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DEVELOPING THE RURAL POOR: EXPERIENCES OF BANWASI SEVA ASHRAM, SONBHADRA A. K. Sharma Humanities and Social Sciences Department IIT Kanpur, Kanpur – 208 016 Introduction In year 2007 Banwasi Seva Ashram thought of initiating a dialogue with the youths. The purpose of the dialogue was to understand issues in rural development, specially the problems of youths, and ways of solving them. I and Dr. Clymes Augustine were approached to conduct a scientifically designed study on the problems of rural youths with participation of voluntary development organizations (VDOs) associated with the Ashram. Although we were aware of the risk of involving VDOs in the exercise - as they are not trained to take up research activity - it was thought that this will not only generate data without requiring financial resources this will also empower them to conduct such exercises in the future. Thus I and Dr. Augustine prepared the questionnaires and they were supplied in sufficient quantity to VDOs working in UP and connected with the activities of Ashram. A number of VDOs participated in this. During September to October 2007 the VDOs filled the questionnaires and conducted focus group discussions (FGDs) on various issues ranging from employment to environmental protection. Then they sent the filled in questionnaires and reports of FGDs to Ashram. Participant organizations The following VDOs participated in the study: 1. Banwasi Seva Ashram, Districts – Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and Banda 2. Gramin Mahila and Bal Utthan Samiti (UP), District – Ghazipur 3. Jan Vikas Sansthan, District – Jaunpur 4. Laxmi Seva Samiti, District – Balia 5. Bhagwan Manav Kalyan Samiti, District – Mau 6. Gramin Vikas Prayas Samiti, District – Mau 7. Gramin Vikas evam Punarnirman Sansthan, District – Azamgarh 8. Tarun Chetna Sansthan, District – Pratapgarh 9. Yuva Manav Seva Sansthan, District – Pratapgarh 10. Lok Jagriti Sansthan, District – Ambedkar Nagar 11. Bundelkhand Seva Parishad, District – Chitrakoot 1 12. Savitri, District – Ghazipur 13. Purvanchal Augyogic Seva Sansthan, District - Ghazipur Data Participating VDOs sent the data collected through questionnaire method, FGDs and narratives, to me in December 2007. Dr. Ragini Prem and Shri Brahmajit Bhai came to IIT Kanpur to discuss issues pertaining to the project. On an earlier occasion, I and Dr. Augustine had worked among the tribals of Sonbhadra in year 2005-06 and interviewed them to learn about education, development, environment and related issues. This helped me in interpreting the narratives. Major findings At the outset, I must say that I was not very much satisfied with the data. As feared, we found that due to lack of experience and proper training the VDOs could not produce rigorous data on the issue. The data were fuzzy, incomplete, not in standard form and varied in style. Yet, it revealed many things about the problems of rural youth in UP. I started reading narratives of development obtained from Ghazipur district. I found that there is an immense potential in the narratives to understand the issues in development. They also strengthened my faith in Gandhian theory of development. I expected some differences between the districts and that came out to be true. Yet, the major issues are so common that one can talk about them based on data from any one district. Purvanchal Audyogic Seva Sangh had organized meetings of youths on unemployment problem and approaches to its solution at selected Gram Sabhas in groups of 15-16 youths in the age group 18-40. In district Ghazipur following Gram Sabhas were included: Bhatt Sarai, Patar, Gosalpur, Tajpur and Bharauli Aula. All these narratives were sent by B. K. Singh of Purvanchal Audyogic Seva Sangh, Bharauli Aula to Secretary Banwasi Seva Ashram. The first narrative was from one Anwaruq Ansari, aged 35, from Gram Sabha Tajpur: I did B.Ed. after completing M.Sc. from Allahabad University. I have been unemployed for last two years. I have not been able to get any job so far. The family lacks money so I am not in a condition to do any business. Family income is 12,000 per year. We have our own house but we do not have agricultural land. My brother is in service and he only maintains the whole family. After reading the above I started wondering why most people in villages think that they must educate their children and education would fetch them a decent job. From the same village Jayanul, 21, has done B.A. He wants to do B.Ed. but he says that the college is asking for 50,000 rupees. He is not able to do B.Ed. due to shortage of money. He wants 2 to become self employed through employment oriented education and training. What will happen if he takes loan and does B.Ed. He has to pay back the amount but if he does not get a job like Anwaruq Ansari did not get what would he do? The case of Anwaruq Ansari raises the issue: Why is it that even after doing M.Sc. and B.Ed. from a known university one is not able to get a job? What is the fate of those who are able to go up to high school or intermediate level only? Nisar Ahmad, 30, from the same village, is unhappy because he could not study beyond intermediate level. They have a bangle shop given to them by ancestors, which is presently run by his mother. Since he did not have money he could not study more. He is trying for job in vain. Family is financially weak. There is no agricultural land also. And if job is not the purpose of education then for what other purposes people should go for education. All the Gram Sabhas included in this study are of mixed castes. The major castes are Brahmin, Kshtriya, Yadav, and Chamar. There are some Lohar, Teli and Muslims also. The money income of the whole family varies from 8,000 – 20,000 rupees per year. In Bharauli Aula some earn up to 25,000 rupees per year also but their number is very small. Most people depend on cultivation and labor. Average land size is 2-3 bighas and nearly 60 percent of it is irrigated. This land is bare enough for survival. There are a few are traders and technicians. When a question is asked who is responsible for their present state the spontaneous answer is “government”. When the next question is asked regarding what they can do the answers are dharana, gherao, protest, march, and struggle. Narratives A cursory reading of narratives revealed that there are significant differences in narratives and stories of people belonging to different castes. Narratives of Brahmins Vishal Sharma, 28 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai We have an ancestral house and three bighas of agricultural land. It is enough for maintenance of the family. I have completed postgraduation but so far I have not got a job. After postgraduation I did B.Ed. Even then I did not get a job. I think that I should go for job only because for self employment one needs money which is difficult to arrange. The total income of the family is around 12,000 rupees per year. It is very difficult to get a job but