Vanvasis of Dhagewadi village in Maharashtra set an example to be emulated
At the time when there is a blind race among both villagers and urbanites to anyhow manage a BPL ration card, the Vanvasis in Dhagewadi village under Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra set an example that can change the picture of entire country. Normally treated as “uneducated”, these Vanvasis approached the local Tehsildar some time back and urged him to delete their names from the village BPL list, because their financial condition improved substantially. These words had stunned the Tehsildar also, as he was never made such a request. Now when the Congress-led UPA Government kicked off another campaign to ensure supply of foodgrains at subsidised rates to 67 per cent population under Food Security Scheme, this example of Dhagewadi definitely forces to think whether such gimmicks can really eradicate hunger and poverty from the country.
As the rat race between different state governments is touching new height for providing almost free foodgrains to economically deprived families, the crowd outside ration card offices is increasing unexpectedly across the country. Even the well-to-do people want to manage a BPL card anyhow so that they can get ration on subsidised rates. Not only this, there are large number of people who despite earning handsome amount every month are seen lined up for getting old age pension. This only reflects the mentality that promotes dependence on the government rather than becoming self-reliant. The politicians contributed greatly in development of this mentality to get votes. The Supreme Court rightly rapped such attempts recently.
See an example of the gross misuse of government schemes. According to 2011 census, Andhra Pradesh has 21 million households, whereas the total ration cards (both BPL and APL) in circulation are about 22 million of which 19 million are BPL cards. The government issued another 2.5 million temporary cards in the last couple of years taking the total number to 24.5 million. About 85 per cent of all the households in Andhra Pradesh enjoy the ‘privilege’ of being BPL families to whom the government offers 20 kg rice per family at Re 1 a kg. Disturbed over the gross malpractices in ration cards the Maharashtra government has now opted for digitalisation of all ration cards. There are about 4.99 lakh Fair Price Shops across India, which constitutes the largest distribution network in the world. But only 42 per cent of the subsidised grains released by the central pool reach the target groups, according to a Planning Commission study.
Contrary to all these trends, the so-called ‘uneducated’ Vanvasis of Dhagewadi village told the local administration to delete their names from BPL list, as their financial condition improved substantially. “Today there is not a single BPL family in our village having over 300 people of Mahadev Koli community. They have learnt how to earn,” says Shri Bhaskar Paradhi who played a key role in this transformation.
About 20 years back, Dhagewadi was a very backward village thoroughly deprived of basic amenities. The prime reason of it was that it is situated on a hilltop, where even reaching by foot was a Himalayan task. Only 148 of the total 371 hectare agriculture land was fertile due to lack of irrigation. The people, whose ancestors had played a key role in the army of Shivaji Maharaj, were forced to migrate in search of employment leaving behind children, women and older persons in the village. Since the rainwater did not stop at the hills, the production in the fields was very low.
Bhaskar Paradhi started the work with the help of two mules, provided by Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram to carry water on the hill. Paradhi was basically a student of Kalyan Ashram hostel in Akole. After some time, the Pune-based Suyash Charitable Trust imparted farm training to the villagers. People were encouraged to adopt modern techniques of farming and they were also provided high yielding seeds. Some check dams were also built, which enhanced the irrigated area. As a result the production of cash corps began. The experiment of tomato production proved to be a bit hit. It is produced to the extent that when the villagers did not find the way to sell them, they started preparing tomato ketchup, which again hit the market. This fetched handsome income for farmers. Impressed with the achievements of the villagers the then RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri KS Sudarshan visited the village. The villagers presented him a bottle of sauce, which he later presented to the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Shri Vajpayee acknowledged the receipt of the bottle through his letter to the villagers.
After that many new avenues of development began in the village. They selected 22 acres of barren land and grew trees on it. They also planted 5000 trees of Neelgiri around a piece of land so that the pressure of wind remains slow. About 1500 saplings of cashew and Amala were also planted. The water to irrigate the saplings was brought from two km distance during the summers.
Now the villagers realised the need to have a proper road. They performed shram sadhana and successfully built a 2.5 km road within a week. The road helped the people take agriculture produces to market fast. They also built four small check dams with shram sadhana. Six check dams were constructed with the help of government. Impressed with the initiatives, the State government provided funds for digging three wells. All these activities encouraged the people to take up more developmental projects like bio-gas plants, dairy, etc. Consequently, the migrated villagers started returning back. Today the situation is that people from other villages too come to Dhagewadi for employment.
This is how the villagers of this village created history. “This example was later emulated by some other villages of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where the villagers want to depend upon their labour and not at the mercy of government schemes,” says Shri Mohan Ghaisas, who previously headed the Suyash Trust.
Dhagewadi shows the way that poverty will be eradicated by making people self-reliant and surely not by making them dependent on government.