DHARAMPUR & POOR 
April 2020

 
[SPECIAL MINI BULLETIN : VAN PATH: DHARAMPUR ]

Initial Phase
With the spread of Corona Virus, all the schools were closed. Uncertainty looms large at the moment, about when the schools will restart. It was understood that the teachers will have to attend schools. To utilize their free time fruitfully, we decided to conduct in - service training courses for them. Accordingly, the camp was conducted. But the air was full of roomers. We could see that the teachers were not comfortable. Meanwhile, another govt. circular came; asking teachers not to attend the schools. That is why we dissolved the camp. We started for Valod from Tamachhadi School and reached home at night. The same night Lock - Down was declared. Everything came to a standstill. Rest is history.
 
No Programs in 2020
Last year we announced that the Community Development Programs initially planned and added later on [in last three decades] will not be continued in 2020. The reason: They have almost reached their targets and fulfilled their purpose. We as well have found no demands from the people. Perhaps there is no space also. We as well have crossed 81 & 90 – of course moving. At present, accept schools/hostels [closed] and scholarship for higher studies [after 12th – Window for university education],  no other programs are taken up [as announced last year]; though funds are offered by our well - wishers. Great spirit.. 
 
Normally every year during April - May - June, the programs as below, for agricultural development were taken up:
 [A] Mud/Stone Check Dams for water conservation
[B] Soil - Bunding for soil – conservation
[C] Wells

They are the main support-programs for developing agriculture in hilly - forest villages. It is the main source for livelihood here. The programs mentioned above were executed on 'Food for Work' lines. That means:  50 % project support in form of rice and rest 50 % community contribution, in form of labour [bunding]. It increased production of rice crop and additional [second] crop of pulses in winter. Vegetable crops also were taken through minor irrigation, where water was available. Importantly, it generated sizeable employment locally. Additionally, it proved useful in recharging wells and creating moisture. The third program: construction of totally 500 wells [not built this year, as there is no demand], with labour input [digging] of the beneficiaries. Construction material was provided by Van Path. It eased the drinking water problem. When there were fewer wells with less water, the crowds used to rush to fetch water. Now, even if we had planned these programs as usual, they were impossible to implement, as they involve big crowds, while implementing.
 
Dharampur & Valod Blocks
Fortunately, Dharampur and Valod Blocks are not affected so far by Corona.  As for Dharampur villages inhabited by tribes, they did not suffer from the disease; as there is very little migration [explained below] from those villages to big and distant cities. Hardly any outsiders visit these remote villages and people rarely go out. No reason for it. Normally, there is no much inter - villages movements also. We have found [supported by research] that Corona is primarily an urban disease, with more and more industrialisation and inhuman living [no better than animals] conditions. Thousands of workers on daily wages work there. On account of the development activities undertaken in the area by Van Path and other NGOS; there is noteworthy improvement in farming in particular and overall economic situation in general. Jobs are created locally like teachers, rectors, tutors in higher education, nurses, police, computer services [for filling forms], administration, tailors, mechanics & community workers. Just one example: Massive mango plantation program is executed. 160000 mango saplings have been distributed in last 3 decades, with wonderful results [generating cash income]. All this and other supplementary programs [better seeds - mail buffaloes for tilling land etc.] very much benefitted the community. Most importantly, they do not have to migrate to distant factories [large industries are absent in Dharampur]. Furthermore, there is good cash income from village level ‘Milk Producers’ Cooperative Societies’, managed by the people. In Dharampur only seasonal and short - term migration takes place, that too in close farms & small factories in the neighbourhood. In short, not very many people from Dharampur villages migrate to big cities for jobs. As factories are located in big cities in Gujarat State, millions of migrants came from other states for jobs [There are about a million migrant daily wagers in Surat District only, struggling to go home.] They are the worst sufferers. Their future is dark. Reaching home somehow [when?], they have no jobs there. Actually that is the reason they have migrated to Gujarat, facing uncertain future. These miserable millions have no saving and now no income. The tragedy is that they have overnight became poorer, the worst impact of Corona. Regular and better salary is the privilege only of the fortunate few white coloured employs in A. C. offices. - working from their comfort zone. Of course, in the prevailing crisis, the labourers are given free food stuff by the govt and little cash. Fortunately few NGOS [not factories] have come forward to feed them on way. Obviously they are desperate to go home, to be with the families [thousands of miles away] in this critical time. It is creating scenes of social unrest. Now govt. is planning for transport [?].
 
