Empowerment For Development

‘Shramdaan’ by Jogulwadi villagers results in integrated development

By Dev Kotak

Can you imagine a place where human habitation exists, but there is zero access to the basic necessities of life such as access to food and water? This was exactly the state of Jogulwadi village in Maharashtra’s Palghar district for years as they learned to live without these resources, bravely facing the harsh challenges, in darkness. Deprived, neglected and bereft of water to drink, leave alone providing water to their own fields, the residents of this 100% tribal hamlet have only just managed to survive.
The people of this village, prior to the intervention say the hamlet was poorly electrified and for water, were forced to make a treacherous climb of 1.5 kilometers each day to fetch water for themselves, and their cattle from the Gargai river, spending hours daily. This place increasingly witnessed high migration due to a lack of income source within the village, farming was a distant reality despite owning land.

The transformation is a glowing example of the power of the collective, and has been built on the twin principles of bhoodaan (donation of land) and shramdaan (voluntary contribution involving physical activity). In other words, the big landowners agreed to donate some part of their land for the larger cause of the village while the small peasants toiled away to meet these goals.

But an intervention by Project Chirag changed things for the better.

Now that water is going to arrive in our village, everyone in the village is geared up to help out with work through physical efforts (shramdaan). I feel very happy. If we start getting access to water, then the progress will trickle into other areas of our life as well. Women will save time their time. Farmers will be able to go their fields on time and work, children too will be sent to school on time. For instance, if a pregnant woman who has stepped out to fill water in this searing heat, faints, then who will be responsible? I feel that if water is provided for the fields, then our husbands will stop migrating. That’s why now that with water set to arrive shortly, all our issues will be resolved​

- Kalpana Shinde, a Gram Panchayat member. ​​
“The arrival of electricity too is very important as in monsoons it is quite bad. We can spot for snakes easily that enter our houses and can devote more attention to pregnant women. And the health of the villagers too will improve as the usage of kerosene lamps will stop. Despite having a toilet constructed in the village, people would defecate in the open because water was not available in the bathrooms. The village is set to experience development.”

The plant works on ultra-filtration technology. It’s power-efficient and a good idea for a village that suffers from the irregular electricity supply, he adds. Furthermore, the overhead tank is connected to taps across the village.

The changes here were undertaken as a part of the integrated rural development project that hoped to improve the lives of the villagers and lift them out of abject poverty. Some issues covered were provision of solar lighting systems and electricity, access to clean drinking and water for domestic uses, sustainable livelihood, increased focus on health and sanitation, education for children and social security.

“The water filtration plant consists of a pump submerged inside the lake. It pulls the water through suction up to a height of 80 feet and stores it in an overhead tank of 50,000-litre capacity,” informs Rahul Tivrekar, the founder and director of Diganta Swaraj Foundation.

For the 103 households and a population of 733 people, the village tube well would go dry post monsoons and they bought water from private tankers, the families would spend at least 45 minutes to procure two pots of water at a time. Each day 4-5 hours were spent only on procuring water, rendering the day unproductive. However, the five-point rural transformation model changed things for the better.
As far as the home lighting systems are concerned, the women now can complete their chores even after the dark and social interaction is possible. Streets lights allow for women to move around easily and there is no fear of injury while using the sanitation facilities.

The tap water facility was followed by the construction of public toilets in the hamlet. This has brought down the instances of open defecation and made the women feel safer.

The availability of clean drinking water has led to a drop in the cases of water-borne diseases in the village. “Earlier our stock of 50 tablets (for cough, fever and dysentery) would last for about two months. But our last stock lasted for eight months!” said the resident ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) worker.

“Earlier, we had to wait till the dark or venture out very early in the morning to the fields. And it was always embarrassing to take someone along to relieve ourselves. [But] after the construction of toilets, we don’t have to worry about our security,” says another woman anonymously.

Shobhana Gaware, a Balwadi teacher, says “Many foundations came here and promised us to resolve the water issue, but were not able to provide pipelines. The meetings with NGOs also did not yield anything. We were only given hopes and false promises. For so many years we have faced this problem. Today we are very happy that something has finally changed. They usually migrate to places where there are brick kilns, about 12 families have migrated from here. Sitting at home and no work to do, they took their entire family and left. There are some school going kids as well and they face a huge academic loss. But we can’t do anything about it. The kids also join their parents at work, leaving in October and returning by May. Earlier when water was inaccessible, children also suffered a lot. If we returned a bit late also, the children would be late for school that day. We faced several issues due to lack of water but many are solved. People will not migrate now as they have work to do on their fields.”

The electrical energy received from the grid activates the main control board that draws water from the dam and stores it in the overhead tank. Narendra Ghane, a 30-year-old farmer, who is in charge of operating the main control board, says, “The dam caters to Warghad and Gumbadpada villages. I run the motor for two to three hours every day to meet our requirements and fill up the tank.”

Clean energy and lighting have had far-reaching effects. Around 108 households in Warghadpada today have solar home lighting systems comprising of two bulbs, mobile charging facility and a portable lantern installed under Project Chirag. The farmers are able to save close to Rs100 per litre, which they would earlier spend to run the kerosene lamps. The lamps would also give off dangerous fumes, which the villagers don’t have to put up with any more.

An enthusiastic Vilas Purande, a villager says “Human efforts will lead to the progress of the entire village. Ladies will be fitter and healthier. They have worked very hard to fetch water. We are very grateful to Diganta Swaraj and Project Chirag because they approached us and agreed to help us out. Now we can focus on farming and dedicate our efforts towards our fields. That will also allow us to have a sustainable livelihood, we can save some money and lead better lives. The first priority should be given to farmers, that will lead to progress of the entire village. The next generation will be progressive as they will not have to deal with similar problems. I am also happy that a water purification plant is going to be installed. The health of the people will immensely improve. Water-borne and related diseases will reduce.”

These sustainability programmes have addressed the issue of migration in this tribal village. Labourers, who had returned to their homes during the pandemic, now grow and sell their farm produce in the open markets.

However, education does remain a challenge and it has suffered further because of the pandemic. On the one hand, schools and junior colleges within the Zila Parishad aren’t fully equipped to impart e-learning. On the other hand, many children haven’t been able to take online classes since the lockdown because their parents do not own a phone, leave a smartphone.

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