Ananthoo's updates

When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Friday, August 21, 2015

differently abled, our Govt and us:-(

yesterday the day started off in an odd manner and ended with a very heavy note..
as we were preparing to leave we are informed some Differently abled folks mostly physically challenged wanted to we wait to meet them..
i came to know that they wanted some help in thinking (& implementing) some alternative livelihoods for them. I did not (and even now donot) know what we can do..
 But at the end of the meet, i seriously want to do something..Its a huge challenge for us to show that there is some humane-ness left with the humanity..
they come in and  started to explain their situation..
differently abled includes physically challenged, mentally challenged etc. This group came from Siva gangai dist, one of the  most backward districts of TN. There are apparently 25000 of them in that district. It is so backward that such people are locked up inside the houses and not exposed - for the fear of shame. (that they have a differently abled kid or kin). This particular physically challenged group (has 2500 members in their group!)  and these are people who are mobile while on all fours.
so they conveyed to us that people do not even shake hands with them, they hesitate.
They do not get to o to school or social gathering or just about anywhere..and mostly tolerated by parents..when the parents depart they have hue issues, esp the women. No body wants to take care of them.
This man pushparaj who leads them, himself is one such physically challenged, but runs a small 'potti' shop and has a set of friends and organises one big day of serving a kalyana sapaad for all his folks..yes, he says from an ae of 3 he has always longed for a good meal esp kalyana sapad and so he says almost all his folks will have that longing. Hence with funds from his friends he organises one bi "do" .. he says he gets lots of calls from women who say they are suffering and would like to come out if there is a hostel or an orphanage for them,
That is bcos he experimented by renting a house and having some 10 inmates who would make some products like candles and incense sticks.It was  not very sustainable for him. so he went to the (then DMK regime) minister who said she will help him with some amount and he should prove that he has used it and created meaningful lives and livelihoods and then she will be able to expand/extend. fair I thought too. But that was Rs 12 per day for 3 meals per person! This man tells me it is very tuff to feed a person with 12 sir. i nodded and before i could ask him how much wud be needed he says 'we need atleast 25/- to feed 3 times.." man! that hurts..really..even a Kapil sibal or Aluwalia will say a bigger number there!
while explaining his forays with govt, he cutely says, when we do all protests, writing letters and then finnaly go near a m inister there will be the last few months and thats it, elections will throw everything awry. if aat all they break through like that one time, how ever paltry it was, that was stopped too. There were elections and since Govt changed, the 1st thing the enw govt did was cancel this and so even that 12 was lost. and no place..the Govt ofcourse is also filled with insensitive officers! one officer recently told him " even people with hands and legs intact are strugling and waiting for jobs, where will we give u?"
when he goes out and tries to take a place for rent, even after paying the advance many times the owners turn them down saying the neighbours are objecting to so many 'invalids' (thats a term they used it seems:-( sad!)in their neighbourhood.
what a society we are.. what has happened to humanity?
this race called human being is not aboiut being human isnt?

Shekar Gupta once wrote - if Stephen Hawking was born in India, we would have wasted his life long back. how true?:-(

We discussed some of the things they can do at their place..and how they shud start in a small way and expand..
We urged them to find a place and take in 10-15 inmates and experiment on a few stuff. we brain stormed about various stuff like pickles, areca plates, papads, nelli-mulli, products from recycled wastes, paper bags etc..
we assured them that some of us will sit and brain storm and come with some ideas/plans.
Meanwhile we will somehow garner the amount they would need to run a space with 15 inmates.
Iam sure a few of us together can do that much and show them that there is humane-beings in this humanity..
and pl send me some ideas for them to do..
this man in the past has organised candle making, computer courses, incense making etc. they will be a mix..some of them will have 3 wheeled bikes and so can even move around. they will be able to
make many things sitting on ground or on tables..
so come up with ideas and esp people who can go and train them..
and pl do make it a point to help in some way, every differently abled that u encounter.. it is bcos of many of us have ignored them, the rude ones have rubbed it hard in to the extent these people have lost faith in humanity, almost..
NO! the govts wont come..dont even dream..
lets make that impact with our collective effort.

their lives and our lives..

