Wisdom of Life

Testimonial

Ms. Runu Murmu, a woman farmer from the Jorhat district of Assam took to organic agriculture after receiving training from the facilitating partner organisation. She inspired other women in the village to practice organic agriculture, and formed a group of women farmers. This group is practicing collective as well as individual cultivation.

Ms. Runu Murmu, (35) has emerged as one of the women farmer leaders in Panjan village of Titabor Block under Jorhat district of Assam. Her husband, a private school teacher is the sole bread earner of the family. With four children, two sons and two daughters, Runu’s early married life was confined to household chores with small kitchen gardening. In the initial stage of her kitchen gardening in a small piece of land of about a bigha, she used chemical fertilizer and pesticide expansively to yield high and rapid produce for the family’s consumption.

However, after attending farmers’ club meetings and a number of training programmes organized by Seva Kendra Dibrugarh (SKD) her interest in organic farming, integrated pest management and traditional knowledge increased. This knowledge enabled her to start farming on wider scale to earn additional income with which she could enrol her children in formal schooling. Runu discontinued using chemicals and pesticides in her garden since 2014, and instead switched to using compost and manure. She planted seasonal vegetables like jika, cucumber, ladies finger, ginger, rice gourd, bitter gourd, beans, pumpkin etc., while also practicing multiple and seasonal cropping. Through information provided in the trainings, Runu has networked with the local shopkeepers to sells off her surplus produce at a wholesale price and earns about INR. 10,000 per month. Promising agricultural production has motivated her to add another plot of land to her existing cultivable land. Today, she stands an inspiration to many women and men farmers in her village.

“Organic products saistho karone bhaal aru income barhe, aamak aji aidor e keti kora ussith-saistho aru poribhekh karone,”(meaning that the organic products are good for health, environment and income, and should be the way in which agriculture should be practiced) says Runu.

The Nagas, both men and women farmers from the Peren district of Nagaland came together to cultivate a popular variety of pulse called Naga Dal. They practiced cultivation of Naga Dal in a selected plot near the village. The result was an astounding yield of 640 kilograms of Naga Dal on the 3 acres of land. The produce is sold in the market for Rs 80-90 per kilogram and the proceeds are shared between the members. This initiative has motivated the people to widen such collective cultivation.

To read motivational stories of change and empowerment visit our exclusive blogon the project at:
http://backtofarms.blogspot.in/.

Beginning of a Change in the Naga Valleys

Ganga Barela, of village Sankota, practices farming on her family land. Earlier, due to high agricultural input cost of chemical fertilisers, her family was finding farming an inefficient vocation, thereby retracting from it. She brought the issues to the Jeevika programme team in her village, who with timely handholding, counselling and capacity building enabled her to take up vegetable-cultivation with cost effective agriculture practices. With a series of motivational discussions and required facilitation, Ganga decided to start mixed cropping cultivation and also adopt bio-fertiliser process. She sowed seed of ladies-finger and tomato in her land with support of her spouse and took good care of the field. Her hard work resulted in a handsome produce, which brings an additional income of rupees five hundred to her family. The amount varies from time to time and this has inspired other women members of the Self Help Group to resort to mixed cropping through Bio- fertilisation.

As an expansion of the initiative, Jeevika Haat, weekly market is organised on Fridays whereby the people from twenty five villages gather to sell and purchase goods. Jeevika Haat is a response to the difficulties faced by people in transportation to reach the nearest market place in Tiwni village in Umariya district. The process took almost a year, and now people have come up with around twenty shops connected with twenty five villages at a common nearby location, earning an average income of rupees two thousand a month.