I am still trying. Avinash Sharma, 20 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai We have four bighas of agricultural land and an ancestral house. The whole family is dependent on this. I have done intermediate but due to lack of a 3 technical degree I could not get a job. I partly engage in agriculture. After professional education and training I want to do a job oriented course so that I can become self employed and also engage my unemployed brothers by taking a loan from bank. Rajesh Sharama, 28 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I could not go for a job oriented course after intermediate for which I repent. If one can get a technical training he can get a job or become a self employed person also. Our annual family income is 10,000 rupees. I could not do a professional course because I kept on trying for a job in defense services. We have three bighas of agricultural land. Amresh Sharma, 25 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I could not go for further education because I was trying to enter defense service. I could also not go for a job oriented course. Now I have a desire to get professional training and become a self employed. We have five bighas of agricultural land. It takes care of food and water. Annual income is 11,000. Sonu Sharma, 18 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai We have been doing faming as our ancestral occupation. My own agricutltural land is four-and-half bighas. I could not study further due to continuous efforts to join defense. Annual income is 10,000. I could not get into defense service because it was difficult to arrange 3-4 lacs from our house. There is too much corruption. If people enter by paying money what will they do? Why would they not use unfair means to earn money? How can one remain honest if he has to pay as much as three lacs even for small jobs? I am planning to have technical training so that I can start my own work. However, there is a delay because of lack of funds. Dharmendra Sharma, 19 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I could not study further because I started trying for defense service after high school education. I could not enter the service due to lack of money. The family members could not arrange 3 lacs for bribe. Now I am planning to go for self employment after getting some technical training. I am waiting for time and opportunity. We have five bighas of agricultural land and an annual income of 12,000 rupees. Deepak Sharma, 20 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I am graduate and am planning to go for B.Ed. I have also done training for mobile repairing. The family has four bighas of land. Annual family income is 11,000. I am planning a mobile repairing shop but for this I need money. This is why I am not able to do anything. Ritesh Sharma, 18 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I am studying. After intermediate I got admission into B.A. Simultaneously I am trying to get into service. The family has four-and-half bighas of land and an 4 annual income of 11,000 rupees. I will think about job only after graduation. I want to do computer course also so that I do not have the sarpdansh (snake bite) of unemployment. Dharmanath Sharma, 21 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I had to involve myself in farming after high school because there was no one in the family to take care of that. The family has five bighas of agricultural land. Annual family income is 12,000. Side by side I want to have a secondary activity so that I can raise my income. For this I need technical training and money. Sonu Sharma, 20 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai We have the family background of agriculture. The family has four bighas of land. Due to the aim of joining army I could not study further. I kept myself involved in physical fitness activities. The family income is 10,000 per year. I want to go for technical training and self employment. Deepak Sharma, 21 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I could not study beyond intermediate because I was preparing for joining army. I could also not get any technical training. The family has five bighas of land and an annual income of 10,000 rupees. I desire to go for technical training and self employment. This is the need of the hour also. Banti Sharma, 22 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I am doing computer course after graduation so that I can become self employed. This is the call of the day. My family has four bighas of land and annual income of 11,000 rupees. After completing this course, if I get opportunity, I may go for opening a computer training centre. For this, I will have to arrange for money, so that I can provide training to unemployed youths. Narratives of Thakurs Chhotelal Singh, 32 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I had to involve in farming after intermediate as I was the only male person and the oldest member of the family. I have 10 bighas of own agricultural land and the annual income of the family is 20,000. I want to start a supplementary occupation so that I can add to agricultural income. For the supplementary income one requires capital. Dinanath Singh, 31 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I own five bighas of agricultural land. Annual family income 10,000. I could not go for higher education after completing high school. I am looking for an activity to supplement agriculture. Due to lack of capital even farming is not done properly. We cannot get good income due to lack of working capital. We do not have Krishi Seva Kendra (KVK) here. Agricultural cooperative societies have become centres of corruption and they are exploiting farmers. We are foolishly using the traditional agricultural practices, and old seed and fertilizer 5 Ajit Singh, 35 Gram Sabha: Patar Both of my parents have died. After graduation job has not come to me till now. We are somehow managing our affairs with agricultural income. We have ten bighas of land for the whole family and annual income is 16,000 rupees. To do anything one needs capital and that I do not have. I am compelled to sell some part of my land every year. I do not get job due to lack of professional training. If I have professional training then money can be arranged somehow. I reject modernization of agriculture as modernization of agriculture is not possible in our type of system. Our farming is different. Bhim Singh, 34 Gram Sabha: Patar With continuous division of the family land I am left with only three bighas. Despite graduation and clearing “physical test” I could not get a police job. Twelve years before they had asked me to pay two lacs rupees for job which could not be given by my family. So I did not get the job. Since then I have been bearing the dans (pain) of unemployment. Annual family income is only 9,000 rupees. I wish to establish household industry but hesitate due to shortage of knowledge and money. Narratives of Banias Shiv Shankar Prasad, 24 Gram Sabha: