen from Sangamner, Pune, and Satara have started purchasing directly from the fishermen.
In 2006 -07, fishing was possible for 72 days only. In 2007 – 08, it went up to 135 days followed by 175 days in 2008 – 09 clearly indicating a remarkable growth in fish production.
Before the adoption of cage cultivation, the fishermen were using tubes, which have been replaced by fishing boats. Where earlier there were 3 boats, now number has gone up to 203. Those tribals who were partially affected have also taken up fishing as a permanent source of livelihood.
The number of families dependent on fisheries has gone up from 40 in 2003 to present 203. The annual turnover has also jumped up to about Rs. 5-6 lakhs out of which Rs.2-3 lakhs have been paid as wages to local dam affected tribals.
It was in the late 1980s that a demand for construction of road connecting Mumbai to Bhimashanker began and surfaced from time to time till the early 1990s. Connectivity to Mumbai from all parts of Maharashtra was vital considering that it was capital of Maharashtra and Business capital of India. Lying on the west of Western Ghats, also called Sahyadri Mountain range, Mumbai was well connected with Maharashtra. From Nasik in the North to Kolhapur in the South, there were seven – eight Ghats, namely Kasara – Ghoti, Ane – Malshej, Khandala, Bhor – Mahad, Mahabaleshwar, Koynanagar and Ambe in Sakharpa – Malkapur. Of these, Kasara & Khandala were the busiest of the Ghats and of strategic importance. Construction of Ghat section, no doubt helped in connecting all minor and major regions with Mumbai. Yet there was also fillip side to it. Construction of Ghat section meant clearing of large areas of forest land thereby leading to not only destruction of flora and fauna but displacement of locals residing in these forest areas, too. In the past few years, end of rainy season has meant rapid depletion in green stretches of land and turning them into large stretches of arid brown of land. A desert – like look completely takes over the green mountains making human beings hot and uneasy forcing them to go in search of cool green environment.
Bhimashanker in Ambegaon Taluka is covered by thick green and dense Bhimashanker forest which beckons people in hot climate. One of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’, the abode of Lord Shiva, is situated here and is visited by lakhs of devout Hindus every year. Demand to link Bhimashanker to Mumbai was being made for several reasons. It would facilitate agricultural traders on the East of the Sahyadris to sell their produce in the West. In addition, it would connect tribals to Mumbai and Mumbaites would be brought closer to the forests and its flora and fauna. However, the above reasons sounded flimsy and unrealistic thereby prompting this informed opposition to the construction of Mumbai – Bhimashanker Road. Firstly, the tribals of Bhimashanker lived in abject poverty and wouldn’t even afford to travel to sell their produce as they produced nothing in abundance that required to be sold in Mumbai and make them find a market in Mumbai.
Secondly, there was a road through Malshej Ghat in Junnar taluka which connected the entire East and Ahmednagar district. However, this road was not used especially after 6 – 7o’clock in the evening due to landslides, dacoits, bad roads, lack of allied services. During day time around three hundred vehicles would ply on this section. Buses plying between Mumbai and Junnar would also use longer route through Khandala Ghat, just the way Narayangaon – Mumbai buses would do. During rainy season, this stretch of Ghat would become inaccessible.
If the proposed Mumbai – Bhimashanker Road was to be constructed, he above problem would be further aggravated as Bhimashanker is situated at a greater altitude. Furthermore, the forest cover of Bhimashanker was fast depleting. Deforestation was rampant between 1969 and 1964 to mine for coal by contractors. The Forest Department had turned a blind eye to the whole affair resulting in heavy loss to the Bhimashanker forest.
The forest of Bhimashanker is not only a national treasure but also a boon for Maharashtra and Ghodnadi area. Thick evergreen trees covered with clouds made up this virgin, unexploited forest. With just 6 inches to 2 feet deep soil and 200 to 250 inches of rainfall every year, this is a slow growing forest which has many rare medicinal plants and trees in its spread. Several species of animals, birds, insects, worms and other life forms make this forest precious. Conservation of this forest becomes important and can be ensured if it remained inaccessible as possible to preserve its rich heritage, as was the wish of the inhabitant tribals of Bhimashanker. This forest must be declared reserved and only tribals should be allowed to undertake forest related activities.
In 1980, the then Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi had promulgated the National Environment Act, which was an important step in forest conservation. Despite this, political connections were used to begin construction of eleven bungalows and convert this area into a hill station. Large areas of land were cleared to construct three bungalows. However, the large damaged that resulted to the forest led to halting of construction of remaining bungalows by the Forest department. It exposed the Forest department’s lack of awareness about their responsibilities. The Central Government was completely misguided by stating that the bungalows were being constructed by clearing two kms of thick forest under Employment generation Scheme. What is surprising to note, is that despite stringent provisions of the 1980 Act, rampant acts of utter destruction of forests continued to occur. Ironically, when tribals cleared small patches of land to construct their dwellings, they would be penalised with Rs. 1400 and this innocent tribals never even protested such blatant acts forest destruction undertaken by Government officials. When influential contractors could target the thick Ahupe forest which had poor connectivity, Bhimashanker would prove to be a soft target. Fortunately, Ahupe forest were spared of any destruction due to the timely protest by ‘Adivasi Ekjut Sanghatana’ which took up the cudgels to stop destruction of 1500 trees spread five to six acres of land there.
Bhimashanker forest was the life line of Ghodnadi and Dimbhe dam. The forest helped in controlling rainfall of this region and increased the life of the river by providing good siltation.
Given the above history of Bhimashanker and other areas, it could be observed that the thought of constructing another Ghat section road only reeked of political favouritism towards influential builders, contractors and developers who were always on a look out of ‘profitable’ ventures. Construction of this road would mean destruction of peace and tranquillity of this region, forceful occupation and grabbing of land belonging to the poor tribals and dalits living in this area, construction of hotels, bars, temples, petrol pumps etc. to earn income. All this would result in displacement of the poor tribals. So the natural question that came to mind, “why was the Mumbai – Bhimashanker road being demanded and for whose benefit was it being constructed – Influential builders, contractors and politicians or the native Tribals”. Seeking the help of contractors, urban builders, rich businessmen and politicians, certain locals were trying to ‘develop’ this region, which only spelt doom for a vast majority of the local tribals.
Instead, the government should focus on Malshej Ghat, improve the roads there, install police stations and ensure plying of more buses through it. This could connect the East better with the West of Maharashtra. Ambegaon taluka could be left to focus on Forestry, Barren Land Development, and Forest Conservation thereby adding years to the Dimbhe Dam. Construction of dam side road, provision of electricity, health, transport, water & education facilities and promoting Village industry would improve the financial health of the tribals of this region.
Though the remote tribal area was selected for the social work it was necessary to study the entire taluka and areas surrounding to it. Adivasis in particular the Mahadeo Kolis were identified as population for the social work. The interaction with other tribes as Katkaris and Thakar came at a later stage. All these adivasi tribes are located in and around Ambegaon taluka in Junnar, Khed and Karjat talukas along the side of the Sayhadri range and their history is linked to the eastern part of Ambegaon taluka. While studying this area, it is important to consider that the social aspects of the region differ and are not according to the division of areas done by the state government for the administrative aspects.
Ambegaon is a small taluka in the north of the Pune district, comparatively backward and neglected. An NGO named “Maharashtra Arogya Mandal” from Hadapsar, Pune introduced themselves in Narodi villages 10 km away from Manchar. They began with activities like women participation, rural clinics and gobar gas plants. People having an inclination for social work as Dr.C. T. Gujar , Pandharinath Thatte and Apppa Mahedev had established the mandal.
I was brought up in an atmosphere of Seva Dal. I came to Narodi in connection of some other work regarding adivasis. We thought that we will be able to work together here, will be able to raise our own fund and won’t require to establish a new organization. We would like to work along with the organization. We decided to submit our accounts to the organization, this proved our honesty. We believe that transparency is an absolute requirement for social work.
Philosophical base is extremely important for social work and that’s why we treat the thought process as its base. No other social organization was working in the taluka. Sudha Choudhari introduced the “Bachat Gat” or the saving group in the taluka later. World Vision is working here for last few years involving agriculture and allied activities. ”Naari Samata Manch” have started the processes to issue caste certificates and ration cards to tribal people like Katkaris and Mahadev Koli, creating awareness amongst them, implementing Panchayat raj system and spreading the message of good health. Sali medical foundation had worked on issues related to women health. Recently “Dyan Shakti VikasVahini” under guidance of Mr. D R Valse is working on social issues involving men, women and disabled persons and availability of microfinance for small businesses
As a result of all the developments the government has become more agile resulting in increase of awareness in health and education. Though awareness has increased the pace of change is very slow. That’s why the focus is more on the benefit of the contractor than the people involved in the activities. Schools and hostels for the students are not in good condition. Adivasis are socio-economically weak and their counterparts have reservations against them. The entire situation becomes turbulent when a casualty occurs. Two students committed suicide after going to their villages and this enraged the entire society. The government knows how to manage it. Delaying the procedures, bribing wherever necessary and provoking people to withdraw complaints and court cases are the usual ways of the government. We got admissions to colleges in Manchar using our Right to education. No adivasi name appeared in the list of sports events conducted by the college as adivasis don’t reach the ground and if they do they are bashed up and forced to retreat. A full lobby seems to act against the adivasis. Adivasi children advance forward inspite of very adverse condition. Their intelligence level is quite high but a major part of their strength is wasted in tackling the unfavorable conditions. There are very few graduated students, girls have reached the graduation level but no student till date has graduated in science.
It can be concluded that the health facilities are better than they were previously. The scenario of empty buildings and clinics, no staff and medicines have reduced in recent times. But transport vehicles are scarce and are unaffordable. Scarcity of money results in inadequate treatment. Women health issue does not seem to be solved. Deliveries used to take place at home. Deliveries in hospitals have been introduced but is getting a lukewarm response. Malnutrition is rampant in the region. Adivasis are socioeconomically below poverty line resulting in insufficient intake of food causing malnutrition. Problems in distribution of ration in terms of quality, quantity and availability at suitable places are the major concerns, not only in this region but all Adivasi regions in the area. Adivasis are treated as secondary citizens. Electricity cuts are frequent to the extent that people don’t expect electricity in the rainy season. People here expect reforms. Due to extreme hardships the sight of having members from 3 consecutive generations in an Adivasi family was rare but it is not so today. Life span of Adivasis has increased.
It is believed that every region has to progress. But the question is who’s progress? One region prospers due the construction of the dam at the costs of the regions submerged under water. Poor and the weaker sections of the society are neglected. One sided thought of progress can demolish the other region. Bhimashankar was to be declared as hill station but due to the fact that the forest here was a reserved forest in which the land owned by adivasis could not be transferred to any non adivasi entity and due our resistance In 1985 was area was declared as a wild life sanctuary as an exception. Eighteen settlements in the region were to be rehabilitated. We had studied the region in the mean time and shared the opinion that nature preserves the jungle and maintains them. We interacted with the forest department and explained to them that these regions are looked upon as hills stations in spite of the objective of protecting the wild life there. We held five training camps under the banner ‘wild life sanctuary conference’ wherein we stressed that the jungle is the livelihood of adivasi for which they had to resort to wandering in the jungles for collecting woods medicinal plants and for grazing their animals. They have profound knowledge of the jungle by which they maintain and preserve the jungle. They know the role of animals of the jungle and that these animals preserve the jungle. We have temple of Waghoba (Tiger) at Bhimashankar and also in many other places. Adivasis treat the tiger as god and never hunt it. Actually the plan for preservation of the forest should include such people as care takers of the jungle.
“Ekjut organization” is currently fighting for the rights of the local people. To understand the awareness, knowledge and life and bring it to the notice of the society and specially forest department we have started a study in the name of ‘Jungle Sanshodhan Sanstha’. People from Bhimashankar area collectively carried out the study regarding the bio diversity of the region related to the flora and fauna in the region. The study was validated through experts made available from Pune city. We then noticed that the people had long back built up traditions related to forest management. “Devrari” is one such tradition which was suppose to be the embryo of the jungle from where the seedlings were distributed. People from ancient times had created empty spaces as a line to prevent fire from spreading in the jungle. These people keep a closed watch on everything related to jungle as it is beneficial for them. They have studied the stars heavenly bodies and other astrological entities and used them for betterment of their activities related to agricultural. There are limitations to this study due to unpredictable “Monsoon” season in recent years. These studies of jungle prove to be the strength of people.
Thus the current situation involves conflicts on one side and study for constructive work on other side. We are trying to contact all reserve forest in Maharashtra but it is difficult as all of them are spread out and are at remote locations. Population there is backward and illiterate. On the hand forest department is still under British bureaucracy. In fact, the Government of India is to be blamed for it. Actually jungle is a department which supplies natural resources. British had viewed jungles as a source of timber and hence animals in the jungle was a problem for them. Hunting animals in the jungle was a planned massacre. Natural jungle today is scarce and the biodiversity in them is on the verge of extinction. In spite of the situation the forest department behaves as it has the ownership of the jungle. People living in the jungle has considered as enemies of the jungle. The aspects that they will look after the jungle as they are surviving on the same jungle has not been considered while deciding the strategy on the jungle the forest department businessmen traders and urban populations want to save the jungle from the people residing in the jungle. They don’t realize that once these peoples are out of the jungle who is going to take care of the jungle? Forest officials from Chandoli narrated that after the village had been included in the reserved they located problems as difficulty to wander in the area. Road pathways were destroyed there was no source of water food available and place for erecting houses no source located from where help would be available or no definite source for availability of information. The tiger reserve being commissioned there but who was going to take care of it? Government and the forest department have been caught in propagating incorrect statistics in many times. Hence villagers inside the forest should not be shifted elsewhere in our opinion and we are working for it.
We have been forced for resistance to all these aspects. We had to compromise on our constructive work as we realized that we fell short of resources. It is clear that the backward class of the society wants efforts to increase their capability and share responsibility for governance and not just equality. Though these people strive for equality and justice it is a fact that lot of politics is involved in it. It was noticed that the old road was to be submerged in the back water of the dam and there was a need for new road to be constructed along side of the dam. Government was denying the road putting forward lame exclusives of budget constraint. We studied the situation and by means of connecting old roads accumulating people gathering funds and donations agitations and discussions ultimately earned the road.
We had to agitate for small for various big and small issues. We had to stop incorrect practices for the forest department employees. The forest department used to extract from villagers in forms of food grains from the migratory adivasi population suffering from malnutrition. Today the system is extinct. A leopard was killed in Ambegaon village while driving it out into the jungle . Twenty-three persons were accused of charges, for a penalty of 25 thousand and six years if rigorous imprisonment for which forest department officers demanded 22 thousand for their release. We foiled this corrupt attempt with help of legal measures. Recently people here have been becoming aware but the battle for existence is very tough. It is extremely difficult to collect reasonable amount of financial and human resources in its accordance.
While performing social activities we remember to have discussed in the training centers various aspects of the activities to be undertaken currently. Transformation of the society was the agenda then and even now We ventured into this work refusing to except the existing social system. We want to change the unjust system and replace it by a society following justice to all. Politics is an important and integral part of the system. Here I am not referring to multiparty politics. Today’s so called politics has been influenced by individual interest, corruption, lack of philosophy and values, muscle power, and inheritance. We know that justcriticizing politics will not help and when we think otherwise we find ourselvesas a part of the system having responsible role. Personal transactions at times can also be termed as political transactions.
Activities as expressing one’s opinions against injustice, taking necessary actions, agitating whenever needed in a manner not restricting to Gandhian Satyagraha style should be undertaken involving the population there which needs to fabricate public opinions for it. Though the necessity was realized to form and promote such opinions it was also realized that such an activity needed to be carried out with outmost care.
The habit of writing a diary which I copied from Anna Karmarkar proved to be very useful in this context till date. While working in Bhimashankar area the picture was not very clear which occasionally lead to mistakes. The entire group occasionally did not reach consciences in the case of disputes we resorted to the democratic styles of freely expressing of opinion, listening to other opinions, selecting the opinion by majority and respecting it. This system continues till date.
The constructive activities are the supports for the groups. It is the identity of the organization and you are recognized for it. People should express their needs through it. We had realized the importance of cooperation in life and its importance while working from the village. We were travelling with a Balwadi teacher when we realized the importance of “Padkai” or cooperative work. Using our own human resources, the laborious task can be done absolutely free preparing a new or repairing an existing rice field, collection of organic waste from jungle to enrich the fields, sowing seeds in farmland, cutting the crops and other laborious tasks can be carried out by cooperating working in each other’s field. Such tasks require people to migrate to get employment. They are not able complete their routine jobs and hence do not get time for Padkai jobs. Once the society got funds then on usage of funds, the padkai project was implemented on experimental level and then when it was realized that the job was done using the money honestly by the people for their upliftment, it was then repeated whenever funds were available.
We also found out the activity was favorable for the ecosystem. Rainwater accumulates in the constructed rice field bringing the alluvial soil from the rocks which gets collected in the empty spaces. This soil is rich in minerals and it provides a filter for the water so that soil does not get washed up into dam decreasing the depth of water cover and increases the life of dam. We had been considering the entire area as catchment area but the entire project was required to be executed on the state level. We interacted with the minister for employment guarantee. Mr. Ganpatrao Deshmukh and jointly decided to implement the project on experimental basis in four villages. Now the efforts are to implement the project for all hilly regions and people of these regions or contacting government officials and expressing their opinions for implementation of the project in their regions too.
During the implementation of the padkai activity it was noticed that the land had to be redistributed in the family. As this activity had not been carried out for last few generations. One entity corresponded to five or six persons in the family who were currently working on the fields. So efforts for redistribution of land had to be taken up. Divisional commissioner Mr. Prabhakar Karandikar when he had visited the area was contacted and after discussions with him he decided to connect the development of catchment area to the program for poverty eradication. An appropriate government action was planned for the redistribution of the land. Camps were planned and commissioned where employees of the taxation department and volunteers from the villages jointly carried out the tedious work of redistribution of land on a continual basis which continues till date. Padkai plan has been ready for implementation. It has got the government approval but actual work has not begun till date. Considering the last bad monsoon season which resulted into scarcity of food grains in the household the activity would have been a good support for the people. Beginning the activity was easy. People were ready for it but the government was not agile enough.
It was noticed during redistribution that few areas were on names of money lenders. Money lending was practices to a great extent in the areas from pre independence British rule. They had encouraged few money lenders for tax collection. There were many conflicts between these money lenders and local people which was a main reason for social unrest in the region, people had driven out the money lenders but a few of them who had fled to Saurashtra tied up with the government employees and registered the land on their names. Now it is required to wage a legal battle in the court against these 21 entities for 300 acres of land.
Activity stared with preparing rice field and arrangement for drinking water. The region got 200mm rain but there was no water in summer. The depth of the soil in the area was not enough to retain water. People had to collect water from far off places, digging wells and increasing the depth of existing wells. On failure forgetting water these people took help of the state and dug wells created ponds in about 28 remote regions all these even exist today. But still water had to be strictly conserved in these areas. Political Leaders occasionally promised to provide water from dams to these regions by pumping it to heights. One such scheme had been commissioned but is in dire state due to unpaid electricity bills. Today an agency jointly works with people for construction of public wells. They spotted 5 areas for excavation, 4 out of which yielded water. Collective agriculture is planned to be practiced on the available water as per government directive. Along with these there are also few experiments in education here. The focus here is on nutritional food, health, sickness than on education in 5 balwadis where establishing government balwadis is not possible to terrain constraints. A school and a hostel is been run in village of 17 households. Experimentation is a unique feature of this school. The philosophy behind it is that students should not be burdened, they should get freedom encouragement along with education. We are getting good response for the school. For Kathkari adivasi tribes it is their first generation going to school. Initially students were shying away from study now gradually are finding interest in it. Pottery, drawing and music are their major regions of interest. They have presented few performances in dance and music and collected 4000 Rs which they themselves are going to decide how to spend. The picture of an ideal village in a jungle with “Shekharu” or giant squirrel on trees and a well at the center endures anybody at site. Last year Ms. Medha Patkar had visited the area for national consciences for the efforts taken here giving it a special importance.
The extension of the school project is a hostel in Dimbhe dam settlement area. The idea is to erect a sports facility for students who have passed fourth standard. Adivasis are agile and swift by nature. The objective behind this is they can achieve heights in their sports career. We have not bothered about the source of funds as we believe that it gets arranged once we start getting the activity.
