Changing Face Of Indian Villages Essays On Music
Forget those images of ravaged villagers, kids with distended bellies and ragged clothes and a future as grim as the cracked, sun-baked earth. Islands of poverty still exist but most of rural India is transformed beyond imagination thanks to a host of factors which has put unprecedented wealth in
Forget those images of ravaged villagers, kids with distended bellies and ragged clothes and a future as grim as the cracked, sun-baked earth. Islands of poverty still exist but most of rural India is transformed beyond imagination thanks to a host of factors which has put unprecedented wealth into the hands of farmers across the country and turned it into a huge consumer market.
Instead, we have a growing service industry and alternate revenue channels from horticulture, poultry, fisheries and other activities which are less rain-dependant and were virtually non-existent a decade ago. India's 6,38,000 villages, which harbour 72.2 per cent of the population, once the albatross around its neck, are now the signpost to its future.
Sharma of Chandauli village in Barabanki is considering replacing his one-year-old Maruti Swift with a Honda City after he started making rich profits from his menthe (mint) oil cultivation. One litre of the oil, which is exported, fetches a farmer around Rs 500 to Rs 575 which has changed the grassroots economy of the district.
Four years ago, he installed a micro-sprinkler irrigation system and switched to vegetable farming. He also tied up with an exporter who guarantees purchase of his output at a preset price.
Today, he earns Rs 6 lakh a year. Rising food prices may be pinching the pockets of the urban consumers, but it has brought new affluence to farmers who have nearly trebled their income in recent years, along with aspirations. Katkade's new home resembles any middle-class household in urban India and his daughter Priyanka is studying in Mumbai. Says the proud father: "I want her to go to an engineering college."Thavamurugan from Valliammalpuram near Theni, close to Madurai, is another farmer who benefited from a change of crop. He used to grow tea, coffee, pepper or sugarcane before he switched to grapes. Theni's climate allows grapes to grow all year round and now some 10,000 tonnes of Thomson seedless grapes are produced annually.
"Theni is almost the world capital for Thomson grapes. Our farmers are competing in the world market," says Thavamurugan. Though he lives in a small village near Theni, his huge farmhouse boasts of a high-end computer, a treadmill, and a Toyota Innova.
New Innovations: Apart from crop changes, innovative farming techniques are boosting productivity, encouraging new entrepreneurship and having a huge social impact. Yalala Srinivas, 32, from Murthad in Telangana, owns a four-acre farm but now sells drip irrigation systems and micro-irrigation techniques to nearby farmers. His income has grown; he has bought an Alto and now wants to complete his studies.
Katkade's life changed after he installed a micro-sprinkler irrigation system on his farm and took to onion and vegetable farming in Naygaon, a village in Nashik. With higher yields and income, he has bought a jeep and more land.
"Advising farmers on modern cultivation methods is good for the growth of the local economy and my business," says Srinivas.
The flowering of ambition and enterprise through farming is widespread in Murthad, which for a population of 14,000 boasts of 3,500 motorcycles, 20 cars and 32 tractors that are seldom idle. Most houses have concrete roofs, rare enough in rural Telangana, as well as modern kitchens and cooking gas stoves.
A decade ago, that was unthinkable. Local farmers produce nearly 70 per cent of the national requirement of red jowar seeds which are then sold to seed companies. The impact on the local economy is considerable. Twenty-five thousand farmers provide direct employment to another 25,000 families. Moreover, rural youth, sporting cellphones and clad in fake designer wear, are no longer forced to migrate to cities in search of jobs.
Teegala Ramesh Reddy
From his back-breaking days in the blazing sun tilling 13 acres of arid land in Murthad, a Telangana village, he has come a long way after he started cultivating red jowar and building a seed bank. Now, he drives around in an Alto and chats with his daughter Ramani on his cellphone. She is a graduate from California State University and works for a US-based IT company.
"What began as an experiment has become a bumper success," says Enugu Gangaram, 45, a red jowar producer. Nearly 50,000 acres produce four lakh quintal of seeds a year. This has led to 35 seed processing plants in the area, adding to the value chain.
Palle Ganga Reddy, director, Andhra Pradesh State Seeds Corporation, says that the seed is procured, processed and packed locally, and is also exported to Pakistan and Bangladesh. Conservative estimates state that individual farmers earn over Rs 5 lakh a year. Nomula Muthyam Reddy is one. He is just back from his son's graduation ceremony in the US.