abba..who ever was unhappy that Amma doesnt step out? come here and meet me..grt..grt..
who cares man? if she goes to that secretariat or not? any ways what comes out?
man..i had to come 4 kms to office and it took 1 hour.. so many of us waiting without knowing whats up and many with engine on and revving! then we just had to look up.. the flex banners all over 'godifying' much of flex shit and one associates the 5 policemen per square inch one got to see all the this lady is going out some where, eh?
what a waste..! the fossil fuel doesnot know how many of them stranded were ailing or many ambulances?
and so many problems for one person to go happily..
where to? and for what?
hold ur breath: that is to save the world..benefit all citizens..uplift the poor..yes!
renaming a street! the 4th main in that adyar is dedicated to this country with a new name..
all citizens be happy..

why is one life so bloody important at the cost of so many others? and whats so special? and why shud so many of us struggle stay put in hot sun for some joke of a drama - renaming a street to some other!
I know we get what we deserve and we deserve what we get as far as Govt and governance goes..
but this is becoming too much..
If i were there..and if my life is under threat i will not be in that post or i will dare it..i will not screw up so many lives and the environment!
and the final statement was - poor policemen and women just running to near by establishments (shops, hotels what ever) and swiping off their sweat and mobbing under any operating fan..what a life, doesnot know from when they were standing there.whether they had breakfast..
who cares buddy? some lives are so very important..

Monday, August 03, 2015

Green Army: an unique project in Kerala thats win-win for farmers and agri labours!

The first time I heard this from our friends and activists of Thanal, kerala, my imagination went wild..
I knew in a passing that this was in response to raising labour costs and lack of labour, inspite of that my imagination went on..
So I dreamt of an army of people being trained in to accomplishing various field works in quick time very efficiently and leave behind a win-win for both land owners (farmers?) and themselves (the green army foot soldiers). I envisaged a model where many of them (mostly landless labours and the rural India’s unemployed or poorly paid folks) being trained in to sustainable practices of agriculture and they would just come and do tasks like ploughing (with bull), sowing, transplanting, weeding, harvesting etc..and all in chemical free organic ways..
As I said, that was a dream..
And some one had to wake me up from that dream..
Kavitha stepped in..and pushed me to go and see what this green army really was!

It was a fantastic model, a win-win model and very workable and profitable! More than what I could dream!

The monsoon had already set and so it was plush green all over and kerala was in its full color! It is fun to move around in kerala just after (or during) monsoon..intermittent rains..beautiful green all around..and everything looked like ‘just now washed and cleaned’ thrissur was no different..but there is more green to come we know..

As we sit in an auto and ask for the autowala to head to kerala agri univ, he asks which campus..
Oops we didn’t know..we only knew the place name- mannuthy..and we didn’t know there were 2 premises and to which campus we had to head..
As we mention the name Prof Jaikumaran, his eyes light up..
‘Oh! Jaikumaran professoro..i know him..he is my friend.. I will take u there..’
I am not very sure that prof can be ‘his’ friend! So goes our evaluating mind..
and he pulls the auto to the side and calls the man..
yes the same Prof. Jaikumar and announces he is bringing a guest from Chennai!

So that’s the beginning! An auto driver thinks and calls an established agri scientist a friend..and casually talks to him too..and we also get to meet him with a short notice!
That’s Prof. jaikumaran. A much regarded agri scientist. Who is so passionate about military and so has the military discipline etched all over. His spik and span office or the way the whole agri research campus is so well planned and with signages all over is just a small indication..
His obsession with military ways does not end there but in planning to the last detail and executing them on time and ensuring success. And there is also this easy access to the boss that is so prevalent.
Yes, that office is a dream that dreams, work in team and delivers..and every one from top to bottom is smiling, always!
This Ashoka fellow is the reason that a govt office and that too an agricultural university stands up tall and delivers. Yes I say this having visited innumerable agri univs and their research centres across India, one cannot see anything like this – dreaming for the betterment of farmers and also thinking of long term and sustainable! Agri univs generally think and work (if at all they do) only for biggies..and it can be very conditional and rare..but here it is so different..the passion runs all over..the urge to achieve and deliver is imprinted everywhere.