Construction of the dam is considered by us as one reasons for sorrow. 24 villages shifted during the construction of dam are experiencing the pains, insults and difficulties due to the construction. Those who were benefitted due to water instead of sympathizing enraged with the population affected by the dam. The situation here is such that people don’t get their daily food if they don’t work daily. These people are looking at water as a means to earn their livelihood. An important project is planned here for fish farming initiated by Mr.Budhaji Dhamse and Anand Kapoor. Budhaji himself is an adivasi sufferer of the dam coming from fishermen background and Anand has worked has as an consultant to Bari Visthapit And Prabhavit Sanstha in Madhya Pradesh a society related to fish farming. Few of the dam affected people have shifted to adjacent heights and are in dire state some of them had resorted to fishing by means of tyre tubes. Budhaji with the help of these people started collecting small boats nets Mr Karindikar inaugurated the event for release of the boats in the dam water. He then planned the Dimbhe poverty reduction program. The fishermen society was then registered with the help of local adivasis and various government departments as fisheries, Adivasi taxation, Irrigation (Mumbai) and central fisheries education center. Mr Dilip Kumar, president of the central fisheries education center and other scientists helped us in a big way. Participation of people is the backbone of the society. Volunteers are working taking a lot of efforts, studying the situation and contacting many others related to necessary information in their journey. The quality of the dam water was not up to the mark due to technical deficiencies and lot of efforts had to be taken to make the water of the dam suitable enough to support the fish farming. Lot of activities currently are carried out which include procurement of the fish seedlings , putting it in small cages in the dam, feeding them to grow to an appropriate size, saving them from birds and keeping a vigilance against theft.in spite of having no information about commercial fishing people are learning on their own. Government provided the financial help along with Swiss Society and there were contributions from rotary club of Pune and Department of fisheries due to which payment of advances for acquiring the fishing contract, making of boats and motor boats was possible .Currently 137 boats , one motor boat and nets weighing 2000 kg are been utilized for the commercial activity. The fish output is estimated to be about 3000 kg. One has to be extremely agile when working on this project Milun Sarya Jani Sept 2010.
Shashwat introduced ‘Pen Culture’ in the backwaters of Dimbhe Dam to provide a new source of livelihood for local tribals, in collaboration with Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE),
The concept of ‘Pen’ involved construction of enclosures on large flat areas at the bed of the water body, using wood, fish nets & bamboo in the dam’s backwaters in the months of May & June. The enclosure would fill up with water in rainy season. Fish eggs sized 20 to 25 mm would then be released into them, where they grew to about 100 to 150 mm in length as they would get protection in these pens from predators. Fish would be fed food made by mixing course rice grain and crushed peanut shells, every day morning & evening and remain in the pen till they held water. Around 33,000 fish, sized 70 to 100 mm would then be released into the dam.in a single month. The working of the entire ‘Pen’ project was shared by Mr. Anand Kapoor with daily “Lokmat”.
The first Pen Culture was started as an experiment in 2008-09 in the dam near Bendharwadi which is the largest Pen Culture in Maharashtra. At present, this project is been successfully replicated near Digad, Savarli, etc.
The entire Culture can be summed up as follows:
Some hurdles and challenges faced were:
Pen Culture experiments have overcome all these hurdles and helped the locals to gain meaningful employment.
I had heard a lot about Shashwat NGO, Anand Kapoor and Kusumtai. However, I could meet them only in 1991. At that time, I was working in, Maharashtra Krishna Dam Development Society, a Government Organization. Anand and his associates had come to meet me with a proposal to cultivate rice on the backwaters of Dimbe dam, instead of Nachni crop. The idea was to sponsor this activity through the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This would generate long term benefits and employment opportunities for the local tribe.
‘Padkai’, a traditional technique of farming, could be used to cultivate paddy in the fields. Bearing this confidence in mind, Anand and his associates from Shashwat started working on the project. But they were disappointed. Many government officials were against this idea of cultivating paddy under the Employment Guarantee Scheme and tried their level best to see to ensure that the project did not materialize.
For a project to be approved under the scheme of Employment Guarantee, it requires sanctions from various Government Bodies and Departments. Once sanctioned, the amount is secured for the particular project and then executed as per the requirements. It is expected that the work under such projects be done personally. However, in reality, work is outsourced to contractors. These contractors complete the task using expensive and latest technology and machinery, whereby the human labor work is minimized. Fake and manipulated documents are created to comply with the requirements of the project and the amount which is disbursed is distributed amongst the contractor, government employees, officials, executives and people’s representatives, working staff and officers of financial department. Such corruption is quite common in today’s democracy.
Regardless to say, that one can observe many problems and short-comings in the manner the task or the project is completed. Everyone in the system is more concerned in the monetary benefit rather than the benefits of completing the project. The people, for whom these projects are planned, hardly get any benefit out of this, neither monetary benefit nor development. To cut the long story short, this is just a goof up game. Anand still was neither disappointed nor angry.
What was Anand’s further step? Anand proposed that they be given the amount as per the Government norms. The further expenses would be taken care of by the Shashwat Trust through the money collected by various donations from Organizations and individuals. The next question that was raised was – what if Shashwat Trust could not pay the labor charges due to insufficient Donations; this could lead to serious legal issues. Finally the beneficiary tribal people came forward with a suggestion that, they would compensate the deficit by working more to pay the deficit. Finally the project was started.
At that time, the officials from the Water Conservation Department helped a lot in the project. The cultivation of paddy fields in the backwater region of the dam would in-turn increase the life span of the dam. Through this finding, it was requested that the cultivation project could now be considered as a developmental project for this area. This finding and the request played a major role in getting sanctions for the same.
Once the project was sanctioned many people came forward to take the credit for the same. However, Anand was not keen on fame, popularity or any other benefit. He was extremely task oriented.
If we have to evaluate the benefits reaped from the ‘Padkai’ Project, then various aspects would have to be considered. Foresightedness, development of the traditional methods, utility, perseverance, selflessness and more out-of-the-box thinking and ideas to get approvals for the projects could be some of the important ones.
As the project was executed, new challenges came up. One among them was that there were no mutation entries of the land papers. The piece of land was still owned by grandfathers and great-grandfathers. It was beyond the intellectual capacity of the tribals to get the mutation entries corrected. Anand visited the concerned Department. Some sincere and selfless officers helped a lot. Goodness begets goodness. Camps were held in various villages to put on paper the proper information about land holdings. This was the first time such project could be successfully completed. The workforce required for this project was fulfilled by Shashwat Trust executives. The future journey could now be little easy.
After the landslide in Malin district, it was stated that this tragedy occurred due to the ongoing Padkai Project. Anand, however, tackled the situation with clam and fervor and he proved that the criticism against Padkai project was just meaningless.
The major benefits that are inevitable through the Padkai project are –
The victims have to deal with and fight for their own problems. The affected people should converse wholeheartedly with advisers, social leaders, government officials, as it helps to find solutions.
There are many government officials who are honest and helpful. It is beneficial to tell them our problems.
The project that we want to start may be very good, but during execution of these projects many compromises need to be made, without which it’s difficult to execute the project entirely.
It’s important to have a vision and an eye on the long term goals while fighting the daily challenges.
The fame of the selfless working staff of Shashwat Trust, Anand and Leadership of Kusumtai, though controversial at times, has reached far and near.
Large water bodies are created due to construction of Dams. This collected water is used for various purposes throughout the year. As the water level goes down, pieces of land get exposed. These pieces of land are highly fertile and are very beneficial for farming. This type of farming is locally called as ‘Galper’ Farming.
In 2004, Shashwat took over the responsibility of developing Galper Farming in such backwater region of the Dimbe Dam. In the last 11 years this program was run successfully. This project expanded in both qualitative and quantitative manner. ‘Galper’ Farming was done on about 150 hectares on land in 2015 and this is appreciable. The farmers in the nearby area too took up ‘Galper’ farming following the success of the project. In the next 4-5 years the maximum area near the Dimbe dam would be covered by ‘Galper’ farming. This entire project is authorized and sanctioned by the concerned bodies.
However due to laxed attitude of the government employees it used to take a lot of time for getting sanctions for the projects. Initially it was also not clear which Department should give approvals for ‘Galper’ Farming. In this entire procedure the poor farmer is always the sufferer. Inspite of all these challenges, Shashwat trust has done appreciable contribution in the development of the tribal farmers. They have created a new milestone with this project.
Shashwat members have also considered the environmental aspects of this project. Wheat, Bajra, onions, potatoes, gram, all these grains are grown and used by the farmers. They avoid growing cash crops. The farmers also make minimum use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals. With this they ensure that fishery and fishing is not affected. The farmers are now self- reliant and they don’t have to go far and further for their living. This has increased the self -confidence and self -esteem of the farmers in this area.
Tribal Development department helped in funding for the water pumps required for the irrigation of ‘Galper’ farms. There was requirement of small, non -heavy duty pumps for the project. However, the Department was adamant in buying the heavy- duty pumps only. This was probably to satisfy other beneficiaries through this project. In the recent years this type of behaviors and activities have changed, which is good news!
Shashwat organized training programs for the farmers through an organization named as ‘Valmi’. This was a well thought of, well planned and well executed project.
Important Aspect of this project
For the irrigation of ‘Galper’ farms, diesel pumps were required. Because of the geographical constraints use of electric pumps is not possible. These pumps are also very expensive and beyond the paying capacity of a tribal farmer. Such a proposal was send to the concerned department; however they did not pay any attention to the same. Mr. Ajit Pawar, when he was briefed about the situation; he immediately intermediated and reduced the price of the pumps by about 50%. This order was executed by the Department. This was a great help and motivation for the Shashwat farmers.
Shashwat Anand by Satish Bhingare
The sanctuary was declared by a Joint Ordinance by the Maharashtra Forest Department and Revenue department vide ordinance no LWP/1085/C.R./588/(III) dated 16.9.1985 and covered an area of 130 sq. kms.
It covered the following areas:
Junnar: 69.97 sq. kms.
Alibaug : 14.92 kms.
Thane: 29.98 sq. kms.
This aggregated to 113.78 sq. kms. but if all the villages are considered then the area is around 166.46 sq. kms.
Type of Forest: Tropical forest
Fauna: Squirrels, Monkeys, Sāmbhar wild boar, rabbits, Mongos, cheetah,
Villages Covered: Bhorgiri, Velhali, Nigdlae, Kondhawle, Ahupe, Pimpregane, Sakori, and Patan.
The standing crops are ravaged by the wild animals especially in the month of November and December.
We are a NGO working around Bhimashankar area. There is great history to the entire business of a sanctuary and struggle with the bureaucracy of the government. The area was declared a sanctuary in 1985 and this could mean several things for the people whose livelihood depends on the land and the jungle for their sustenance.
Post the ordinance whole area was rife with the rumors that the villages affected by the order would be resettled. Being naturally concerned we wrote to the forest officials at Pune to confirm or dispel the jitters. Initially, we got a written assurance that the villages need not be resettled. But the rumors were relentless. So ultimately in 1989, we invited the forest officials to hold community meetings for us. But in the ultimate analysis it turned out that the villages would have to be resettled. The forest officials ultimately heeded to the public ire and beseeched helplessness. The dubious behavior of the officials was exposed and the meetings turned into demonstrations.
The tribal’s and villagers were living there since generations and could not do without the jungle. The whole movement now was a full-scale demonstrations and cancellation of the reservations was the new slogan. All the noise of the demonstrations fell on deaf ears and the bureaucracy kept dodging our pleas.
We had consistently kept our stance that the sanctuary should be for the people. These tribal’s were living in perfect harmony with surrounding habitat. A culture and tradition had evolved amongst the tribal’s of protecting and conserving the forest. There are numerous examples to demonstrate this. The forest had rare species of vegetation and trees as old as 800-1000 years. It has a wide variety of bio-diversity and good gene pool. The tribal’s had good knowledge about drawing new fire lines to quell small fires. They were hyper cautious about using fire and lint in their villages. There were customs and traditions developed not to use kerosene. They used traditional spear for hunting. So there are numerous examples imbibed in the cultural habits for protecting and conserving the forest. Now with this ordinance their way-of-life was at stake and the whole thing turned into an opposition.
We made our demands to the officer on special duty (SDO) of the local rights. This officer was responsible to prepare a report about the rights of local people. But when we asked for the report copy we always got evasive responses under the guise of secrecy. Ultimately, we demanded for the report under the right to information Act (RTI).
The opposition to the resettlement of villages now got vehement. We had suggested some amendments to the plan and yielding to public pressure for the first time the forest department made changes to the plan. The basic idea was to let people continue with the traditional way of life. They managed and cared for the forest in their own way and even rushed to douse the jungle fire in the middle of the night even without water.
The forest department never seeks the public opinion and confidence while drafting any plans or activities in their jurisdiction. The overall disposition of the department leaves one with a feeling that public harassment is the principle business of the department.
For the past two years our organization has set in a process of protection usage and preservation of this forest. We are at opposites to the idea of a sanctuary in principle. But we too are concerned with the lack of resources the locals have for the conservation of the forest. The condition of the tribals is exacerbated due to the growing consumerism and capitalist forces at play. This geography is a home to the tribals and we have put a process around for their wellbeing. We have formed a local interest group for the management of the forest comprising of:
The primary goal of this group is marking the forest boundaries, execution of plans, and upkeep and valuation needs of jungle bounties. This arrangement was widely dissimilated among the tribal’s.
This was started in Bhimashankar and now the group has three sub-groups with its own office. Their work is very effective organized and passes without problems.
This process is now being formalized to be adapted with some legal framework. This process is being thoughtfully built to fend-off all the legal and bureaucratic wrangling.
With industrialization environmental protection and conservation will get difficult. When the locals are resettled their concerns and traditions and other related aspects should come in the main-stay. Protecting the weak groups residing in jungles and on the shores is important. This conservation protection should be transparent and there should be a flank of other people who understand this.
Our self-help organization has been working for last four years in Ambegaon taluka of Pune district which nestles in the Sahyadri Ghats of Western Maharashtra. The problems faced by the backward Adivasi tribes of this area are social and ecological/ environmental in nature. Situated at 3800 feet above sea level, this area receives 250 inches of rainfall each year. The area can withstand this heavy rainfall only because of the dense forest cover that it is blessed with. Around 20 to 25 years back, i.e., in 1960 – 65, this region had a rich & dense forest cover with different species of flora and fauna. A dirt road was constructed to connect one of the places, Bhimashanker, a holy place famous for one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, with the outside world. However, this invited intruders from other places who came with the only intent to exploit this region under the garb of development. Contractors who were appointed to construct the dirt road burned down trees to make coal out of them. Large areas of forest were destroyed to make coal. Bullocks were used to carry away coal from inaccessible areas.
The only survivors were the ‘Devrais’. Devrais are stretches of forest dedicated to various gods like Bahiroba, Kalamjai, Vandev and Taathwadi, which are worshipped by the local Adivasi Mahadev Koli tribe. These Devrais escaped the greed of the contractors simply because of the faith of people. Bhimashanker’s 700 acres of Devrais and, Ahupe, which is situated at in the north, with its 20 – 25 acres of Devrais provide water to this region and help maintain the cool and pleasant weather.
This entire region is extremely mountainous and uneven. The mountains of Bhimashanker are source of the Bhima River and her catchment area while Ghod River receives water from Ahupe in the north. Guhiri and Bubra are two small tributaries in Bhimashanker and Tirwad respectively which meet here. Several Devrais are still protected at the source of this river. However, the Devrai which lies at the source of Ghodnadi is under threat. Dams are being constructed on Bhīma and Ghod rivers. Many trees have been chopped down to facilitate construction of the dams. Normally, when dams are constructed, trees below the water level are cut first. However, the permission to cut such trees is blatantly flaunted and trees standing above the water level are chopped off. This practice is rampant everywhere. However this practice poses a major hazard of huge landslides in this region as it receives 150/250 inches of rainfall each year. The entire top soil is washed away leaving rocky barrenness in its place. When dams are built, soil sediments in the dam’s reservoir and reduces the water holding capacity of the dam. Panshet dam has sedimentation of more than 4.5 times of the normal while it’s at 22 times in Nizam Sagar Lake. There is a fear that the same may happen here as well and become tombstones of modern holy places. As per environmental science principles, such areas need a forest cover of upto 60%. It may not be even 20% today. Satellite pictures of Maharashtra show a bleak picture. While in 1975, 13.22% of Maharashtra was enveloped with green forest, in 1982, it diminished to 9.83% when it should have been 30 – 35%.
The existing Devrais have survived purely because of the inhabitants’ faith. They are braving this senseless and greedy destruction by intruders from the outside world. These greedy and selfish businessmen are posing a grave danger to the very existence of these Devrais. Ultimately, it’s going to be the local tribals who will pay a very heavy price and have their woes doubled. There are 500 -600 very ancient trees & vines growing in these Devrais, with some having an expanse of 50 – 60 feet. These trees enable growth of smaller trees, which in turn help small shrubs and grass to grow. Thick vines cling and grow on all these and make up the entire forest. During rainy season, these evergreen forests of Sahyadri Mountains are covered with clouds for 4 long months, providing life to rare species of vegetation. Many rare medicinal plants are also found in these forests. The rare Indian red squirrel named ‘Shekru’ in local language can be found here. A beautiful bird named ‘Paradise Fly Catcher’ also inhabits these forests along with many rare species of insects. Till now, this valuable heritage of nature lies protected.
Another Devrai named Bahiroba can be found at Ahupe, at the source of Ghod River. Payodini Ghodnadi of Ambegaon receives water from this very Devrai. It spreads across 20 -22 acres of land with more than 1500 large trees of different species. Some trees are 50 -60 feet tall and have diameter of 12 to 13 feet. A vine has a diameter of 25 inches! Several such vines grow in these Devrais. Most of them have now been destroyed as they are mostly situated on slopes. During rainy season, the rains sweep away the top soil leaving the place bare and rocky. Cacti have already started growing in the areas where trees have been felled and land has become rocky. It is a shame that humans are converting areas receiving 250 inches of rain per year into desert!
These Devrai has survived because the locals have not even plucked a single leaf off any tree leave alone picked dried wood for fuel. However, the survival of these Devrais seems impossible with a developer offering `70,000 to the tribals. He has proposed to spend `20,000 to construct a road from Ahupe to Ambegaon, with zero possibility of buses plying on them over next five years. Unfortunately, local politicians have also shown keen ‘interest’ in seeing this road build, which will only ruin the forest. Considering that this developer is an extremely influential man, who has set his sights on these Devrais for the abundant wood that he will get, he will have his way.
This forest is not reserved under any department of the Government. But under the Environmental Protection Act of 1980, many other forests have received protection. In fact, Central Government’s permission is required to take up any activity in these protected forests. These Devrais must be protected by all, or else this write – up will end up being an obituary for these beautiful green Devrais.
Kusum Karnik & Anand Kapoor
It started with a voluntary organization wanting to turn a negative into a positive. Within a few years, the tribals of villages displaced at Dimbhe Dam acquired the rights to fish at the dam, yielding results far beyond expectations, says Chatura Rao.
“For the first time ever”, says Dr. Dilip Kumar, Director of the Central Institute of Fisheries Education, “our scientific expertise in fish culture has been successfully applied by a community of people in their own waters, to steer towards a sustainable livelihood.”
Between 1995 and 2000, Anand Kapoor, co-founder of a voluntary organization, the Shashwat Trust, was involved in the rehabilitation of 152 villages displaced by the Bargi Dam near Jabalpur. He watched a fishing project developed there. Soon after, when the Dimbhe Dam in Anand’s own neighbourhood flooded the neighbourhood agricultural lands of 24 villages, displacing 1,253 families Kapoor and Buddhaji Damse of the Shashwat Trust, began to search and confer with the locals about starting a fishery.
The Dimbhe Dam, 92 km from Pune, fords the Ghod River that begins in the remote, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Sahyadri hills. Nineteen dam-displaced villages are situated on the fringes of the reservoir that has an average fishing area of 1,278 hectares.
“Earlier, there were no boats and a handful of people were catching fish on rubber tubes or fishing in the streams,” says Buddhaji Damse, himself a tribal. “There was no proper stocking of fish seed. Explosives and poisonous substances were being used for fishing.” As a child, he would accompany his father carrying fish from Manikdoh Dam (in Junnar) to sell in various villages. HE recalls the exploitation of the tribal fisher folks at the hands of contractors. “In 2002, at our behest, boat-builders who had worked in the Bargi dam-affected areas, came to Dimbhe dam and taught the locals how to build their first three boats.”
The then-Divisional Commissioner of Pune District Prabhakar Karandikar decided to make a development plan for the region. He roped in State tribal and fisheries departments, as well as the Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE), Mumbai. The CIFE routinely tests and prepares a report on the water quality and fish-breeding potential of the newly constructed reservoirs in India. The report is then filed and forgotten. But not in this case…
The government NGO and community put together schemes under which the families living by the dam waters were supported for fish seed stocking, more boats and nets. Swiss Aid and the Rotary Club of Pune, Tilak Road, also helped. The boats were built by the people, who chipped in with wood and their labour.
Kapoor, an IIT Kharagpur Engineer, who has steered this project, smiles, “Sometimes you have officials who want to do good work. But it all comes together when the local people maintain unity. We believe that the locals have the first right to the local natural resources and their involvement in its development is a must.”