Patar In the family we have 0.5 bigha agricultural land and annual income is 10,000. I have been wandering here and there for job after completing graduation. I am constantly suffering from inferiority complex and carry a feeling of revenge against society and government. I am sad. What is the purpose of such education that after completing it also one lives in darkness? If in place of this type of education we impart technical education then the problem of unemployment would not exist. Government should aim at providing job oriented education so that after completing education one is not wandering for a job. Even today I am in search of vocational and professional education so that after completing it I can start my work. Narratives of OBC Ram Chees Yadav, 22 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai We have five bighas of agricultural land. Annual family income is 10,000. I could not study beyond matriculation because along with farming I also involve in animal husbandry. As a result of this I do not have to buy chemical fertilizer for agriculture. I go for common and traditional farming. Pradip Yadav, 30 Gram Sabha: Patar I could go up to intermediate. Since then I have been unemployed. The family owns two bighas of land. Annual family income is 12,000 rupees. Along with agriculture we also engage in animal husbandry. If I get the opportunity to get education and training I will establish household industry by forming a self help group. Banks do not give money even to self help groups here. Government policies are responsible for this. At government level proper arrangements for 6 technical training should be made so that after finishing education one can go for training and self employment. Santosh Yadav, 31 Gram Sabha: Patar In the family we have only two bighas of land. From this we can feed ourselves and survive. Animal husbandry helps in meeting other requirements. Annual family income is 12,000. I am compelled to do farming even after high school education. I kept on looking for a job but did not get it. Now if I get money I intend to buy five buffaloes and sell milk. Shekhar Yadav, 28 Gram Sabha: Patar I wanted to join army after finishing intermediate. Since due to shortage of money I could not bribe authorities I could not get selected. Now I have passed the age. Now if I get money I will buy four buffaloes and sell their milk. This will help in improving our financial condition. The family has one-and-half bighas of land and two buffaloes are supplying milk. We sell this milk. The family income is 11,000 rupees per year. Sandeep Sharma, 26 Gram Sabha: Patar We have only 0.2 bigha of land. With this land we cannot arrange for even a month’s food. One brother is in job. Annual income of the family is 8,000 rupees. If I can arrange for money I can do the work of making agricultural implements at home only. Somehow I could go up to intermediate. The family members did not agree to pay for education beyond that. Raju, 25 Gram Sabha: Patar My father is in a private job. He meets the family expenditure. In the name of agricultural land we have only 0.2 bigha. Little bit of food grain is produced on that. Annual income of the family is 12,000 rupees. I am unemployed because I do not have any technical training. I want to have technical skills so that I can work somewhere or become self employed. Narratives of SC Radheshyam Rai, 24 Gram Sabha: Bhatt Sarai I could not study beyond high school. We do not have agricultural land. The total family income from labor is 8,000 rupees per year. I want to start my own work but I am not able to decide what I should do. I need technical education and training as well as capital so that I can become self employed. Amarjeet Ram, 26 Gram Sabha: Patar I could somehow clear intermediate examination. I do not have capacity to study more. So far I could not get a job. Land that I got from the government is only 0.5 bigha. My brother works as a labor outside. I also do labor. I do not get the work daily. I get only 10 days’ work in a month. Annual income of the family is 8,000 rupees. If I can get some training then that will help me in getting a job. 7 Deepak Ram, 25 Gram Sabha: Patar I work as a labor after completing high school in arts subjects. I used to go to Surat for work. Since I did not have any skill I could get the work of a loader only. After working for 12 hours a day in that job I used to earn only 2,200 rupees per month. I left that job and came back as there water did not suit me there. I was always sick. At home we have 0.5 bigha of land given by government. In this we can somehow get little bit of food. The family income is 8,000 per year. After getting some skill training I can go for a job that can fetch better rewards. So I am trying for this. Sonu Ram, 24 Gram Sabha: Patar I work as labor after getting education up to middle level. I have my own 0.5 bigha of agricultural land. Annual income of the family is 8,000. I do not get labor continuously for a week. It is difficult to maintain the family in this age of inflation. I wanted to go to Surat but I did not go because I did not collect the money for fare. If one gets some skill training he can get a good service in Surat. I am sad that I did not get technical education. Shree Ram Rajbhar, 35 Gram Sabha: Patar Suresh Rajbhar, 30 Gram Sabha: Patar Agricultural land is only 0.5 bigha and the family income is 8,000 rupees. Somehow we are surviving. I am educated up to matric. My family members think that matric is like engineering education but this much of education only makes you literate. I work as wage labor. I want to learn electrician’s work. If someone can arrange for my training then I will be obliged for my whole life. Without getting skill there is no meaning of education. Government does not do anything for the poor like us. Ram Bachan Ram, 32 Gram Sabha: Patar I have only 0.3 bigha of cultivable land and the family income is 8,500 rupees. I could not study further after passing eighth standard examination from Tajpur Junior High School. Since then I have been doing the work of a laborer. I do not get work everyday. If I had technical skill I could have got job in any city. I migrate to Bihar with whole family for cutting the paddy crop. We stay there for one month and when we return we have food for four months. If we had this kind of work for the entire year, there would be no problem of any kind but one can get this kind of work only two or three times a year. Vikash Ram, 23 Gram Sabha: Patar By giving tuitions, I have somehow finished graduation. Even now I teach children and maintain my family from the money earned from teaching children. If I had money I would run a coaching institute or school but I do not have money. In the family we have 0.2 bigha cultivable land. Annual income of the family is 10,000 rupees. If the financial problem is solved I can maintain my family better. 