Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Your current intense and serene enchantment,
Your eternal youth and sensual movement,
Your perpetual presence and abiding dignity,
Makes ‘Bo’ wonder about your enormous longevity, O Narmade.

Through eternity and times,
Through history and rhymes,
Through mountains and meadows,
You are still a young and green ado, O Narmade.

Creation of planets, destruction of stars,
Birds and beasts, peasants and Czars,
War and worship, exodus and subsistence,
You seem to have witnessed every existence, O Narmade.

From birth to pyre, life is a transient yarn,
But it appears laws are unalike for gods and human,
From Amarkantak to the Arabian Sea,
But for disruptive twists, you are intransient see, O Narmade.

Temples and Ghats numerous all along your course,
Dargah and Church are also facets in your discourse,
Pious and the spiritual that you are to every source,
You are the divine force, O Narmade.

Your Parikrama is a pilgrimage supreme,
That powers man to the universal light,
Today however we have dammed your stream,
That’s powers our lives with the modern light, O Narmade.

Blessed are the birds and mammals that you touch,
Blessed are also the fish and plants that you shelter,
For they easily survive life’s rigorous torch,
Because of your generosity and motherly tweeter, O Narmade.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Andhra farmers in Vidarbha do better than local

A popular story that has been going around the rural governance circles in Vidarbha over the past few years is that there are a few families of immigrant farmers originating from southern Andhra Pradesh, now settled in and around Mouda and able to extract crop harvest far better than the local farmers.
On 30th October 2011 Dr. Srihari Chava and I went to Tarsa village is about 45 kms from Nagpur in the Mouda Tehsil. We reached Tarsa at about 4 pm and enquired about the Sarpanch. Unfortunately he was at Nagpur and so we met his brother Shri Sridhar Lohabare. Sridhar is a full time farmer looking after all the family land, we asked him about his activities, earnings, as well as about the yield extracted by the Andhra farmers. He said that while he was able to draw a harvest of about 30 bags of Paddy per acre, the Andhra farmers draw about 40 to 45 bags of Paddy per acre and earned much better. He explained that the Andhra farmers used more pesticides and fertilizers and get better results while the local farmers were unsure about the results considering the higher cost of such inputs.
We then requested him to introduce us to one such Andhra farmer and therefore he took us to Banor village to meet one Shri Muppaneni Venkateshwar Rao, a progressive farmer, owner of significant tracks of land, various agricultural machineries and a rice mill. His story was very fascinating; his father, uncles and aunts were five brothers, two sisters when they under their grandfather migrated in the year 1962 from a place known as Malturu Mandalam in Prakashan District of Andhra Pradesh. His grandfather sold all their very fertile land of about 3 or 4 acres for Rs. 5,000/- and moved to Pentakampa village in Bodhan Taluka of Nizamabad District. They stayed there for two years but could not find suitable place to settle the entire family. During that time some Andhra farmers were buying land in Maharashtra and his Grandfather visited this place, got in touch with a broker called Vermaji of Nagpur who showed him some land. The Grandfather like it and decided to buy about 10 acres in Mouda for the simple reason that it was near the Khindsi River. The land was not level, covered by trees and the river was rain fed. The family worked very hard, faced some very tough times. During draught years there would be no agricultural activity and his father and uncles worked as labour cutting and carrying stone quarry on their backs and clearing forests. In those days there were no proper roads and during rains the whole area got inundated knee deep in water. Going from one place to another was mainly by foot and took a lot of time. After 1982 when the Totladoh project got inaugurated and Pench River waters got diverted through the many irrigation canals which were constructed, the scenario for agriculture improved. After this many more farmers migrated to this region from places like Godavari District, Guntur District, etc.
The reasons why the Andhra farmers were able to get better yield than the local farmers was explained by him;
a)      The local farmers were imprisoned by traditional thinking like excess fertilizers should not be used;
b)      The Andhra farmers had migrated from some very strong agricultural regions like the Godavari basin and had ideas, techniques, and knowledge which not known to the local farmers;
c)       Any new fertilizer, seeds or other input which came up in the southern states like Andhra and Karnataka were immediately introduced by the Andhra farmers in this region and the local farmers had no idea about it;
d)      New machinery like tractor and harvester were first introduced by the Andhra farmers and not by the local farmers;
e)      The local farmers were comparatively lazy and not so hard working as the Andhra farmers;
f)       The Andhra farmers worked hard to level the fields which were sloping towards one side which helped to conserve water;
g)      After irrigation became regular the Andhra farmers worked hard to reduce the height of the borders thereby more land was made available for farming.
This Muppaneni family has come a long way since 1964-65 when they purchased about 10 acres. Today the entire family owns and tills more than 100 acres of agricultural land, operate a 2 ton capacity rice mill, and run other machinery like trucks, tractors, harvesters, cars, etc. The Grandfather was the first generation in migration, his five sons and two daughters were the second generation who were born in Andhra but raised in Maharashtra. They lived and studied in Maharashtra and have added another 20 children over the years (one of them being Shri Muppaneni Venkateshwar Rao who has studied up to the 12 STD from Porwal collage) which are the third generation in this migration success story. The next generation is also born in Maharashtra but most of whom are studying in schools and colleges in Vijaywada and Guntur Districts of Andhra.
A couple of disturbing matter that he shared was one that, NTPC is constructing a Thermal Power Plant on very fertile and irrigation fed agricultural land very near to his land while there are rain fed land not very far away at Tiroda village. The effects of the thermal power plants will be severe on the agricultural activities in the neighborhood. Second farm labour is migrating to urban areas and there are no good hands available to work with. They work less hours, are less productive but expect more pay as per government norms.
Shri Sridhar Lohabare shared that the Andhra farmers have been living in this region for nearly fifty years now and have contributed in the growth and development of the region. They do not dabble in local politics and restrict themselves only to their work. The Andhra farmers help and support their own people unlike the local who try to pull each other down. The local farmers have always been playing ‘catching up’ with them in terms of yield and productivity. However the government agriculture department is not very useful when it comes to providing fresh techniques and knowledge. The officials of the department do not involve themselves whole heartedly in agriculture and their productivity is also less compared to the Andhra farmers.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dreams and nightmares - behavioural stories

