A Mother’s Plea to her Government

By LEAD Research Team

Dear Government,
My eldest 17-year-old son has lately started talking about going to a big city for a “better” livelihood. He is a very skilled farmer; however, he does not see any future in it. Some say our young boys do well in the city and some say they work 16-17 hours a day as forced laborers without any proper food and place to live. Whatever the situation is, I do not want my boy to leave. We have a piece of land that we can use to cultivate a variety of crops and sustain ourselves in our own village. Unfortunately, due to lack of proper irrigation system and resources, cultivation of crops happens only during monsoon season. What I feed my family that year depends entirely on the rainfall. It is a very risky and unpredictable lifestyle, and thus, most of the young people of our village have migrated to bigger cities for better livelihoods.
My family is fortunate as our land is on a low-lying area and the bore well is right next to my land. This way, we are able to grow vegetables throughout the year. Not all families in my village are as privileged as we are. Some families from the higher elevated areas, have to walk 15-30 minutes every day to fetch water.  They are not able to get bore well water as water level is too low. How can such families grow  vegetables in their land when they hardly have water for drinking, cooking and bathing? Thus, our land remains unused during the off-peak seasons. Even if we manage to grow vegetables, our village does not have proper access to the market. The only way to sell our produce is to go to the nearest weekly farmers market, which is 15 km from our village. A jeep comes in the early morning and takes all of us who want to sell our produce. I usually take my vegetables and occasionally, I take forest products such as wood, tamarind, etc. Since we travel 15 km to reach the market and have to also pay (around Rs 60) for the transportation, we can only carry a limited quantity of produce. I wish the Government would help our village have proper access to the market, that way we could grow more vegetables and sell them daily, resulting in improvement of livelihood of the household.
During non-agriculture seasons, most of us break stones if there is a demand from a private contractor. We are paid Rs. 800 if we are able to fill a tractor with small pieces of stones. It takes a week to fill a tractor if two people work daily for 4-5 hours. Many men in my village cannot break stones anymore because they have become weak due to lack of proper food and increase in their alcohol consumption. Men prefer spending their limited income on alcohol. Worse, young boys are following the trend as well.  I believe that alcohol is the major cause of poverty and domestic violence in our village. I wish the Government would encourage some campaign against alcohol abuse in our village. Decrease in alcohol consumption will increase the household productivity and income, resulting in the gradual improvement of livelihood of the household.
Once again, I am a privileged woman in my village. I am able to produce vegetables and rice throughout the year when most of my villagers do not have access to water and thus their land is unused most of the time. My young son still helps us in farming when most of the youngsters from other families have migrated. I am able to feed my family with rice, lentils and vegetables when most of the families survive on rice and water. I am able to sell tomatoes and eggplants when most of the women from my village cannot sell anything or sell limited forest produce such as woods andtamarind.  Whatever limited resources we get, we have managed to survive in our villages. Now, my son wants to have a better future and thus, he is planning to leave his village and go to an unknown city. When I am worried about the well being of my boy,  I want my Government to understand the potential of skilled farmers like my son and open opportunities for them so that these youngsters can prosper in their own village.  These youth can be better farmers and produce more crops for the country. At times, I wonder, if my Government understands the consequences of skilled farmers stop growing crops due to lack of opportunities, who will feed the next generation of this country?

This blog is based on stories collected  from several tribal women of Chhattisgarh. Pictures have been taken by the author and they belong to CMF.