Rupabhai and his family a sarania family reside in Vadia. The family has been allocated 3 acres of land, a portion from the government allotted land to the Vadia Women Cooperative society. Vadia being a dry and arid region government also made irrigation facility available for the residents of Vadia willing to take up farming. However one bore well isn’t enough to supply water to all the farmers. Hence Rupabhai takes water from the farmers who have bore wells on their farms. 3 acres as such is very small piece of land and returns on farming parent enough to sustain the family. Rupabhai felt that compared to agriculture cattle farming is a more viable option. He requested VSSM for an interest free loan of Rs. 50,000 to buy buffaloes. VSSM stationed his loan and Rupabhai has bought a buffalo from the money. Rupabhai now grows fodder on his land and sells the milk from his buffalo in Vadia. He also remains regular in paying back the instalments to VSSM.
“Be extremely careful, do not carry any extra money or wear any jewellery when you go to Vadia, people there will loot you!” is how everyone had warned me when I planned my first visit to Vadia in the year 2005. When I witness such honesty from the community in Vadia it really makes me wonder why and how such perceptions are formed to stigmatise a particular community. Rupabhai and many like him are honestly doing their jobs and returning back the money borrowed from VSSM. No on is bad, its the circumstances that make shape their behaviour. The community in Vadia need warmth and care and change automatically comes through. Its this miracle we are witnessing right now in Vadia.
The journey of restoring the dignity of families of Vadia has been extremely difficult and emotional we are thankful to Shri. Rameshbhai Kcholiya, Shri. Nimesh Sumti, Shri. Pradipbhai Shah, Shri. Rashminbhai Sanghvi and friends of VSSM for standing by us and providing us the support to keep going.
રૂપાભાઇ વાડિયાગામમાં રહે. ગામની બહેનોને મળેલી સામુહિક ખેતીની મંડળીની જમીનમાંથી ૩ એકર જમીન રૂપાભાઇના પરિવારને મળેલી એટલે એ જમીન ખેડે. ગામમાં સિંચાઈનો એક બોરવેલ છે પણ એનાથી આખા ગામની ખેતીની જમીન પિયત થતી નથી. બાજુના ગામના ખેડૂતોની જમીનમાં બોરવેલ છે. તેમની પાસેથી પાણી માંગીને રૂપાભાઇ ખેતી કરે. ખેતીની જમીન ખુબ ઓછી છે. જો ખેતી સાથે પશુપાલન કરે તો ઘણો ફાયદો થાય એવી રૂપાભાઇની લાગણી. વાડિયાગામમાં રહેતાં અને પોતાનો સ્વતંત્ર વ્યવસાય કરવા ઇચ્છતા પરિવારોને vssm વગર વ્યાજે લોન આપે છે. રૂપાભાઇએ ભેંસ ખરીદવા રૂ.૫૦,૦૦૦ની લોન આપવા વિનંતી કરી. રૂ.૫૦,૦૦૦ની લોન મળતાં એ ભેંસ લઇ આવ્યાં. હવે ખેતરમાં તે ભેંસ માટેનો ચારો પણ કરે છે અને દૂધ વાડિયા ગામમાં રહેતાં લોકોને વેચાતું આપે છે. vssmમાંથી લીધેલી લોનના હપ્તા પણ નિયમિત ભરે છે.
૨૦૦૫માં આ ગામમાં પહેલીવાર જઈ રહી હતી ત્યારે એ વિસ્તારના લોકોએ કહ્યું હતું, ‘ પૈસા કે દાગીના કંઈ લઈને કે પહેરીને ના જતા આ લોકો લુંટી લેશે.’ આ વિધાનને સાવ ખોટું પાડી રહ્યા છે લીધેલી લોનના પૈસા ઈમાનદારીથી પરત ભરી રહ્યા છે. કહે છે ને કે, કોઈ માણસ ક્યારેય ખરાબ હોતું નથી સંજોગો ખરાબ હોય છે વાડીયામાં પણ કંઇક આવું જ હતું પણ પ્રેમ અને હુંફથી બધું જ બદલાઈ શકે છે. ચમત્કાર થાય છે અમે વાડીયામાં દરરોજ એ અનુભવીએ છીએ…
વાડીયાના પરિવારોને બેઠા કરવા સ્વમાનભેર જીવતાં કરવામાં જેમણે પ્રેમપૂર્વક મદદ કરી એવા શ્રી રમેશ કચોલીયા, શ્રી નિમેશ સુમતિ, શ્રી પ્રદીપભાઈ શાહ, શ્રી રશ્મીન સંઘવી અને ફ્રેન્ડ્સ ઓડ vssm સૌનો ખુબ ખુબ આભાર..
Vadia now has a “pothole turned lake” to conserve rain water …..