The right to fish in the Dimbhe Dam came after a struggle. In 2005, Kusum Karnik, co-founder of the Shashwat Trust, led an agitation to help the community claim this right to a politician from another tehsil. The reservoir soon came under the control of the local tribals.
Fishing at the dam today is community run and scientific. Families from 19 villages run the Dimbhe Tribal Co-operative Fishing Society that harvests up to 27 tonnes of fish per year.
And this is a reservoir whose net aquatic productivity the CIFE had termed low in their initial report.
Along with CIFE, the locals sowed Dhencha, a green manure crop, in fields that go underwater at full reservoir level. The crop grew and increased the total nitrogen, organic matter content of the soil in which it was planted, thus increasing the yield of the subsequent crop. It also provided the wide-mouthed Catla and Rohu fish with flood, upping general aquatic productivity. Guided by the CIFE, the tribals use state-of-the-art Café Culture, where fish fingerlings are grown in floating cages. They are then released into the open waters of the reservoir, increasing their chances of survival to 90 per cent.
The community monitors net size and fish catch. Measuring and weighing regularly and reporting back to CIFE. The Dimbhe reservoir recently yielded fish five kilos heavy!
The non-fishing monsoon months fall hard on villagers, especially the landless Kathkari and Thakar. On CIFE’s advice, they have begun to rear ornamental fish. With a view to empower the women of the community, 20 women have been trained in the upkeep of these fish.
“Last year, three families earned up to Rs. 1500 per month,” Damse explain patiently, proudly. “Many more earned Rs. 800 to 900. Initially the Govt. rules allowed just one member per family to officially to be part of the Fish Co-operative. Now one more per family can join. So the women, who were working anyway, are officially registering as members. They come to the meetings and participate actively.”
“The community has built 138 flat-bottomed wooden boats, owns about 2,00 kg of nets, and has the use of a fiber-glass motorboat, provided by Shashwat Trust to ply the catch across the reservoir. Earlier the Kathkari tribals used to drink alcohol instead of attending meetings. But now they see the value of getting organized. Shashwat Trust runs balwadis and schools for the Kathkari children, first generation learners, so they may eventually understand their rights.” With a little help from their friend…
Chatura Rao – Journalist, The New Indian Express
Even after 57 years of independence, one has to dream of a ‘strong, capable and confident India’ that is yet to come true. If this is not just a message for the bright, young school boys standing in front of you in an elite school in a mega city; then you can’t escape defining – what strength, what capability and confidence in doing what? All these virtues or qualities together can be termed ‘Empowerment’ which in turn is to be spelt out within a value framework. The empowerment (not only of the rulers or the state but of the civil society, the common people in India), one can say, lies in their capability and readiness to make the best use of resources – human, natural and financial, to meet the needs of all. Needs, not desires, minimum or optimum, include food, water, shelter, health and livelihood as a means to the end. One can say this process of harnessing resources, production and distribution of the value added, is to be necessarily equitous and just, if one’s goal is not power and privilege to a few and deprivation and destitution to the others!
India has a huge resource base and a favourable matrix of flowing rivers, deep aquifers, millions of hectares of land, forests (though more or less degraded), rich minerals, aquatic wealth, as also more and more citizens with human power. It has to apply its vision to use these, with certain choices for making a country where no one will be hungry or thirsty, unemployed or underemployed, shelter-less or even illiterate. The power of all this cannot be limited to electoral power of the elite but extends to include the real people’s power which lies in common choice of appropriate technology, of mechanisms for ensuring distributive justice as also the democratic process of planning, and making of these choices itself.
This requires, on one hand, people standing united at whatever level they work together, beyond caste-class and gender divisions, with a deep faith in human equity, commitment to national integrity and the required tolerance to attain and maintain unity. It also demands that the State behaves, not misusing its political mandate to divide and rule or misappropriate people’s resources, not creating any opportunities for human injustice, in any form, traditional and customary – caste-based or modern. If the State doesn’t or fails, then the test of empowerment lies in challenging the State, itself. Satyagraha, in its various forms, is the test of both empowerment of the citizenry in critically assessing the path and performance, in asserting rights and that of the State in responding to the same.
The beauty of such a bifocal vision of an empowered nation state is that it dose involve struggle, it may lead to a social movement but ultimately it doesn’t aggravate but helps resolve the power conflict.
With such a dream in our hearts, where do we stand today on the continuum and rating scales of our own? Events after events and politico-economic analysis give us a clear indication of our regress on the values equity as well as self-reliance. The arson and murder of dalits in Lohana, the farmers committing suicide in a vast region from Andhra Pradesh to Punjab, eviction of thousands of slum dwellers, death due to malnutrition of Adivasi children amidst comparatively richer natural resource base or the degraded, waterlogged lands, dead cattle, dry rivers and the empty public exchequers.
Each and all are signs of unacceptable, undemocratic decisions and actions by the State, and at times, inhuman anti-social units instigated by unholy politics. The still distant ways of empowering the dalits to counter the atrocities include universa equitous development measures, granting them rights to livelihood, as also effective measures of positive discrimination, such as reservation quota. Empowering farmers and labourers in the agrarian economy that India still facing crisis could only be with the right kind of status and space, as well as value for their agricultural produce, the natural capital invested, the labour inputs and the value added. The owner-cultivator category, if respected and supported (why call it a subsidy when in every sector, much of the infrastructure to production process, has State’s massive support) can sustain itself and agriculture therefore will be a sector accommodating huge human power and yet ensuring self-reliance to consumption orientation. The choice of technology to deal with the worsening crisis is thus obvious: Organic farming, self-reliant multiple cropping, as also equitable land distribution. Empowering farmers and farm labourers can’t be done through providing an international market.
The global market powers that the rulers ally with in the name of our green producers are all out to exploit our seed to sustainable biodiversity, to change our laws and patent our products to processes. Their profiteering ways fill the go-downs but keep stomach empty of none else but the toilers in the field. Challenge to this has to come from the organised farmer force but when our elected representatives in power are ignoring the dreadful impacts of market intrusion beyond limit, it is to be posed at every forum-economic, social and political. The arguments going against agriculture and agriculturists in India and our biodiversity signed behind the curtains and beyond the borders, at WTO, need to be questioned and so does the Monsanto way of genetically modifying food and economically exploiting the natural wealth.
A large section (93%) of our working masses are called ‘unorganised’ but they too as victims of disparity in wages to security and support by the State are up against it. Their empowerment against the plight of being shelterless lies in demanding and attaining equity through comprehensive and fair labour laws. The trend is the opposite. The so called organised in banking, insurance, education sectors – public and Indian private to government jobs are being thrown out simply by allowing the foreign direct investors and institutions, the corporate to take over. Their profit rules above our people, popular vision, appropriate technology of not mass production but production by masses and our ruling elite furthering their own petty interests. The modern kings, their mimicry at the democratic fora such as parliament, their criminal and corrupt alliances beyond any ideology and sanity as also their handshakes with the capital powers are all out to make vast majority of this country bonded labourers and disempower them. The sell-out of our minerals, our aquatic wealth and its impact on employment opportunity to country’s earning is not just on the displaced and destitutes it’s devastative for our independence and our future. Empowerment lies in claiming sovereignty of not just ministers and their corrupt nexus but of people, as was the vision of Gandhi and Ambedkar both. Social control over resources can lead to not statist by democratic socialist Indian power.
This vision of self-reliance – of both, the State and the society – can be worked out to last detail and is tried in small, yet replicable way all over. It doesn’t suggest isolation in the global context but it has to begin with the real social units – our communities, and democratic processes. It rejects the unlimited greed of consumerist lifestyle, competing with the war-mongering, pompously rich nation states out to expropriate and exterminate not just their neighbours but the world. It mesmerises many making them queue up including the population of large and resource rich Indian nation-state, as their customers. It requires that our desi alternatives flourish with primary to our small units. We will then have first rights to land, water, forest granted to our adivasis, Dalits, grazers, fish workers, farmers as per the principle: land to the tiller – ownership of means of production – gram swarajya all of which has much in common. The individual-community conflict can be resolved by ‘Grandman’ model with some improvement. These democratic fora will work with technology and not without it, to harness the resources but sustainably. Our waters can be tapped but beginning with mini and micro watersheds. The principle of subsidiarity, enlarging circles with diminishing rights and powers will be followed not only in watersheds but also administrative units.
Living simple self-reliant life is not against prosperity. It needs empowerment – moral to physical. It is not against science, it stands as the scientific method but without misusing science and technology, with values of equity and sustainability which can and is to be ensured only by the popular participation, direct democracy which is empowering our polity.
Ten, or even five years ago, a survey of people’s anxieties about the future of human civilization might have put fears about their military security, focused on a threat of East-West conflict, or on nuclear holocaust, close to the top of the list. Gro Harlem Brundtland further added, “Such a survey today would be more likely to show such fears being replaced by concern over the global environment. People all over the world are increasingly worried not only about their own and their children’s future. Atmospheric and water pollution, a rapid extinction of plant and animal species, and the emerging spectre of global warming and climate change, have created a deepening anxiety about the future of this planet.”
We are also aware of the North-South problems, the unequitable distribution and consumption of natural resources, the piling international debts and the destruction of national resources especially that of natural forests in the third world countries. We know that the problems of environment are linked with the problems of poverty and underdevelopment on the one hand and over development and affluence on the other.
While this storm is raging in the world, in some remote, ecological niches, in the quiet woods, in river valleys and distant hills the tribal life is still going on in its traditional ways.
The thinkers in the world are worrying about what the world has lost and is still losing in terms of biological resources. Every day more and more species of plants, animals and insects are becoming rare and extinct. The biodiversity is being destroyed, the gene pool is shrinking, our water resources are drying up and are getting polluted, rivers are becoming worse than sewage drains, our oceans are getting polluted, air is becoming unbreathable, smogs are smothering life, our forests are dying because of acid rain, our beautiful lakes are turning into dead acidic water tanks with no life in it, lands are turning saline, are getting water-logged, turning into dust bowls. The deserts are marching.
And yet in the small corners the tribal life still sustains. In one such habitat in India, in the Western Ghat hill region is a small pocket where a tribe “Mahadeo Koli” makes a humble living. Their homeland is a hilly undulating, steeply sloping terrain. The area is rocky with very thin soil cover and with heavy rainfall during the four monsoon months (June-Sept.) and then a dry spell of eight months. Most of the area has good vegetation, though not as thick as it used to be some years ago. Some thirty years ago it was charred into coal and was taken away to feed the big cities by a contractor who basically came there to make the first dirt road to a temple – Bhimashankar. This area is catchment of two rivers and dams are coming up on both of them. We came to work in this area as a small voluntary group.
The Living Patterns:
These tribals have been living in this area for centuries. They are a peace-loving community. There are small hamlets spread over the hills. They are hunters, food gatherers, pastoral people and also practice agriculture. The area being difficult and inhospitable has remained undeveloped. These people have to go without most of the common infrastructural facilities like roads, transport, electricity, dispensaries, and markets.
And now with the dams blocking their area, the privation has increased. They walk long distances carrying heavy head-loads for whatever trading they have to do.
Their houses are small huts constructed with wood, stones, and the walls are mud-plastered, having mud-flooring and thatched or tiles roof. All the material is from the surrounding area. It is comfortable house-which remains cool during summers and warn during winters. It is to be repaired every few years. It is a part of their life-style. The houses are not overstuffed with material things. They have their grain-bins made of local material, usually bamboo, or of earthenware pets. They are very clever in using different branch structures as fixtures to support or to hang things from. Many a time they would use ropes made from plants or climbers instead of using nails or iron wires to hang things. They usually have around 10 to 20 heads of cattle and many be some goats. All the animals live along with the family under the same roof as they must be guarded from the wild animals especially panthers. Dog is a member of the family and is a useful member at that; it is looked after like a human being. People love their animals and do not treat them as utility articles but as fellow beings. If cattle are bitten by a snake, they would not mind biting some leaves of a particular tree, which are irritants inside the mouth. They would chew the leaves and then spit the juice in the eyes of the animal to cure the snake bite, after which they themselves suffer from the irritants in the leaves.
They are simple people and have few needs. They do not much depend on markets. They occasionally go to the weekly markets to buy salt, dry-fish, spices, oils, pulses, cloth etc., but most of their needs they satisfy from the forest. They still practise barter exchange, trading myrobalan (a dried nut) for salt, honey for sweet oil, wax for turmeric etc.
Their food is simple, made up of locally grown things or collected from the forest around. Rice, millets, milk, wild vegetables, fish, crabs, and rarely meat, makes their usual diet. They suffer from protein deficiency as there are very few pulses grown here. Usually they eat hand-pounded rice and fresh-ground millets which not only are tasty but are also much more nutritious than machine-processed ones. They usually make food frugally instead of keeping left-overs which are bad for health and also need some equipment to keep it protected. They do not eat stale food usually.
They use very few clothes, and do not have facilities to keep excess of clothes; usually the children are half-naked and elders also with not much more. They are clean by habits, despite the water scarcity during summer. Many a times they would borrow clothes from a neighbour if they have to go out of their area. The women are fond of ornaments and these are made up of silver, beads and glass.
They are a hardworking breed and are very active. They are a happy community; singing, dancing and laughing comes easily to them.
Some of the area is thickly covered by forest. This forest is descried as a natural, virgin, ever-green cloud forest. It is a four-tier forest with tall trees, medium size trees, bushes and then grasses. There are huge climbers (lianas) which go round many trees making it difficult to penetrate. The ground if left uninterfered is covered with a thick carpet of dried leaves. All this protects the thin and fragile soil cover, and brings down the velocity of big rain drops.
All this forest is a live and self-sustaining biosphere. There is good diversity of plants, flowers, fruits, animals and insects. It is a representative forest for most of the Western Ghat (in Maharashtra) ecology.
The people residing in this area are very well acquainted with their forests and the whole area. The people’s knowledgeability is the main support of their sustainability. They use the forest for most of their needs – food, fodder, fuel, fiber, material to construct houses, to make agricultural implements, and also medicinal, herbs, peace of mind, as well as amusement, hunting and entertainment and spirituality.
There is an institution of temple groves (temple forest) called Deorai, which are dedicated to their gods. These are well preserved and protected patches of forest, the protection being totally social, traditional and spiritual Values of the society. During the charcoal-making invasion of this area, this faith on the Deorai was the only saving factor. These deorais are protected with many practices end taboos e.g. not a single leaf, even a dried one is to be removed from them; in some deorais you cannot enter with your footwear, etc. These are now being recognized as precious gene-pools. In a small patch 6/7 acres there could be 25 species of big trees, many bushes, climbers, orchids, mushrooms, ferns etc. This forest, like many others, is rich in bio-diversity. The plants are location-specific and are not common everywhere. People have great regard, respect and faith in this institution of deorai. Some of the deorais are may be seven hundred years or even older according to botanists. There are numerous deorais in this small pocket of tribal population.
The relationship between these people and the forest is multi-faceted and very rich. Forest is their life-support system. People use it to get variety of material. Their animals graze in it. Their agricultural lands get fertilized with the bio mass from the forest. People depend on the forest for their subsistence and sustenance.
People here also have practices which make the forest sustainable. While using y=the forest wealth people have formulated many taboos and practices. To give some examples – people in the villages which are on the top border of the Western Ghat hills, from where the hills suddenly drop down very steeply towards the western coastal side, follow a practice of making a fire-line. Each year during summers villagers would decide upon a date, and on that day all the able-bodied persons from the village will go to a specific site, out grass in a narrow strip of say 2-3 meters and then set fire to it. All the people with small twigs in their hands watch the fire and do not allow it to spread outside the strip. With this fire-line, their forest remains protected from the fires set by the people down the ghats (hills) who are very careless about fire. People in this area, though they chew tobacco, would hardly ever smoke cigarettes or bidies, while in the area down below the ghats (hills) smoking is a common practice. So also these people never distil liquor, though might drink it. In many villages, kerosene oil is taboo as the forest gods do not allow it. Kerosene is very inflammable and often an accident might take place when a kerosene lamp is kept burning at night. In these villages a hut catches fire, often the whole village and the surrounding forest can be reduced to ashes. People do not take their animals for grazing in the first month and a half after the rains begin, as the new and tender shoots have come out and once they are trampled they will just die. The people eat a lot of tubers, but they are never dug out before the seeds are formed and broadcasted, so that the next crop is assured. People in this area take a very good care of their forest. The forest and people make each other sustain. The relationship between the people and the forest is symbiotic, an organic relationship, non-exploitative.
The agriculture is below subsistence-level. They cultivate paddy, hill-millets, some oil seeds, little of pulses. It is a traditional agriculture that people practice and not the modern one where a lot of chemicals are used and which is over-exploitative in nature and totally market oriented. The tribal people have indigenous varieties of crops which are good quality and tasty food. They also practise zoom or shifting cultivation, which has come under a heavy criticism from the outside world.
It is in fact a sustainable practice if the tribal area and the tribals are left to themselves. They work hard and make a living bit they are not basically an insecure people and do not wish to over-produce by exploiting the nature. They work hard only up to a point where they will get enough but they will not want to over-exploit nature or themselves for their future security.
The agriculture is totally rain fed and traditional. Peoples’ knowledge about seasons, the rain-patterns along with the constellation is amazing. The first constellation for rain ‘Kritika’ which comes before the monsoon starts in the month of May, to ‘Swati’ in Sept.- Oct. by the end of monsoon, all the rain-constellations are well known all over India as it is a monsoon country. The tribals still use this fund of knowledge. Their agriculture is based on this rhythm of these constellations. People are very observant and are aware of the natural phenomena around them. A good myrobalan season during summer predicts a good monsoon. When the glow-worms gather on trees, the rains are a fort-night ahead and when they break the gathering, rains are a week ahead and so many other correlations are observed in order to arrange their agricultural operations on time. The paddy varieties are chosen according to the water availability, soil conditions and rainfall patterns. This knowledge is commonly shared. The whole community is alive together on these issues. A village gathers together to discuss and decide which area will be brought under shifting cultivation for that year. They also decide upon a date when they will start their agricultural operations, by consulting a deity through their priest. It is the community’s collective wisdom gathered over centuries of experience that is verbalized through this priest and this is a great asset to the whole community. It looks like shrouded in mystery to an outsider, but in reality there is nothing mysterious out it. It is intuitive, which is a combination of rational judgement, emotions, sentiments and a sixth sense may be. It has helped them survive through centuries under harsh conditions, has seen them through flooding rains and harsh droughts. Tribals are known to take droughts rather easily as they know their forests which can easily sustain long droughts. They use a lot of food from the forests.
These tribals have so far lived peacefully in their area in an ecologically sustainable life style. They mostly live a community life. It is a well-integrated society having a complex relationship between individuals, the community, the forest the nature and their deities. The area where they have been living for generations over centuries is an important part of their existence. They know the surrounding area like the palm of their hands, which trees and plants grow where, where and how the wild animals live, where water, even during heavy rains will not flow but will get absorbed due to the sandy patch, and where it will be available through-out the year to quench the thirst of human as well as animal. They are well-versed in their areas.
The knowledgeability of tribals is a basis of their life. They are highly educated in their own sense. They know their surrounding area, the traditional practices. The folk ways, the rituals, the agricultural practices, their animals and animal husbandry, the wild animals, hunting, crab hunting, fishing, swimming and wading through rough and rapid flowing shallow or deep waters- of their streams and rivers, climbing trees, collecting fire wood and forest produce, collecting food from the forest, processing it so as to remove the bitterness or toxicity, cooking, building houses, weaving baskets, grain-bins, and cradles for the babies, the medicinal practices and mid-wifery. All this and much more like community living, caring for the weak, respecting the strength of body and mind, respecting age-old wisdom, comforting each other during distress and sorrow and so on. This education is of non-formal, non-monetary type – it is on-life training, like on job training, as the job is to live. They could be illiterate, yes. They are uneducated where education and literacy have combined into a cunning tool of exploitation and self-centred life-style and a weapon to protect one from getting exploited. Tribals have yet to learn his.
Their life-style is simple and not material oriented and therefore to a outsider they look poor. They are poor of richness means a fat bank-balance, a big mansion, lot of clothes, things to throw away and destroy, to be a self-centred, careless person. But if you look at it from a different angle, they are very rich. The most important thing, is that they do not have to be security-prone, they are not dependent on costly gadgets and entertainment, they are free of boredom, they are easily satisfied, can laugh easily and merrily, they have emotional and sentimental richness, they are surrounded by rich nature. They have rich ethical and moral atmosphere where they do not have to be suspicious of everybody. They are ready to share most of their belongings. They Can give and receive love and affection. All these are becoming scarce, almost extinct from the society outside.
The ethics and the social values are also social resources on which the tribal societies thrive and sustain and which the modern civilization has forgotten or is-trying to fix them in a legal system which in reality does not work as effectively as the social sanctions.
