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NGO Puts Jhabua Villagers' Economy in Shape
Helps Revive Social Traditions

 
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Sravani Sarkar
Bhopal, July 8

A decade ago, a happy occasion like marriage, traditional occasion like Rakhi or sad occasion like death brought feeling of fear for villagers in Petlawad block of Jhabua district. For, these occasions meant more burden on villagers already weighed down by debt.

Things have changed a lot since then, thanks to an intervention by local NGO Sampark that has managed to revive social tribal traditions in more than 100 villages during last 15 years in a way that people have either given up expensive social affairs or have started contributing economically to celebrate or mourn. Now, villagers also solve their disputes at chaupals and contribute physical labour for agriculture purpose on each other’s farms to save huge expenditure on engaging labour (adji-padji).

Unbelievable, but overall, people of 92 villages managed to save a whopping Rs 3.32 crore spent on these social affairs over a period of nine years, a study conducted by Sampark reveals.

Dewli Bai of village Hiraninamapada recounts that few years ago, women of the village often forfeited the chance to visit their maiden home during Rakhi festival as it would mean carrying coconuts for all males of the village, costing Rs 300-400. But Sampark’s intervention – by way of conducting street corner plays, meetings and posters – saw women of village deciding to carry only one token coconut and asking their sister-in-laws coming from other villages to do the same. “We have started saving huge sum and are free from moneylenders’ pressures now,” Rukli Bai of the village adds.

The village follows the contributory or simplistic pattern in all social occasions and, during last ten years it has managed to save as much as Rs 20.50 lakh on social affairs, Sampark officials claim.

Similarly, villages decided to cut down the dowry taken by the family of bride (daapa) from Rs 15,000-40,000 to as low as Rs 500 as the original tradition. Also, the huge expenditure was on the community was cut down drastically as people started serving just daal-baati or puri-sabji on the occasion.

Recently, Gangaram Bijal of Garwada village died of tuberculosis. His family had been spending Rs 500 to 600 on his treatment and was in dire economic situation.

Sampark’s guidance for revival of tradition came to rescue and the villagers decided to contribute Rs 10 each and five kg foodgrain for the community death feast (nukta). This has become a pattern in the village since. “We were saved from economic disaster,” says Gangaram’s widow.

Similarly, the revival of Choupal ka Nyaya (justice at choupal) where the disputes in villages are solved locally, saw people saving huge sums of money spend on fighting legal battles and bribing police officials. “Initially it was difficult to even convince our local volunteers regarding these changes as they were considered matter of social honour. But we managed to impress that unless this is done, any welfare intervention could not work and the debts would go on rising” Sampark Director Nilesh Desai said while talking to the Hindustan Times.

The constitution of self-help groups in villages has helped implementing the interventions as well.

And, encouraged by results, people from more villages have started following the pattern, he says.

MONEY SAVED!

Duration – 9 years 1996-2004

Villages – 8 to 92 over the years

MONEY SAVED ON

ADJI PADJI

Rs 2,38,11,700

CHOUPAL NYAYA

Rs 15,63,000

RAKHI

Rs 14,30,125

DAAPA

Rs 57,83,900

NUKTA

Rs 6,77,750

(Source: Study by Sampark)

sravani.sarkar@gmail.com