Ganga Barela

I, ChandrakalaDigal, aged 55, wife of Late Gimango am a resident of village Padrikia, in Kandhamal, Odisha, where a majority of the inhabitants are Tribals (Adivasis). After my husband’s demise, I took charge of running my family single headedly by taking up daily wage labour. With school going three daughters and two sons, the wages I earned were far from sufficient to take care of our rudimentary needs. When the riots broke out in the district following the alleged assassination of a Hindu leader, the right wing fringe groups started attacking and vandalizing the houses belonging to the people of Christian faith. Since I belong to the Christian community (Tribal Christian), I feared for our lives and rushed towards the relief camps set up in Raikia much later, where I stayed with my family for six months. During this time, I learned that all our houses were burned down by the rioters. After returning home, I found out that my name was missed out in the official assessment on damages and losses for compensation. This shook me to the core as I was unable to resume work and had nothing to ball back on to sustain my family with a square meal also.

On 15th November 2012, I happened to attend a legal-aid training camp after returning home, that was organised in Raikaby some voluntary organisations. Empowered by the information gathered at the training programme by the lawyers, I filed a grievance petition to the administrative block office of Raikia, challenging exclusion from the assessment and demanding compensation for the damage of my house. On 17th November, I consulted with the legal aid lawyer and was assured pro-bono support to follow up with my grievance petition. Filing of grievance itself wasn’t an easy task for me and took me three attempts to get through due to the absence of the concerned block officials. At last, investigation was assured by the Block Development Officer and repeated follow ups were conducted by the lawyer. Finally, my house damage was enlisted, which secured me a compensation of Rs. 10.000 (Ten Thousand rupees) under the partial damage category. This financial support enabled me to reconstruct my house, while I also sought legal assistance for applying for widow pension. Thanks to all these voluntary efforts of the lawyers that we are able to return and live in our own house.

I reached the doorsteps of justice

I, Sri Madan Pradhan (50), am a resident of village Gujapanga in Kandhamal, where I live with my family of six members including my school going fourchildren. Being a daily wage labourer, some days I go without work, making it even more difficult to run my family. Falling under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category, I had never availed any public benefits owing to lack of information about the schemes and entitlements.
One day, I accompanied some villagers to the legal aid training organized by Justice, Peace Development and Communication, in my village, though only with half the interest. The advocates shared about various Government schemes for BPL families, such as the Indira AwasYojana (centrally sponsored housing scheme), Madhubabu pension scheme, Widow Pension scheme, Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Mo Kudia scheme etc. Upon learning about the Mo Kudia housing scheme of the Government of Odisha for BPL families, in the joint name of spouse, I sought legal guidance from the lawyer after the training programme concluded. After listening to my case and finding me eligible for the scheme, I was assured pro-bono assistance by the lawyer. I was assisted in submitting my application to the Block Development Officer (BDO) of Raikia. I was promised support from the administration and eventually, Rs. 75,000 (Seventy Five thousand) was sanctioned to me under the scheme.
Had it not been for the legal aid training I doubt if I’d ever been able to claim the entitlement. Moreover, the training and real time handholding instilled hope and confidence in me. At present, my family is happy to live in their new house.

Legal-aid and information helped my family secure a new and better house

Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction a program supported by Caritas India in North East India and implemented by Women’s Development Centre (WDC), Guwahati, in 15 villages under Morigaon district has a lots of story to tell. Of these clubbing strength of the farmers is one among the stories. With the help of WDC the villages have constituted what they call a farmers’ club in an effort to move a step to keep the program moving on with the support from NABARD and government schemes even after the project is closed.

Farmers’ club is a registered body under NABARD where about 10 farmers of a village come together and undertake trainings, activities and planning to augment their farming methods and status after consensus. They can access government schemes and benefits with the aid of this farmers’ club. In the CMDRR project, WDC had initiated formation of such farmers’ clubs to so they can bridge the gap between the Government and the farmers and the latter can access opportunities, more so in the event of a disaster like floods. They conduct trainings, awareness etc. in their villages by informing WDC that acts as a node between the village and the concerned experts/trainers.