Richness and poverty ought to be redefined. The poverty of the displaced person, who is thrown in the city slums or on the pavements where he is totally without any resources of his own, is the worst kind of poverty. The basic resources along with the natural resources are the knowledge of one’s own surrounding one’s own community, where one can be at ease and protected, where one can be free to express, to explore, to experiment and yet to be protected by the binding forces of the community. It gives freedom and protection which is totally absent from the lives of the slum-dwelling urban poor and also to quite some extent from the lives of other city people as well.
As I have already said, the tribal life is integrated, interrelated and complex. Many of their practices involve multiple factors and I am afraid I am not able to go point by point describing it. Their life itself is holistic, ecological, spiritual and communal. They have a suitable value system. They have a strong sense of ethics, and are known to be honest and straight. They are hardworking yet not industrious. They are loath to labouring when they do not need to work. They conserve the nature which is their primary resource, rather than hoarding things. Money is not the central theme of their life. Many of their ways and practices are free from its monetary system. In agricultural work they have practices which are relevant to their value system. The ‘Padkai’ system is one such example. In a village, the families who want to undertake a similar and laborious piece of work will come together to form a temporary labour co-operative. They form a group pooling together human and bullock power. Then the group goes round working on each member’s field by turn. These will be equitable labour input and in this way the works will be completed. In this there is no money exchange, no one is a master and no one is a servant and the work gets done with high quality and discipline, with no supervision necessary. In our micro-water-shed programme, we used this method and the results were very good. In this, people not just participated but planned the programme in their own way and we learnt a lot from them. In this system the poorest of the village has chance to exchange his labour and get his work done without having to arrange for the money. This leads to equity which is a part of their, value system. This system also needs a close-knit community with good links of communication. All big, laborious and rather tiresome work like making a new paddy fields are full of thick mud and one has to go into this mud and bending down pull the weeds out. In this group there is a man who beets the drum, the other plays cymbals and sings a song which is followed by all the weeders. The weeds are put aside in small heaps which are removed by some men who have to collect the heaps and take them outside the fields. Usually the weeders are women while other things are done by men.
In this way the tiresome work is made lively and light and amusing by music. This is the way of their life, which is a part of their spirituality. The practice of ‘Sath’ again is typical of the tribal way of life. In the beginning of the agricultural season, a date is fixed and on that day all the men from the village will go to their temple and worship the deity. It is a mark of the start of the season. No one can start the work before this ritual. This ensures that all the area will be having the same stage of crops in a given time. This is necessary for the work of guarding the field crops from wild animals especially the monkeys, rabbits in the day time and wild boars that come during night are very dangerous. Also these people, as they are community-oriented, take care of the needy and handicapped household e.g. a widow, a sick farmer etc., by working on their farms when everyone has completed work on one’s farm, and they would see to it that the household does not have to go without food for a year because of the handicap.
There are poor people in this society but there are very few landless people. In olden days and even now they don’t consider land as a commodity. Land is a natural resource and so the excess land which the family cannot cultivate is given to a needy family without even any remuneration and hence there is hardly anyone who is landless. As no one is landless, no one can exploit others and so there is nobody who is highly rich, and there is no bonded labour in this community. In many of the tribal societies which were unfortunately exposed to outsiders, especially during the colonial regime, this system got completely disrupted and the money-lenders and merchants with the backing of colonial rulers who had similar interest, have grabbed the lands away, making the tribals slaves and bonded labourers in their own ancestral lands. Even at present in most places the nation states do not respect these tribal cultures and don’t allow them to go on, their own value-based cultural ways.
In this area where we are working for some years now, say 70-80 years ago a similar invasion by moneylenders took place. They started collecting wealth, buying lands, making people poor, landless and slaves by taking away their resources. These moneylenders were very cunning and they mace drinking-alcoholism a habit of the tribals by offering them drinks, sometimes free, in order to get them into the habit. The moneylenders in fact took advantage of the tribal habit of drinking liquor occasionally. The atrocities grew to an unbearable level and there arose some rebels who brought this situation under control. They formed bands and attacked the moneylenders and burnt away their books, without killing them. Now the area is free of the moneylenders as well as there are no rebels. This movement had a spiritual sanction from the deities as well as the community. These deities usually give expression to the will and wisdom of the community and form a very useful part of the cultural milieu.
In everyday life these people are hospitable and affectionate people. They live a community life, caring for each other. They take care of their guests and reciprocally receive hospitality from their hosts when they visit friends in other villages. This is like a social infrastructure available to them in their area and is non-monetary.
Looking at the overall atmosphere in a tribal community one feels the predominance of the feminine principle. The feminine qualities like emotionality, sentimentality, affection, conservation, hardworking, being frugal, careful, are part of their temperamental make-up. The gender discrimination is not much. A woman is not a secondary human being, though now with changing times her status is not exactly that of an equal person. But she has a place in the society.
The tribal societies, as they have been confined to their area and secluded from the outside world, became self-sufficient in many ways. Medicine is one field where they have developed a lot of indigenous practices. They use a lot of herbs and other things for humans as well as animals. Their traditional herbal medicines have quite some things common with the Indian medical system known as Ayurveda. They perceive illness as a complex process in a holistic way and so their medicine is not merely an individualistic, physical affair, but a socio-cultural-spiritual one.
The deities, the rituals, the traditional healer called ‘Bhagat’ and the herbs together form their medical system. The ritualistic medical systems of the tribal people are yet to be fully understood. It can be called a community or social medicine. To give some examples; some fifty or more years ago they used to worship a deity ‘Mariai’ when an epidemic especially like cholera broke out.
The village as a whole came together, made a small wooden cart for the goddess, then worshipped her and took her around the village with drums beating. Everybody in the village thereby was made aware of the epidemic. By making everyone aware of this epidemic, a reaction get started which prepared their minds to resist the disease physically as well as psychologically and spiritually. Then the goddess was taken out of the boundary of the village and was received by the next village where she was treated in the same way and was handed over to the next village and many such carts with the goddess were reached up to a particular temple following different routes, covering all the tribal, villages. By this process, all the villages were alerted about the dangerous disease and were prepared for it. This was an effective way of communicating with the community as a whole, when these were no communication links of today. When all the carts reached the temple, a spontaneous religious fair took place, which shows that the whole community was buzzing with communication reporting the progress of her carts. After this the community felt secure and protected. Medicine or health when seen from a holistic point of view, and not from the reductionist one, looks different. The psyche plays an important role in the art of healing, which even the modern medicine has, come to accept.
Fritjof Capra in his book ‘The Turning Point’ remarks “Folk healers who are guided by traditional wisdom, see illness as a disorder of the whole person, not only the patient’s body but his mind, has self-image, his dependence on the physical and social environment as well as his relation to the cosmos and the deities.”
“They attempt through rituals and ceremonies to influence the human mind, relieving the apprehension that is always a significant component of illness and helping the patient to stimulate the natural healing process that all living organisms possess. The healing process represents the coordinated response of the integrated organism to stressful environmental influence.”
The outside world is not much aware of this tribal existence, this wealth of existence where the life is still ecologically, socially, culturally and spiritually sustainable. Our society is no more a society or a community; it is a collection of atomized individuals belonging nowhere, a desert where there is no emotional humidity, a binding force. It gets hot and cold suddenly and the human beings as well as the other life, the biodiversity of this earth is dying away for lack of a sustaining social atmosphere.
The concept and process of development is primarily political and ideology based. Any discussion on development in any country or at a global level relates to the prevalent political equations. The relationship between national, governmental, community – based and international institutions give shape to any development related discussions which in turn churn out various development schemes with political overtones. Development is dependent on the view points, inclusion and exclusion strategies and understanding of people in power. Most development schemes are made by political parties in power, to help them remain in power. In India, old powerhouses have not only moulded themselves to blend with the changing times but have also used development as a means to remain in power.
After the disintegration of USSR, the Cold War ended and with it ended Communist Socialism and strengthened Capitalism for development of economies, especially in the Third World countries. International Financial Institutions like International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) intervened during this period to bail out countries which had taken huge financial aid from USSR and had been rendered bankrupt or were close to bankruptcy. Southern countries were forced to restructure their economies by abiding by the IMF & WB norms.
The questions that arise are who will be deprived of development, who will take the responsibility to bring about development and who would derive benefit from development? It is evident that the established powerhouses decide at the international level what development entails, who will undertake it & for whom, who would not contribute to global development and who would contribute to it. Whatever be the answers to the above questions, one section of the society which features nowhere in the development process are Women.
Development as seen through the Gender Lens:
For the past four decades, Development and Gender have been constantly and extensively discussed. Administrators, Policy – makers and Persons engaged in researching & understanding the Development concept have found Development and Gender/ Women as an important topic.
This article seeks to evaluate the discussions that have taken place on this topic over the last four decades. As mentioned earlier, Economic Development was a huge challenge faced by Economists and Administrators in the earlier days at the global level making development a topic of extensive discussions. Keeping their power intact, people in power ha to understand the global economic systems, their inter – relationships, their underlying principles, their working pattern and then prepare their development strategies. They also had to contend with people who were demanding development which was equitable and face questions if they were found to unjust or inequitable. In short, the concept of development became socio – political in nature. Extensive discussions & debates began on what should be the National Development Strategy and how the neglected section could be brought in the development space.
Researchers studying Feminism found that women were one of the components of the neglected section and found no development scheme which considered gender as a basis. In fact, they found that women were looked at as ‘needy’ and ‘dependent’ in every development scheme that they had studied. Researchers at several Institutes for Women Development started working seriously on gender, class and lineage as aspects in the development process. They proved through their study that women were ‘invisible’ in any development related scheme, study or programme. It must however be pointed out that there were various schools of thought associated in the study of feminism/ women and points raised by each one of them contributed handsomely in answering tricky and sticky questions and change the thought process and direction.
They not only proved that women were not only considered as ‘needy’ and needed to be pulled out of ‘pitiable’ conditions/ situations but that their contributions to the development process was deliberately kept ‘invisible’ to pamper the patriarchic and capitalist society. They further pointed out that, if contribution by women was given due consideration, it would mean giving them due credit followed by rights and thereby a distinct status in the society. Women & Development was studied from view points of Economics, Political Science and Gender thus bringing out principled view points.
Four thoughts have been studied below in context to their analysis related to development. In context to gender based development, one thought considers the contribution by women as a valid partner in development as an autonomous or independent person. Considering them as logical person and autonomous entity, provision should be made to give them the equal status denied earlier. They should be financially empowered and brought into the mainstream of the development process of the economy. If women are to be made ‘visible’ in the development process, due cognizance must be taken of her past contributions of bringing up the next generation. Structural changes need to be made to involve women in the development process and thereby treat them as equals.
Questions to the same effect were posed to the progressive & modern minded people with capitalistic leanings. They opined that women need not be involved in the development process but any contribution of theirs must not be kept ‘invisible’. It should be highlighted in the context of their financial activeness in the private and co –operative sectors of the economy and thereby in the societal structure, thus establishing a place for them.
The Marxist form of Feminism brings out the gender inequality in the social & financial structure. They demand not just alteration but complete demolition of structures which are gender based. Furthermore, they have highlighted the role of men in exploitation of women and the support the system/structure gives them to continue this exploitation. It questions all those structures which consider gender based development processes and also the very freedom of an individual and the foundation of such structures.
These two schools of thought came up in the 70s which highlighted the need to involve women in every development process and remove all in equalities.
With the above thought schools as foundation, another school of thought came up in the 80s, which viewed development as a wider concept and considered it as a complex process with social, political and financial implications but did not consider gender as an important aspect.
Many other aspects were also considered by feminists in the study of development process. They linked environmental activism to it, ignoring statistical information, ideologies and developmental schemes. According to them, the current developmental process refuses to accept environment as an independent entity. Environmental feminism opined that the male – dominated structures was biased and considered environment, women and natural resources as unequal. They felt that few people in dominant positions exploited the natural resources at will and that they had to be prevented from doing so. Such forces were responsible for gender inequality as it suited them to cause such inequalities. This helped them to stake right on all the resources. They were of the view that women have a special relation with environment which is closely linked to caste, creed and lineage. Furthermore, feminists all over the world speak about such gender based inequalities. Women of developed countries have a different place in their country’s development process when compared with the place that a third world nation gives to its women citizens. This requires proper understanding of the current developmental frameworks in existence the world over and then bridge the gap between them
The above analysis has been done primarily with the aim to find out the position & role of women in the developmental process of a country, considering development as a political issue. However, it is not easy to isolate women from the development process as it would be viewed as a political ploy. It must be stressed upon that understanding development process as a gender based discrimination is complex and raises more questions than does it give answers to already existing questions.
There was a thought in my mind ever since I started working in Bhimashankar area in 1991. It was noticed that the eco-people living in the forest here had adopted a different lifestyle. The area was different from what I had perceived it to be. As there was no arrangement for transportation, roads or buses I had to be entirely dependent on the people here. My behavior automatically became humble. I started my work living in any house which was offered to me, sleeping in a bed and consuming food offered by people convincing them for activity and performing any activity come what may. My focus was not to be a burden to any single family. Then as I came into contact with more people, I liked their laborious but happy and satisfied life. I came to know their knowledge about the jungle and how they preserved it. They brought daily necessities as food, fodder, timber and fuel for the house and medicinal plants etc. from the jungle. They adopted the system wherein they treat jungle as mother, save and maintain it. I understood that their objective was not to disturb the principle amount and live on the interest using jungle efficiently though the system is laborious, store all the possible resources and discard none and live with satisfaction even in the case of shortage of resources. We who are living in an urban lifestyle since our childhood will not be able to understand this lifestyle easily. It is natural to think that we should uplift the lifestyle of the unfortunate, poor people. I started respecting them when I realised that they possessed a great inner strength even when living in poverty by which they are able to live a happy and satisfied life. I realized that they not only should be treated as equals but should be treated as Gurus while working with them. Exploitation was a major problem in the area. They were exploited by the people outside due to their honesty, simplicity, charity. The Adivasis inhabit an area of a difficult terrain of mountains and valleys and forests in remote locations. Government machinery does not reach there and hence they do not have an access to many facilities like registration of land documents, education and information about outside world. On being noticed by outside people, they make attempts to keep Adivasis in same conditions. They are deceived by outside people due to lack of legal knowledge in transactions. We realised that the answer for this problem was collective and cooperative working which takes care of their weaknesses and give them timely help. All activities involving hardships may not be possible to be carried out for a single family and hence it had been planned to be done bipedal” of joint labor. This type of activity is time bound and people mutually adjust themselves to work on fields belonging to each other. They don’t depend on money and even the poorest family can get the work done. It was realised by the people that they are interdependent on society and they had to work with mutual respect in cohesive society. I noticed many such examples on which I decided to unite people against their exploitation in the environment where employees from different government departments were present and involved in the act. We decided the direction of the activity leading to providing knowledge in order to make people realize about their exploitation. We realised one more dimension of their nature when we made them reasonably aware of their exploitation and insisted that they fight against it. It was their sensitivity and softness in their nature. They thought about the family of a teacher getting into trouble if they registered a complaint against him for remaining absent and still being paid salary and decided against it. This very nature was responsible for lack of complaints and actions. I often used to get confused with this attitude. I still don’t know whether I should insist to change their nature of caring for others.
I noticed love and affection in family life. The women folk is comparatively treated better in the family in contrast with outside even though I can’t say that there is no injustice in the society on women. I didn’t find any child being scolded in 25 years. Cases of personal fights, murders, suicide and rape are rare. Due to their constant contact with the jungle flora and fauna, they have profound knowledge of jungle with which they coexist on the principle of live and let live. These facts are not known to people outside jungle, students, government infrastructure, politicians they act and behave as if these people never exist. Nobody seems to take a serious note of their knowledge, nature, lifestyle and their relation with the jungle. Local residents of the jungle were not informed that the area was declared as a forest reserve in 1985. The information was revealed unofficially to us through some employees of the forest department. We were in complete dark about it. Gradually the rumour that the villages will be displaced spread out. Keeping mum was not possible then onwards. On contacting the forest officer he stated that he knew nothing about it. We then resorted to agitations on one hand and conducting a study on other. We located the by-law on wildlife preservation with great difficulty, kept on contacting the authorities and collecting allied information. We hosted the first reserve forest conference in 1991 in this connection. We extended our contacts to increase the scope of information to nation as well as international level. We conducted research on the world’s first forest reserve “Yellow Stone Park” 1872 and concluded that it was designed for entertainment, thrill and adventure which was achieved by killing innocent local Red Indian tribes and driving them out of the forest. The same model was copied world over. Ranjeet Singh also designed the forest act in 1972 in accordance with the US model. Indian research on wildlife was influenced by research from United States. WHNS and WWF-1 organizations were formed and were funded by western countries and their conception and studies were oriented in same direction. They did not consider the strength and knowledge of native population. Ranjeet Singh obviously copied the US act. He thought it was necessary to get recommendations from the US and hence the locals were considered as enemies of the jungle and they were legally prohibited from living in the area by law.
The history of the first reserve forest is depicted in the book titled as Law of the mother. It documents the articles from the international reserve forest conference 1992. The bloodshed history related to the reserve forest Yellow Stone Park was purposely kept secret till then. All the stake holders have to understand that the wildlife act 1972 is based upon this fact and hence is a dark stain on our name. On the other side, one group, planned an alternative project through study and named it as people’s jungle research organization. Our experience was that people use the jungle and also preserve it. The same experience was observed in other jungles as Sasnka, Vaijach, Kakalakkad, Mundane Thurai and Ranthambore. How is it possible that people will destroy the jungle on which they depend for their livelihood? People outside the jungle have different opinion about the jungle. The contractor who came into Bhimashankar area in 1960 for construction of temporary road came back to the area as a coal contractor, cut trees in the area and made coal. The forest department hardly did anything against him. British also were outsiders interested in money and power and their strategies related to the jungle was in accordance with it. Unfortunately, the forest department has limited itself to the same boundaries and the people having power did not think about change in the strategy. Indian bureaucracy also resorts to implementation and defending similar strategies and planners also do the same. Urban environmentalist and nature lovers might think that locals of the jungles are its enemies. Tourists are no different, visiting the jungle writing articles and taking photographs will not lead to preserving the jungle. The study of the scientists remain limited to their studies only. It requires to have a composite scientific study to reveal the secrets of the jungle. It is very obvious that the people who use the jungle will preserve and study it better. I was surprised when I observed the outlook, care and information about the flora and fauna of the jungle in the local population when I lived and interacted with them. I started to respect them. It was confirmed that only these people will take care of the jungle. If these people were driven out of the jungle and their entry was restricted then their relationship with the jungle would be impaired leading to destruction of the jungle. Amending the national law to make it best applicable for the right purpose is a gigantic task requiring huge strength. People living in the jungle are illiterate and poor to be able to take the load. But still if they with all their might start working on this job it may be possible. This is the thought behind forming people’s jungle research organization.
People’s Jungle Research Organization.
We decided to study the jungle in the vicinity of the village collectively with the help of local Adivasis. They worked on the project for a meagre consideration. Initially we began with enlisting the flora of the forest. We then collected the information of each item in terms of its characteristics, benefits, germination capacity and other details and documented it. We then focused on the fauna. Tigers (leopards) have a special consideration here and is treated as god, served as a vehicle to the goddess and has its own temple visited by forty villages in the area. People here celebrate “Waugh Barras” similar to “Vasu Barras” which is dedicated to cow and calf. Leopards kill the cattle stock for food and hence are driven out of the village but never harmed or killed by the tribal people. They have followed the traditions in their culture. Their plans about the way to treat the wildlife already exist and are practiced. Butterfly bringing about the pollination is treated as horse of god. They do not look into animals with aspect of beauty. Shekharu (Giant Squirrel) is being considered important by outsiders due to its beauty but has a very small contribution in the overall ecosystem. Wild boars are the major source of food for locals supplying them proteins and fats which otherwise is scarce. They hunt animals using traditional weapons by executing it skilfully, using their flexibility and stamina on which they have survived for years. Tigers also don’t come in the vicinity of the villagers fearing the possibility of being hunted. Hence there is no atmosphere of fear in the village. People behave according to specific plan in the jungle. Nobody ventures into the jungle at night, if required they move in a group. No women goes to the jungle even in daytime alone. Taking care is embedded in their nature. Cattle owners also move in groups along with their cattle in daytime. We got very vital information while studying the jungle. We decided to prepare maps and name a few areas in the jungle. I used to sometimes stay in the village of Kondhval near Bhimashankar. Locals had given apt names for different areas in the surrounding as “Dhagya Cha Dongar”, “Khetoba” and “Hindolya Che Raan”. Every house is named and numbered for providing a reference like in cities. The same is been provided by names of the areas in the village by which people can be traced accurately.
