Jagruti, my first project-visit as a CRY employee. I had been looking forward for the visit because, field visit I was told is the real eye opener – you get to see the bare realities of life. Needless to say, I was full of anticipation. A three day visit, Asha (my colleague and the project coordinator) and I decided to visit the project holder at their office in Dharwad on day 1 followed by visit to the operational areas of the project in Khanapur Taluk on day 2 and 3.
Day 1 : We left to go to the project holder’s residence cum office, where we met Mrs. Sharada Dhabade (the project holder’s wife). Actively involved in the happenings of the project, she gave me an insight into the functioning of Jagruti.
Sharada is a true reformist in all respects I realised. She practices using simple and environment friendly techniques - biodegradable cooking stove, rainwater harvesting and harnessing solar power.
Day 2 was when we set out to the eagerly awaited trip to the interiors of Khanapur district. Our first stop was Bekawad. The Agenda – a meeting with a newly formed group of women. Held in a small temple there were about 30 women who had assembled. These women mostly employed in fields or brick kilns around here earn about Rs.20/- a day. Rs.20/- ??????? I wondered. This is an amount that would not suffice as my daily conveyance allowance! Especially considering I commute by the local transport – the BMTC bus to and fro. And these women manage their household with that much of money!
Sharada, Asha, three other activists and myself set on to the next meeting planned at the office in village Mangyankopp. It was here on the way the activists told me that all though the women admit that they send their children to schools, it is not always so. Many a times the parents in their quest to earn more stay in make shift houses near the brick kilns they work at. They work till late evenings and early mornings as their wages depend on number of bricks they manufacture. The children are taken with them, forcing them to give up schooling.
I had been hearing about poor roads and transportation connecting the villages. I had also realized the ‘not so great’ condition of the roads when we had covered the first part of the journey by car. The only means of transportation being the bus or the private tempos which were ‘bursting at the seam’, we managed to take a Tempo Trax to reach our next destination.
After a meeting at Mangyankopp, the Jagruti office , we set out to village Sorapur. Sorapur is a completely Dalit occupied village. While waiting for the villagers to assemble I got to know that women of this village had conducted an anti arrack campaign throwing the liquor shop out of the territory. I was glad to know the stand the women had taken up opposing their own family members.
And it was also here, while still waiting we got to meet a handful of school going children in the age group of 4 – 14 years. More than happy to interact we all sat down in front of an old house. The enthusiastic kids shared songs and anecdotes from their school with us. With equal excitement did they learn songs from our activists. In the chill of the night we were all enjoying the entertainment until we got into further conversations with the children. It was during the conversation that the children happened to spill out the beans – some of the VII class going children sheepishly admitted to having 'ghutkas' in their pocket! We were taken aback. Unsure whether they will stick on to studying, it appears that these children have surely clung to this habit of ghutka.
I was troubled with thoughts – a village which boasts of having rid the liquor shop would surely be able to get rid of the ghutka shops as well? There was this lingering hope that maybe just maybe the women will with equal grit shown during the 'Anti Arrack' campaign take it upon them to ban the evil ghutka affecting their children?
Before concluding I must not forget to mention, our return journey to Dharwad - part by bus and part by Trax was also quite eventful. This time I was sitting on the door of the Trax, half inside half outside the Trax with one leg hanging out. Asha was hanging on to the ladder outside the Trax. We were laughing over it, this being a one time experience. But on a serious note, it reminded me of Netravati.
Netravati, it seems, was a school going girl who used to walk to her school, quite a distance from her village. One day she came across a man on a bullock cart from whom she took a lift. On their way, crossing a narrow road a truck sped from ahead scaring the bullocks. The bullocks went awry overthrowing poor Nethravati, who got caught in the wheels and died. We talk of bad roads and potholes in Bangalore. Nethravati or many of her friends don’t even have anything that could resemble a decent road. With mud, dust and a rocky path they tread each day to work or to school - at times in the face of dire consequences, just like Netravati.