Productive Activities in Dharampur

Agriculture and animal husbandry are the only two productive [on self – employment lines] activities in the area. The farmers have their plots of land and cattle [cows]. The whole family work on the farm [also look after cattle], producing food – grains for family consumption. Milk is simply sold in the society booths, in the village. From there it is collected by the mother dairy – good marketing arrangement. They harly  have any thing to buy [accept clothing] from the market. They have limited needs. Farming area is increasing year after year. The substantial cash income is from mango program, milk and other petty jobs [Small shops also.] It is just enough for their limited requirements. In short, standard of living has improved in Dharampur. Most important is their simple [non - materialistic] life style, needing practically no big shopping. They live in simple and scattered farm houses [families help each - other in building], nature all around and clean [unpolluted] environment. So all – to – gather, it is a different culture. Perhaps spread of Corona and other diseases are the products of luxurious [modern] life style. Helpless poor migrants/artisans are the victims of so-called development. Thousands of them are losing jobs. They are going to suffer the most for no fault of theirs, even after corona disappears, as economy is bound to slow down. In short, the condition of rural poor is comparatively better than city poor. They hardly visit mega cities [hotspots of Corona.] and more so are now scarred of infection. Dharampur is the only [so called] town they [mainly youth] visit.
 
Awareness of the Community
I will like to give one glaring example of community’s awareness. About 6 weeks ago the iron - sheet roof of the girls’ hostel in Vaghval [on hill] was totally uprooted, on account of terrible hurricane. We are unable to send artisans to repair the roof, as the village council has banned entry of any outsiders in the villages, or even tiny hamlet for that matter.
 
Lock down in Dharampur villages is not that difficult, like in urban societies, having big high-rise buildings, upper class societies and slums [congestion], side by side. City - people frequently move here and there, just for nothing. It is difficult for them to follow lock down. It is so visible in Bombay/Delhi etc. They are now the worst hot - spots of the disease – spreading in country side. Corona is the ugly face of globalization. The remedy could be, more investment in education & health. If left to me; I will prefer rural poverty rather than urban poverty. Of course, poverty everywhere and any form [urban or rural] is a curse and denial of fundamental human rights - unacceptable in any case. But it happens on account of the nature of our exploitative socio - economic structure and pro – rich [dirty] politics.
 
Coming back to Corona, no doubt, there is lot of panic here. I think the positive side of the situation in western world [?] is that there is community spirit, general awareness, unity and comparatively less of panic. That is very important from the psychological point of view - a big strength of the society. It is democracy, at the grassroots. This is something like spiritualism - accepting [consequences - death with obvious pain], which is unavoidable.
 
Role of  Van Path
Now what is the role of ‘Van Path’ [NGO] in this crisis? We inquired through our chief coordinator, if there are any families suffering from food shortage in any village. He explained to us that since the advent of Corona epidemic, all the families are getting free ration from govt. [rice, pulses, oil, salt etc.]. Also small cash. That is enough for community's basic need. They now produce bumper vegetables. On the other hand, city people are running here & there for getting vegetables. So no free food – stuff is required, he told. New crops are just being harvested from fields [improved], around their habitation. Any way, we have asked him to convey to all our teachers/workers spread out in the villages to find out if there are families needing food - stuff. If required, that will be immediately supplied by Van Path. During our conversation, a remarkable point was made by our chief coordinator [with us from day one]. ‘The people are locked up in their homes, all the time. Ordinarily they work in their own farms. In any case, if some families do need food-support, they will be asked to carry on soil-conservation work [like every year, since long] in their fields. That is how they could improve soil and as well bring waste land under cultivation, adding productive asset, as they did earlier, with Van Path’s 50 % support [rice].This is how they can take more crops. So we must continue to follow our long - established [Food for Work] practice’. The only change we will like to make in the present critical situation is that Van Path would make full payment [not half as before] in form of food – grains for soil – bunding or any other agricultural improvement plans the  community may execute. In short, V. Path will provide rice against execution of the work. We have given free hand to all our workers to survey the villages and provide rice immediately, where needed.  Support from our well wishers is assured, as always.
 
Looking at macro level, we cannot take any consolation. The pain persists for the overall situation - deteriorating, day by day, which is unavoidable at the moment. Let us keep our fingers crossed; watching and waiting for the epidemic to disappear, as fast as possible.
 
Latest [Yesterday]
Dharampur was least affected so far. Unfortunately, the very first case happened [via – Surat] in a village just 7 km away from our Girls Hostel [now closed] in Bilpudi. The govt. machinery is operating in full swing to stop the spread. The village is cordoned off. Neither anybody could go outside from the village [Kelaveni], nor could anybody enter the village. The police have been posted. Tests for the virus - infection of all the residents are on.
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                          VAN PATH : BILPUDI :  DHARAMPUR : 9429885232:  APRIL - 26th [2020]