Shodh Yatra Day 9 – Feb 7, 2011
Conversations with common people in Kanker District
We started from Kanker and our first stop for the day was the village Ranvatigaon of Bhanupratappur Tahasil. It is a village with 157 odd population. The main tribe in the village is Gond (scheduled tribe.)The main occupation of the villagers is farming. More than 20% are small farmers. The main crop is rice. It was interesting to note that the social contacts are mainly during the festivals or marriage only. The village population migrates in search of wages towards the mines or towards the construction sites in cities.
We met Chandresh Tiwari who was in MA 2nd year a student of political science studying. He was ready to join whichever job he gets. He has undergone a 1 year computer training for Rs. 3500/-. Is it not a failure of our educational system that he was still uncertain about his future career prospectus? His father has migrated to this village some 30 yrs back and is having a half acre land. They have a small provisions stores besides a cycle shop for the family livelihood.
Vijay Kumar Useri is another farmer. He is educated up to 12th standard. He has 2.5 acres of land, both bhari or upland which does not yield as much as dhanya, low land. He gets 2 gada yield from his land. He kept 1 gada for own consumption and as seed. 1 gada he sold in the market at around Rs. 15,000/-. He uses male buffalo for ploughing in his field. He does not keep female buffaloes for milk, as the tribals do not use milk
Vijaysingh Kurethi, a resident of Kulharkatta, 2 kms from the place were at, was passing by. He served in the police department for many years, Why dis he leave? “Along with two other policemen, I was escorting a prisoner to a court. On the way back, he escaped due to the negligence of my Head Constable. But all three of us were dismissed.” As a policeman, did he ever deal with a Naxalite? “Yes, once I was put on guard duty to watch over a Naxalite admitted in the Raipur Hospital. The fellow was so thin that you could lift him with one hand. But he did know how to talk. He used to say many intelligent things beyond me, and in many languages.”
For a while Vijaysingh was working with some Sai Prasad Finance company as agent to mobilize deposits for the company. But recently he has got suspicious about the working style of the company and he decided to stop working for the same. He was worried about the price rise. He feels that today’s Rs. 1000/- (one thousand) is equal to Rs. 25/- of 1985.
Vijasingh told us about the working of Tendu Patta trade. The state government allots the areas to contractors. The individual has to sell the tendu patta leaves to that contractor only. The rate is around Rs. 70/- per hundred. He told us about the different committees in the village. These are Van Suraksha Committee (joint forest management), Van Upaj Committee (Minor forest produce), and the Mandi Committee. He fought the election of the Van Upaj Samiti by moving on bicycle. He got elected because of his simple and sober image. He had to tour 18 villages in which some 1800 odd voters were contacted.
Our next stop was in Kacchhe iron ore mine. The security incharge, Surjit Mujumdar, a pleasant young man, would not permit us to go inside the mine or photograph it. But he allowed us to interview him! As his father is in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), he did his schooling in different places as his father was transferred every two years. After 12th he participated in the recruitment test organized at Panagarh and joined Asam Rifles and completed his initial training in Dimapur centre. Then he went to Army centre Bareily to complete the remaining training.
His first posting was in Manipur. There he saw action against the NSCN–IM armed insurgents. He told us that once they threw a hand grenades in his vehicle but it did not burst. He told us about the bravery of the jawans of his regiment. One driver after receiving 18 bullets did not stop the vehicle and saved the life of some 15 odd jawans riding behind. He would still be in Kolkata Command Hospital undergoing treatment.
Why did he leave? “I did not want to be at the beck and call of others all the time. The life is hard and the pay not that good at Rs 9000 pm in hand plus various accumulations of 2-3000 pm. After the 6th pay commission the salary has increased to about Rs 18,000 pm in hand.” Now in the private security company SIS he is earning Rs. 9000 pm for 12 hours duty. He had a bank account in Stae Bank of India, and he continues with it. He has an ATM card which is also a debit card and he uses it.
The primary school at Kacche Mines
Mr. Dharmaraj Kureti was the teacher attending to the students. He was on temporary duty from the nearby school as the regular teacher was on census duty, and of the two contractual teachers, one lady teacher was on maternity leave and the other teacher was on casual leave. He told us that the regular teacher gets a payment of Rs. 20,000/- pm and one who is on contractual basis earns Rs. 6500/- pm. In the school there were only 22 children, of whom 17 were present.
Dharmaraj was also a contractual teacher. He had served in the Army – Signal Corps as a telephone operator for 17 years and he retired in 2008 and came back to his native village. He got a job as a teacher a as there was a reservation for ex-servicemen. We looked at the various registers, marking attendance of students and teachers, and another one monitoring the learning milestones of each child. The kids were busy playing in the courtyard, waiting for their mid day meal.
The Weekly Haat, Kacche.
It was around 2.30 in the afternoon and we were hungry. The Samosas and Pakodas were delicious. A Rs. 10/- plate was good enough for one person. Samir asked the person to prepare Onion pakoda as well with chilly pakodas. The weekly haat was so lively that one can only share it in pictures. Enjoy!