Many occasions and happenings can be interrelated for clarification. Anybody going out informs where he is going to go so that tracing him becomes easy. One more thing observed was that they had marked some places called as “Veerachi Thani” where previously there was a fight between man and tiger resulting into injury or death of either of them. These places are marked by saffron coloured stones as memories of the incident and every year a goat or a hen is sacrificed there. This type of structures for general preservation are found here. Devrai is a specialty of every village will have 2 or 3 devrais. The thought of preserving the seedlings for further generations is a sight of having healthy forest is a futuristic precautionary deep studied understating of the people. These seedling act as gene pools for future generations. There are villages and Devrais which are preserved, rare species of trees and creepers. Some Devrais are more than thousand years old. Various devrais have differentiated rules and people follow them religiously preserving the Devrais even when contractor had brought vehicles to prepare coal in 1964 they did not dare to touch the Devrai due to the belief of the people here. The jungle near Bhimashankar is a Devrai of Kalasjai deity. Was saved from contractors at that time . One more tradition is related to the construction of line of fire. People near the Konkan kada prepare a belt by burning the grass in that belt to prevent advance of fire from Konkan areas to the jungle in upward direction. Similar belt is been created in the field before the cultivation. They do not use a kerosene lamp in the areas. Most of the people here do not smoke. The jungle is preserved due to the fact that the people have laid down the rules which they follow religiously. When obtaining the vegetables and roots from the jungle care is been taken to leave some seeds in the surroundings to germinate next year. There are two types of trees, Vasar and Umbar which do not bear leaves in rainy season. They are protected here and treated as gods as they are considered weak and feeble. Nobody uses their wood for fuel or timber for construction. Cattle is not being taken in the jungle in the early monsoon and are taken to reserve land instead. People do not find new pathways in monsoon in order to prevent seeds from getting destroyed as it does not yield any grass and jungle does not get formed in the area.
Such type of realization of facts related to the jungle is been observed in the local communities of the jungle. Some communities in Sanska preserve the jungle around the village in a different way. One side jungle is kept for daily necessities, another type along other side in case of draught. Another type in case of a very severe drought and the fourth type devran as a gene pool not to be touched under any circumstances. The arrangement remains constant even while leaving the village. In some parts of the area burying the dead is considered as sacred. Locals are not accepting regions for cultivation of Saal trees in Vayachak region of Madhya Pradesh. People do not want the bio diversity of the region to be reduced. Saal trees are vulnerable to pests which destroys other trees around it reducing the bio diversity. Locals know that it is difficult to survive if the bio diversity of jungle is reduced. Jungles were governed by local communities residing within the jungle before advent of British in India. Jungle was considered to be preserved and used and never to be sold. It was considered as sacred inheritance. Even though the kings and the rulers had jungle in their territory they used to get anything they wanted from the jungle through the communities. The British had a different view. They had destroyed their own jungle in early 13th century and used to import wood from Baltic countries for purification of metals and other applications. They were delighted when they saw the jungle and once they got it they did uncontrolled cutting of trees. They needed teak for construction of their ships and hence cultivated teak trees in the jungle, destroying the bio diversity of the forest. They cleared the jungle initially as a fuel for railways then for construction of railways and bridges, sleepers and tracks. Tax can be obtained from agriculture and hence more trees fell for farming. The locals registered this and hence they classified jungles as protected forests, reserved forests and snatched the jungle from local communities. They were not able to maintain forests. They cultivated trees which gave them money, killed many animals in forests using guns which including tigers, leopards, lions, elephants, rhinoceros, bisons , deer, bears and birds like peacock, water hens, Tittar and Maldhok and reduced the bio diversity of the jungle. We noticed our shortfalls while we started our work for people’s jungle research organization. We decided to engage a research person committee to put our study into scientific frame. We requested experts from various fields to contribute for the purpose. Our health group came into existence due to the activity. Miss Hema Sane, botanist was already with us. Miss Kanchanjunga Gandhe, Mr Hemant Ghate, Dr Makrand Dabak, Dr Vinay Gore, Mr Nilimkumar Khaire, Miss Parineeti Veerkar, forest Officer Milind Reddy, Mr Chnadrahas Kollhatkar helped us in the activity. Our friend late Govind Gore guided us as many more helped us in the activity. Actually the activity is incomplete. Many aspects remain untouched and lot of things are yet to be done. This has to be done. The financial and the human resources required for it also have to be secured. We need to engage organizations like botanical survey of India, zoological survey of India and university of Pune for it. The realization of our short comings will drive us to speedy progress in future.
Decisions as whether to cut jungle or not, cultivate one or more type of trees, hunt animals in jungle or not, who is to control the jungle and for what objective are being discussed today by people who do not belong to the jungle, who do not depend on jungle and who do not have knowledge of the jungle and the planning strategy and forbidding the local jungle inhabitants to live in the jungles. On the other front the global environment is changing. Renowned forest officer Kailash Sankhala describes in the book “Laws of the mother” how Bishnoi tribes take care of the animals in the desert and live a prosperous life there. Many examples of this type is documented in the conference in Caracus 1992 which include cases of fishermen from Back de Arguene from East Africa, how they survive by fishing only specific type of fish, tribal from Indonesian jungles of Vasur, how they cultivate orchards in line with the jungle for their livelihood and tribal people from North Swibech how they earn their living through controlled hunting of animal species for fur. It an unfortunate paradox that in our country laws are formulated and implemented by declaring adivasi as enemies of the jungle and driving them out of the jungle. As a matter of fact a quadratic system should be practiced keeping the inhabitants of the jungle at the center of focus. First entity is the people of the jungle, second organizations working in that region accepted by the people, third the government officers of the department like tax, development, agriculture, building etc and the fourth entity should include students, academicians in zoology, botany and geography, Nature lovers and environmentalists, philosophers and press reporters and all these four combined entities will look into four systems related to the jungle. Starting from planning, management of the jungle, supervision and evaluation of the jungle. Not only the jungle but every ecosystem has to be looked into along with the system. Increase in temperature, changing weather, unfavorable rainfall, acid rain, depleting jungles, pollution, inadequate drinking water, increasing poverty and aggressive richness entertainment orientation are the dangers faced by the humans in preserving his only home on the planet if he wishes to do so.
India’s Independence in 1947 was a political movement/ agitation aimed to take it from colonial rule to its rebirth as an independent free country. At the outset, it began as a movement for independence and went on to become a political movement with several other movements joining in to make it a strong all- encompassing one. Secondly, it was followed by coming together of several contrasting and contradictory views and people of different mind sets which made things challenging. Diverse castes, creeds, genders, languages came together along with their own set of struggles to create history and get documented in the country’s Constitution. Thirdly, adoption of mixed economy in place of capitalistic, industrialized colonial rule laid the foundation for a secular nation. Lastly, the rights of the deprived class were protected through the adoption of public well being.
However, the adoption and implementation of all of the above has had its own set of limitations. These systems have been exploited and abused in many ways. This exploitation has not been automatic but is the result of the long term mind set imbued by people, the changed value systems and the churning of the society. In other words, it was the Peoples’ agitation that left an indelible mark on the Constitution, Parliament, Judiciary and Administration, i.e., the ‘Political structure’ of India.
It was because of the above reasons that Mahatma Gandhi insisted that Dr. B.R.Ambedkar be the Chairman of the Committiiee to draft India’s Constitution. It was not easy for Dr. Ambedkar to draft each & every provision on equality for all in the Constitution. He had to assertively state that if the Constitution was not supported and accepted by people, it would remain a mere meaningless paperwork.
Democracy operates on the alertness & activeness of its citizens, and not on the whims and fancies of political leaders/administrators. Politics is not about Parliament or Assembly. It takes shape among the society and is reflected and expressed in its Parliamentary process. Only then is it effective and will help in establishing Democracy for a long time. Politics is not about politicians who sit in Parliament to decide the future of the citizens of the country but the people/ citizens who vote for them to be there and control them. However, this entire activity does not rest with few individuals but with all citizens to come together through a movement or agitation, if need be.
Many movements/ agitations have taken place in Independent India which shaped the country’s structure, policies and development to ensure equality and social good. These movements/ agitations also gave shape to the different regions on the basis of religion; or reservation for the downtrodden and deprived class to bring them into the mainstream; forest conservation (CHIPKO). Agitations also contributed in proving the myth of ‘Big Dams mean Development’.
Maharashtra has also witnessed many agitations. ‘One Village One Water Source’, Dalit Literature and Dalit Panther Movement, Naming of Marathwada University were some of the famous agitations. Women participated in large numbers in the Independent Movement. But after 1975, women agitation became even more prominent. Anti – Devdasi Movement, Superstition Eradication Movement were some that changed the face of the Indian Society. These gave the society the right direction leaving a great impact on India’s socio – political makeup.
Jai Prakash Narayan’s movement of ‘Sampurna Kranti’ created an entire generation of social activists/ workers. This agitation consciously sowed the seed of a new value system in India. It addressed social issues like corruption, ill – education, casteism, unemployment on one hand and political issues on the other. This movement laid the foundation for many other agitations like the Mandal for reservations and brought about awareness among citizens & changed the society & country. It gave impetus to Rightists, Leftists and Liberal Centrists and also to politics beyond the realms of Parliament. It helped in the creation of independent islands of activists (Unfortunately they remained islands all along), associations and institutes. In the truest sense, JP’s movement made the Indian more sound and mature.
I was associated with an agitation in early 1980s, when the mainstream political parties disappointed the entire nation with their anti – people policies, the brunt of which was borne by the poor & weaker sections of the society. They were displaced from their own regions by the development process of the government in office then. Globalisation (1991) and Demolition of Babri Masjid (1992) forced many agitations to take place. For the last 20 years, agitations have played an important role in solving specific issues like struggle for equality and influencing the direction of politics. Agitations against corporatization/ capitalism are aimed at fighting for the rights of the poor & weaker sections of the society.
Sardar Sarovar Project/ Narmada to Enron Power Project; Plachimada – Nandigram – Singur; Lavasa to SEZ agitations were successfully undertaken to take on strong, powerful and influential people. These agitations also changed the inequality of thought, reduced selfishness and nepotism prevalent among those who were together in the agitations. These agitations were not only limited to particular regions of the country but spread across the entire country and effectively influenced the policies. Laws & regulations like Right to Information and Environment Protection Act are the product of peoples’ movement/agitations. The recent Land Acquisition Act is also a product of an agitation to bring justice in the Indian democracy.
The Jan Lokpal Bill agitation is an excellent example of the influence it had on the Government’s policies & the Judicial framework and its implementation. When the citizens decided that a law is required with certain provisions and demand it through an agitation, there is nothing wrong about it. Jan Lokpal Bill agitation exposed many scams and revealed involvement of many politicians and forcing their resignations while some of them had to leave politics for good! It created an environment for people to express their angst against the systems in India. It gave voice to people to speak against corruption and gave strength & confidence to the clean & corrupt less. People began to understand the meaning of corruption be it in urban areas, be it among the middle class or among the youth. The Jan Lokpal Bill which was in cold storage for 45 years also gave birth to a political party named ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ which demanded transparent & corruption free politics. It came to power in the state of Delhi with a thumping majority. All these agitations have given strength to the democratic set up of India and helped it to become a secular, people – oriented and people – involved country.
Post the Delhi rape and Murder case called ‘Nirbhaya’ case, another huge agitation happened to express the angst and apathy of the system. It had no leader, on definite thought and no association, yet was peaceful and did not divide or turn violent or reactive. It was firm in its expectations of about security to women although it was criticized for addressing women exploitation on the urban areas only. Questions were raised as to why no such agitation took place in rural areas when an upper caste man preys on poor Dalit women. However, it must be added that this particular agitation woke the entire society from its deep slumber. Amendments were made to make the penalties more severe in cases of rape. Overall, security of women became the most discussed, raising questions and giving many relevant answers.
One of the most hushed / taboo topic which began to be discussed openly & fearlessly was the LGBT issue. All these agitations clearly pointed out that the Indian society was becoming more democratic and mature.
However on the other side, certain regressive and anti – secular forces were also working overtime. Events like Babri Masjid demolition, Communal violence, Scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, turning festivals like Ganesh, Durga, and Gokulashtami into religion based are all examples of regressive forces at work. Quashing these forces to build a secular nation is need of the hour. However, it does not seem to be happening. Progressive and secular forces are weakening & losing lustre in the face of such onslaughts of the Regressive and Anti – secular forces.
All the above tasks need to be undertaken in Parliament by the party in power and the opposition parties. Issues like corruption, displacement & inequality need to be discussed seriously but are never done so. They receive due attention in Parliament only when agitations take place. Democracy, Development, Lifestyle is discussed by political parties only when through Peoples’ movement/ agitations, Social organisation and Groups become active. Issues of secularism are taken by believers of secularism & only through movement/ agitations.
There is no syllabus for bringing about change in society or a blue print of the same. Societal changes take place through small and large events and a chain of such events. These chains of events along with movements/ agitation will bring about a change in society. Not all people are involved in agitations all the times. A big agitation alone will not bring about a societal change. Regular agitations will bring about societal change and change politics too. Those who strive for a society where there is equality & justice and eternal development will have to work overtime.
Such a change is not impossible in a society where the population of the oppressed and deprived is in majority. There is awareness and anger among the oppressed & deprived class, for reasons like caste, project etc. It is vital that all the oppressed, displaced and seekers of equality form an association which will have an impact on the politics i.e. the ballot. However, this association must not be formed on hate but in good faith and understanding. It should make and not break the social fabric. Old and outdated thoughts and cultures should be replaced by new ones. Open and non – argumentative discussions must take place in every agitation. Discussions between political thinkers and activists must increase, as would happen in old times and more frequently. Open dialogues to join the vital dots and new forms of agitations are vital. All these programmes must not be repetitive but must be multi – faceted and decentralised in nature.
In the face of Globalisation and neo – capitalism, it will be very difficult to bring about a change in our mixed economy system. Yet it provides an excellent opportunity. Only collective will power will be able to bring the poor, oppressed, deprived and development – affected people together.
Suniti S R
The day was 12th November 2007. A few tribal social workers and me were visiting the villagers from Botezari who were being re habilitated. Everyone else besides me were residents of Bhimashankar sanctuary. They were therefore totally aware of the issues arising due to Bhimashankar being declared as a sanctuary. We were in Vidarbha. In the village of Mendhalekha in Gadchiroli, Mohan Hirabai Hiralal, Devji Tofa and other activists had called for a gathering which we were attending. ‘हमारे गाव मे हमारी सरकार’ ( Our village, our government) was a firm belief on the basis of which they had actively started doing a lot of work. We had gone there with an aim of understanding the people, jungle administration of this village as well as some other sanctuaries like Tadoba, Nagzira and Navegaon. We had heard that the locals from Tadoba, which was declared as a tiger sanctuary were going to soon be forced to resettle elsewhere.
We roamed around in the Tadoba Jungle. We learnt that recently the locals have been rehabilitated in Botezari. We were well versed with the displacement and rehabilitation processes being done by the government. Houses were constructed but there was no water available, land given was not fertile for farming, there was no place for keeping farm animals. This was the situation of nearly all reestablishment programs of the government in Koha, Kund, Bori, in Melghat, Gopalpura, kailashpura, from Ranthambhor, Chuchrungpur, Manegao from Kanha, Gujar village from Rajaji jungle and Periyar. We have seen the misery of all the rehabilitated villagers and also their love for their homeland which they have been forced to leave. They were extremely sad when they were forced to leave their motherland.
Here we will be putting forth the problems of the rehabilitation of Botezari village only.
This new habitat was named Bhagwanpuri by the villagers. This was after Sribhagwan, the name of the forest officer who was responsible for the rehabilitation. Similarly Kailashpuri was named after the forest guard, Kailash Sankhla who was responsible for the rehabilitation of the village. The Jeep which took us upto mandatukum left us because the road further was not motor able. The connecting road to Botezari was still not ready. It was the rainy season. After traveling 3 km on a road filled with potholes and sludge, we finally reached Bhagwanpuri. It apparently looked like a well laid out village. It was evident that it was a planned habitat. We were hopeful that probably the people here were successfully and happily re-established. On the way we met some of the residents of the village. They told us that this was the land given to them for farming. We noticed uneven open land created by the cutting down of trees. Some trunks of huge trees could be still seen on the land. In some places the trees which were cut were still lying around. It remains questionable whether the huge amount of wood which had been cut to clear the forest land for the farmers had been actually deposited with the forest department of the area. This thought was based on our observations in the past. Many huge roots of old trees could be still seen on the land. The land had not been structured or processed in any way for farming. In one place it was evident that a tractor had been used to level the land and some seeds were also sown here. In a small low lying area, rice had been sown and a farmer was protecting it from harm. Some cattle were grazing close by. We were told that this was the cattle grazing ground of Mandatukum.
We finally reached the village. Roads built at right angles and open drainages alongside them could be seen. Houses with fences were along the road. Some plants and creepers inside the fences were a proof of the tribals love of trees. Drainages were deeper and wider than usual. The drainages were closed at the ends and had no further outlets as a result the used water had accumulated in it. There were some children playing in the area which did not seem very safe for them. People had to cross the drainage to enter their houses and since there was no provision made for that, makeshift arrangements using bamboos were made by the villagers themselves. This makeshift arrangement seemed very unmanageable for small children, elderly people to use. It seemed almost impossible for the cattle to use it to go to the house too. This reminded me of the rehabilitation program of koha-kund-bori in Melghat. Similar big drainages were there and no provision made for crossing them. In Ambegoan, too the established colony similar drainages were built. In areas where rainfall was scanty people had used sand to fill them and create ways for commuting from road to houses. I wonder why government is spending so much money in constructing these huge wide drainages.
The houses which look very dainty and neat from the outside are not so comfortable to live in. For a person who has lived in cities, this is difficult to understand. For a person who has always lived in the cities, these houses may be comfortable too but for the villagers who have led a tribal life it is not so. For these villagers a pestle, stone grinder are necessities because there is no mill nearby. There needs to be an appropriate pit in the floor to accommodate this. Cemented floor is not helpful. Also a cement floor tends be hot during the day and cold at night. Not so with a mud floor. A mud floor is usually preferred by these villagers. It is more comfortable to sleep on as it is softer and does not get too hot or too cold and a simple homemade blanket (godhadi) will suffice. These houses also do not have lofts. Lofts are used by the villagers to store firewood for the rainy season. The lofts are also useful to store grain as it is safe from rats and chicken who may otherwise destroy food grains if they are kept on the floor. Another important shortcoming in these houses is that there is no place to keep cattle. And the problem of no provision to cross the wide drainages is also an important one. Some cattle have known to fall and injure themselves when attempting to cross these drainages. There were no cowsheds to be seen. A farmer cannot farm without his cattle or plough. It is essential to have cowsheds because tigers and leopards are frequent visitors to these settlements to prey on whatever they can get. Hence the necessity of the sheds for cattle. In most places where people have been re-established similar problems have been observed. In Kuno-palpur (M.P), Rajaji (Uttaranchal), Melghat (Maharashtra), Kanha (M.P), villagers faced similar problems and had to abandon their cattle in other villages due to this. In some cases the cattle died in the new settlements due to lack of grazing grounds. Some farmers sold their cattle. All these things become important considerations when rehabilitating the people from tribal areas whose main occupation is farming.
These people are daily wagers, uneducated and not in synch with the developments in towns. Government needs to take special care when they displace and rehabilitate them as this is a very sensitive and delicate matter. The strength of these people is their knowledge and understanding of their surroundings and their life style which is completely in harmony with their natural habitat. When they are forced to leave that harmony we are crippling them for life. They have to struggle to understand their new environment and establish a new livelihood. This is extremely painful for them. They accept it as fate. Their opinion and permission are never sought when these drastic changes are forced upon them, thus they call it fate. When formulating the new government policy of ‘Jungle Adhikar Kayda’ permission from the affected villagers is a must.This policy needs to be implemented in the true spirit for it to benefit the population. We have a long way to go before any change will come about. Some laws which existed during the British rule are still unchanged. Those laws were made when India was a colony of Britain and we were treated like slaves. Law for land acquiring, Forest Law which were prepared during British rule are still unchanged. Earthquake, famine, floods are all natural disasters and people face them considering it the will of god. But these are man made disasters which these tribals have to face for no fault of theirs. This leads to feelings of anger and helplessness. People get depressed thinking of the government which appears as a strong power which is not willing to yield to the needs of the people. They don’t know who they should fight with or how to get what they want. They are confused and saddened. It is impossible to fight with an enemy who you don’t know and cannot define. Natural disasters one can understand, but here is a disaster which is man made that too arising when we proudly boast of a democracy which has a judiciary in place. If possible displacement and rehabilitation of the people should be avoided. If unavoidable it should be done with the permission and suggestions of the affected population. The people should be made aware of the situation and the responsibilities which go with it and then they should be allowed to take a call on their own. Whenever possible they should be given a choice to choose between their new and old habitat. The law should also provide for this. There should be proper guidelines for when the people should be moved and when not be moved. If people are shifted before their houses or farms are ready they face great hardships. It is important to understand this and manage the displacement in a way which will not affect their livelihood. Government should maintain a dialogue with them to make this transition smooth.