"These farmers through hard work and innovation have emerged as extraordinary wealth creators," says district collector B. Seetaramanajaneyulu.
Mritunjay Sharma, 42, is another who's literally minting money. He's recently added menthe oil (mint) to the crops on his farm in Chandauli village in Barabanki and the returns are already enough for him to consider buying a Honda City to replace the Maruti Swift he owns.
Says Sharma: "Earlier, farmers grew wheat and paddy but menthe oil has given us an added financial advantage." India is the largest producer and exporter of the oil which is grown between March-June, when farmers leave fields uncultivated to prepare for the monsoons. Hundreds of menthe oil units have sprung up in Barabanki.
Switching to new crops is a money spinner. Theni village switched to grape cultivation allowing it to compete in world markets with its Thomson grapes.
Om Prakash from Ghata village in Gurgaon lives in a palatial house in Ansal's upscale Sushant Lok. His village has many such families who made a killing by selling agricultural land to one of the many private builders during Gurgaon's real estate boom. He still retains his rustic habits but his two sons are totally urbanised, dressed in jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. They flaunt expensive mobiles and drive fancy cars.
In Madhya Pradesh, it's soyabean. When it started two years ago, soyabean was Rs 1,600 per quintal. It is now Rs 2,800 per quintal. For a farmer who produces 200 quintals of soyabean, it means additional income of almost Rs 2.50 lakh.
No wonder then from hatchbacks to SUVs, it's all available in local showrooms. Says Ramaraj Verma, a local farmer: "People now have pucca houses, electronic goods, swanky cars, mobiles and refrigerators."
Technology Rules: Much of the new prosperity is to do with connectivity and new channels of communication. Rural road projects have made it easier and faster for farmers to get their produce to markets while communication tools have given them access to weather forecasts and critical inputs. ITC's e-chaupal reaches 3.5 million farmers giving them instant access to data on new varieties of crops, pricing and markets.
Jagannath, a former gram panchayat president of Bellandur village near Bangalore, has turned social entrepreneur and ensured that his village adopts computers. He uses a laptop and has seen to it that villagers have access to government information and get land records.
In West Bengal, Bardhaman has become the only district in the country to become fully Internet-connected with panchayats organising video conferences across the district. The network helps daily administrative work and is part of the existing State Wide Area Network (SWAN), a Union Government initiative under the National e-governance plan.
Municipalities like Memary have also been pro-active. It opened a computer school to train young men and women. Says student Asit Pramanisck: "Internet connectivity has made the world a much smaller place."
To really see how much rural India has changed, visit Anksapur in Nizamabad district of Andhra Pradesh. The palatial buildings and wide roads in a rural setting is a surreal sight. It has more migrant farm workers than residents. They can earn more in Anksapur where farmers grow multiple cash crops and have established efficient water management systems.
Every farmer has an average of four labourers working for them to cope with increased yields. Every one of the 600-odd farmers has a motorcycle and every sixth family a car.
Such is the prosperity that Anksapur farmers who cultivate all 2,000 acres of arable land in the village have also bought 1,500 acres in neighbouring villages.
Palle Ganga Reddy
Seed companies in the Armoor block of the Nizamabad district encouraged farmers to produce red jowar in the 1980s and offered them a buy-back guarantee. Since then, the region produces nearly 70 per cent of the national requirement and the seeds are sold in the northern states. New farming techniques and technology have created large scale employment.
Modern water management techniques like drip irrigation give farmers enough water to irrigate three crops a year and earn Rs 10 to 15 lakh each. Their crop yields are 30 per cent more than elsewhere in the region and its superior quality enables the farmers to find markets for it in Sangli, Maharashtra.
Today, the value of farm produce of Anksapur is Rs 30 crore a year and the new prosperity is reflected in the better wages paid to farm labour. It has had a cascading effect on the development of infrastructure and utilities including the opening of two private English-medium schools.
That success story echoes in Fatehpura-Pilvai, in Gujarat's Mehsana district. The village has well-maintained cement homes and an impressive milk collection centre. The population is just over 1,000 but Fatehpura-Pilvai is way ahead of most of rural India when it comes to positive development and is a mirror to the changing face of rural India.
