What does self-reliance really mean? Amazing stories emerge from India’s villages -Ashish Kothari
True self-reliance won’t come from relentless industrialisation, but from localisation and decentralisation, as demonstrated by these remarkable stories of empowered rural communities
Not so long ago, Dalit women farmers in Telangana used to face hunger and deprivation. Today, they have contributed foodgrains for pandemic relief. Farmers on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border have been sending organic produce to Bengaluru even during the lockdown. And Adivasi villages in central India are using community funds to take care of migrant workers who have returned home.
These inspiring stories show the potential of empowered rural communities to cope with crisis. And they expose the tragedy of a path of ‘development’ and governance that has not recognised or, worse, taken away the extraordinary agency of ordinary villagers to manage their lives.
Take Chandramma, who grows 40 varieties of crops, chemical free, on her rainfed plot in Bidakanne village in the Medak district of Telangana. “I have enough food to last through the lockdown and beyond,” she says during a Vikalp Varta webinar. Chandramma and thousands of Dalit farmers like her contributed 20,000 kg of foodgrains to Medak district’s COVID-19 relief measures. And they provide 1,000 glasses of nutritious millet porridge daily to health, municipality and police workers in Zaheerabad town nearby.
They are part of the Deccan Development Society, whose women’s sanghas are active in 75 villages in Telengana, and have helped thousands of women from a casteist, patriarchal society to revive dry land, millet-centred farming and thus gain control over land, seeds, water and knowledge. Having achieved anna swaraj (food sovereignty) and self-sufficiency, the women are now feeding others.
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The Hindu, 5 June, 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/society/what-does-self-reliance-really-mean-amazing-stories-emerge-from-indias-villages/article31756580.ece
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