A revisit to Ajodhya Hill

June 24, 2014

 

 

 

After a pause of about three years my dream -day came on 19th June this year.  I am excited… I feel much   hope today as I have to go Ajodhya this time.  In my last visit I got a mixed experience – a sense of admixture of fear and joy at Ajodhya Hill. That time it was turbulent, people were always panicky, they seldom used to come forward and spark frankly and freely. I had to reach there escorted by military all along the road. Guard persons were also suspicious on our movement.  Doubtful minds of ours, peoples and passersby made a cloudy atmosphere in hill regions. I must give thanks to Grameen Bikash Trust to initiate   developmental works in the most awkward part of West Bengal.  That time it was the mission of strengthening and developing WADI projects in hill areas of Purulia.  WADI project aims here in establishing Orchards. They started setting as many as 150 mango orchards in a collective manner. GVT set up own establishment there despite all odds and difficulties.They recruited energetic staffs who are mobilizing tribals. Those brands are giving confidence to the resource poor and making new avenues of farm 7off-farm activities. They have already set up SHG –groups monitored and maintained by local people.  GVT is doing wonderful works for them. I heard all those. I read many documentary published by them. I also got information from other sources about their dedicated services.

 

I  started my journey from Kalyani accompanied by my friend Subrata Sarkar. I feel comfort with his presence. It is always a learning session with him. I met a few who have grasped the rural fabric by heart. His doggedness to goal inspires me  a lot. He is a real challenger.Despite ill health and doctor’s advice for rest he is adamant in his own mission.   I recall those days of journey with him in Sundarbans, or Bagnan where he led and moved masses at one stroke.

 

I was listening to his experience of Ajodhya hills.  It was raining as we reached Purulia around10.30 p.m.  He had arranged everything.  I took shelter in Akash hotel.  I could not sleep   with excitement. I woke up at 4.00 a.m. I came to the Balcony from where I was looking to the Court where I used to come frequently. My uncle was a government servant there.  Once, Prof.Dilip Dasgupta –the then ViceChancellor along with Dr.P.R.Dasgupta, the the Technical In-charge came here and met met my uncle to discuss many issues. I was also looking at the Victoria School where my relation served as Headmaster for many years. Many stories cropped up when I see the court areas.However, it was raining all through night. I had a desire to visit Ajoydhaya during rains. God is generous this time. He sent rains.

 

Journey amid rain is always joyful. For the last two weeks we were experiencing hot waves,scorching heat and warm –moist weather. We wanted to get rid of it. Farmer have been fervently waiting for God-rain. In hilly areas there are many creeks. These dried tracts were flowing ina full rhythm. Fields were filled… birds were bathing dipping their heads;Sorrows were ready to catch prey.  Mud fill roads checked the speed of the car. Gentle movement gave us moments of seeing nature. We reached the top hill. A venue for gathering was fixed in an abandoned house. During terror period the building was left.  However, I was hesitant whether farmers could come. Bimal Da who is having a saint-like live here was confident about stakeholders.  Sooner I saw them reaching braving the rains.  Tribal youths have been trained and disciplined in action by Bimal Da. Bimal da is a strong personality.  He left his comforts in Kalyani and started-austere living here amid nature and tribal.

 

It was around11.30  tribal from Majhidi,Puniasasan,Kuchariraha and other hamlets reached in the venue.  They were all WADI members. GVT targeted 800tribal families under this project since 2012. They have already covered morethan 460 families. I was elated when farmers were showing their keen interest  on it. They have already established mango,jackfruit, and ber in their orchards. They are maintaining itunder the technical advice of GVT staff.  There are about 60 small villages in the top hill and its surroundings.  The entire area is almost rainfed barring some pockets. Maize and rice is the principal crops here.  A few of them grow vegetables. Chuniram Mandigrows brinjal,tomato,raddish. He was telling his misery of growing as there isno market. Jairam Besara also planted tomato. Besara grew potao in his .50bigha of land. He got 10 bags of harvest. Avoy Besara  harvested mustard for home consumption.  All were discussing about their crop-pattern. Low value crops with low productivity is the  main point of discussion . Another part was their non-awareness of cost-returns of crop. They never see farming as commercial venture. They are also keeping goats, chicken-birds but to a small scale. One or a few have milch cows. There is also demand for milk. They grow vegetables at their homestead but for own uses.

 

 

With constant effort ,support and monitoring GVT has changed their mind set in growing fruittrees in the up and barren lands.  I was invited to show them success story of growing turmeric in between  mango trees. I told them why Hill top is ideal for this crop. Why mango orchards need intercropping with turmeric. They were listening and interchanging ideas, They all agreed to plant turmeric.

 

Subrata Sarkar,the head of GVT interacted with them. How to market this produce was a common question here. We encouraged them to process turmeric in a collective way. If production reaches to a large extent SHG-members can sell it at local markets.Government is running a good number of mid-day schools in the region. They would be potential buyers,

 

All is hope.  I hope a convergent efforts by many institutions operating in Ajodhya Hill will usher in a new look for the tribal of Ajodhya. This area is now peaceful.  Further peace depends on our future steps. 

 

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