In the year 1963, as a measure to rehabilitate and provide alternate livelihood opportunities, the government allotted 208 acres of land to the families of Vadia (Not all land is owned by the families. Some land has been encroached from the beginning). As Vadia is a drought prone and arid region the government had also created irrigation facilities by installing two bore-wells. But the neglect in maintaining the bore-well damaged it badly and the second bore-well had became dysfunctional as a result of land slide during the 2001 earthquake. In 2008 Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch -VSSM and government together repaired it but a single bore-well proved insufficient to meet each farm’s irrigation need. We have requested the government for approving installation of another bore-well but that is going to take time.
In the mean time we decided to reduce the community’s dependence on ground water and start harvesting the rain water. Although the region receives very little rain, saving whatever water falls from the sky is wiser choice. The village does not have any lake or other traditional water conservation bodies but it does have a large pot-hole in which during monsoons the water gets accumulated. After receiving the necessary technical guidance from Shri. Rashminbhai Sanghvi, who also sowed the idea of rainwater harvesting in Vadia, we decided to go ahead and deepen the pot-hole, allow the water to get collected in it and later use the conserved water for agriculture. The work to widen and deepen the pothole has commenced. The required financial support for the works is been aided by Shri. Rameshbhai Kacholiya.
A few days back I received a phone call from the villagers saying, “Ben, the pothole looks more like a lake now, if the monsoon is good we will be able to conserve water enough to take one crop.” Such delightful news are always music to our ears…….
In the picture.. work of deepening the pothole in progress.
CHANDRA – though his name means Moon, he shines through like a Sun, spreading rays of hope in his Saraniya community…. A Success Story of Right To Education for Saraniya Community boy Chandra with VSSM at VAdiya.
The harsh realities and vagaries of life makes children of Vadia way more mature than their age. In the year we began working in Vadia life was absolutely in shatters for these community. The community here had zero access to any of the infrastructural facilities. The village school remained close most of the times. The teachers considered their transfer in Vadia as punishment posting hence hardly reported on duty. The parents were least bothered for the education of their kids. We felt that it was important to bring children out of the environment they were growing up in therefore in 2007-08 we enrolled 40 children in various residential institutes and ashram shalas across Gujarat. But most of the kids came back within few months of enrolment. The children faced discrimination at these institutes. There were some organisations who refused to enrol these children cause they feared that Vadia kids will spoil the hostel environment.
A boy named Chandra somehow managed to stay put and continued with his elementary schooling in Yoganjali Ashram at Siddhpur while completed his higher secondary school at Swaminarayan Gurukul in Siddhpur. Later he went on to acquire admission in B.B.A course. After the completion of graduation he plans to pursue his PG from some reputed college. He looks forward to completing MBA and has already began preparations for the same.
Chandra has been instrumental in bringing numerous children from his village to school. The movement that began with him is expected to fetch out numerous children from Vadia. He has ignited the hunger amongst the Vadia children to study and do better in life. The children today are studying with various hostels. Chandra will be the first child from Vadia to complete graduation and we are sure he isn’t going to be the last cause there are many following him…
We are thankful to our constant supporter Shri. Ujamshibhai Khandla of Monarch Builders for supporting Chandra’s education.
VSSM’s early journy into vadiya and there after — Some Milestone Episodes —-
Here we are with our talk on our Early Journey Into Vadia – 2
• Nobody, not a single person, was ready to come and work in the vadia village!!
Vadia is a bad place and its people are notorious, no decent man should enter the village, there are all possibilities that one shall be looted if he enters the village – was the image people have had about this village. There was a stigma associated with this place and its dwellers. Hence no individuals or agencies were prepared to come and work in this village. The small hill needed to be levelled ignored to begin construction but no one was ready to lend their JCB for the purpose, no one was ready to listen to us. Atlast an individual fro Siddhpur, who we knew as well managed for the JCB but we had to pay double the market cost. No tractors would come, no masons were prepared all the work done was after lot of cajoling and double the cost and that too only when Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch – VSSM’s Shardaben remained present in the village. Building 89 homes proved to be a herculean task for us.
• What is the need to construct the road to Vadia , the government authorities would argue!!
Our quest of how to make Vadia a better place and give its residents what they deserve as citizens of this country required continuous efforts and inputs. Every month the district Collector Shri. Hareet Shukla called and chaired meetings of various departments to find solutions to the pressing socio-economic issues of Vadia. Majority of the officers would attend these meetings with a preconditioned mindset: nothing can be done and nothing should be done in this village was their approach. When we proposed construction of road to the village they said, “what is the need? if you’ll make road it would give an easy access to people to to reach Vadia, the situation will go bad to worse!!” We argued, “if a road comes up the villagers will go out, will interact with other people, will get to know the world beyond Vadia. They’ll understand what it is to have a normal life. They shall have access to public transport and reprieve from the monopolised fares that private transport providers demand. Low fares means they’ll prefer going out more. Presently, the community members do not go out unless necessary, bad road becomes a hazard during some medical emergency especially for pregnant women. They are forced to pay extremely high prices for this commute. Because the women of this village are into flesh trade does not mean they should be denied access to some of the most basic amenities. We are a democratic nation and every citizen has a right to live with dignity.”
