Ramappareddy wore a contemplative look, as if he were filled with nervous dread. His grandchildren giggled behind him while their mother ran a comb through their tousled hair. Clearing his throat, he muttered, “What sort of harvest would we have this year? No one has any answers to these questions. Maybe, things will get better. May be they won’t. But I still have hope. I have to.”
As the early onset of benefits faded over time, it became apparent that the adverse effects of ‘green revolution’ indicated an ever-lasting impact on the structure and integrity of traditional agricultural practices. Initially, it spread rapidly in high-potential rain fed areas and irrigated regions. However, with prolonged bouts of diminished rainfall, it eventually created villages with insufficient water. Apart from the land-use patterns undergoing a massive shift, the soil cover was marred which could only be imputed to chemically-intensive farming methodologies adopted by both small-scale and large scale farmers all over the country. Many proffer that the unintended consequences of the ‘revolution’ were not a result of the movement in itself but can largely be attributed to the policies adopted thereafter which were used to promote the intensification of agro-industry, and cause an upsurge in food supply.
In India, the movement also brought forth a plethora of problems that fundamentally stemmed from selfishness and greed. Poverty levels worsened as many parts of the country grappled with gross income inequality and unjust land distribution. Those who were able to adapt to new technologies were large farmers who had the means to procure seeds, fertilisers and better watering facilities.
One of the primary contributions of the initiatives undertaken as a part of encouraging rapid growth and profitability within the Indian agro-ethos included ‘double cropping’. “Earlier, we had just one crop planted per year before the revolution. Thereafter, we had at least two to three crop rotations per year. We no longer had to rely on natural monsoons for irrigation every year. Dams and reservoirs cropped up everywhere and we could now store enough water. However, without ample rainfall, everything could crumble and result in our downfall. Today, our yield has doubled but so has the intake of pesticides and fertilisers. Our soil is weak. How long will the land feed us? Who knows?,” said the farmer frowning slightly as he turned away to look at a few kids running into the fields. They arranged each other into a line while toddlers wiggled their way past older siblings.
It was 12.30 pm. We spotted farmers returning from the fields. Amidst bales of hay, a few women sat in groups nudging their little ones to join them. Everyone, young and old alike, sought shelter from the heat. Arun then suggested that we take a stroll around the village. As we stood up to leave, Ramappareddy turned to us and said, “Not many people understand the plight of farmers. No one wants to. Maybe if we all cared a little more about each other, we could make a difference together. But that’s going to be a struggle now, isn’t it?”
Casting his eyes down to the ground, Venkatesh decided to follow his father. They exchanged silent glances as they disappeared into their house. The kids waved eagerly at us and waddled across the courtyard earning a disapproving look from their mother. As we walked away from them all, not a breeze stirred, that afternoon, and yet the pleas of the earth reached deafening highs in those wilted fields.
Passages soon led to narrow pathways. And, not before long, we chanced upon a gathering of men and women under a shelter. “This is the local community center,” said Maheswara Reddy as he led the way. Sheets of paper were strewn all over the ground as some women filled out forms and others waited patiently for their turn. From the proceedings, it seemed as though they belonged to a self help group.
A middle-aged woman walked to us with a curious smile. Her name was Geetamma. We later learnt that she had been working with the group for more than four years. “We provide short term loans to villagers through the Sthree Shakthi Programme in order to help them with various ventures including buying fishing and tailoring equipment, selling their local jewellery, enabling household maintenance and repair amongst other things. This is a government encouraged initiative that is being run in conjunction with Union Bank as a part of their micro-financing scheme,” she said.
With the sole intent of uplifting socio-economic conditions of rural women and empowering them through an alternate means of livelihood, the Sthree Shakti Programme was introduced by the Government of Karnataka in 2000. The Department of Women and Child Development was entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring self help groups in numerous regions. Despite the credence and reliability of the scheme being questionable with its performance suffering a devastating blow over the past few years, it is still operational in several parts of rural Karnataka.
A few men, sitting away from the crowd, spoke in hushed tones. They were spread hither and thither. Some remained in the corner while others sat in a circle feverishly discussing a compelling matter. They spoke of the mills. A worried frown crossed their faces as two young men walked towards us and spoke to Arun. “We gave up farming a while ago. We had no choice. There’s severe water and electricity crisis in the village,” they said, “So, we tried our luck with fishing. We earn around Rs 200 to Rs 300 per day. But now our waters are toxic and the fish are dying. Pollution has reached catastrophic levels in some regions as sugar mills release chemical waste into the water bodies. We hoped to feed our families by seeking an alternate profession. What do we do now? We have been sending requests and letters to authorities but no one has paid any heed to our concerns. No one wants to. In some places, the murky waters bear close resemblance to the colour of your hair.”
Arun asked them to file another request through their local fishery and assured them that he would fight for them. A collective effort was imperative to bring about a drastic change in the village. The men seemed convinced and agreed to his suggestions. Gradually, as the crowd dispersed, Maheswara Reddy led us to his home through meandering pathways — some old, some new and some that held memories in their crevices…
“Every farmer in this village has borrowed money from moneylenders and taken loans from banks. Every farmer you meet here is a defaulter, “ said Reddy guffawing at his own remark and added, “No one has been able to pay their dues on time. There’s isn’t a single person here who is completely debt-free. And, I fear there never will be…”
(to be continued…)
Project ‘Rest of My family‘ is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.
Through #RestofMyFamily, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….
As a part of the first leg of the project, we have now embarked on a one-year drive (#DriveForChange) through rural India. Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502