Amidst all the hue and cry, confusion and controversy, and genuine concern about the likely adverse impact of the recent Farm laws enacted by the Government of India on India’s small farmers, it was like a breath of fresh air to attend the webinar on agriculture organised by RI District 3141 PDG Rahul Timbadia. The webinar had two very reassuring takeaways. One was recounting the journey of social activist and former Aam Aadmi Party national executive member Mayank Gandhi, who has ushered in an agro-revolution in several villages in the Parli block of Beed district in the drought-stricken Marathwada region of Maharashtra. He chose Parli, he says, because farm distress here was phenomenal causing the highest number of farmers’ suicides. Thanks to his relentless work during the last four years, and intervention through his management and organisational skills, the water table, once at 300–500 ft, has come up to 50–70 ft. By sourcing sturdy and best quality fruit saplings from the best nurseries of India, and advising farmers to plant fruit trees such as papaya, banana, mosambi, etc and adopting intercropping patterns for other crops, there has been an exponential growth in the income of farmers… from some ₹10,000–15,000 an acre to between ₹2 to 4 lakh an acre, and even more. Reverse migration from Mumbai and Pune is the result.
The second takeaway, in keeping with Rotary’s seventh area of focus, greening our planet and conserving the environment is the passion of Timbadia. He wants to bring together like-minded urban affluent people interested in agriculture, but with no time or expertise to pursue it, in community farming. This would enhance both their and local people’s income and be good for India too. Read a detailed account of this wonderful initiative in our cover story this month.
While this is cheerful news indeed, what is gut-wrenching is the continued violence and sexual assaults against girls and women in India. Gang rapes are getting more brazen as well as common. What shook the entire nation last month was the brutal gang rape of a Dalit teenager — she was only 19 — in the Hathras village of Uttar Pradesh. Just like Nirbhaya, the brutally assaulted woman fought for her life for several days, first in an Aligarh hospital and then in Delhi, but finally succumbed to the grievous injuries. That her body was cremated without either the presence or consent of her parents and other relatives is a new low in suppression of and injustice against the weak and downtrodden. Now that Rotary, both internationally and in India, is in dogged pursuit of increasing its membership of women, and with Jennifer Jones nominated as the first ever RI woman president, there is little doubt that gender equity in India, and across the world, will get a big push in the community service work that Rotarians do. Add to this Rotary’s central credo of zero tolerance for discrimination based on gender, caste, class, community or religion, hopefully Rotary clubs in India will give a little more thrust to projects that aim to educate, skill and empower underprivileged Dalit girls and women.
Just like our farmers, Indian women too need your help… to get educated and empowered.