Vadia was treated as some gangrened society, and as it with the gangrenous body part authorities and society looked forward to chopping it out from the system. Efforts for their inclusion in the society were none so far.
During one of the meeting the collector inquired, “will these families be interested in doing some alternate occupation?”
He directed the District Rural Development Agency to sanction loans to these families to help them start their own business. “Saheb, these families do not feature in BPL list, so they aren’t eligible for any assistance,” replied an official.
“The women here sell themselves to survive, what more do you want from them to feature in a BPL list?”
Later te collector inquired on the type of ration cards these families have – APL was the reply. He asked the officials of the civil supplies to begin the process of issuing Antoday ration cards to them whereas the Rural Development Agency was asked to begin the process of including the names of these families in the BPL list and process vocational loans for them.
Antyoday Ration cards were issued, road form Vadgaum to Vadia was constructed, a bore well to facilitate agriculture was installed because without irrigation facility cultivating the land given by government was impossible as the region is arid and drought prone. Government had installed two bore wells but since power bills weren’t paid the supply to one was discontinued while the other was rendered non-functional because of a land slide after the earthquake. We arranged for the pending bill to be paid and restart the bore well. The situation has eased a bit, the need for second bore-well hasn’t reduced though.
All these efforts ranged from 2006 to 2011. VSSM received support from many of its well-wishers and donors, notable being respected Shri. Chandrakantbhai Gogri. VSSM’s founder member, trustee and our very dear friend Shri. Liladhar Gada has supported towards installation of bore-well ( as such does by government but purchase of quality pipes, motor etc.) and construction of homes in Vadia. The long pending power bill was paid by Gujarat Sarvoday Mandal.
Thus heralding a gradual but consistent change in the ground realities of Vadia with all the efforts started from 2006 to 2011 at Vadia by VSSM.
The year was 2006, we had just began working on the issues of nomadic communities of Gujarat. Where are these communities was the first question that popped up. Absolutely clueless on where the nomads of this state lived, we began looking for them, everywhere villages, towns, cities, countryside, woods where were they settled??? No one had any idea of where these communities had vanished. Finding them was a challenge. They were right amidst us but the society and government had chosen to ignore them, they had become faceless. Just then we happen to read about the Saraniyaa families of Vadiya. Saraniyaa is basically a nomadic community that is involved in sharpening the bladed of knives and other tools. The gadget or the machine they carry along for the purpose is known as Saraan and hence their community derived the named Saraniyaa, the other trades they were sometimes involved with were trading cattle but their women in to flesh trade and that too a traditional occupation of the women of entire village was something we had never heard of, never read about!! SO why would these families be into such profession, didn’t they have any other options?? these and numerous other questions began bothering us. To visit the village and find it for ourselves was the only option left. In 2006 we did not even know how to reach this village because no roads lead to this place. We reached Tharad, the nearest town to Vadia. Here we asked way to Vadia and people began looking at us with surprise, asked us not to go, not to carry any valuables along with us, A representative of an organisation based in Tharad accompanied us as if there was some danger in going alone. We were taken a back by the approach of society on this particular matter. The attitude reflected the mindset of people towards the residents of Vadia.
Why are the women of Vadia engaged with this occupation is the question we asked to some individuals in Tharad and replies like easy money, lazy bones, don’t like to do hard labour etc fell into our ears. So as we began our comment from Tharad to Vadia we realised that any government transport service to Vadia did not exist. A private transport took us to this village. The dusty, kuccha – 4 km stretch single lane strip of road was all they had in the name of road.
On reaching the village all that our eyes could see was poverty and deprivation, it was everywhere, shanty makeshift houses, children in rags, women in pathetic conditions, dressed in rags as well – it was a sight hard to see and difficult to digest. If there was so much money, easy money the village should look different?? The picture before us was so conflicting from what we had imagined. We began talking with them, never asking a question on what and why they were into this occupation!! We spoke about basic amenities, school, clinic etc etc., but for them such dialogue hardly mattered and we couldn’t be blaming them either, over the years many organisations and individuals had come to help them but no one or nothing seemed to have brought say change in the ground realities.
A resident of Vav village Shardamben Bhati joined VSSM with just one intention and play – to help these women, families……. Rameshbhai Saraniyaa, a resident of Vadia also joined hands with us hoping to find solutions to the challenges his village faced. Thus began our journey in Vadia…..