8 Similar narratives were sent from other Gram Sabhas. When I looked for patterns I found the following narratives quite interesting: Krishna Mohan Singh, Kshtriya, 20 Gram Sabha: Gosalpur I have done intermediate. We have two bighas of agricultural land. I am unemployed. I have taken training of pipeline refinery. I am preparing to go to Saudi Arabia. I am waiting for visa. Indian social system is rotten. Nobody can progress here. Corruption has crossed all boundaries here. We are an ordinary family. We are managing somehow in an annual income of 8,000 rupees. Vivek Singh, Kshtriya, 23 Gram Sabha: Gosalpur Our family has five bighas of land. Our annual family income is 9,000 rupees. This supports a large family. I have done high school and could not study further due to lack of money. We have not been able to get guidance that could help us in planning. If we had continuous and appropriate guidance we would have done something and not become burden on the family. My family members also treat as though I am a burden on them and they do not behave properly with me. What is my fault? Vimlesh Sharma, Blacksmith, 23 Gram Sabha: Gosalpur I am involved in my ancestral work of blacksmith. If I have money I can buy iron, make agricultural implements, sell them in the local market and earn livelihood. But we have only one bigha of land. Who will give us money? So I am dependent on the ancestral work. I am very sad with the corruption in government machinery. If you want loan from a bank they want commission. Actually they deduct commission before they give you money. Even then they keep holding decision. They give loan only to those who are not needy. They do not give loan to people like us. They do not talk to us frankly. They think that those who want money are thieves. All government schemes run on papers. The reality is that nobody is a saviour of the poor. They help only those who have enough money. We are managing somehow in an annual income of 12,000 rupees. Gulab Sharma, Carpenter, 22 Gram Sabha: Gosalpur I am carpenter by caste. But I cannot do my business properly due to lack of capital. I work as wage labor. If I have 20,000 rupees then I can do my own business. I can make furniture – wooden door, windows, tables, chairs, sofa sets, chauki, and beds – and sell them in the market. I am a good craftsman but am surviving somehow due to lack of money. We have nearly three bighas of agricultural land and our annual income is 12,000 rupees. Ramesh Ram, Scheduled Caste, 22 Gram Sabha: Gosalpur I could complete high school somehow. I come from a landless labour family. I as well all my family members are daily wage workers. We do not get work everyday. Wage work is hardly available for 10 days in a month. We lack 9 guidance and direction for self employment. On paper there is no shortage of facilities. We dream of welfare of SC now because as we think that we have our own government now. However, politics is all about votes. There is no one to support the Harijans. Everybody wants to appease the SC but nobody helps them after coming to power. Bechu Ram, Scheduled Caste, 26 Gram Sabha: Bharuli Ala I am a Scheduled Caste candidate and have completed B.A. I come from a landless labour family. I as well as all my family members are daily wage workers. We do not get work everyday. Wage work is hardly available for 10 days in a month. We lack guidance and direction for self employment. To show on paper there is no shortage of facilities, we have lots of hopes from Mayavati government because we think that this is our own government, but this is all the politics of vote banks. Today there is no one to support we poor people. All parties talk of helping the poor but in reality the poor people have no one their own. All are pursuing their own agenda (apna ullu sidha kar rahe hain). On the basis of the above narratives the following broad conclusions can be drawn: 1. Capitalist form of development cannot meliorate the problems of the rural poor. It misguides them, creates false hopes and misdirects them. People are not able to understand the logic of modern development. Those illiterate think that if they were somewhat educated they would have got something. High school pass think that if they had gone for higher education things would be different. Yet there are graduates and postgraduates in science subjects (also having a vocational degree) who are still unemployed and are not able to plan their future. 2. Most of the rural people are dependent on agriculture. They do not enjoy a good standard of living but they survive somehow. They are not able to see how they can improve upon the existing agricultural practices. KVKs have a limited reach and the farmers are hardly benefiting from them. They have to do something to get better returns from small size farms. They experiment and learn from their own experiences. In many cases family and kinship institutions are the only institutions that come to their help in distress. 3. Animal husbandry is viable and useful supplement to agricultural production. 10 4. Family institution is under transition. A process of transition from joint family system to nuclear family system is on and is a major cause of individuation and alienation. 5. Decay of allied rural activities is a major cause of unemployment among rural youths. 6. Old skills are not in demand or cannot be pursued due to lack of capital, raw material and training. For new skills people lack financial resources, opportunities and support. 7. Nobody mentions about women in any thing they are doing or they want to plan. Women are still supposed to be associated with family, i.e., with bearing and rearing of children. 8. There is no faith in the political system. Most people are unhappy and frustrated but there is no thinking as how to change it. 9. If an early solution is not found the situation may lead to chaos and become a breeding ground for anti-social activities and Naxalite activities. Sonbhadra district has already had a sizeable presence of Naxalites. 10. Community is dead. It is replaced by state. Everything, good or bad, is attributed to government. People have lost willingness to sit together and think collectively. 11.The theory of self help and self rule need to be revived; there are many things that the rural people can collectively do to improve their situation. Focus group discussions Gram Nirman Kendra, Jugail, organized a focus group discussion among youths of two Gram Sabhas: Jugail and Kharhara. Both men and women participated in them. It was ensured that there are participants from all hamlets (parts) of the villages: Jurgail, Jorva, Bhitari, Bhaisora, Sarpia, Akladar and Pursev. In the focus group discussion a total of fifteen people participated. All of them were in the age group 18-40 years. 