Almost every home has a television set and fridge, some boast of washing machines and air-conditioners as well. There are a dozen cars and nearly 150 two-wheelers and 40 tractors--unbelievable in a village which has just 200 homes. The heart of the village is the milk collection centre and it is normal to see girls wearing jeans and tracksuits carrying milk cans on their heads.
The milk plant managed by the village milk cooperative society collects between 4,800 and 5,500 litres of milk every day which is sold in nearby towns. The society took a loan of Rs 13 lakh in 2006 and installed a bulk milk cooler plant so the milk does not go waste. The other source of revenue is agrofarming.
After the 2001 earthquake, the villagers switched to horticulture and introduced drip irrigation techniques to reduce dependence on rains. Today half the 780 hectare farmland is under drip-irrigation-based horticulture cultivation with potatoes, pomegranate, papaya and vegetables being grown. The result has been a level of prosperity that no one here could have imagined. The village school has its own website and 16 computers are connected to the National Learning Programme.
Rural Land Boom: The single biggest reason for the kind of money visible in rural India is the skyrocketing price of land. Bellandur's prosperity is partly to do with that. The local farmers sold chunks of their land to the office and housing complexes that dot the area as Bangalore's IT companies rapidly expand. Almost all villagers have come into sudden wealth from land sales.
With cities expanding and real estate companies entering rural markets, farmers have sold their land and now live lives they had only seen in the movies.
Another example is Ghata village near Gurgaon in Haryana. Om Prakash lives in a palatial house on a 300 sq mt plot in Ansal's upscale Sushant Lok. He presents an incongruous sight, sitting on a luxurious sofa set in his drawing room and smoking a hookah. He earned Rs 3.50 crore when he sold one acre of his land to a private builder just last year.
The sharp jump in the income of villagers is reflecting in their living standards. Ford Endeavours rub bonnets with Skodas and Scorpios. Prakash still prefers home-cooked vegetarian food but his sons are non-vegetarians who chomp on burgers in Gurgaon malls where most of Ghata village boys hang out.
State-sponsored loans allowed Pal to buy a tractor which has improved efficiency in tilling his land and provided him with transport for his produce. His family now has a fridge, a television set and other urban trappings and he plans to buy another tractor.
With big real estate companies entering Punjab, land prices have skyrocketed, tempting farmers to sell their land and live lives they had only seen in the movies or on TV. They now need generators to run the gadgets they own. Malls and multiplexes have sprouted in recent years, catering mostly to rural youth. Not all is good news.
Sociologists believe rural youth are getting self-indulgent and squandering the money their parents made by land sales. "This is leading to sociological pressures as rural people ape urban lifestyles," says Manmohan Singh Gill, a sociology professor,
Access to Finance: Meet the Spice Girls, who can be found at the vegetable market in Santhivila, a village on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram. They are a group of 16 young women who have changed the local economy. They are members of Karunya, a women's self-help group registered with Kudumbasree, the state Government's Poverty Eradication Project. None of them had a job till they formed Karunya in 2007.
The local gram panchayat gave the group Rs 1 lakh and space at the local vegetable market. With the seed money, they took a bank loan to start a unit making paper boards, cloth bags, office files, pens, pencils etc. The Kudumbasree Mission provided them technical training and today Karunya is one of the most popular brands in these products. Their environmentally safe paper files and paper boards are being increasingly favoured in place of plastic.
"Today each of us makes about Rs 2,000 a month," says Malini Sudhakaran, Karunya's secretary. They also run a micro-credit system and help each other in emergencies with small grants and loans. There are an incredible 37 lakh poor women who are members of Kudumbasree, making it Asia's largest women's self-help and micro-credit movement.
NREGA has made a huge difference to the rural economy, improving roads, water, power and education, prompting grassroots leaders to think out of the box.
Launched in 1999, Kudumbasree has become the largest poverty eradication project ever undertaken in the state, with a collective savings of Rs 1,191 crore while Rs 3,087 crore has been disbursed as loans to members.
One major beneficiary has been Technoworld, a Kudumbasree-funded unit which was set up in Thiruvananthapuram 10 years ago by a group of 10 housewives with basic computer literacy. They invested Rs 1,500 each and also got a state subsidy of Rs 1.50 lakh.