પ્રાથમિક સુવિધા વગરનું ગામ – વાડિયા
૨૦૦૬માં વિચરતી જાતિઓ સાથેનું કામ શરુ કર્યું એ વખતે આ પરિવારોની શોધ –ખોળ શરુ કરી. મૂળ વીચરતું જીવન હોવાના કારણે એમનાં પડાવોને શોધવા એ પડકાર હતો. એવામાં છાપામાં વાડિયા ગામમાં વસતા સરાણીયા પરિવારો વિષે સાંભળ્યું. સરાણીયા જાતિ તો વિચરતી અને છરી ચપ્પુની ધાર કાઢે, બળદ અને ભેંસો વેચે પણ દેહવ્યાપાર કરે એવું તો અમે જેટલા પણ સરાણીયા પરિવારોને મળ્યા હતાં એમાં કોઈની પાસેથી સાંભળ્યું નહોતું. ના વાંચ્યું હતું.. તો વાડિયાના પરિવારોને આવું પગલું કેમ ભરવું પડ્યું? બીજા કોઈ વિકલ્પો નહિ જડ્યા હોય?? વગેરે જેવા ઢગલાંબંધ પ્રશ્નો સાથે વાડિયા ગયાં. એ વખતે તો કઈ તરફથી વાડીયા જવાય એ પણ ક્યાં ખબર હતી પણ થરાદ પહોંચી ગયાં. વાડિયાનો રસ્તો પૂછ્યો એટલે લોકોએ આ ગામમાં ના જવાની ભલામણ કરી અને જવું જ હોય તો કીમતી સમાન સાથે ન લઇ જવા સૂચવ્યું. અમારી સાથે થરાદમાં કાર્યરત એક સંસ્થાના પ્રતિનિધિ પણ આવ્યાં. આ ગામના બહેનો એ દેહવ્યાપાર કેમ અપનાવ્યો? ક્યાં કારણો આ માટે જવાબદાર છે એ અંગે થરાદમાં રહેતાં અમને મળેલા લોકોને પૂછવાની કોશિશ કરી પણ દરેક વ્યક્તિનો એક જવાબ સરળતાથી પૈસા મળે છે ને એટલે બધા હરામ હાડકાનાં થઈ ગયા છે વગેરે જવાબો મળ્યાં. અમે ગામમાં જવા નીકળ્યા સ્થાનિક જીપમાં જ જવું પડે. વડગામડાથી વાડિયા જવાનો ૪ કી.મી.નો રસ્તો એકદમ સાંકળો અને દુળીયો. એક વાહન સામે આવે તો બીજા વાહનને રીવર્સમાં ગાડી કદાચ ૨૦૦ થી ૩૦૦ મિટર સુધી લેવી પડે. ગામમાં પગ મુક્યો તો જાણે કોઈ શાપિત ગામ હોય એવો ભાસ થાય. આમ તો શાપિત તો ખરું જ ૧૫૦ પરિવારો ગામમાં રહે પણ સુવિધાના નામે મીંડું હતું. કાચા –માટીના ઘર, મોટા ભાગના તો છાપરામાં રહે. જેટલી બહેનોને મળ્યાં એ બધામાંથી થીગડા વગરનું કપડું પહેરેલી એકેય બહેન ના મળી.. અરેરે આવી દુર્દશા.. લોકો કહે છે એમ સરળતાથી મળતા પૈસા ક્યાં દેખાતા નહોતા?
એમની સાથે પ્રથમ બેઠક કરી. ગામમાં શું થઇ રહ્યું છે એ પૂછવાનો તો જીવેય ના ચાલે. જે આજે પણ નથી ચાલતો. પ્રાથમિક સુવિધા નથી એ બાબતે વિગતો મેળવી. આમ તો નજરે દેખાતું જ હતું છતાં.. આ પરિવારોને પણ અમે વાત કરતા હતા પણ અમારી વાતમાં કોઈને કંઈ ખાસ રસ નહોતો ક્યાંથી હોય.. અમારા જેવા તો કંઈ કેટલાય આવીને ગયા હતાં પણ પ્રશ્નોનું સમાધાન ક્યાં થયું હતું.
શારદાબહેન ભાટી મૂળ વાવ ગામના વતની અને તેમની આ પરિવારો સાથે કામ કરવાની લાગણી એ અમારી સાથે જોડાયા. ગામમાં રહેતાં રમેશભાઈ સરાણીયા પણ પોતાનાં ગામનાં પ્રશ્નોનું સમાધાન થશે એ આશાએ અમારી પાસે આવવા માંડ્યા. સરકારી દફતરોમાં અરજીઓનો દોર શરુ કર્યો.