10 of them were men and five were women. Education wise, five were illiterate, one was literate and nine were junior high school or high school pass. Caste wise, 10 belonged to ST, two to SC, one to OBC, and two were Muslims. Twelve of them were dependent on agriculture, two on tailoring and agriculture, and one on shop 11 and agriculture. The average income of the participants was 8,813 rupees per year. Average size of landholding is 3 bighas on which they can produce up to 3 quintal of food grain. The average size of household is about 7 implying a per capita income of 1,259 per year. Fifteen youths participated in Kharhara. They were drawn from Deokhar, Paligarh, Gaurghatti, Hardahava and Sirgidar. All the fifteen people who participated in the focus group discussion were in the age group 18-40 years. 10 of them were men and five were women. Education wise, six were illiterate, and nine were educated. Occupation wise, one was Shiksha Mitra, one rajgir mistri (mason), one kaleen (carpet) maker, and 12 were landless laborers. The average family income of the participants was 13,400 rupees per year. Average size of landholding is 5 bighas on which they can produce up to 5 quintal 20 kgm. of food grain per year. Most people in the village are below poverty line. The land is uneven and unirrigated and most people are dependent on agriculture. Every one stresses the lack of irrigation facilities as the major impediment to agriculture. During discussion all developmental issues were discussed. The major findings are as follows: Economic issues When they were asked to discuss the issues connected with all round development of the village they started talking about economic development. In general the participants expressed that there has been some economic development in their area and that has raised their standard of living. However, the major benefits of development have been confined to relatively better off sections of society. The poor have not benefited from them. Either the government schemes intended for those living below the poverty line have not been implemented properly or the poor people are being exploited due to ignorance and lack of awareness. The major economic problem of the area is lack of irrigation facilities. To quote Ramdhani Agariya: 90 percent people in this region are dependent on agriculture. Agriculture is dependent on rainfall. Shortage of rainfall implies shortage of agricultural production. Another person explained: If there is any employment in the countryside it is agriculture. Agricultural activities are possible only when the farmers have autonomy in water. Government should particularly think on the issues of farmers. Moreover, the 12 farmers should not remain totally dependent on government. They should also take up watershed activities on their own. Some participants expressed that in the Gram Sabha Jugail as a whole the total agricultural production has declined. For food grains people are becoming more and more dependent on market. Their production level is suboptimal. Further, due to reduced production, the number of animals is also declining. Parasnath Jugail said: Earlier one farmer used to keep 20 animals. Now their number has declined to only 6-7. Fateh Mohammad said that fashion is leading to problems of price rise. People are bearing the brunt of unemployment, inflation, and evils like gutka. Same was the response of youths in Kharhara. They too gave maximum importance to unemployment. They said that the problem of unemployment is becoming more and more serious day by day although many things are possible. Cottage industries can be established. Youths are not happy with loan. They said that loan is killing farmers. Education Education comes out to be the most important social issue. In general in the villages under study overall level of education has gone up during the last ten years. More people are literate. School enrolment rate has gone up for all ages. In 1995 there were several tolas (hamlets) in Jugail where not a single person was fifth pass. Today there are high school pass in all tolas. Ten years ago in the whole village there was only one woman who was eighth pass. Now in all the hamlets there are women who have cleared 8 th- 10th standard. Yet, there are causes of dissatisfaction. In Jugail the school has 650 children. Only one teacher with the help of three Siksha Mitras is running the school. “The school requires 16 teachers.” Moreover, there are only four rooms for all the children. Some people are particularly worried about girls education. “Government talks of gender equality but if you visit a school you will find the number of boys is much higher than the number of girls.” There are many people who still think that women are paraya dhan (i.e., others property for safekeeping), and therefore they do not take much interest in girls’ education. It is notable that there are diverse perspectives on literacy. While Bitai Devi is ashamed of being illiterate, another illiterate woman, Sita Devi is not sad. She says that social 13 wisdom is more important than literacy. Chandrika Prasad is proud of the fact that they are a family of poor laborers but they have given education to their children. Other social issues Interestingly, there are more differences on social issues: whether they have better social relationships these days as compared to what was the situation earlier and whether the village is more integrated. So while Sahjadi Devi says that as compared to past there is a fall in goodwill for others, Zarina Begum says that goodwill and brotherhood have increased. According to Hemshah, Pusrev, social issues are secondary. Their village is so backward that one cannot take even a bicycle there. People are worried about lack of connectivity and remoteness of the village. The problem is that one has to pass through a high hill and the road to the village will have to pass through the hill. So on the one hand people want connectivity and on the other they want to preserve the nature. Both the things cannot happen simultaneously. At the present moment rivulets are converted into drains, jungle into villages, villages into towns and towns into large cities. You can imagine what the large cities would soon be converted into. At the social plane, two contradictory things are happening side by side: decline in untouchabiltiy and rise in casteism. Everybody recognizes that the social and psychological distance between neighbors is increasing. The village society is facing a number of social problems. The major ones are: untouchability, child marriages, population growth, gutka addiction, drunkenness, and other forms of addiction. During the discussion people calculated that every day a youth spends five rupees on ten gutkas. Thus he spends 150 rupees in 30 days and 1,800 rupees in a year. There is a need to raise awareness of harmful effects of gutka and prevent this. There was a consensus that social problems are on rise. There is less peace, less unity and less social integration. There is a need for uniting people and reestablish the tradition (i.e., restore the social order). Political issues On political issues there was consensus that today’s leaders do not unite society. They rather divide society. They are dividing society in the name of religion and caste. They cannot see all people sitting together. This would spoil their interests. 