Day 10 – Dhamtari district, Chhattisgarh

Shodh Yatra Day 10 – February  8, 2011 – Dhamtari District, Chhattisgarh

Village Demar, Tehsil Dhamtari, District Dhamtari.

Pride of Enreepreneurship

Govindram Yadav, a rice mill owner, tells us proudly that he has invested Rs. 5,50,000 in setting up a rice mill. Did he take a loan?  “No,who will give me a loan? I had some land by the side of the main road so I sold it and got the money.  Moreover, my friends helped me in constructing the shed and erecting the machines, so it has cost less than it would have.”

Govindram in front of his rice milling machinery

Where did he learn all this? “I have been working as a rice mill mechanic for several years.” He explained he only does milling, charging Rs. 25 per quintal o process the paddy into rice. By-products like broken rice and husk are also taken away by the person who brings the paddy. Why does he not buy paddy in bulk and process it into rice? “That requires a lot of capital and on top of that it is risky due to price fluctuations of both paddy and rice. Sometimes you can lose money, unless you have a lot of funds to store the rice till the price improves.” He, instead, wants to expand his processing business to include dal and masala processing.

Dignity of a Disabled Person

Biharilal Kumbhakar has a polio affected leg bbut it has not stopped him from making a life of dignity. He is elf-employed and makes a living by making and selling statues of Ganapati, other Gods and Goddesses, statues of martyrs and stage decoration for local drama parties. He is also a painter. He paints plastic as well as asbestos statues.

The disabled sculptor

Does he get pension for the disabled? “I was offered more than once, but I refused,” he says with pride. “In fact I have helped three other disabled persons by getting them tricycles to move around in. I am also the treasurer of the Shri Krishna Shishu Mandir, a school in the village”  We asked if we could see the school and he immediately summoned the principal and introduced us.  Then we thanked him and went to see the school

Shri Krishna Shishu Mandir, Demargaon.

This is a private primary school with 120 children. The school had four teachers and a principal.  The fee is Rs. 70 per month. How do they manage without any government aid? “The monthly fee collection for nine months is Rs 8400. We pay the teachers Rs 1000-1200 each. They are local young women who come for four hours a day. I earn Rs 2500 per mont, the principal tells us.”  Yet, as I go from classroom to classroom, I see children sitting in neat rows, all in uniform, all standing up to greet me in unison. They seem to happy and learning something.

What a stark contrast to the government primary school we saw in Kacche Mines yesterday, which was incurring Rs 33,000 per month on teacher salaries for just 22 children, and yet where all the three teachers were absent on leave or other work.

Pond fishery as a livelihood:

Kishan Bhutan is the President of the matsya palan (fish farming) committee. There are 17 members in the committee. They take the village pond on lease for fish farming. The lease charge for one year is Rs. 35,000 per annum. The total area of the pond is around 12 acres but by summer, it shrinks to only 6 acres. This is an open pond which the villagers use for bathing themselves and their cattle, washing clothes, etc. Due to this, the committee is unable to feed fish in the pond, thus affecting the growth of the fish adversely.

Kishan Bhutan - Fisherman

They catch the fish only twice a year. As it is the village pond, the catch has to be first sold to the villagers for Rs. 35-40 per kg and only if anything is left over, then they can sell in the market at about Rs. 100 per kg.  Is life any better than twenty years ago? “Yes, in some ways better.  We get rice at Rs 2 per kg so we are at least not hungry. But it is a struggle nevertheless, to bring up a family, if you have no land and no money.”

As we were  leaving, Pavan asked, where do  they get fish fingerlings from? They pointed us to our next stop.

Sanjay Gandhi Fish Hatchery, Demargaon

Run by the state government fisheries department, this hatchery provides fish seed for table variety of  fish like Rahu, Katla, Mriga and Common Carp.

Mr. Vinod Jadhav is the head of the centre. He showed us the entire premises and the fish ponds they maintaining for their day to day activity. The entire establishment is spread over 25 hectares, and has 16 ponds, which are initially filled with canal water and then topped up using borewells.

The cycle begins by injecting brooder fish with hormones, and leaving them in a tank where river flow and rain is simulated. This cause the fish to lay eggs, or spawn. The water from that tank with the eggsis drained into another tank, where it passes through a filter,  All the spawn remains in the outer circle and rest of the water is drained out from the inner circle. The mixed spawn (eggs) are sold  for Rs. 600 per lakh and good quality selected eggs are sold for Rs. 1000 per lakh. The counting is done making volumetric assumptions of the number of eggs per cc of water.

The next stage of the eggs is fish fry, which are 10 mm or less. These can take up to three weeks to grow into fingerlings of 100mm size are sold for Rs. 1 each,  Mosy of the sale is of fingerlings.  The capacity of the hatchery was 25 crore eggs, of which some is lost and osme is sold as spawn, Last year, 16 crore fingerlings were produced, mostly for sale. The fingerlings are sold to fish farmers all over the state and even outside.  In case a commercial farmer needs large quantities of fingerlings, they have to book in advance.