We were stunned to know that the land allocated for the displacement of the people ie. Botezari had been flattened using bull dozers. Which meant that they did not want the people to go back. This was against humanity. It was surprising that Maharashtra government could do this. The needs of the tribal people are very few. Their expectations are also very few. Keeping the tribal people happy will be beneficial to the government as these are the people who actually protect the jungle wildlife and forestation. Government should not do anything which will make these people feel helpless and deprived. Smugglers are on the look out for such people whose helplessness they would like to exploit. Government should take the tribals into confidence and they will be willing to protect the jungle as a resource, because for them, it is their motherland and they would like to protect it at all cost.
While returning from Botezari, we were stopped on the way back by the villagers from Mandatukum. A woman very agitatedly told us ‘these people are cursed. They left their own land and houses and have come here to take away our livelihood.’ When two villages in close proximity try to use the same grazing grounds for the cattle we anticipated some such problems cropping up in the future.
A recent visit of our activists to Bhagwanpur led to another very sad finding. The villagers were finding it very hard to maintain their cattle. Drainages were making it difficult to take the cattle to their houses and the fear of tigers was still persisting. For these people cattle were like family. The cattle is also their great asset. Government has also built toilets for these people but the toilets have no doors and there is a shortage of water. Since the flooring in the house is of cement it is not possible to create a fireplace for cooking food inside the house and these people are therefore forced to cook their food outside the house. It will not be possible to do this in the rainy season. To prevent these people from going back to their previous land government has used a bulldozer to flatten their initial houses and farms. This is quite tragic. That land is now being used to build roads. If a road can be built on that land why was a village in that very place a problem? If people have to be displaced and rehabilitated for the larger benefit of the population, it is wrong to trouble them and set up concentration camps for them. They should not be the martyrs for development of the country. Tribals are the only ones usually caught in this kind of trouble. Their rehabilitation lands are slowly becoming empty. Since no care is taken to ensure their livelihood and survival there, they are forced to move towards cities in search of a living. Half the people of Nagarhole have moved to cities for work. Farms were not fertile enough and the neighbouring villages kept fighting with them about encroaching of grazing lands for cattle. The forest protection law of India does not seem to favour the people who are displaced. The locals are looked upon as enemies and unwanted trash to be done away with. Why is it so? Is India independent and a free country or still a colony?
In fact why is it necessary to rehabilitate the people who have been living in the jungles for centuries? If these people are the enemies of jungles, then who can be considered as friends of the jungle? Articles made by using animal skins are sold in New York, customers buy them and it is an irony that people who can actually protect these animals from falling prey to the hunters who make this possible are being called the enemies of the jungle. Why is this happening? The administration, people of India and the government needs to give this a thought. Tigers are being used to prepare certain medicinal drugs which are in high demand due to their power to increase sexual stimulation. Killing tigers for this is something to feel ashamed of. It is purely for the selfishness of mankind. Meat of the animals from the jungle are freely available as food at the various hotels and dhabas along the highway. I do not think the tribals who have meagre needs and live a simple life with very few worldly possessions have anything to do with this.
If we wish to protect the environment and prevent it from exploitation, mankind needs to control its greed, selfishness and consumerism.
The latest Landsat data about forest cover in our country sounds an alarm. IN 1975, Maharashtra had a forest area of about 13.22% and in 1982 it was still reduced to 9.86%. The situation is going from worse to worst and will get to still worst if no timely action is taken against the wanton deforestation that is going on.
We are working as a voluntary organization on the high hills of Bhimashankar and around on the western hills of Ambegaon Taluka of Pune district. This is a hilly area spread along the top of the Western Ghats at 3800 feet elevation and rainfall of about 250. The area is inhospitable to human life, the land undulating and very little land available for paddy cultivation. The main source of livelihood for people was the forest produce. Some20-25 years ago, this area had thick forest cover. But, as everywhere, the road brought devastation to this interior, secluded, so far sheltered area. The road contractor became the coal contractor and trees were chopped down to make charcoal. This has left the whole of upper Ghod valley barren and deforested. The only jungle that got saved was the sacred groves dedicated to the adivasi deities. People had deep faith in their gods and even now they do not pluck a leaf from these trees.
As there was minimum interference from man, these jungles have developed as virgin natural forests. These are four tier jungles. There are huge trees of 50-60 feet height and girth of 12-13 feet. Then the second of medium trees; then the bushes and down below the fourth tier of grasses. Added to this, are the huge climbers of 25” girth and thumb big thorns.
There is a good piece of such a grove at Bhimashankar which is 700 acres in size. This is the source of river Bhima. And on the north of this on Ahupe hills is another sacred grove of about 20-22 acres from where river Ghod originates. The forest cover that is yet there serves as the catchment area of the rivers Dams are under construction on both of these rivers. It is a common experience about dams that the catchment area of all dams in India undergoes a process of deforestation under the permission granted to cut down the trees/below the submergence level. The same thing was done here and all the hill slopes in upper Ghod valley have gone barren. With this deforestation starts erosion which will eventually fill these dams at a much higher siltation rate. The siltation rate of Panshet dam near Pune is 4.05 times more than the expected rate and that of Nizam Sagar is 22 times the expected rate. These dams on Ghod and Bhima are going to meet a similar fate. They will become very good plains where cricket matches can be played with great facility.
The sacred grove at Ahupe is unique in many ways. It has 24 varieties of huge trees. The trees are healthy and many have attached height up to 50-60 feet with girth up to 12-13 feet. These are all of evergreen variety. There are huge climbers. I casually measured girth of one nearby the road and found that it was 25 inches. There are rare animals like the Giant Indian Red Squirrel called Shikru and birds like Paradise Fly catcher and many insects in this grove. The area it covers is about 22-23 acres and the tree population is about 1500. It is situated on a sloppy land which means once it is cut off, one rainy season will suffice to erode the slope completely. And regeneration of such a forest is impossible. On nearby hill slopes where deforestation took place some years ago; you find cactil growing in profusion, proclaiming the advancing process of desertification. Till now, people have not even plucked a leaf from such sacred groves because of their strong faith in their gods. But the outside forces are corrupting the simple adivasi people making them opportunist and just money minded. The Adivasis are getting so exploited that they find it more and more difficult to resist the temptation. Of course it will be the Adivasi who will suffer the most on account of this deforestation. But this economic condition is going so bad that to him tomorrow has ceased to matter.
The sacred grove is in danger. A jungle contractor is keen on buying and cutting down these unfortunate trees. We hear that he has offered some Rs. 70,000/- to villagers and is going to spend some Rs. 20,000/- on the repair of the road which goes Ahupe to Ambegaon. It could be an accidental fact that the work of small culverts is going on at present but it is definite that this will make the work of this jungle contractor much easy. He is said to be a powerful person and that he will carry out his business come what may. So it seems that we cannot save this sacred forest.
This and other such sacred groves are not classified as reserved forests under the forest department. But according to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (no: 69 of 1980), all such forests come under this act and no one can undertake any activity for non-forest use except with the prior approval of the Govt. of India. And, hence appeal you to help us save this sacred grove.
A very conservation estimate even makes it apparent that the contractor is going to make a carore or two out of this transaction. And as he is said to be a powerful person we might lose our battle and nation will lose its wealth.
Kusum Karnik, Anand Kapoor
Honourable Kusum Karnik (tai) started social work in Mauje Nhaved village in the year 1982. Tai and other people working with her interacted with us and treated us with a lot of respect. They took great care of our feelings and created an environment of affection and humanity. They also understood and studied our lack of education and our lifestyle.
The people in our village were facing a lot of hardships. To understand this tai first conducted a family survey in our village. With the help of the survey tai studied our lifestyle, work, farming practices and marriage practices. During this survey tai used to herself carry pots of water on her head just like women in our village did. She would also grind wheat on the stone grinders to make wheat flour at home. She also did other such work like using the mortar for removing the husk of food grains like rice, warai and nachni. We did not have sufficient food in our village but Sudha who worked alongwith Kusumtai was happy with whatever was available. Living with us and sharing our simple food of nachni bhakar, garlic chatni and butter milk she also understood our issues and needs.
Anand Kapoor started working along with her from 1985. They surveyed our village and started preparing plans for the developmental work which can be done here. Tai and Mama first started the Padkai program in our village. Mama made five groups in our village and work like preparing stone barriers, creating flat land for rice plantation was started. We were given wheat flour and oil as payment for our work. This resulted in rice supply becoming available for us people. Prior to that rice was a delicacy which was eaten only for festivals. Tai and Mama helped us in this way by starting Padkai which helped us to earn a better livelihood.
In 1996 Mama and tai registered Shashwat organisation. They also built a water tank in our village which was a boon for the women because it made their life a lot easier. It benefitted the animals too as ample drinking water was now available. Mama also helped us by fighting against the injustice which we were facing.
In this way mama and tai are like our parents and our bond with them is cherished by us all. Their memories and memories of the work they have done for us will be with us for eternal time.
Personal information :
I, Dema Dhavji Redhe started working with Shashwat in 2011 and have been in continuous contact with tai and mama since then. I never sensed any selfishness in the behaviour of both tai and mama. They never disliked any of the co workers. In fact, they always respected us.
I was working in Dimbhe colony field office. There was a girl’s hostel at Dimbhe. Since there was less place for girls I came to stay at Dimbhe. I was using HP cooking gas. The refill was available at Kalamb. It was difficult to travel to Kalamb. I told mama about my difficulty. First he got angry due to my complaint but later sat me beside him and explained to me what can be done. I then spoke with the tehsildar who subsequently promised to set up a distribution centre for HP cooking gas in Dimbhe.
Mama’s clear and lucid thoughts regarding any problem forced everyone to follow his advice without questioning. I will never forget tai and mama.
Dema Dhavji Redhe
I, Ashok .B. Kolap am a youth residing in Bendharwadi in a village named Pokhari. I was fortunate to know Late Mr. Anand Kapoor (Mama). There is so much to say and very fond memories about Mama I do not know where to begin…
I first met Mama in Bendharwadi. It was a rainy day with thunder and lightning playing havoc when Mama along with Budhaji Domase (Dada) had walked 7-8 kilometres from the main road of Bhimashankar (a religious place with Shiva temple) to inspect the fisheries project, cages and lakes. I knew Budhaji but did not know Mama at that time. Budhaji (Dada) introduced me to Mr. Anand Kapoor (Mama) as the founder of Shashwat, and I was stunned. That such a well-qualified person having studied in IIT Powai would concern himself to this extent about the welfare of tribal people in the town of Ambegaon was really laudable but very difficult to digest. But this concern, this strange behaviour of Mama has proved to be a motivation for me throughout my life. I felt that Mr. Kapoor would definitely bring about a great positive change in the life of these tribals.
In spite of having walked for a long distance in the tough terrain and in pouring rain he did not at all seem tired. His smile conveyed to me his commitment and dedication to his work in Shashwat. His sad demise has been a great loss for these people.
All his developmental initiatives have received full support from the government. The social work done by Mr Kapoor and Kusumtai is no longer limited to Ambegaon but has been highly appreciated and replicated in many other areas in Pune taluka.
Mama was a person of great intellect, courage, philanthropic inclination and an all-round personality. He was also a very good judge of character. The people he developed are now occupying leading positions in the private and government sector like bank managers, deputy heads and heads in the corporation and still continuing to do the social work for the down trodden. Mr. Namdeorao Kolap who is running a hotel is still following the footsteps of Mama and continuing his social work for other people in the area.
I am happy to see that the social work initiated by Mama still continues even after he is no longer amongst us. I am sure that Dada will be continuing this excellent work started by Mama by way of Shashwat. It has grown from having 4-5 supporters to having 110 dedicated social workers working in 14 different initiatives. The dream of Mama to establish a training centre has been possible very recently. It is now possible to conduct all our training programs here and in fact we are also giving training to people from other areas which makes us really proud of ourselves. I am sure Mam is blessing us from wherever he is. We are now confident that we can also be leaders in the new initiates which we have taken up and set an example before all.
In spite of meeting you only once, I am overwhelmed with thoughts about you and your work Mama and could really go on forever about my learnings from you, so forgive me if I have spoken too much. I really hope I can still meet you once again……
Both Anand mama and Kusumtai hailed from well-educated families residing in metropolitan cities. But both of them are highly respected and loved by the entire tribal community in the western part of Ambegaon. They are thought of like an elder brother and a very caring elder sister. Quitting their well established careers and a comfortable life, these two decided in 1982 to come and stay with the tribals in Ambegaon. To understand the lives of people from villages like Ahupe, Kondhwal, Pimpargane, Tirpad, Donn, Aghane,Nhaved, Nanwade both mama and tai stayed amongst them and slowly understood their needs and problems.
For the tribals, jungle is like their mother. As such they never exploit the jungle for money. They will cut wood only for their household needs, never for selling. Anand Kapoor learned this when he stayed with the tribals and also understood the importance of not making these people leave the jungle. To create this awareness he arranged many processions. With the help of ‘Chipko Andolan’ he managed to get back the idols of god from various merchants.
The women folk of these villages faced great hardships in getting water for household use. To take care of the shortage of water and help them, Mr Anand arranged billets, wells and refurbished old water reserves with the help of government. ‘Upadi Pasli’ was a term used often by these villagers and out of curiosity Kusumtai asked the women folk the meaning of this. The meaning when explained was very saddening for her. It meant that when there is nothing to eat at home, one should drink two glasses of water and tie a cloth tightly around the middle so that you do not feel the hunger. To experience the pain of these people Kusumtai also ate the simple food made from husk of grains. Due to shortage of water, she used only 3 litre water for her bath.
Tribal villagers would have to go to Manchar for work. But now these people who would survive only on meagre bajri supply are growing ample rice in the farms which can last them all year round. This they could achieve due to Padkai initiative.
The tribals who were once scared of people from government offices are now learning to boldly approach government offices for getting work done. They have learned to solve many of their problems on their own. Katkari caste people are encouraging their children to go to school and many such children are now educated. Anand mama actually saw with his own eyes the water and sludge flowing through the houses of the tribals and he was moved. He immediately built houses for them.
Whenever Anandmama and Kusumtai went to villages they made it a point to go to the huts of Thakars, Katkaris or Mahadeo Koli caste people. The caste did not matter. Not only did they visit the villagers but they also insisted on having food with them. The poor villagers would be ashamed of their simple food and would tend to hide it. Upon this Kusumtai was known to find the hidden bhakri and taste it. She also used to scold them lovingly for cooking such tasty bhakri and not offering it to her and Anandmama. Such was their love for the people.
Anandmama would love to play ‘gotya’ with the village children and whenever he got a chance to do so he would enjoy every minute of the game. The children also would enjoy with mama. With the elderly he would gladly become one amongst them. Always had a pleasant smile while interacting with people. I am sure it will be difficult to find two such kind people who worked so hard to ensure food, clothing, shelter, livelihood for the tribals, and supported them through the thick and thin and dedicated their entire life for them.
I have read somewhere that a donation for a school would go a long way vis-à-vis a donation to a temple: try to develop the capacity to love not only your child but also an orphan equally. There are very few people who must have spent their entire life for helping others like Anand mama and Kusumtai. Their high education never made them too proud to help others. In fact, they always felt that they could still learn from people. If a few more people like them come forward it will not be long before entire India will rapidly move towards prosperity.
There is lot to write about Late Mr. Anand Kapoor. Anand Kapoor completed his studies form IIT Gorakhpur. Then he worked at Telco (now known as Tata Motors). His father served in Railway Department. His family background was good. He started a pre – school in Ambegaon. He lived amongst the Tribal people, ate what they ate, wore what they wore and started the noble work. He tried to understand the living conditions, the traditions, working mannerisms and problems of these tribals. At that time in this region there were no roads. . He befriended many tribals. After he studied the geographical situation in this area he tried to solve the problem of drinking water and started the Padkai Farming project through Shashwat Trust. The number of people going to urban areas for their living reduced after this. The production of rice increased. More and more land was now being cultivated. People started recognizing Anand Mama and Kusum Tai as GODs messengers. The Heath care center in Maharashtra was now recognized as Kusum Tai Center.
After this Padkai Project was executed on experimental basis in 4 different villages. At this time around 2002, I joined Shashwat as a social server. From this time I have been closely associated with Mama and Tai. Both of them are highly educated. They left their jobs to undertake this social work. Their struggle motivated me to do something for the Society.
He tried to work along with Government Officers so that more people could earn their living and get the benefits of Padkai Farming. Since Anand Mama was a Civil Engineer, he could give a special creative touch to all these projects. Tai used to strive hard to get the approvals for these various projects. Then in order to improve the living conditions of the Katkari tribal people around Dimbe dam and to stop the people from going to the cities for work, he bought 1 Acre land through Shashwat trust and built homes for these tribal people.
Due to Dimbhe Dam many people lost their homes, their life was severely affected, some of them did not get alternate houses, also Anand Mama wanted that only the tribals in this area should get the benefit of the Natural resources, so he helped the tribals to make cooperative societies of fishermen and started the project of fisheries in the backwaters of Dimbhe Dam. He also started a school till 4th Standard for the tribal boys and girls at Aghane and a hostel at Dimbhe. He also inspired his fellow members who worked selflessly for Shashwat Trust. He always treated these people as equals. These working staff of Shashwat took most of the decisions. He never looked down upon the work done by these social workers and helped them to overcome the inferiority complex that they had. Shashwat Trust was awarded the world recognized prize “Equator Prize”, due to his efforts. They tried to solve the problems associated with the National Park, tried to see how Hirda could get a higher price in market. There are many such contributions of Anand Mama which needs a mention.
He devoted his entire life for the development of the tribal folks. He also has contributed in “Save Narmada” struggle.
To get the deserved place and develop the living conditions of the tribal people, to see that they get educated, they don’t go to cities in search of a living, Anand Mama and Kusum Tai struggled a lot. Still the government officers did not give attention to his work. Actually he has to be felicitated by the prestigious ‘Adivasi Sevak’ Prize. The society could not recognize the worth and contribution of a true social worker.
By Ramchandra Gavari
While traveling to Bhimashankar, known for the famous Shiv temple, Late Mr. Anand Kapoor (Mama) and Kusumtai Karnik observed a noticeable contrast on the East side and the west side of the region. On the east was a developed society whereas on the west was a tribal area with people working hard to make ends meet in a difficult and adverse terrain. Whether these tribals were aware of the various welfare schemes of the government and were able to avail them was difficult to say. Many basic amenities were unavailable in these areas like water, primary schools and basic farming techniques and facilities. Kusumtai also strongly suspected lack of awareness and availability of facilities for women in these tribal areas. Both Mr. Kapoor and Kusumtai felt a strong affinity towards these people and an urge to help them have a better life. With this noble thought in mind, ‘Shashwat’ was founded. A few representatives of the villages were included in Shashwat and after some training they started actively bringing together people from various villages and getting to understand their problems. It subsequently became possible to avail the benefit of some government schemes.
Multiple issues of the community were dealt with by Shashwat team and gradually the tribal folk started enjoying some benefits and some development.
Mr. Kapoor then focussed on procuring funds from international agencies to help Shashwat continue its work. The people felt truly blessed by the presence and work of Mr. Kapoor and his care for the community. Mr. Kapoor proved to be a great transformational leader, leading the tribal to a collective goal of mutual support and development. Though he is no longer with us, his work continues. He will always be fondly remembered as god’s gift to us.
Rohidas Ganpat Nadekar
I joint Shashwat Trust in 2002. I consider myself to be very lucky to get a chance to work with Anand Mama and Kusum Tai. Before this I used to read their names in the articles and news published in the newspapers. Anand Mama and Kusum Tai developed good relationship with all the members of the Shashwat Trust and slowly the task done by Shashwat Trust was humongous. In this Anand Mama used to take care of everything and everybody; every branch, leaf and fruits of the fully grown tree of Shashwat Trust. With his vast knowledge and experience he used to see how every task and everyone in the Trust could be enriched. I want to share one experience.
I had just joined the Trust. I did know much about it. Once, Anand Mama told me to do some work in Pune. I agreed taking it as his command. But I did know much. At that time Mama had drawn a map for me illustrating the road and directions. I met him in the morning. He gave me the list of the tasks to be done and the map and told me to go according to the map, so that it would be easy for me. I had a little concern in my mind, since I did not know Pune city very well. But I had decided to go and complete all the tasks. I reached Shivajinagar and read the map that Mama had given me. He had drawn the map in detail. I just had to follow the directions given on the map and I went accordingly. I did not face any difficulty and could complete all the tasks in time. I appreciate him giving me such a detailed map. Also he had called me almost 30 to 40 times out of concern to know whether I had reached safely and if I had any difficulty in doing all the tasks. No one till now had shown so much concern and care. When he came to know that I had driven my bike to Pune, he was all the more concerned. I reached Manchar office by 4 pm. Mama explained to me that I should not go on bike for such far distance. I could learn a lot in this entire trip.