14 Some people like Hemshah, Pusrev, connect politics with development. Hemshah says: What can we talk about religion? Our village has neither road nor electricity. 40% people of my village have not seen a train. We only vote. We have no interest in elections for village, Lucknow or Delhi. In Kharhara Ramapati Gaud says that government has deceived them by giving the status of Scheduled Tribe (ST). With ST status they have been isolated from elections at all levels - from Gram Sabha to parliament. Even the simple things like ration cards are not made for them. Roop Narain, Deokhar, says that the government belongs to capitalists. Capitalists manufacture liquor and take contracts. When a poor person prepares his own liquor from mahua he is sent to jail. This shows that if you have money you can take contract even of illegal things. Health and environment Lack of health facilities is a big problem for remote areas. There are villages where even untrained doctors or quacks are not present. Lack of potable water, lack of nutritious diet, and lack of green and leafy vegetables are reported to be the major causes of health problems. There is not a single primary health centre in the entire area. People believe more in magic and witchcraft. When sick, they approach an Ojha. Every year two-three persons are believed to die because of magical practices. In the discussion people accepted that illiteracy, ignorance and superstitions are harmful for health. Government has failed in providing primary health services in the remote and tribal areas which are basic to development. There has been a severe adverse impact of industrialization in Mirzapur and adjoining areas. Rihand dam and chemical and cement factories here have not only raised the level of pollution, contributing to rise in morbidity, they have also given rise to fall in primary products – agricultural yield and forest produce. At one time this region produced a lot of chiraunji but now there is absolutely no production of chiraunji. Other fruits and forest produce have also declined significantly. Thus more and more people have become poor. Everybody said that people are themselves destroying environment. Everybody is exploiting nature. Common use of plastic, expanding industries, increasing use of 15 herbicides and pesticides, chemical fertilizers, clearing of forests and shortage of rainfall are causing pollution. Since people are destroying nature, all sections of society have to come together to protect environment. The above FGDs show that people recognize that human activities only have been responsible for adverse developments in society. They also recognize that for good life economic independence is the most important thing. For this they have to establish small and allied industries, and create employment. People also recognize the need for cooperation, educational work, correct political thought, independence and preserving environment. It was also vivid that although government talks about women’s development a lot but it does not take appropriate measures for that: mere giving representation to women in village planning bodies is not enough though it is an important step towards women’s empowerment. For development and gender equity women have to come forward. Yet, among all the activities required for development of rural youths technical and educational achievements would prove to be the most helpful. They have to be combined with organization skills. At the moment there is a lack of basic education facilities in the villages. Something has to be done about this. Conceptualization of development Reports showed that the village youth conceptualized development in various ways. For them development meant: employment, economic development, transport and communication, social harmony, sustainable development, equality and justice. Thus the conceptualization of development is not different from what it is given in dominant discourse on development. Yet, due to poverty, unemployment and diffusion development was conceptualized primarily in terms of employment and income. Major problems of rural youths The most important problems before the rural youths are: A Lack of income B Lack of education C Population growth D Lack of guidance E Lack of technical training F Lack of capital 16 A. Lack of income The average income of rural families is abysmally low. People are just at the Malthusian (subsistence) level. Gram Nirman Kendra Govindpur reported an annual income of family from all sources as 14,567 rupees per year. The average land size is 3.5 bighas. 63.33 percent of all the families in Govindpur have fully or partly irrigated land. In rural areas situation varies from one village to another, one block to another, one district to another but regarding economic condition what is true for Govindpur is also true broadly for most villages in Budelkhand and Eastern regions of UP: there is a shortage of capital. B. Lack of education Education not only helps in getting employment it also improves self esteem, communication skills, empathy, orientation for future, critical thinking and general awareness, and provides information about opportunities though education is not a necessary condition for any of them. It appears that people recognize the importance of education and youths are able to get education up to a level they can afford depending on facilities available locally and their economic condition, but education seems to be wasted. It has made them look for a job in government or private sector only. It has not promoted self employment. It has not made people think for themselves. Overall, although education is identified as a problem but it does not seem to be helping in improving their lot. C. Population Due to demographic transition taking place in the region, population is rising. Not long ago the average family size in UP was above 8 children. During 1980s, thanks to awareness and family planning programme family size started falling. Yet, the typical family size in a rural household in the region is 4-5 which implies a household size of 6- 7. Nobody explicitly mentions population growth as a problem. It is taken to be a natural phenomenon. Yet the adverse consequences in terms of division of land are recognized. D. Lack of guidance Rural youths lack guidance. There are many problems that rural youths face and they require different solutions. There is no one to guide them. In tribal areas the issue of land rights also came up. Forest laws created enormous people in the tribal belt and deprived them of ownership right over land. 17 E. Lack of technical training For finding a productive work or gainful employment technical and professional training is quite important these days. It is more important than education. Traditional education does not add to people’s market value. It is technical knowledge in relevant pursuits that can enable them to become productive. The report from Jaunpur says that the status of education in the Muslim dominated areas is dismal. Boys and girls do not study. Girls want to learn tailoring. Boys