Exploring the roots of India (Villages)!
What is the first image that conjures up in your mind when you think of Indian villages? Small settlements, countryside, agricultural fields, hamlet, thatched cottages, simplicity, ruralism as a way of life, lack of city-like facilities or more. Despite the fact that a larger section of Indian population lives in villages, we city-dwellers frown upon villages as if we have never had a connection with them. However, the truth is that a village is the most ancient form where humans came to live together by making a living through agriculture. It was one of the biggest breakthrough of our evolution. But as came the cities, we forgot about our roots.
Honestly, there was a time when I would sulk about traveling to my father’s ancestral home in Dudahi near Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. I would love meeting my grandparents, the big house, the landscape, the lush green fields, the simple and honest people, community like feeling but being a city kid, I would start feeling uncomfortable within a few days. The prime reason was lack of certain facilities and infrastructure. Of course, I was too young to raise a question that even though villages were supposed to be self-sufficient, they possessed big chunks of agricultural fields and had rich families living in there, why were the villagers always marred by the glaring issue of poverty and illiteracy? After visiting a number of villages in different states of India, I can easily say that these were not born with these problems. It is just that we have never made enough efforts to resolve the real issues. What we lacked then and even now is that in the hurry to make cities, we forgot to make our villages sustainable and progressive.
Thank God, not everyone forgot to look back to the villages!
While most of us were too enamored by our city life and forgot to look back to our villages, not everyone did. The good news is that not all villages lack facilities. Not all have lost the road to progress. And not all have poverty as a major issue. While the government has been rolling out policies every now and then, there have been some trusts and organizations who have been working in tandem to help the villagers reap the benefits of these policies. When the aim is to make the people self-sufficient, they have to be guided to be able to start their small businesses. It may sound easy but it isn’t when it comes to convincing the villagers who are not very educated. I realized this recently, when I got a chance to explore five villages of Mysore with Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social arm of TVS Motor Company. It is one of the oldest trusts that has been working for last 20 years and believes in empowering the villages than making them dependent on charity.
Places and the highlights of the day!
- Sindhuvalli – A visit to SST office to meet the officers in charge and to understand their way of working.
- Uthanalli – Visited a school, interacted with the members of a Self Help Group whose ladies are involved in basket weaving.
- Doora – This is where I met the families who have been practicing pot making and how they have made it a self sustaining business. I also got a chance to try my hands at pottery making.
- TVS plant – I only got a chance to eat at the canteen.
- Byathalli – This is where I met the Chapaati making unit.
- Badanavalu – Attended an SHG meet, met the ladies who are involved in tailoring business. Also visited an Anganwaadi center.
All that matters is the right guidance!! The main aim of SST is to support the villagers in the formation of sustainable Self Help Groups (SHG) so that banks can easily lend money to these small businesses.
As 2017 is the ‘Year of Sustainability’, this was an enriching opportunity to see and meet people/communities who had progressive stories to share. I liked the fact that a lot of women from these several villages came to meet me to talk about their work, their different SHG (Self-help group) and how they had achieved financial independence with the guidance of SST and Gram Panchayats. Each of them quoted a lump sum amount of their earnings and savings every month. They amazed me by saying that they knew how to operate their bank accounts and regularly got the passbooks updated. The best thing that has happened to them is that they have all become super confident. The way they talked and put across their questions to me was absolutely heartwarming. These women too had the same dreams and aspirations as every other mother who wants a better future for their kids and they were ready to walk the extra miles to give the best to them.
This is where I took my first lessons in pottery too!
My tourism-centered travels often take me to scenic cities, picturesque towns, cozy villages but this trip was special as it put me in front of the locals who had real stories to tell. I loved meeting my own people. These women inspired me in their own way because they had dared to step out of their houses to solve their common problems through self–help and mutual help. It is here where SST acts as a facilitator and guides them into making something concrete out of it. First and foremost, they are taught to save whatever little they can. Moreover, they also learn decision-making, working in tandem, helping each other in need, aiming targets, repayment of loans and group development.
Agriculture is not an all-season occupation and therefore villagers often need financial support in the off seasons. This is when these monthly savings earned by working in an SHG comes handy. I could see that entrepreneurship has not only filled these ladies with great confidence but has also given them the power of buying. I really liked the confidence with which they told me about the number of baskets they sold, or the sarees they had bought for themselves and the trips they do to take a break from work. This is the perfect sign of sustainable India and a great way to stop the exploitation at the hands of middle men.
Before this I had only heard about it all but I was really happy about meeting the real game changers (Village Development Officers and Head In Charge) who were making a difference at the grass-root level. It was absolutely heartening to see how certain organizations are making huge difference in the lives of people with the mission to facilitate the process of sustainable development in villages by deploying skills and resources.
A perfect case of seeing and believing!
Srinivasan Services Trust started from merely two villages in 1996 and today it works in over 5000 villages touching 3.14 million lives. SST facilitates men and women to form SHGs (Self-help groups) and Panchayat leaders and community representatives in these villages to come together to help villages develop in a holistic and sustainable manner, creating self-reliant communities across 6 core areas: Economic Development, Health & Sanitation, Health, Infrastructure, Women Empowerment, Education and Environment.
If you thought TVS motors was only about motorcycles, scooters and three wheeler, its time to think again.