24 October 2017, in the morning, everyone was celebrating Diwali. I received a call that Mama is no more. This was the most tragic day for me and all the tribal people he was associated with. My mind became blank. But I had to pass on the news to all the other workers from all the villages. The news spread like wild fire and everyone headed towards Manchar Office. Everyone was very silent. The funeral was around 4 pm. We all reached there and around 4.30 the funeral was over. Anand mama was no more with us.
Since 3 decades Anand mama and Kusumtai were working for the development of the tribal people. We are trying to nurture the seeds of this social activity that he has sown. We are trying to continue the work that he has started. Today Shashwat Trust is undertaking various activities like Fisheries, redevelopment, Padkai Farming, Healthcare initiatives, Problems related to the jungle, Preschools, Schools, problems of the Katkari tribes, employment schemes, self-help groups in various villages like Junnar, Ambegaon, Khed Maval and Mulshi. We are working tirelessly on the footsteps of Mama. We are satisfied that we are trying to realize his dream. We remember his ideals and ideologies and work accordingly. My prayers for this great man.
By Sudam Bhaguji Chapate
Anand Kapoor and Kusum Tai gave their entire life for the service of Tribes and the deprived people. Anyone who would associate with them too developed himself. There are many such examples. Many are doing a job at good positions, many are in politics; everyone say that they are doing well only because of Tai and Mama.
Tai and Mama had resigned from their job since two years and were staying at Manchar, while I was doing my M.Com. I approached them with a problem. My brother and a friend did not have a place to stay while they were studying. Mama called up a person and my brother could get a place to live at the student hostel. At that time, they also discussed for 3 hours the problem of Tribes, the expected problems of the National Parks, the changes in the outside world, the problems of the project affected people and the work that the young people should do. Actually, at my hostel, six of us used to fight against any injustice that happened. Sanjay Gavari, Dnyaneshwar Shekari and my friends were thinking of revolting in the Bhimashanker Region. After that whenever I used to get time I used to meet Tai and Mama.
In 1996, after the registration of Shashwat Trust, I started going there frequently. In 1998 I started working for Shashwat for Rs 500 per month. This changed my entire life. Initailly I used to think of studying, earning a living, my wife should also be doing a job, to raise a happy family. But after living with Tai and Mama from 1998 to 2002, I was inspired and decided to give my entire life for the social cause, instead of doing a job. After hearing this, Mama praised me a lot in front of many people and motivated me to do more.
Kusum Tai’s working style was different than that of Mama. She fought against injustice in the society, corruption, Creation of National Park at Bhimashanker, the relocation of the project affected tribes. Anand Mama worked in a different style. He used to develop good relations with the government officials and through proper procedure, he used to get the projects sanctioned and executed. Projects were related to development and upliftment of the tribes, to tackle the problems faced by them and to make people aware of their rights and benefits. He used to participate in planning and coordinating the various struggles and morchas, however he used to stay away at the time of these revolutionary activities. He used to think about the tasks done through Shashwat. If he got involved in these revolutionary activities, it might hinder the tasks done through Shashwat Trust. He thoughtfully maintained this stand.
I learned a lot from these two thoughts, this learning I could not have gathered even after getting 10 degree certificates. Every day I used to talk with both of them. Both Tai and Mama had many different opinions, I used to just listen quietly. Later I started contributing in these debates and then it was decided that I would go ahead with revolutionary activities like morcha etc and Mama would concentrate on getting creative solutions to the problems silently.
Initially there were only 4 to 5 people working for Shashwat Trust. I had to handle all work related to Finance, Paper work, sending letters, site work and all other remaining activities. I had to do a single task 2 to 3 times due to my Language, Accounting Skills, etc. However mama used to do all these tasks very efficiently due to the command over Marathi Language. He taught me how to speak with the officials, how to write a report and many such things. The tasks which I could not learn during my M.Com., I could learn here. I learned how to write reports, Power Point presentation, Accounting, Communication skills, conducting meetings to name a few.
Mama realized that it was not enough to do M.Com., but M.S.W. is also important, without which I would not be valued. He supported me in my further studies both morally and financially. I completed my M.S.W., M.J. (Masters in Journalism and M.B.A. courses. He also motivated my wife to complete her education till M.A., similarly he motivated all people in the group.
After 2003 Shashwat trust took up many activities. They could get funds and in 32 villages, they started pre-schools, schools, Hostels, Fishery, Jungle Research Centre, Self-help groups, Decorative fishes business and health related projects were executed. Mama used to take care of funding, communicating with officials and reporting, while we workers used to execute the projects at the field level and supervise its progress.
Mama used to make friends easily. Even the peons of the various offices that he visited would befriend mama and maintain this relationship for long. He was very keen in maintaining all his relations with anybody that he would meet or make friends with them. He used to speak very politely, calmly and had a balanced approach and simple living; Mama could create a home for himself in the hearts of many people.
While collecting old clothes for the tribal people he used to carry this load over his head. Anand through his work has taught us a lot of things. He used to work selflessly, day and night, at a meager remuneration of Rs. 5000 to 6000, much less that the other social workers. He was a different person altogether.
Today these developmental activities like Padkai Farming and Fishery is going on in full swing. His work continued not only in one but 4 talukas. They did not hide any information about planning and execution of the tasks from the workers, they gave them the entire information, they took all the workers for the meetings with the officials, friends, they took them on the field to work. They introduced them to the funding agencies, officers, friends and other people. They taught them how to deal and communicate with people in a proper way. One who works should get all the authority that was the thinking of Mama and Tai. Mama’s contribution in the Malin tragedy should be mentioned. He suggested that the Shashwat Trust workers should help Malin people with the farming and cultivation of crops. He also renovated four rooms of the school, so that teaching would go on.
Such a personality is born one in a million. He worked for 18 hours a day. Many people have got jobs, education, Land for farming, business opportunities due to his consistent and untiring effort. Tribal people stopped relocating to cities for their living. A person who gave right directions to the young people, who did such a noble task, is no longer with us, but his thoughts, motivating words, inspiration and learning would always lead us to success.
Sungandha Damse, she used to take care of the girls of students hostel. She was involved in Fishery and breeding of decorative fishes. She respected Mama and Tai a lot. They actively motivated the ladies to lead various programs for women. She is all praises for Mama and Tai for influencing and changing her life too.
By Budhaji Damse
My relationship with Anand mama and Kusumtai started in Narodi when I was in 8th standard their son “Punnu “was with me at that time. Anand mama was quiet by nature. Whatever he wanted to convey he used to do that in minimum specific words. We were forced to wake up early in the morning at 5 am and compelled to study. This was not acceptable to the couple. Their opinion was that students should decide on their own when to study. Mama used to explains to us the importance of study for accepting responsibilities in future. Thus when we were made to realize our responsibilities we stared getting up early for our studies on our own.
On any good or bad occasions mama used to explain to us quietly and used to listen to us to. I still remember some aspects of his organizing skills. He used to write the few things to do when he was going to Pune in his dairy. He used to visit Pune once a fortnight. The list of activities to be done used to get elongated and the entire day would get over doing the listed activities. I came to Pune for TELCO FTA training and used to go to Narodi even after that to meet mama and tai. When I was in ninth standard I asked mama about which project I should undertake for science exhibition. Gober gas plant was going to be commissioned in the village at the same time. Mama told me visit the plant get information and prepare model. I collected information from two farmers in the area but had problem in preparing model. I went back to mama to prepare a drawing for the model and get an explanation about the model. I prepared the model plant accordingly. It actually worked and I got a blue flame at the end of the tube. I bagged second rank in the exhibition. This is how mama motivated students and made them happy.
During my FTA training I used to meet mama in my vacations. I used to discuss with mama and tai various subjects openly. Tai had special affection towards girls and hence mostly our discussions used to be on gender equality. Tai in actual practice used to swap activities from boys to girls and vice versa. That’s why we had to perform activities as washing clothes utensils. Arranging utensils in kitchen etc. We got the habit of working for any activity come what may without feeling ashamed about it.
Since I was undergoing a technical training mama allotted me the activity of commissioning of a solar dryer of 20 * 20 ft. I completed the task working on Thursdays for three months. It was used to dry roots and leaves of various plants and since it was successfully done, we got an order from Ayurved Rashashala, Pune to construct a similar model. My photo of preparing the model was published in a magazine. Mama handed over the magazine to me. I was very excited and I showed it to all my friends.
One plus point of mama was that he never took the credit of anything to himself but gave it to the persons who did the job. This motivated the colleagues and they strived for better work. He used to mention the name of the colleagues with respect irrespective of his age and position. He was ever smiling and never used to be angry with anyone. He did not let ego touch him throughout his life.
Tai’s nature was rebellious and she used to always fight for the rights of women. She used to address any injustice done on women to the core and agitate if required for the cause. She did not like corruption, delay in official work. Many a times she used to go to the Adivasi home and understand their problems to give solutions. I like discussing with her on various points. Our discussion used to last for three-four hours. Tai used to strive hard to change the attitude of the society.
Mama in contrast believed in constructive work to help the society that’s why mama was into activities as digging a ‘Padkai’ well. Building bunds and Tai was in activities as agitations, fighting against government for the rights of Adivasi’s and saving the jungle.
One day mama came to me and informed me that he had left the work of Maharashtra Arogya Mandal. I felt bad initially and I knew that mama was in engaged in various activities in Bhimashankar area. So we the volunteers of “Balgram” came together and met mama in Manchar and decided to form an organization by the name “Shashwat” there. We got backing from renowned personalities from Pune. We volunteers and Anand Mama were motivated by this fact.
Shashwat went on progressing with time. Many big projects were undertaken and completed by Shashwat. They included fisheries Bal wadi, girls hostel, school at Ashine, quarters and residential colonies for volunteers, training hall and paduka projects. Shashwat organization was awarded equator prize a global price and its name started to feature on global level.
I offer my salute to the couple.
Anand Mama has given his entire life for bringing happiness in others life. He completed his studies from IIT, Kharakpur. He resigned from the job in Telco to work for the social cause of the tribals. He closely experienced the life of the tribal people. His feelings for the tribals and the backward class are beyond compare.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Let’s go to the villages. If the villages are developed, the country will flourish.” In the same manner, though Mama and Tai were well educated, they resigned from a good job to work for the society. Anand mama had a foresight. Shashwat Trust executes about 13 different projects. To get earning opportunities in the local area, to stop people from migrating to cities, to reduce malnutrition, he started various programs like schools, preschools, Padkai Farming, fishery to name a few. At the same time he started to work for the Katkari Tribes who dwelled near Dimbhe Dam.
In the Malin Villages Landslide, in Ambegaon, the tribal people faced many problems. Many people came forward to help theses tribes. Anand mama’s contribution in this was also great. Within two hours of the tragedy, he called all the workers of Shashwat to come to Malin and start the rescue activities. He was in constant contact with the corporators, government officials, Local authorities, Tehsildars, etc. This was the time of rice plantation activities. People had lost all the valuables as well as their homes in this tragedy. If rice cultivation would be postponed then these people would have to face problems related to food. At this time Anand mama decided to cultivate the rice in this area along with the Shashwat trust members and members doing fishery business. About 70 to 80 people gathered in that area, and the entire cultivation of 11 farmers was completed in 4 days. Anand mama used to give the report of entire day activity to the government officials.
Everyone was giving a helping hand. But the school children died in the Malin tragedy. Students from nearby villages were also studying in the School at Malin. But it was difficult to run the school under these circumstances. At that time, classes from 4th to 7th standard were going on in the High-school at Malin Phata. Students were missing the classes and facing difficulties. When Mama understood the problem, he raised funds to get 4 to 5 classrooms reconstructed. The school at Malin is working well now.
The work done by Anand mama and Kusum tai has made people aware of many things. They are now aware of their rights and responsibilities. Many people who had worked with mama and tai are at very good positions like Sarpanch, People’s representatives, Corporator, etc. One can now see the fruits of the work done by both of them.
The death of Anand mama is a big blow for us. This gap, created due to his death, would never be filled by anybody. Budhaji Damse, Ramchandra Gavari, Mirabai Dangat and other workers, who had worked with Mama, are trying to continue the work started by him.
We consciously take care that the work started by Mama and Tai reaches to the roots of the affected population. I consider myself very lucky to have got this chance to work with and learn a lot from Mama. I offer my regards to the sacrifice and social service done by Anand mama.
By Vitthal Aswale
Born and brought up in a modest middle class family and having supported self education at the post graduate level, a hardworking and dynamic girl, Pratibha found her life goal by going along with Kusumtai and Mama. She also learned to fight the social taboos and become independent here. Here she shares the incidences which she experienced and learned from with Tai and Mama.
15th July 2006 was my first day at Shashwat office. Prior to that I had been interacting with both tai, and Mama. But on that day, I told Mama over the phone ‘I want to work with you’ reply was immediately received from Mama ‘ I have informed, you can come from tomorrow’. I later learnt that tai was also privy to that call.
When I reached office I was surprised to see an empty office. There was only Soma Bokad besides me who was working on the computer. Sanjay and Budhaji used to barge in and out of office many times. Sunita Domase and Meena used to stay in the girls’ room. Dhondu and some other children used to stay and study there. Soma was also still a student. Even though he was an Arts student, he had learned Tally Advance. I have always respected people who overcome all hardships, and support themselves through education. Such people also motivate me to do the same. Thus, I was extremely happy to work here. I do not ever remember tai or Mama giving any specific work to anyone. People were highly motivated to take up and complete work on their own.
Though I came to the office I was still unaware of what I was supposed to do. I discussed with tai and mama about this. I started by going through the many files kept in the office. All these files contained complaints and problems of the tribal villagers. They also contained communication of these people with various agencies like police station, tehsildar, Mantralaya, collector office and so on. On reading the various letters and the issues in them I slowly started realising the kind of problems these people were facing. As citizens of India all these offices were there to serve us and I thought that we need to approach them to resolve all these problems. This is what I learned from Kusumtai. She was an extremely dynamic and frank lady who was committed to fighting for equality and justice. Appropriately leveraging the government rules and policies for the benefit of the common man was an approach followed by mama. The government officials were forced to take notice of the complaints put forward by him because of this no nonsense altruistic attitude. I learned so many things from them without them actually teaching me anything.
When one is ready to accept equality of work and is willing to work hard for the benefit of the needy it becomes very easy to leave a lucrative job or a comfortable home to come and live in these villages and work alongside these tribal villagers. It is no surprise that the villagers of Ambegaon treat mama and tai no less than god. A fight was initiated by tai against the government to give the farmers of Ambegaon their rights on the land and the jungle. ’ जंगल आमच्या हक्काचे नाही कुणाच्या बापाचे’ was a popular slogan which motivated the villagers to fight for their rights. This agitation was ably supported by mama through his office work, reports and document management. Mr Kapoor’s dedicated work is responsible for making Ambegaon’s presence on the map. UNDP has appreciated the efforts of this couple by awarding them. In this successful journey Sanjay Gavari and Budhaji Domase two dedicated workers of Shashwat have been their ardent supporters. Budhaji is the executive director of Shashwat. There have been many others too who have contributed to the successful working of the organisation. The sad demise of Mr. Kapoor has been a great loss to these people.
Our office was never like any other office. We were never told what to do. This was never the practice of tai or mama. You know your abilities, work with interest and creativity in whichever work you wish to do, was the culture here, which was of course an out of the world method of tai and mama. We were therefore free to discuss news articles from magazines or newspapers, to come up with various ideas for development. Gitalitai, one of the trusty’s usually held an informal gathering at her place at the end of the month. It was a pleasure to attend this as it would always result in an intellectual discussion culminating in new ideas and creative thinking. If the party ended late there was always an escort for the girls to be dropped home safely.
Mr. Kapoor took a lot of interest in developing ways and means to develop women. It was evident in everything he did. Sugandhatai once hurt her leg. Immediately mama treated the injury and also took due care to prevent further injury to the leg. He was a fatherly figure to all us girls. He was equally supportive to his wife, Kusumtai and though they had a lot of difference of opinions related to work, his acts always portrayed his love and respect for his wife.
He did not hesitate to take care of his wife when she was admitted in the hospital for about 10 days. He was caring by nature and this was extended to all the girls working with Shashwat. At the same time he was a great leader and could also get work done very effectively from all of us. This made working with him a great pleasure.
Anand mama used to love bhuji. Kusumtai on the other hand loved puran poli. We used to often bet and the loser had to give bhuji to all. Invariably Sulochana tai and me used to win the bets and Anandmama used to then give us bhuji.
Both mama and tai were avid readers and extremely knowledgeable about most all the topics which we used to discuss. Facts, figures, opinions and strong references were often expressed by them in these discussions.
They gave us a lot of different opportunities with full faith, which helped us to discover our potential and abilities. It prepared us to confidently face any situation which we may be confronted with. Anandmama would always plan activities in advance. This habit of his is still helping us resolve most of our problems smoothly.
Whether it was a funding agency or any other guest, usually we had open discussions and a transparency was maintained in all procedures which helped us to understand all the activities of Shashwat.
We were often handling even the financial transactions of Shashwat and the trust shown by both tai and mama was very encouraging and proved the high level of transparency maintained in the working. Also that we were handling all these funds for the benefit of these tribals of Ambegaon was often brought to our notice and understanding. Mr Kapoor believed that more than being honest, it is important that the world perceives you as an honest man. Today it still feels as if Mama is walking beside us showing the way to the goal.
Later Kusumtai suffered a brain stroke and she started forgetting things. All of us ensured and helped her to recover from this stroke. Mama worked very hard and took a lot of care of Kusumtai and his old father. We could see that his tireless efforts for his family and Shashwat was taking a toll on his health too. That was when he started telling us that it was now our responsibility to manage this work and that he had full faith in our ability to do so. He often told Meeratai that he was now getting old and it was time that someone else handled this responsibility of Shashwat. At the age of 64 we did not feel that he was very old but he never let us know about his failing health. He worked very hard as the Managing Director of Shashwat and served the post till the very end. He never aspired for any high designation nor for any awards. But he will always be remembered along with Kusumtai whenever Shashwat is remembered and not for any award he got.
Mr Kapoor is no longer amongst us but his thoughts, his values and his ways of work will always stay with us. All of us, me, Budhaji, Miratai, Ramchandra Gawari and many more members have vowed to continue our work with the same zeal and dedication and keep the work of Shashwat alive…
My journey from Pune to Ahupe began when as a first year student of IIT; I visited Ahupe along with twenty other students and four – five teachers. I.I.T had a centre named ‘CTARA (Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas) , which for the last thirty years was working on development of technology for rural areas and conducted treks for the first year students in the very first week after admission.
We had climbed the Ahupe Ghat from Murbad and arrived on the Waaghmala plateau on a beautiful rainy day. The village was covered with dense fog and we could barely see a jeep parked few paces away. We walked towards the jeep as the fog gave way to rain. Standing next to the jeep was a slightly built man dressed in unironed pinkish blue kurta and white pyjamas, with his head covered by a cloth tucked behind his ears, and an umbrella in one hand. He sported drooping moustache and had a mole on one cheek and wore round black rimmed brown tinted pair of spectacles. Lips pursued, eyes narrowed, and neck tilted to one side and smiling, he beckoned us to quickly take cover in the shed as the skies opened up to a heavy downpour. The shed were we took shelter had a board on which was written “Ashram Shaala”. Just as all of us huddled into the shed, the person who had beckoned us to the shed appeared in a fully drenched state. He was Anand Kapoor, fondly called ‘Mama’ at Shashwat. He had made provision for us to dry ourselves at various houses belonging to the tribals. The houses had low ceiling and were dark and were home to man and animal alike. We dried ourselves in front of the ‘chullas’ and felt warm. We were fed with dal and rice.
After our meals, we all decided to climb down the Ahupe Ghat and head back to Pune. As I had to travel to Pune, I approached Anand Mama to enquire about the transportation available. He informed me that one State Transport bus would come to the village in the evening and leave in the morning. He suggested I travel with him to Manchar and from there take a bus to Pune. I was completely bowled over by his accented Marathi and instantly took up his offer to travel with him to Pune. And what revelation that proved to be!
