Displaced farmers flourish in Jharkhand

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Jharkhand Farmer ,Farmers in Jharkhand,  farmers flourish in Jharkhand
Pics by Manoj Prasad show Jharkhand’s farmer extra-ordinaire,Balak Mahato inside his farm at Kucchu Mahuatoli

While many politicians and Naxalites pursue their politics arguing that displacement causes ruination and pauperisation of the farmers,this true story negates them.

Unpolluted air,green fields,and dirt roads.Kucchu Mahuatoli could be any Any village,in Ranchi district.But for one important factor:Six families in this village were displaced by the Indian Army.

To gauge how important this factor is,consider their background.The Army,rooted in Ranchi since the second world war in 1940’s,needed land to set up its establishment-headquarter with barracks,offices,residences,club,canteen,golf course and so on for its personnel headed by the Major General at Deepatoli,6 km from Jharkhand’s capital city centre.

As per the plan,it gained possession of the land after the erstwhile Bihar government acquired it from among the owners.All of them were farmers.They cultivated the plots.But in the absence of irrigation facility,each family,like many others in Jharkhand,reaped a mono crop of paddy as agriculture was rain fed.”Since the net yield and its exchange value in the market was low,most able bodied men and women and some children above six year age,also sold their labour to ekk out their living”,states the Army’s plan document.

The acquisition process followed by transfer of the title of land from these owners-farmers to the Army was completed successfully though there was no rehabilitation package worth its name.None of the displaced families were given any plot of land to rehabilitate themselves.None of them were given job either.

Even the rates of compensation paid for their cultivable and barren lands were as paltry as Rs 3.50 and Rs 1.50 per decimal,according to an official report.

To take on statistics is not an easy job,yet that is exactly the process the 23 Artillery Division underwent to set up its spic and span complex at Deepatoli.And Balak Mahato,one of the six among 250 odd families who were ousted,uprooted and displaced by the Army,embarked on,when he,along with his aging father,mother and relatives,left Sugnu village,near Deepatoli,bag and baggage,hearth and home,with a small cash of Rs 26,000 paid to them as compensation,and settled down at Kucchu Mahuatoli.This was in 1974.

Thirty eight years later,Balak says he was 16 year old and took on himself to set things right.”With cash, we bought a plot of land at Kucchu Mahuatoli,built a hut there and started cultivating it.Later,we dug up a well and used its water to cultivate vegetables”,he recalls.

Apart from using his labour to water,nourish and harvest the crops of vegetables,he says ,he packed them up in sacks,loaded them on his bi cycle and walked for 15 km from Kucchu Mahuatoli to Daily Market in Ranchi to sell them.”This was my daily routine and I never looked back”,says the displaced farmer,now 52,with a sense of pride write large on his face,a feature uncommon in Jharkhand where displacement was resisted tooth and nail by many political parties and the Naxalite outfits.

Jharkhand Farmer ,  farmers flourish in Jharkhand
Pics by Manoj Prasad show Jharkhand’s farmer extra-ordinaire,Balak Mahato inside his farm at Kucchu Mahuatoli

They may have their own world views and agendas on displacement,but Ram Balak has proved that displacement is not always a cause of ruination and or disaster and that honesty,sincerity,discipline and hard work can be a mantra for success in life.

No joke,he rears cows,goats,paultry,fish and grows vegetables and seeds of French Bean in his land in Kucchu Mahuatoli.He also finds time to zoom around by his motor cycle and attends work shop organized by the Indian Council of Agriculture Researche(ICAR)’s Ranchi based unit HARP.

Today,Ram Balak’s farm produce on an average 1500 quintals of seasonal vegetables every month.In addition,there is annual production of 1200 litres of milk worth Rs 14000 which private dairy farms purchase and sale in different parts of the state.In addition,he earns atleast Rs 40,000 from goatry and poultry annually.

Of 4.5 acre owned by him now,more than 3 acres carry the Israel’s drip irrigation facility.Two green houses and one store built by him with subsidy provided by National Horticulture Mission stand alongside the cowshed and a single storey house.

HARP’s Principal Scientist Dr Shivendra Kumar considers him as a farmer extra-ordinaire.”He is one of the most hard working and innovative farmers in this state’,thinks Kumar.

Five other displaced by the Army,who lived near his house were not begging either.Like Ram Balak’s five children –two girls and three boys-who were studying in private schools,their children too go to schools.All of them operated bank accounts and saved sported branded watches and dresses.

All of them agree that their farms were now a profitable venture.They employ both traditional and modern methods of cultivation and inputs in the farm.Along with chemical fertilisers,self made traditional manure is extensively applied to the plants.Similarly,within their farms,both hybrid and local varities are grown side by side.

By mixing the new and traditional varieties,their farms cater to the tastes of both the local and up country markets.Moreover,it would ensure the farmer at least income for the maintenance of the farm from traditional varieties of plants in the event of disease affecting the comparatively less disease resistent hybrid varieties,said Ashok Mahato,another displaced refugee at Kucchu Mahuatoli.

Although none of them know that affluent Americans were displaced refugees in the USA and many millionaire businessmen who were displaced in Pakistan,were flourishing in Delhi and Ranchi,Ram Balak goaded this writer to note down his assessment about displacement which is essentially anti thesis to the thesis authored by anti displacement bodies who cite cases to drive home the ;point that displacement means ruination.

And as such,they may not buy his view,but Balak said-”I strongly think,inherited land of ancestors makes you remain possessed by feudal,lying back attitude.When you are displaced,you face the challenge and make efforts to over come it.In my opinion,displacement is necessary for every one to excel and grow”.

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