These two stories stared at me from the local newspaper ‘The Hitavada’ on the 30th Nov 2011. Normally I go through what is going on around the world especially the economic scenario. They tell me about what to expect in the near future to happen in the world and especially in India. The local news is generally about people and events which I speed through. That day however I could not.
The first story was from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh state. Azamgarh is a rural place where life is difficult without any major employment sources and in the recent past has been rocked with sectarian violence. Towa village 35 kms from Azamgarh city has a population of about 5000 and has primary schools only up to the 5th class. While across the Kunwar River in the nearby town of Saraimeer there are several schools, colleges, technical institutions and markets. From the village to the town there is a circuitous 20 km road but many prefer the 2 km boat ride instead. However the rainy season made matters worse and reaching school and college in time always remained a problem. In the flood of 1998 a boat overturned resulting in the death of a student. Shakeel Ahmed a resident of Towa who is not well educated himself took the initiate of constructing a knowledge bridge across the river with funds raised through public donations. The work started in 2004, with a simple design of spans over six pillars, was completed in 2009 at a humble cost of Rs. 65 lacs. Initially there was no pukka road to the bridge and the entire project was completed in 2010. Today it ferries about 800 students daily back and forth. The news report states, “According to Shakeel it was not an easy task. ‘It was hard to collect money from the people. In the beginning they thought that I will cheat on them. Most of the time I was out of home because I was collecting money. My elder brother was Headman of the village and thought that it was a matter of insult. I couldn’t study much but I wanted to make my children educated’.” Such an ordinary yearning yet so profound and magnanimous in its reach. Rs. 65 lac is not a small amount that any ordinary person can afford to spend on a social cause how-so-ever worthy. Shakeel is said to have visited many places to raise the money including following his village members to Delhi and Mumbai where they worked. I for myself could not have imagined and neither have I heard anyone taking up such a task of constructing a bridge across a river with donations. It must have been labeled preposterous and foolish at the very first instance. Yet today hats off to the belief and courage of one man to have made the impossible into a reality. His faith in goodness saw him through. This was certainly an inspiring story of triumph of good intent against practical odds.
The second one was not. The location is New Delhi the capital of India, where there are more cars than any other place in this country. Exhibitionism and deceitfulness has rendered the people immune to compassionate feelings. Money seems to have become all pervasive in its priority over humanity. Egoistic and stressed people have become ferocious, thick skinned to reason and there is a perceptive feeling of unwillingness to go out of the way to help others in distress. Although such sweeping generalisations do not hold good always but I doubt whether there would be many in India today to disagree with me.  Two young men from Chittaranjan Park in South Delhi by the names Shailaj Roy and Siddharth Roy as reported had entered a parantha eatery at early hours of dawn, where two other men Chetan and Vijay were already present and for some reason there was an argument about who should have been served first. Triviality escalated into a major fight. Initially it was pacified by a policeman but both the warring sides were in no mood to let things pass. After a short while the discord erupted once again and this time sticks and sharp instruments were used.  Shailaj and Siddharth Roy were beaten badly and the former died. Other people in the eatery were watching the fight and sadly nobody came forward to help these two who were lying bleeding, calling for help and barely conscious. Someone informed the police station who arrived after half an hour and by the time it was too late for Shailaj.
Is the craving of the ego so powerful that we cannot overlook minor arguments? Is this what urbanization makes of humans that we have to kill to make a point?  The first event is from a place where circumstances are tough but people end up becoming gentle and behave to become shining example. The second event is from a place where circumstances are excellent but people become unruly and become examples of how not to behave. Isn’t it ironic that in plenty, people become selfish?