This agronomist reels numbers for everything we talk. He wud reel off stats about 55 lakh unemployed, 25 lakh immigrants working in kerala (yes, immigrants in a state that sent its people as immigrants all over except moon! Or is that joke about armstrong true? )  or the fact that 20000 crore being spent on these immigrant employees and the fact that 8.5 lakh hectares of paddy land shrunk to <2 .5="" ha..="" lac="" p="">
So keeping fallow or using it for something else wasn’t a solution..infact he says keeping fallow is first step to ‘converting’!
But there is no agri labour!
But there is a social and emotional question in front of our hero: If my son has to become a doctor or engineer why shud a farmers son/daughter become a farmer? (though his son is in Air force he feels he also doesn’t have the moral right)..
How very true..something that I confront often as a social activist!
So whats the way out? He thinks of a solution where ‘creating a social set up where every one does all work’ and it is attractive in all sense (including financially)..
So he comes out with a model where ‘development’ comes from bottom, from people in rural India and where Farm work will be seen and practiced as divine work!

He also narrates us how a country that wouldn’t produce enough food and milk will mean even Gods will go hungry! He says ‘I come from a tradition where we were asked to pray before starting our food. We had to think of and thank the annadatta before taking the first mouthful’

Jai Jawan, jai Kisan is the slogan of Green Army and ones sees that written all over!
He says he understood there was so much of drudgery in agri labour and there was no charm, respect nor money. So it was service and service charge  that his agri folks were delivering. He just linked all this and came up with a model where there is social security too.
He asks ‘ why shud a coconut climber come if there is no insurance for him/her?’
So a model that includes social security in the form of insurance, PF, etc is born. Thru a welfare fund.
Food Security Army (FSA)
What started in early 90s as a one off experiment when he encountered a 8 row low cost transplanter which could transplant half acre in 1 hour! In a state where there is so much labour shortage and the per hour labour charges is way high,

Training (like the army training, a full fledged thorough one  ending with ‘passing out parade’ and ‘pledge’) is paid for, costing 15k. The best part is that the panchayat pays this in almost all cases or it is thru some other rural fund/scheme. In Kerala such schemes really work bottom up..

There is so much to learn and improvise..and prof Jaikumaran and his team is always up to it.. when they bought (and brought) the coconut climber from TNAU it costed them 7k and was weighing heavier but the professor’s team re-engineered it and reduced the weight and cost by half and now most of their women warriors use it. It was indeed demonstrated by a woman warrior to us!

They have a coconut climbing army now. Which is self reliant and makes its own economical statement!

In the early 90s the Prof happened to see a low cost paddy transplanting machine (from where else but China ) and uses that, then tries to popularise it by offering training. A state where there is acute labour shortage (and so the cost per labour being very high) paddy cultivation was being given up by he not only gave training for the farmers, women and labours but also ave the machine to them for using in the farms..
Yes, an agri scientist not only talks of an useful machine (cost effective at that) but also trains the folks and importantly even gives it to them..thus not taking the route of a machine, report and rotting in their university garage..
Such was his style that many women took to training by paying the training fees!
Till date there are many women who got trained (up to the level of dismantling and servicing the whole machine thread bare!) and use them..
In 190 training sessions till now 2544 men and 1809 women have ‘graduated’!

It is a very viable business option as Latha Ravindran has shown in her “individual” model..
Then there is the cooperative model..and the Green one where it is organic like what Anup Kishore has shown in Vadakanchery..(these 2 stories will follow soon)

Prof Jaikumaran went on to achieve what he set out for..
To infuse dignity and esteem to the agri labour; reducing drudgery; and social security for its members in the from of insurance, PF etc
These groups (mostly women) went on to attain economic security by really earning more by planning and planting more..(and yes, they call it service charges and not wages!!)
What ever the model they adopt, it has been a big hit- financially..and they have indeed made lotsa money..the fact that the panchayat or some service bank sponsors the training and they also buy the transplanting machine (and give it free under various scheme or rent it out to the groups)..thus making it a very unique and successful model!
It is a win-win for both the land owner and these people..
Where 30 women labour are required for the conventional transplanting for an acre a day, 7 labour with this machine can do 2.5-3 acre in a day.
So what could have costed a land owner some 12k to transplant manually will cost 3500 per acre..if u add the seed cost and bed preparation the saving is still around 8k!
Where as these service providers (yes, they aint labour and their charge- service charges!) also gain: around 10k a day split between 7 of them..far higher than a days labour.

