STAY AT BAJAD - AN UNFORGETTABLE 45 DAYS

 
Every year as part of the curriculum of Institute Of Rural Management Anand, the fresh batch is sent to various villages in different states of India for a month and a half. This program is conducted by associating with some of the renowned Organisations that have been working in the development sector for Rural India. For my Village Fieldwork Segment, I was allotted Samarthan - Centre For Development as the host organization.  Samarthan is a non-profit organization that has been primarily working for strengthening the governance at the local level in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Lately, many other projects which aim at the development of marginalized, socially excluded and disadvantaged groups in the society are being undertaken by the organization. The organization is gradually expanding its reach to include more and more villages under their programmes in the above mentioned two states so that maximum population can be benefitted. One such village where Samarthan has very recently stepped is Bajad. This was my destination village for the VFS as decided by the organization in collaboration with the VFS Office. Bajad is a small tribal village inhabited by mere 180 households in Rajpur Block of Barwani District the south-western zone of Madhya Pradesh.
 
When I was briefed about the VFS in the college, I was told that I have to study the geography, demography, culture, economy, and polity of the village as part of my Exploratory Survey of Village. Besides this study, I had to figure out the success of Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan by evaluating the cleanliness and hygiene standards of the village as per my FPCR. But in reality, living in the village like the villagers taught me much more than the above-mentioned things. While I was struggling to settle myself here and was facing difficulties, the various challenges faced by villagers were also being unveiled to me because I could very closely observe their lives. Though with the passing of time, my issues were settled and my stay here was made easier majorly because of the efforts made by host family but I got exposed more to the severity of their problems.
 
 
The very first day of VFS when I entered the room where I and my friends had to spend next six weeks, I was not at all happy. A room without fan, bulb, windows, and door and with just four walls was a very first challenge in itself that had to be overcome. But the very next morning when our host arranged everything that was needed to make that room worth living, I realized that I might not get access to many facilities here but would definitely not miss out on care, love, and affection. And I would not be exaggerating my words if I say that the connection I formed with the people here especially with the host family has been way beyond my expectations.
 
 
I took an initial first week to settle properly in the village and get introduced to the villagers. Then came the time to start the work, with my team I started visiting houses in the village. The main purpose of the visit was to motivate the people above the age of 18 years to attend the Gram Sabha along with knowing about the demography of the village and evaluating the hygiene and sanitation conditions in the houses. But this visit revealed so much to me. By talking to people and hearing those out I came to know that to develop India in a true sense, there is a long way ahead. We while sitting under ACs at our houses in cities do comment that there are so many welfare schemes launched by government and people are being benefitted but all these claims fail when you get to know that a blind old woman whose husband died of some disease a few years ago lost her only child in an accident and now she has no documents to avail any of the government schemes. You are left disheartened when you meet a small boy who is mentally challenged and is thus not able to get himself clicked for the Aadhar Card, therefore, he would not be benefitted with the government’s scheme for the mentally challenged. The maximum population of the village is involved in a farming activity and they mostly depend upon rainfall for irrigation; so what worries them most is the uncertainty of the rainfall. This year also rainfall at the time of harvesting of Soybeans has hampered with the quality of the produce; this would make them earn less than what they could if the rainfall had happened just a week later. There also prevails the problem of water scarcity in the village throughout the year which becomes very prominent during summer months. Besides these problems, some habits of the people here like not using dustbins and throwing garbage in open, not washing hands before a meal or after using toilet and practice of open defecation are also the matters of concern.
 
However, every problem or issue seems so diminished when one sees the enthusiasm of the people here. The spirit to face any problem, the energy with which they celebrate all the festivals and the positivity to look for happiness in tiniest of reason possible is commendable.
 
During my stay, I tried to teach a few good habits and did end up learning a lot consciously as well as subconsciously. It’s a normal practice here to get children educated till 9th standard only and only very few children are sent for the higher studies; girls after a certain age are made to do the household chores and soon before the legal age are got married and the boys are normally engaged in the farm’s work. I tried to tell them how important it is to get the children educated so as to secure a good future for them and their entire family. I informed them about few more things some examples of which are maintaining the cleanliness in the house, avoiding going in open for defecation and cleaning hands before and after meals which can lead to prevention of so many diseases and thus they can save the money they would otherwise have to pay to the doctor. Though I learned so much here if I have to name a few of them I would definitely mention their patience while dealing with their day to day problems, their family values and the art of using the limited resources and money wisely.
 
This experience has certainly been one of its kinds and I would always cherish the memories I am taking along with myself. I sincerely want to thank IRMA and SAMARTHAN for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I would also want to pay my gratitude towards the people of Bajad especially the host family for giving us constant love and support.

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