The members of the farmers’ club discuss with other people in the village regarding their needs and problems. A total of 13 farmers’ clubs have been registered under NABARD in Morigaon in 15 project villages. These farmers’ club acts as a bridge between the village people and the government and also functions as a Task Force Group in the event of floods.

Jawaharilal Hazarika, president of Nabakharbori Krishak Sangha farmers’ club happily narrated the benefits that the farmers’ club could bring in to the villages after its formation. “We receive heavy floods every year and suffer huge loss of agricultural produce. With the help of the club we have brought free seeds for the village, and procured pump sets on a heavy discount. This is a great help for us as now we have the power to reach the government and access opportunities”, he commented.

Apart from trainings, the farmers’ club performs another significant function- preparing the Plan of Action (POA). Morigaon has 632 villages and 85 panchayats. In this context, a farmer’s club becomes a decentralized structure of taking the concerns of the villages to the Gram Panchayat. While a Gram Panchayat conducts 4 (effectively 1 or 2) meetings every year, a farmers’ club meets regularly once or twice a month and as and when required and discusses their issues together with the rest of the village. Women are an integral part of the process. As put by Kanchanmoni Gohain, District Development Officer, NABARD, “Co-ordination is more important than assistance in the farmers’ club that can result in linkage with many agencies”.

Clubbing strength of the farmers

A ‘Musahar’ girl from Bihar broke the age-old barriers of education deprivation. Literacy rate among musahar’s is only 3 percent and falls below 1 percent for the women who are subjected to exploitation, violence, and sexual harassment since ages.

Reena, a shy and simple musahar girl from Bedwaliya village was no different when aspired to get educated to lead a better future.

Even after all the hardships she managed to get promoted to class 6 but her joy ended when due to sudden sickness and lack of public health services had to dropout from the school.

The next entire year was even more difficult for Reena and her family as she neither could attend the school nor able to assist the family in earning their livelihood. Once a little better, her family did not send her to school in order to make up for the income lost during her illness.

Reena is now coming to an age where most of the girls of her age get married but due to lack of finances she had to continue working to bear the expenses of her marriage. By the time Hamari Pathshala reached her tola, almost three years had passed since she had been to school and she had forgotten what she had learnt.

Today, Reena is married and taking bridge course to cover the gap in her studies for appearing in Bihar Board Open Schooling and Examination. The counselling and educational support provided by Caritas India Hamari Pathshala project made this possible for Reena and many other musahar girls. The project gives special focus on the development of teaching modules and training of facilitators to improve the system of education in the targeted community.

Reena and many others are receiving educational benefits and able to teach other children of her community. She wishes to continue her studies even after her marriage till her “Gauna” (a practice when the bride is finally taken to the in-laws’).

Supported by Millennium Alliance, the project with 18 months of its intervention has infused positive communication and reinforcement to build self-confidence and independence in musahar community towards education.

The project has reached out to 392 musahar girls from which 129 girls were mainstreamed into local schools. The intervention has helped 165 girls to avail RTE benefits such as school uniform allowance, books and scholarship.

REENA IS 15 YEARS OLD NOW

The total number of working children in the country has declined from 1.26 crore as per the Census 2001 to 43.53 lakh as per Census 2011 which shows 65 per cent reduction. But still Caritas India thinks that tackling the problem of children working and not going to school is a critical problem for which a developing country like India should feel ashamed about.

Present day, the numbers of child working population are increasing day by day in the developing and under developed countries. Actually the child working populations are called as child labor whose age ranged from 5 to 14 years. In India, the children are engaged mostly in various low-key jobs of the unorganized sectors which are hazardous in situation. Nearly 85 per cent of child laborers in India are hard-to- reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the unorganized sector, both rural and urban, within the family or in household-based units.

