by Eric Linge
I am an active volunteer with CRY America, and basically what we do in CRY America is fundraise for projects in India. I was working for a private company in Mumbai over the summer, and while in Mumbai I took the opportunity to visit one of CRY’s projects in the interiors of Maharashtra. Specifically I visited a collection of villages around the town of Latur.
What struck me most is everything I didn’t see. The villages around Latur were not desperate. They even seemed comfortable. But the organization that now partners with CRY has been working in the area for 24 years to get to this point. Oxfam is aiding the organization too. While the landowning classes were formerly able to extract slave labor from the Dalits, now the Dalits are collectively farming their own land. The Dalits still farm others’ land too, but now, knowing that they have their own land, the Dalits have the leverage and the confidence to command higher wages. Dalit children are going to school with non-Dalit children. But it took 24 years to get to this point, and the villages are hardly wealthy. Comfortable though they may be, the villages just recently arrived to the point where Dalits are receiving at least some of their basic human rights.
Yet, I think of how big India is and how many parts of India do not have organizations like the one in Latur. Could it be that most of India is as desperate as the villages around Latur were 24 years ago? It is clear that CRY and CRY’s partner organization have been successful in the villages around Latur, but seeing how long and how difficult it was to get to this level makes me think how much more work remains to be done. India is a huge country, and groups like CRY have thousands and thousands of miles to travel before all Indians – especially rural Indians – are ensured even their basic human rights.