Started with five computers today they have about 25, employ 60 women and made an annual profit of Rs 10 lakh last year through data entry jobs.
"We also have purchased a new office building and land at a cost of Rs 27 lakh of which Rs 17 lakh are our internal resources and the rest a subsidy. Our personal lives too have been radically transformed in the last decade," says Shyla Beevi, the unit's secretary.
In a state which is highly polarised on political lines, Kudumbasree has won rare universal support. Says Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan: "Kudumbasree is a model for India in women's empowerment and poverty eradication."
Opposition leader Oommen Chandy too has only praise for the programme: "One of the greatest silent revolutions the state has witnessed in recent times."
Kudumbasree's Executive Director Sarada Muralidharan says the key to its success is its ability to unify women beyond divides such as caste, creed or politics. Muralidharan is just back from Brazil where at an international meet on women's empowerment she made a presentation on Kudumbasree which is winning global attention.
Mararikulam North, a village in Alappuzha, has seen a revolution thanks to Kudumbasree, which has empowered lakhs of women by making them financially independent through entrepreneurship. Despite their school-level education, its members get bank loans to set up units.
In fact, Left governments may be out of favour, but they have led the way in terms of changing rural lives. Here's one panchayat office board in Memari in West Bengal that says it all.
"In May 2009 alone, under NREGA, there was 100 per cent job utilisation with 745 applicants getting work." Since the beginning of the scheme in the end of 2005, a total of 2,926 job card applications had been received, of which 2,672 have been employed till date.
Memari has slowly transformed itself from mud houses to pucca structures, and the population of 40,000 has access to three cinema halls, myriad restaurants, hotels, showrooms and above all, cash to flaunt. The busy Krishti Cinema hall crossing in the town not only has a small mall with a cyber cafe but the motorbikes zooming past make the ubiquitous rickshawallahs an anachronism. The change is more dramatic further down in villages which are almost fully electrified with huge water tanks rising from among green fields.
In Kishkinda and Baghila villages, reached through perfectly motorable roads, buffaloes have given way to huge Mahindra tractors. Says Mukti Pal, 42: "This tractor cost me over Rs 4 lakh but now I am assured that my land is ploughed faster and with greater efficiency. The banks are ready to give us loans and we have been good at paying back." Pal uses this tractor to transport goods which saves on costs and time.
Memari, which earns chiefly through rice and potatoes, has rice mills by the dozens and at least 13 cold storages for potatoes. Other innovations include investing in a modern Jaquard loom to replace the old hand driven instruments for the local weaver's society.
"Our village nets around Rs 20 lakh annually from loom products and saris. The cold storage plants are another boon, attracting buyers from Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and even Bangladesh. There are enough cold storages to keep the produce fresh and farmers do not have to travel far to sell their produce," says Pal.
Rural Schemes: Though local enterprise is a key factor, schemes like NREGA has undoubtedly made a huge difference to the rural economy and rural thinking. Two years ago, Shobha Bhardwaj, sarpanch of Aanwa village in Rajasthan, wanted to do something positive from the money sanctioned under NREGA. The village had a temporary rain water harvesting check dam. A little creativity boosted the storage capacity of the small lake below, and a plantation. Today, it is a popular picnic spot and a rare combination of eco-friendly tourism, apart from providing the villagers added income.
NREGA money is prompting grassroots leaders to think differently. Roads, power reforms, education, water harvesting and computer education have transformed Rajasthan's dusty, arid villages.
Moreover, the new money has improved social conditions. Child widows have got employment under NREGA as well as plots of land. The Rs 1,500 given to mothers for institutional deliveries has improved the mortality rate of mother and child tremendously. The state's biggest gain has been through road links and power reforms.
The prime minister's rural road scheme has seen improved connectivity. Rs 5,400 crore has been spent in the last five years and the better connectivity has led to speedier transportation of goods and services. Improved power supply has helped women like Laxmi Devi, sarpanch of Bachamad village, to have a washing machine at home: it saves time and lets her do more productive work.
Other small village entrepreneurs from tailors and carpenters to plumbers can work longer hours and more efficiently with power tools. Regular power also means that drinking water supply comes at a fixed time and village women no longer waste hours waiting to collect water from community taps.