Caritas India supports a programme to two NGOs in Darjeeling District with a major goal to see that the District Administration declares the Darjeeling District as a “Child Labour Free” District. If this is successful, I think it will be for the first time in India that GO and NGO together declaring a particular District Child Labour free. This project in Darjeeling District could rescue around 45 child labourers and could establish with the community participation 4 mobile Child Rights Protection desk at GP level to ensure that all children are safe in the community. Today I would like to bring forth a story of girl child who was working as a domestic worker and through our support Bal Surakshya Abhiyan (BSA), one of our partner in Darjeeling, rescued her and today she is one of the best hockey player at West Bengal State level.

A 12 year old girl child from North part of West Bengal due to bad economic condition of the family lands up as Domestic worker in Kalimpong city of Darjeeing District. As a domestic worker she had to do the entire household chores, look after the baby, washing cloths as well as cook food. Every day it was for more than round the clock of work. All her rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Based on the report from the secret survey conducted on 27th December 2012, Child Release Officer & Secret Survey Volunteers conducted a rescue operation on 29th December 2012 and rescued this girl child. Immediately, she was taken to the Kalimpong Police Station and a complaint was lodged.

After getting shelter order from the Child Welfare Committee Darjeeling, the child was brought to BSA. Later, the organisation contacted her father who came to BSA to visit her. During his visit, he coaxed her to be back at home as her brother seems to be longing to see her. But she answered him, “When I was sent to work, my brother was there but he never said a word and now why does he want to see me. Does he want to send me back to work at another place?”

Considering that this was her verdict and at the best interest of the child and the order from CWC Darjeeling, the girl child is now under the care of BSA. She is pursuing her study at class V in one of the best English medium convent school in Darjeeling. She could stretch her wings of passion towards hockey and having given the opportunity she is now one of the best Hockey Players at the state level. She is a determined child today to be herself and be a successful in life. Bold and stubborn, these two cards, have played also to her Hockey ground to win the match.

She is one of the living example of a child labour who if rescued and given proper care, can excel in life. Caritas India feels that as nation we should secure the childhood for better future of our country.

By Anthony Chettri, HoD-Programs

It was yet another scorching day in one of the villages of South Tripura, Kathalia Cheera. Down with high fever, Anojoy Chakma, a 7-year-old boy was brought to the community health volunteer (CHV) Ms. Shyamalaxmi Chakma by his elder sister, as their parents were out in the jhum since early morning.

Shyamalaxmi conducted Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) on the ailing boy only to confirm Pv positive malaria. As Pv drugs were not available with the CHV at that point of time, she thought to refer the patient to the Primary Health Centre (PHC).

However, another thought crossed the mind of the dedicated and compassionate volunteer to take an extra stride. She thought, “If I refer the boy to PHC, the treatment would be delayed because the parents are out in the field and would be home by late evening; thereby PHC would be reached the next day only”. She took the boy to the PHC herself along with the RDT kit and thus ensured timely treatment and saved his life.

After a week, Anojoy is back home cured, and is happy and playful as any normal boy of his age!
Under Integrated Malaria Control Project-II, Caritas India is scaling up effective preventive and curative interventions in the seven North Eastern (NE) states in India and covering 48 districts and 5663 villages to save lives from Malaria.

PROACTIVENESS OF CHV SAVED THE LIFE

Rinku Kumari d/o ArunSaday and Pavitri Devi and Leela Kumari d/o Shiv Saday and Savitri Devi are from RantiMusahartola in Madhubani district of Bihar.They are the first ones to have cleared matriculation in their tola and are studying in Grade XI. When asked about their hardworking daughters, parents of both girls couldn’t conceal the pride and happiness they felt and exclaimed that their daughters were continuing their studies further. The girls too expressedtheir jubilation and determination to not think of marriage until they completed their education. The girls have taken up the initiative of teaching the younger children of their tola and encourage them to go to school with them. Their dedication towards highlighting the importance of education paid off when they realized that a hundredMusahar children from their tolawere enrolled in local Government schools as a result of their efforts. Both Rinku and Leelahave become the role models in their tola.

Rinku Kumari