Accompanying us was Mr. Narendra Shah, an extremely inquisitive man and fast grasper of information. He asked several questions as the journey began and Anand Mama was equally quick to respond. He narrated innumerable social causes undertaken and issues raised by Shashwat. It was like a beautiful film playing in front of our eyes. ‘Devrai’ (a thickly forested area for holy purpose) of Ahupe with its hilly terrain and seven hundred year old vines, ‘CHIPKO’ movement to save them from demolition, Water tanks built at Pimpergane, the house where Mama and Tai ( Kusum Karnik as she is fondly known at Shashwat) lived, the ice breakers resorted to by Tai to connect with the tribal women like grinding of grains, picking of twigs and dry branches from the forest, cultivation of rice by tribals by undertaking ‘Padkai’, School constructed at Aaghaane, protesting by lying prone in front of bulldozers in demand of use of adequate tar for proper asphalting of roads, Sanju Gavari’s house in Done whose brother was the first student of pre-school started by Shashawat who went to become a doctor, Bazaar of Tirpada, landslide affected houses on Digad slopes, government’s primary health centre at Adivare which was in a dilapidated state , the zig-zag roads designed by Mama for government to build connecting the mountain top with the dam that one would reach after crossing the small bridge on Bubra river, the monstrous wall of the Dimbhe Dam at the other end, the dilapidated houses of tribals there along the road, Tyres and tubes used in Fishing by Kaatkaris, brick kilns constructed using old tyres and tubes, parts of Ambegaon submerged under the dam water, Artisans from Madhya Pradesh constructing boats and so many others. Every story narrated by the person who experienced all the struggles and setbacks, yet laced with success and hope. It was like the film was being narrated by the Director himself…like the Creator creating his own Universe. Anand Mama, at that point in time seemed like a Director and Creator to me.
On the other side of the Dimbhe Dam, we visited Sugandha Tai’s and Budhaji’s houses. We also visited neighbouring houses which were schools to students of Std V and above for children of tribals living on mountain top.
We left for Manchar. The road was flanked by small modest houses and stretches of farms irrigated by the Dimbhe dam water. We had planned to have ‘Misal’ at Hotel Visava but it was closed. We bid adieu to Mama at Manchar, with my mind firmly made up to take a plunge in the ocean of Social Work.
I had heard and read a lot about Social work but wasn’t sure as to how to begin it and wasn’t aware of what it entailed. Joining I.I.T was one of the reasons and on my very first day I met none other than Mama. The kaleidoscopic journey of ‘Struggling Ahupe’ to
‘Swelling Manchar’ with Anand Mama became a ‘dirt track’ which took me on the ‘tarred road’ of Social Work.
The Ahupe to Manchar trip with Mama and his narratives about Shashwat’s work in the area around Dimbhe dam remained etched in my memory and engraved on my mind. These memories made me assimilate I.I.T and Nirmaan teachings in a better manner. Understanding Gandhi, Vinoba, Kumarappa, Schumacher, Capra, Eric Fromm, Medoz, Robert Chambers, Eleanor Ostrom, and Dr. Madhav Gadgil became easier. Shashwat became examples, criticism, analytics, and challenges for better understanding. If Shashwat posed questions, at times, it also became
‘Eureka’. It taught me one great lesson. Never practise based on theory, instead understand theory in context to reality & its limitations and then apply theory, if required.
Much later, I got an opportunity to work in Ahupe. I became a part of the task to revive traditional canals to bring down rain water from mountain top at Kushire village, adjoining the dam. I also closely worked on projects like Padkai, Fishery, and Siltation Farming undertaken by Tai and Mama. It was during this time period that I got a brief glimpse that it was possible to bond Man with Nature. Like Lord Krishna’s famed ‘Vishwaroop Darshan’ to Arjuna, this one was for me by Anand Mama. Anand Mama, IIT educated with plump salary left his job and invited family wrath. He married Tai, a woman several years older than him from another state to work in remote tribal villages. He wore used clothes and earned an honorarium of `7,000 per month out of which he donated `6,000 to students and patients as would Kusum Tai. He lived like a rich hermit.
Tai and Mama’s residence was Shashwat’s office. It would also act as home to the needy and sick. Social workers of Shashwat would be provided two – three rooms to reside and would be provided food cooked in the residence/ office. There was no pompousness or display of richness at Shashwat. Anyone and everyone – worker or not of Shashwat were treated like family and received warmth and love from Tai and Mama. It was because of this very reason that Tai and Mama worried about ungratefulness from people whom they came in contact with, and only continued to give.
One notion attached to social work is that it is done by people who are fame – hungry and wish to show off the work done by them in terms of quantity rather than quality. At times it was more paying of lip service that actual work. At Shashwat, the entire notion was proved wrong. Working selflessly for a socially productive cause by getting to the root of the problem was the order of the day. Expertise and experience was held in great esteem, empowerment of affected population was stressed upon and thus every small step in right direction would bear fruit. Shashwat initiated and developed 14 – 15 projects like setting up of ‘Aanganwadi’, construction of paddy terraces, setting up of Forest Research Institute for Villagers, setting up of Fisheries to provide employment and livelihood to the displaced villagers. Stitching together forest, land, water, animals and people was stressed upon. Monthly meetings of two days duration of Shashwat workers would be held in presence of Mama, who would be a silent observer.
Converting Limitation into an opportunity was Mama’s forte. Construction of water tanks in hard black rocky regions in the face of difficulty of digging bore wells in Ahupe, constructing road along dam reservoir banks instead of expensive bridges, cultivating crops on reservoir banks when water would be released for irrigation, building terraces on mountains to cultivate paddy were some great examples of conversions of challenges into livelihood.
I once asked Mama, what motivated him to work for the displaced community. His answer jolted me, a person from a well to do family in Ahupe. He said nothing except that the displaced community could feed itself for eight months instead of earlier six months. This meant ‘reduction of two months of hunger in the last twenty years’. To experience hunger, Mama sent me and Nikhil to Kushire to measure hunger! We lived with 30 – 40 families there. During this stay, we realised what ‘reduction of two months of hunger in the last twenty years’ meant.
On returning from Kushire, I met Mama and told him about the ill – effects of ‘chullas’ used there. I expressed my wish to undertake the task of increasing efficiency of chullas at Aaghaane. He calmly questioned me about the purpose of doing it when there was no food to cook on those chullas! His question shook me to the core. I considered it my privilege to know selfless individuals like Mama who asked pointed questions which needed to be answered. As we had studied the relationship between efficiency of Chullas and Rice Production, we had answer to Mama’s question mentioned earlier. However, under the circumstances, it would have been insensitive on our part to answer his question.
We worked towards helping farmers to cultivate crop second time in the year at Kushire village. We constructed canals to irrigate fields for the second crop. When I met Mama after 3 to 4 years later, he proudly informed us that the Planning Commission was mooting the idea of using our model of constructing canals over 9 lakh hectares of land. My memory of Mama witnessing our presentation to prove a relationship between efficiency of Chullas and Rice Production in IIT came rushing back. He promptly pointed out that our study looks at next 10 – 15 years only. We need to understand the requirement after these 10 – 15 years and work on them. Mama firmly believed that creative work must be done and any struggle required for it must be welcomed. In doing such difficult creative work, Government should not be taken on like Medha Patkar, but should be considered as an ally like Dr. Abhay Bang and Dr. Prakash Amte.
Working closely with Mama and Tai motivated at least two students from CTARA to work every year at the university named Shashwat! Devang, Mandar, Vijay, Nikhil, Seema, Tausif, Indrayani and many others have studied in this university. All of us are involved in one way or other in some social cause even today outside Shashwat. We were never compelled by Mama to remain with Shashawt and were given the freedom to spread our wings. On completion of my course at IIT, I distinctly remember his advice to take up social cause when we would be a powerful position in future. He advised me to be ‘available’ and answer any call of distress from people. When we went through difficult times during our IIT course, we remember Mama’s counselling, his words of encouragement over a cup of coffee.
Three days after my marriage, my wife Pradnya and I travelled to Ahupe. On the way, I attended a meeting where Pradnya met every one at Shashwat for the first time. She was overwhelmed by the discussion by 100 plus workers and the welcome gift.
What is important to note is that the number of workers at Shashwat has grown after Mama’s demise and more than 50% of them are women. Work is taking place at a steady and even faster pace in villages affected by three dams constructed beyond Ambegaon.
My journey from Ahupe to Manchar and then to Pune was a long and arduous one with moments of low. It began with the Adivasis residing on mountain tops for survival after being displaced by the construction of dam, fertile land submerged under dam water, Government houses long the dam walls, dried up river, sugarcane grown along canals, display of opulence by MLAs and MPs bungalows and ends at traders’ Manchar. Then on way to Pune, are series of Hotels and Dhabbas along the highway, Khed, Chakan, Bhosari, Pimpri, Chinchwad Industrial estates employing the displaced, and finally the attractive lights of developed Pune city with people involved in ‘service’.
I realised that the journey from Ahupe to Pune was journey from prosperity to poverty, from satisfaction to greed and from peace & tranquillity to noise & disquiet. Unfortunately this is the scene throughout the country. I felt that the direction of the journey needs to be reversed from Pune to Ahupe.
Anand Kapoor (Mama) is a name which is revered and respected in the tribal areas of Ambegaon taluka. I met him to understand the impact of ‘Employment for all’ initiative of the government of India in 2004. In the last 10 years our association has slowly turned into a friendship developed through my deep respect for his leadership and work. When I look back on those years I am happy to see that I have come a long way in my social work and have grown as a person, and all this is due to the help of Mama.
In fact it is so sad that Mr Kapoor will not be there to assess this article which I am writing. He always insisted that any report/article which we wrote have to be accurate and candid. They should include all technical details, and the information should be accurate. He himself made it a practice to compile precise and accurate reports. We could see this importance of accuracy of details and logic, in all his work. Probably his education from IIT was responsible for this. A Punjabi, born and brought up in Lucknow, Mr Kapoor completed his engineering degree from IIT Kharagpur. But he was always a rebel who never liked or followed systems. He left his prestigious job of Telco and dedicated himself to social work. Having worked for some time in Satara, Ralegansiddhi and Thane for water and soil irrigation projects, he met Kusum Karnik who was working with great dither for the tribals of Ambegoan. Mr. Kapoor was happy to make Kusum Karnik his life partner keeping aside the usual concerns of caste, age, creed etc. With the help of Health ministry, Mr Kapoor worked on the problems related to education, water and health for nearly 16 years. Many students who have studied in the kindergarten schools started by Mr. Kapoor are now happily settled in great careers in cities. They still cherish the fond memories of Mama and tai.
I was most impressed by their work in the alternative employment and development opportunities created by them. Nearly 13 villages completely and 12 villages partially were displaced when Timbhe dam was constructed on Ghod river. The people in these villages were mainly farmers and the land here was extremely fertile. The East side of the dam flourished due to the construction of the dam but the tribals who were forced to shift to the surrounding hills due to the back waters of the dam faced extreme hardships for livelihood. Those people who were mainly farmers preferred to stay close to their lands and hence started living on the hills close by. As a result they could no longer do farming. Alternate business like collecting Hirda, working in other people’s farms and some farming of Varai and Nachni which was possible, was being done. However this is really hard work and was still not sufficient for their livelihood. This is the reason why these farmers and fishermen had to move out of their homes for some months for sheer survival.
It was essential to help these tribals to shift from their traditional means of livelihood to different ones which will be possible now in the changed circumstances. To do this it was necessary to unite the tribals first. While developing these means of livelihood, government schemes, technology and science was used, but at the same time ensuring that environment was well protected. Keeping this in mind a few initiatives were taken up by Mama. The steep slopes where trees were abundant were protected as a forest area. More gentle slopes could be developed into small plots for farming by using boulders to stop the water from flowing away ‘Padkai’. When the dam water receded in summer the silt rich land which was available was also used for short term farming called ‘Gal per sheti’. Fishing in the dam was another skill which was developed in the villagers in this tribal area which also became another means of livelihood for them. All this was possible due to the vision and hard work of Anand Mama and Kusumtai Karnik and support of the lakhs of villagers who were displaced by the backwaters of Timbhe dam.
Gal per sheti has given the farmers from 12 villages some relief in the summer months and Padkai on hills has helped not only in increasing the land under farming but also in reducing the deposition of silt at the bottom of the dam which is undesirable. This has also stopped the migration of these villagers to the cities to a large extent. The fishermen are also happy to continue their profession with the help of technology, bringing in a much developed way of fishing.
The main features of these projects is the effective utilization of money from government schemes and technology. The rapport and respect which Mr Kapoor had with the government officials has definitely facilitated this. At the same time his own expertise in technology has also contributed to creating better informed opportunities for the villagers. The diligence of the villagers has helped to convert Padkai into the ‘employment for all’ initiative of the government. Registration of land which had a lot of roadblocks was facilitated by the revenue department in 29 villages by setting up camps for these villagers. This helped them to avail many government schemes. For facilitating Gal per farming, Irrigation department made the land available, tribal welfare department gave pumps for the farming and ‘Valmi’ company from Aurangabad provided training to use the equipment. IIT, Powai has developed light weight machines for the villagers. To help the fishermen, training was given by Central Fisheries organisation. To get the support of Government Employment scheme for Padkai, the technicalities were worked out by Mr Kapoor himself. To improve the productivity of the fisheries, Central Fisheries and Research Institute, Mumbai helped in setting up cages to facilitate modern technology based fishing for Dhencha and Taag fishes. Through this was also developed a project for ornamental fish breeding and aquariums business which was taken up by the womenfolk. These projects also proved to be very useful in uniting the men and women folks of the villages to form various groups like mahila bachat gat, ‘Timbhe jalashay shramik macchimar society of 275 farmers, Cooperative society of farmers doing Galper farming.
A journey which started from hardship and pain towards safety, and self-confidence for the tribals reminds me of a saying in Marathi ‘वृक्ष लावणारे निघोनिया जाती, फळे चाखती सान थोर’.
Many people have contributed towards this noble work of Anandmama. Stalwarts from Manchar and even prestigious institutes like Tata institute of social sciences have willingly contributed in different ways to this work of Shashwat. Revenue department, Tribal development department, Matsya Sanwardhan Vibhag, Maharashtra Gramin Upajivika Abhiyaan and many such national level bodies and their officers were highly supportive of Mr Kapoor’s work and also appreciative of his dedication and pleasant-selfless personality.
Mr. Kapoor has been able to develop this multi-layer network only because of his empathic and close relations with all the tribals. All the villagers and members of Shashwat are therefore extremely comfortable discussing any and every problem with him. His high education, high position in Shashwat, Non-Maharashtrian identity, or even that he was a male, never became a barrier to this trust which all the people had developed towards him. All these people were in tears after the sad demise of Mr Kapoor. Their love for him was much deeper than just a work relationship. His teachings for living a cultured life and doing dedicated and symbiotic work are few of the many lessons which all of us will remember for life.
Neither Anand Kapoor nor Kusumtai tried to create a brand of Shashwat. He did not like it when other people mentioned their contribution in articles. He would insist that the mention be minimal. But on the other hand even small contributions by members were immediately appreciated by both of them. They also motivated people to contribute towards Shashwat in whichever way possible. He made it a point to mention and applaud the efforts of all the members of Shashwat at most of the award ceremonies. This was probably the reason, we realise now, as to how he could raise so many funds for Shashwat.
Untimely death of Mr. Kapoor and deteriorating health of Kusumtai has prompted many members of Shashwat to take up responsibility of continuing the work. Many tribals who have been trained under the expert guidance and leadership of Mr. Kapoor are now taking up responsibilities to continue this noble work with passion and dedication. The work of school and hostel construction, permissions from various government organisations, expanding the work from 1 taluka to now encompass 3 taluka’s has been successfully completed within one year by all these dedicated members and supporters of Shashwat. In addition to this taking care of the health of Kusumtai is also something which all of them do very lovingly.
The small seed of Shashwat has now blossomed into a beautiful tree. It has also sprouted many more branches during the past year. To protect these new branches from adverse conditions and help them to blossom and grow is now the responsibility of all the members and supporters of Shashwat. The teachings of Anand mama and Kusumtai will definitely go a long way in helping them achieve this deed.
I used to call Anand by his first name right from my childhood. People used to cluster around me when I was young and ask me questions about how I addressed my father. Our family was different and was a target of attraction for them. Anand and Kusum allowed me to mix with the people around. I lived in villages as a result of which I could easily mix with people here. After a while my novelty ceased and I got blended in the population here. I played, wandered in the village and spend most of my afternoons in search of tamarind, unripe mangoes and custard apples. Anand and Kusum did not bother me for studies for Mathematics and English till seventh standard. Anand and was a strict man, educated in convent school and followed etiquettes. I think he was answerable himself to many questions about allowing me to study in such an environment but he digested it all and brought me up with love and care. As I grew up I started to understand Anand’s nature and then their relation between us became friendly. Anand considered friendship as well as relationship as very important in life. And hence he had lot of expectations from others. He was quite lenient with people around him. Mostly he considered the good side of the people. My mother was exactly contrast to him. She used to impose strict rules on everybody including herself. I was also adamant some times, that’s why had lot of conflicts with her. Anand mostly took my side or mediated between us and his efforts always were to avoid conflicts. Anand and Kusum had distributed social work according to their nature. Mother incorporated people’s participation, invoking realizations against exploitation, and philosophical discussions and Anand took over constructive work, efficiency building and applicability of the projects. Anand left the job of Maharashtra Arogya Mandal, after mother who had already left it when I was in twelfth standard. We came to Manchar from Narodi. Anand for few initial months was under tension then. He began to take up projects for work audits by which he came in contact with various projects like Jabalpur ,Bargi , Narmada Bachao. He selected a beaten track for work .These experiences enriched him, enlarged the scope of his work and his thinking. I migrated to Pune after my twelfth standard. Tours related to work for both of my parents increased substantially. Since I came from rural area and spoke rural language I was uneasy when speaking in English as I was not able to speak correctly. The environment in my house was modern, with different thinking and different parental background. People in the villages were accustomed to my surname Kapoor. But it took time to get settled in collage and hostel. Anand was not aggressive about my education as it was not in his nature. I decided to go for a job after my B.Sc degree and then I changed my mind got M.Sc degree and a job and gradually settled in Pune. I did not have to worry till Anand was alive. Mother was also not keeping well in recent years. Anand used to look after mother’s illness and my grandfather’s health as well .This habit of taking tension on him proved to be fatal while working for home and the organization alone. I feel there should have been an intervention in relationship between Anand and Dadaji to reduce tension between them. I used to speak with Anand about the guilt and rage in their relationships. In spite of all efforts we failed to solve the problems. I had to face lots of problems after his demise. I feel angry, depressed and helpless because I was not able help the man close to me on emotional front.
Today after one and half year the fact that Anand is not with me, enrages me. But anyway let it go.
Anand’s sudden demise created confusion in my life and my mother’s. In the organization too and its volunteers Budhaji and Pratibhatai there was confusion. The organization is stabilizing now and the work is to be executed fast. According to me any organization is a group of people of some shared thoughts and people who are oriented to these thoughts. The group works efficiently till the thoughts exists. Shashwat organization will work effectively till the Adivasi population in Bhimsahankar and Junnar area believe in the eternal thoughts of Shashwat organization. I believe that our Adivasi, Katkari brothers will carry forward the work of the organization.
Mother’s health worsened due to development of cist in the brain three years ago. She suffered a stroke. She was fortunately cured but her short memory was affected. She is not able to remember a lot of things of the past. Silver lining is that her memory is improving gradually.
I want to write something about my childhood. Sometimes I felt that both of my parents educated me in village school and spoiled my career. I was attracted to job, salary and weekend parties for a while. I met with an accident shortly after that.That night was critical for me. After a week of hospitalization I returned back home. I realized that expressing angry or complaining were useless.Old complaint were thrown out of mind then and new complaint were taken care by expressing them. I understood the meaning of life, people around me, relationships, society and organization. Life gets enriched due to different experiences when you choose a different path than others living in a routine schedule. I understood that what I called obstacles were my experiences enriching my life. Thus, accidents sometimes prove to be beneficial too!
Some things about Anand and Kusum’s relationship
There was a basic difference in their nature, thoughts and styles of working. After a long period some bitterness was observed in their relationship and they had decided to separate. It never happened as they remained together inspite of the bitterness between them. Later on I realized that they stood firm on their grounds in spite of the bitterness due to their support for each other. The relationship is bound by an unspoken realization. We faced lot of difficulties in dealing with them due to this paradox.
Mother’s philosophy was idealistic inspired by Rastriya Seva Dal, Vinobaji, Gandhiji. She stressed on peoples movements, participation and democracy in every aspect. This resulted in reducing the efficiency and spending more time. But she concentrated on one principle. Anand was different as his inclination was towards increase in efficiency of work and getting a bigger impact through it. Anand shot into fame due to his projects in the later stage of his career due to UNDP prize, Government help and participation. The other side of the coin was growing tension. I think volunteers of social organization believing in efficiency, work with more tension than executive of a business organization. Shashwat activities are guided by Anand in the same direction probably because there is no other alternative. The organization has to take up work related to people’s movement featuring the emotional and philosophical aspects of the people. Along with basic amenities and employment they have to address issues like women’s problems casteism, self-respect of the Adivasi and Dalits, polarization of population in cities. Off course it is not so easy as it seems. It is difficult to get priorities for such activities, in world of rapid information interfaces and bombardment of advertisements in media but I think from the bottom of my heart that the organization of Adivasi and poor should not lag behind in the efforts for constructive activities of the organization.
!! Zindabad !!