Elsewhere, as in Theni, the 100 days of NREGA has given local youth greater disposable income and boosted the earnings of retail dealers in items like mobile phones and garments. "Sales have boomed. It has become essential for everyone to have a mobile phone," says Selvaraj, a local dealer. Private hospitals, banks, mini-malls, dealers in a variety of goods and services are visible all across rural India, and some shops even sell bottled water!
To really judge the fast changing socio-economic face of rural India, the state of its tribal population is crucial. They represent the final frontier, being exploited for decades because of ignorance, poverty and lack of opportunity. So, it is a surprise when one speaks to Kantilal Baria, 25, from Dhekalgaon village of Jhabua district deep in western Madhya Pradesh. He belongs to a generation of Bhil tribals that has seen its community undergo historical change.
As a child, Baria's world was frozen in time--barechested, barefoot, loin-clothed tribals carrying bows and arrows to hunt for food. Today, all that has changed because of NREGA, which provides 100 days of minimum wages a year, raising income levels and aspirations. An estimated 1-1.25 lakh tribals from Jhabua work at construction sites in Gujarat, Rajasthan or Mumbai and Goa where wages are higher. The girls wear saris and young men are clad in cheap denims and imitation Ray Ban shades but they all own cellphones. Some even have motorcycles. The tribal dude has arrived.
So has the rural one. Nothing perhaps illustrates the remarkable changes in rural India than Kalahandi, once described as India's heart of darkness.
Today, women wear decent saris, gold rings and other ornaments and have been given jobs at the local centre for female healthcare and education. Those desperate days of starvation and near-death are a distant memory. Just like everything else once associated with rural India.
A latest Assocham study says that rural per capita income is expected to increase from Rs 7,335 in 1981 to Rs 15,396, at a compounded annual growth rate of 2.5 per cent. It also projected an increase in rural income from Rs 8,00,000 crore in 2001 to Rs 13,00,000 crore in 2011. It's been a remarkable transformation and if rural India stays on its present course, Bharat will be the pulse, or pulses, of the future.
It was a symbol of India's rural darkness: Orissa's Kalahandi, where the sale of a baby for Rs 40 shocked the world in 1985.Phanas Punji of Amla-palli village had sold her two-year-old sister-in-law Banita to save her own two children from dying of starvation. Her tale of misery was so shocking that it led to a series of schemes by the Centre and the state government. For the past eight years, Kalahandi has been getting Rs 30 crore as development funds. Today, Banita wears a decent sari, gold nose rings and earrings. She works at the local Anganwadi centre and earns Rs 500 a month. Besides, she like others in dire straits, were given Rs 9,000 for constructing a dwelling and Rs 13,000 to construct a well under the Jivandhara scheme. As many as 20 houses in the area have got electricity connections, 15 have TV sets. There is a solar power tower. Over 40 per cent of the land has been brought under assured irrigation and helped change the crop pattern from mono crop to multi-crop. Kalahandi was India's darkest stain, it now reflects its brightest hope.
--by Farzand Ahmed
--with inputs from Ambreesh Mishra, Malini Bhupta, Shyamlal Yadav, Arvind Chhabra, Abhijit Dasgupta, Mahalingam Ponnuswamy, A. Rammohanrao, Stephen David, Subhash Mishra, Uday Mahurkar, Rohit Parihar and Farzand Ahmed
...A study of Indian history from 16th to 20th centuries will indicate that the transition from feudalism to modern society has been slow and incomplete despite the occasional turbulence, turmoil, wars, social reforms, and intellectual ferment. It was during the mid-19th century (First War of Independence) and the 20th century freedom movement that the Indian newspapers played a powerful and prominent role in questioning the forces of authority, social prejudices and the suppression of personal liberty. During the late 19th and early 20th century, attempts to propagate the ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity, and freedom were made by political and social leaders. The journals started by them played a historical role in questioning old ideas and practices like casteism, communalism, superstitions, educational backwardness and women’s oppression. Modern rational and scientific ideas, secularism, tolerance, and economic empowerment of the people were propagated in the writings of national leaders. The newspapers, particularly, served in conscientizing literate and educated people about the need for social reforms and political independence. Until 1950, the newspapers no doubt, served in inspiring people of the country towards a change in their thinking about social transformation, economic empowerment and the establishment of a strong foundation for democracy. But in recent decades, a decline in the functioning of the press/media has set in....