want to establish household industry. F. Lack of capital Due to low income the youths lack working capital to start a business or industrial activity. In some cases a few other problems were also mentioned. For example in District Chitrakoot where participants had somewhat higher income, among the major issues causing poverty and widespread employment they also mentioned corruption and presence of multinational companies. At several places dying of traditional arts and crafts and household industry were also mentioned. The reasons given behind the destruction of arts and crafts are: non-availability of raw material, reduced demand for products, competition with new products (for example the earthen pots have lost their attraction due to competition from plastic products), and modernization. Approaches to Development: Alternatives In view of the problems raised earlier, this section presents the approaches to development as suggested by rural youths. If I weld them into one model I can argue that Gandhian model of development seems to be the most appropriate model of action in rural UP. According to rural youths of UP the issue of development is basically the issue of providing employment. In the given socio-economic milieu they have identified the following ways of providing employment or reducing unemployment: - Government job - Private job - Improvement in agriculture - Improvement in irrigation facilities - Education - Dairy development 18 - Furniture industry - Allied industry, arts and crafts Providing capital - Helping in opening general merchant shops - Technical/professional training - Business in pigs and other animals - Guiding migrants - Organization Government job Government job is prefered by everyone. It is seen to be secure, it brings money, power and prestige, and in most cases it means urban living. People in government jobs can provide further education to their children. Here it is worth mentioning that because of its attraction everyone wants a government job. In certain castes and families in which someone has already served in police or defense services they want to go for such jobs only. They keep on preparing for this for a long time without realizing that they have only a small chance of getting into “force”. For most this leads to frustration. There is a need for counseling of such youths. Private job/service If government job is not available private job may be preferred. It does not have security but if has good income it also fetches social rewards and people in private jobs with regular income can provide better education to their children. For most such jobs one needs connection, guidance and technical training. So the hunt for jobs mostly results in nightmare. Improvement in agriculture Agriculture is a traditional occupation. Most villagers in UP survive on agriculture. There are many, mostly from lower castes and lower classes, who are interested in expanding agricultural activities. If they can be supported for buying more land they would prefer to do this. Yet, most people engage in agriculture without realizing that this can also be seen as a business and it is possible to invest in agriculture and reap benefit in the form of increased productivity. It may be noted that there are youths like Ram Bhavan (Gram Sabha Salempur, district Ghazipur) who work as labor in brick kilns but they want to change to agriculture. Ram Bhavan does not have enough money and experience of 19 agriculture. If he can get some money and agricultural training he wants to establish as a farmer. He wants to buy land and grow sugarcane. It may be noted that agriculture is under double pressure: one due to population growth and another due to death of traditional arts and crafts. Oil spillers, potters, smiths, carpenters have lost work due to change in life style and industrialization. Fieldwork shows that at several places the land that has been distributed among the Scheduled Caste (SC) families is not so fertile. Moreover, due to lack of confidence, lack of capital, lack of information and lack of initiative the productivity in SC families is rather low. There is a need for information dissemination among such families. Kisan Vikas Kendras can play a vital role in this. Improvement in irrigation facilities For melioration of agriculture we need improvement in agriculture facilities. Deforestation, industrial development, urbanization, increased extraction of ground water for cash crops and government policies have aggravated shortage of water in one time water abundant areas. This aspect of development has to be looked into. Approaches have to be developed to water management at region or zonal levels. In the rural areas watershed programmes could prove to be immensely useful. Education Everybody recognizes the importance of education. People have started realizing that they can change their situation. If they want to improve their condition they must be educated. Yet lack of schools, especially after middle level, is a major problem. Technical/professional training In the survey most youths recognized that mere educational degree is not enough. As one respondent stated, the modern education is “powder education”, i.e., education that only teaches one to appear to use “powder” (cosmetics) is of no use. It has to be replaced by technical or professional education. For getting a good placement one must have some technical or professional education. In District Mau during focus group discussions (FGDs) of youths belonging to different castes such as lohar, swarnakar, pandit, teli, kayastha, pasi, mehtar and others it came out clearly that people attribute poverty to lack of education and lack of professional training. If they have guidance and a small capital they would like to go for self 20 employment. They are ready to provide active support to any employment oriented activity. Dairy development/business in pigs and other animals Animal husbandry, sheep farming, goat herding, murgipalan (poultry farming), etc. are some activities which can be taken up by rural youths along with agricultural activities if they can be given small financial help and training. These are the activities in which capital requirements are less and risks are also less. Furniture industry/Allied industry/Arts and crafts A new thing that can be learnt from dialogues in different districts of UP is that there are many youths who have started seeing the virtue of collective industry. Anil Pandit, age 25, a high school pass youth of Brahmin caste, village Hahvas of Ghazipur district, says that in the rural milieu collective and cooperative efforts towards producing fisheries, candles making, agarbattis, dari (rugs) and kaleen (carpet) making, soap making, oil spillers for extraction of mustard oil, and collective efforts towards improving irrigation facilities should be started. Ghazipur district has been known for dari making. In Ghazipur there are some youths who want to go for ata chakki (i.e., a small unit to grind wheat). In general, youths say that that rural