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A village that Transformed its own Destiny

Money Chaturvedi Sharma | Baripada | Maharashtra

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This is the story of a village that rewritten its own destiny. This tribal village of only 94 families in Sakri Taluka of Dhulia district of Maharashtra, has proved that if humans befriended the nature, then its scarcities can be eradicated forever. It is the result of the organized efforts of the villagers of  Baripada, once yearning for even a drop of water, today, providing drinking water to five nearby villages. A village where once only 15 hectares of land was cultivable, today 120 hectares of land is being cultivated in three crop cycles. Owing to cash crops like Onion, Pulses and Strawberry no family is now poor in this village.  Chaitram Pawar, a postgraduate youth of the village is the architect of the change. With the inspiration and cooperation of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, this change

started with the conservation of the forest. The villagers and the forest department jointly restitute its greenery to the forest, spread across 450 hectares, around village Baripada. This endeavour alone has opened the doors of prosperity for this village, along with the name and fame associated with the India Bio-Diversity Award, and the United Nations Development Program award in 2003. In totality, the village has been honoured with 33 awards.

Moving back to the eighties this village of Kokana and Bhil tribes used to run out of water soon after Diwali. At that time there were only two wells in Baripada which used to dry up completely by the month of December, and the people of the village used to migrate for six months in search of employment. Even when they stayed in the village, they could not survive by farming alone, and hence Illegal businesses like chopping forest wood or selling Mahuva liquor were their sources of income. Most of the women were involved in it.

Dr. Anand Phatak, a Pracharak of the Sangh, who for eight long years managed the medical center of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram situated in Warsa, five km from Baripada village, says that "No child of the village could ever study continuously, owing to fact that most people lived in the village only for six months." To cook food Women had to bring fire wood from miles away, and the villagers had to dig pits in the dried river bed to collect water and were compelled to use that water only.

The change occurred when, Chaitramji and Dr. Anand, along with the workers of Kalyan Ashram were able to convince the villagers that the crop of development does not grow on the land of destruction. Once  convinced the Vanvasi villagers befriended the forest, and started working hand in glove with the forest department to save the forest wealth. Chaitram ji says that "The elderly people of the village, took the responsibility of guarding the forest in turns. To stop illegal cutting the villagers decided and started recovering the different amount of penalties, from head loaders, and bullock cart transporters of the forest wood.

This was just the beginning, then the people of the village did not look back. Then was the turn to bring water to the village. With the help of the Forest Department, the Vanvasi villagers themselves made small check dams for water conservation by way of shramdaan. In last 30 years, about 600 numbers of watershed management works were completed by villagers. As a result, today there are 40 wells in the village, in which water remains throughout the year. Not only this, the village committee also made it mandatory for every family, to send their wards to school or to pay the fine. To avoid the fines, children started attending regular schools opened by Government.

In order to make women self-reliant, fifteen self-help groups of village women were formed, under the guidance of the workers of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. Fish farming was started in the village pond. Farmer Producer Company was formed to market the famous rice of Baripada, which now supplies this rice to the surrounding districts. In the village where people did not even pass the fourth standard, youth like Sunil Pawar and Abhimat Pawar are educated and are now teaching in government schools.

The "Vanbhaji Mahotsav" of Baripada a unique festival, often remains in the local headlines for the last 18 years. This is a unique example of knowledge transfer from generation to generation. Shaileshji Shukla, who pursued his PhD in Canada, came here to study; and he developed this idea of Van Mahotsav. In this a cookery competition is organized and the women participating in the competition have to tell about the medicinal properties of the vegetables, grown in the forest and used in the recipe.

Today, when Chaitram Pawar proudly says among the villagers that "You are the owner of many crores", appears surprising, but the forest wealth of this vast forest of Baripada, which includes hundreds of teak wood trees, is really worth this much. Today teak wood cutting is prohibited, but when in future they would cut the trees, then the villagers will get 50 % cost of the wood, as per the rules. Yes, one more thing Dr. Anand Phatak does not forget to mention proudly, that, in a country where men hesitate to undergo family planning operations even today, in this village, most of the men have gone through this operation.

Contact :- Chaitramji Pawar Baripada

Mobile Number :- 9823642713

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