This whole thing got  very famous after their big achievement when it successfully overcame the challenge called “Operation ponnamutha 300/5” 5 days they had to transplant 300 acres in the famous wetlands (below sea level)..our man, Prof jaikumaran like the typical army man, got in to action..creating (or deploying?) 24 battalions  that will each complete 2.5 acres a day thus amassing 60 acres each day and thus achieving that 300 acres in 5 days..these 24 battalions were under 9 regiments..each regiment getting 5 lakhs each totally aggregating 45 lakhs for the whole project. There were the mobile repair unit, servicing units, food catering units, monitoring units, etc that was clearly thought out and deployed by this chief..there were the temporary toilets too as there were many women who were in the battalions! So changing rooms, medical kits were all brought in the said time all the 300 acfres were done with nursery raising to transplanting to gap filling being done..

He doesn’t stop here..there are many more like the coconut climber and many other devices that are added to the list..a green cadet corps (like NCC), a national centre of excellence, “jaivam amrutham”- an organic force that will bring all chemical free practices are in the pipeline.

Such people are great hopes and motivation..if one man “army” like this Prof Jaikumaran can make such a big change and bring about smiles in to so many families, from inside the govt agri system..and to see the changes and impact that this man has created, we got to meet a few of the tall achievements..or achievers.. Latha Ravindran and Green Army of Anup Kishore in Vadakanchery.
That’s for another day:-)
Meanwhile if u want to read a very well written piece on the same go to Kavitha’s blog here:
(its with kavitha that I went to see Green Army and FSA)

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Fab India and some misleading tricks..

Many times when I explain about our Tula project to people they ask “ oh! Like fab India is it?” and I am seething in anger bcos it is no where near our Tula..
Not in idea, not in ideal, not in the holistic way.
For that matter I can say with all audacity that there are few projects that are as holistic as this across India..and that touches all livelihoods across a value chain..
Fab India is not even being honest.. that is a sham..
And hence be warned, if I or someone else talk about Tula don’t dare to compare it to FI.

The other day I had to take my friends who had come from Europe (on hols ) to a fab India showroom in Blore..
Why I took them is a long explanation and not very relevant here..
After all they really did start with some good ideals..they did help some weaving communities and some artisans..also took these artisan products and created a market (even if at huge margins)
 I thought let these gora friends spend some of their money on products of such artisans..

But now I regret..
On the first floor, there was a big poster on natural dyeing..
Needless to say, I was impressed..bcos across India u see many groups that work with hand loom (weavers) ignore the chemical dyeing part and the BT cotton poison at the production end..
So end up with such big polluters at the 2 ends and still weave a big magic..and talk (high) only of their handloom credits..
So that’s an improvement I I asked the sales person about which part of the hall had natural dyed..this person did not even understand natural dyed..he started saying these were done with cotton which is natural before he could get to my goat I asked for a manager and asked her if she wud know..she said one or 2 garments at one end of that big hall were natural dyed..
So what is all this misleading tricks?  A big banner saying /natural dyes” then some posters on  natural dyeing here and there in that big hall misleading people to think almost all garments displayed are that!
If u thought that this could be an over sight or ignorance of the people in that floor, see the next floor..
As I entered I saw a big Gandhi’s poster, then a a few posters on khadi and hand spinning..
When I asked this person (wo)maning this floor, it was the same answer..those 2 garments there and one in this row is khadi…rest were not!
how misleading!! Does that tantamount to lying or is it like the advertisements that mislead and ‘intelligently lure’ you to things wrongly? Willful misleading?

So all that u see there isn’t handloom, neither all is khadi nor is it all natural dyed..
And we all have been thinking they have been the saviours of these dying arts..  
Beware! Next time do not be mislead..and donot be carried away and compare that to Tula!