non-agricultural activity, arts and crafts need to be revived with availability of capital and guidance it can be revived. There are also some who think that nothing can happen in the village. They feel that the only solution for them is to migrate to city. Providing capital In all districts youths said that if they have some money and training they can go for tailoring, candle making or some other activity. Traditional arts and crafts are dying but are not yet seen to have become irrelevant. In particular, artisans believe that with a small capital they can revive their traditional occupations. Capital is required for all types of self employment activities. Even for opening a small general merchant shop they require assistance. Helping in opening general merchant shops In addition to agriculture and allied industry business is another activity that may be promoted. It too requires specialized skills. Some youths who are first generation 21 shopkeepers may require various types of skills, including basic understanding of accounts, purchases and sales, taxation, and communication skills. Government and non- government organizations can provide training, and help them in getting loan etc. from the banks for starting business. Guiding migrants According to the well known migration theory rural people are often pushed to migrate to cities because of fall in productivity, poverty, lack of employment, social conflicts, discrimination, exclusion, violence, and natural disasters. There is a need to provide knowledge about destinations, and factors the migrants should consider before taking decision to migrate. It has been found that migration has often impoverished them and at the place of destination they have become more vulnerable than before. Even from the larger national perspective migration due to push factors should be the last option to be exercised by the rural youths. Organization Interestingly, few youths give importance to organization. This may be because of declining community consciousness. The replacement of community by state has given rise to individualization and politicking. On the one hand one is left alone to fight his/her own problems, and on the other, to be effective he has to be part of some political faction in the village. Yet, there are lone voices which see the need for organization. Puroshottam, a Scheduled Caste, aged 35, District Ghazipur is intermediate pass. He has one acre of agricultural land and takes two crops per year. He depends mainly on agriculture but supplements his income from labour. He is looking for some technical education. He gives special importance to organization. He wants to promote collective spirit in the area and contribute to any collective effort towards establishing cottage industry. For him mobilization of youths is quite important for development. There are some youths who were earlier working in dari and kaleen industry in Bhadohi district but for some or the other reason they have lost their job. They feel that they will have to organize to fight the present system. If they act in a united way and pool their resources they can even export their products to other countries and earn sufficiently. One important lesson one learns from this exercise is that only a small number of youths have started looking within. When I worked among the rural poor of Kanpur district, 22 about two decades ago, I found the same situation in Kanpur villages: the people in general have external locus of control. Everyone would say that for their poverty government is responsible and their condition can improve only if government does something. Even today this is the case. To quote Brahma Dev, secretary, Jan Vikas Sansthan, Pratapgarh: We discussed with both men and women among whom 80 percent youths blame the government for unemployment. 10 percent blame themselves. The remaining 10 percent blame their parents. Yet, in areas where Banwasi Seva Ashram has been working many youths can see the virtue of collective efforts and this is a very good sign. Although most youths in UP still seem to be of the view that state is responsible for poverty and only state efforts can remove their problems but in the Ashram areas there are many who have started attributing poverty to their own efforts (including education). This is a welcome sign. Conclusion In sum, the problems of rural youths are multiple. First of all, they are dependent on agriculture. Population growth, leading to division of land, and the fall in arts and crafts have made the youth dependent on meager land resources and service. In absence of capital and knowledge they cannot go for self employment. So they start looking for jobs for which they have the minimum academic qualification. This has produced nightmare in several lives. The other option is to migrate and that is turning the rural population into urban proletariat in big cities. Lack of guidance, organization, capital and adequate government support has made them alienated and helpless. The options are: migration, Naxal activities, or acceptance of poverty. They are not able to understand their strengths and weaknesses and act rationally. The narratives show that the rural employment situation is very confusing and frustrating. The present approach to development cannot provide jobs to youths in villages. On the basis of analysis of the narratives the following conclusions can be drawn: 1. Agriculture has to be taken more seriously than is the case today. At the moment it appears that the rural youths do not want to engage in agricultural activities and are looking for urban jobs. They have to be convinced of the importance of 23 agriculture in their life. Certain government institutions like Kisan Vikas Kendras (KVK) should be strengthened so that the farmers have more productive and sustainable agricultural base: they learn innovations, produce more, and retain the productivity of soil. It emerges from the interviews that 2-3 bighas of irrigated land, if cultivation is done attentively, is enough for a family to survive. 2. Agriculture should be supplemented with allied activities. For this training and small capital would be required that can be provided by government institutions and banks. 3. Since the rural poor lack money to educate their children a way has to be found to combine education with earning wages or contributing to productive activities, right from the beginning. Technical and professional training has to be emphasized. 4. The rural youths require organizational skills, moral education and critical thinking. Organizational skills will raise their esteem and give them confidence to act that they are utterly lacking. Moral education is necessary to prevent crime and deviance and look for sustainable ways of development. It is important to educate them about harmful effects of substance use. Critical thinking will make go for Westernization only selectively and will save them from becoming prey to the diffusion of Western values. 24
"DEVELOPING THE RURAL POOR EXPERIENCES OF BANWASI "