Some of the fingerlings are used to rear fish in the hatchery itself and here again some sale is done (Rs 20 lakh in the last year). Some of the fish are grown to a maturity, so as to become brooders.  The time period varies from species to species – from six months to two years. Mr Yadav said that if the full potential of their hatchery is achieved, then it should lead to a vibrant fishery sector in the region. At the moment, that goal is distant.

Piparkhedi Gram Panchayat

This was a pre-arrnaged meeting with the village Sarpanch Rikhiram Netam and the members. The village panchayat has five committees:

1>> General Administration,

2>> Nirman (public works)and Development committee,

3>> Education, Health and social welfare committee,

4>> Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fish farming committee and

5>> Revenue and Forest committee

I asked about the different government schemes are being implemented in the village. NREGA came up quickly.  I opened my laptop and logged into the NREGA website and quickly got to data for the Piparkhedi village in Dhamtari district. Since we were with panchayat members, there was no point doing a social audit with them. But I could check if the website data tallied with their information. So I asked them questions like  – How many people have job cards?  What works were done under NREGA? And, are there any overdue payments? My third question immediately evoked a chorus of responses.

“Payment for the NREGA work we did was earlier being made through the post office. About nine months back we were asked to open bank accounts in a private sector bank [name withheld] in Dhamtari, and were told that we will get payment in the village itself with the help of a person of another company [name withheld] who will come to village. He comes with a machine on which we put our finger but it keeps saying the money has already been paid when we have not actually got the money.  This has happened for the last six months and we are fed up with that bank. Please tell the government to chnage us back to the Post office”

We met the woman village health worker, called Mitanin in Chhattisgarh. She was concentrating on the pre-natal and post-natal care of women of the village. She was looking after the nutritional requirements of women and children and immunization for children. Several women present told us that nowadays, they all go to hospitals delivering babies.

A rural extension officer from the Agriculture Dept was also present. He told us of the farmers’ club in the village, which has 20 members.  The members discuss about the latest trends in agriculture, varieties etc. The agriculture extension officer also helps them in this regard.

Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS), Village Jamgaon.

India has over 120,000 PACS, of which only about 50,000 are functioning and less than 10,000 are active. The primary co-operative named “Prathamik Krishi Sakh Sahakari Samiti: of Jamgaon was registered in the year 1961 with 4 villages and currently has 1234 members in it. The PACS had taken deposits of Rs. 94 lakhs, and given loans of Rs. 1.18 cores. The maximum loan amount one can get is Rs. 1.5 lakh. The per acre limits for loan are Rs. 8,000/- per acre  for irrigated and Rs 5,000/- for non irrigated land.

The share capital as on date was Rs. 10.61 Lakh. The PACS got benefited from the Vaidyanathan Committee reform package, which helped recapitalize it to the extent of Rs. 3 lakhs . For income generation and member service, the PACS was running two ration shops and was also involved in fertilizer sales it to its members. They are also in the business of rice procurement and this year till date the procurement was 55,000 quintals.

Anand and me flanking the President of Jamgaon PACS, Bade Pritamsingh Sahu

Bade Pritamsigh Sahu was the President of the PACS. What is the secret of his PACS being successful when so many others are defunct? ” Even though we fight the elections on party lines, once the elections are over, we all work together to make the PACS stronger. I visit all the villages under the PACS and ask farmers what are their needs and how is the service. We keep the staff on their toes and we also mobiles deposits.”  In a very simple way, the Jamgaon PACS was an ideal microfinance institution – deposit taking, member controlled, locally responsive and regulated.  If only India’s 120,000 PACS could all become like this, there would be no need for MFIs.


About vijaymahajan

Educated at St XaviersSchool, Jaipur; IIT Delhi; IIM Ahmedabad and Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, USA; Co-founder of several development organisations - BASIX (, PRADAN (, Development Finance Forum (, Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abhivruddhi Society (, Sa-Dhan ( and the Microfinance Institutions Networrk ( Chair of CGAP Excom; BASIX Boards; DSC Board; Board member of MSSRF, ASSEFA, Gram Vikas Honours - WEF Davos Schwab Social Entrepreneur; Ashoka Global Fellow; IIT Delhi Distinguished Alumni Award; HSBC-Access Award for Outstanding Contribution to Microfinance in India; listed among India's top 50 most powerful people in India by BusinessWeek, Asia edition, 2010 Married to Savita, Deputy Dean, ISB, Hyderabad; two children, Chirag and Chandni
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3 Responses to Day 10 – Dhamtari district, Chhattisgarh

  1. wheelchiar says:

    I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.


  2. Rafiuddin Shah says:

    Dear Sir,

    I would be happy if I could join you in your yatra any day in between 19 -23 March. Looking forward to the opportunity!



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