Duration of camp: 4 days: From 26-11-98,eve to 30-11-98,eve.
Places of visit: Magar Sangavi, Yamgarwadi Ankoli
Number of students: 13
We reached Solapur by railway in the morning of 27th and went to the residence of Shri.Balasaheb Joshi (a contact person of the N.G.O. in Solapur).There we met Shri.Girish Prabhune, the man who pioneered the work among Fase-pardhis. He is originally from Pune. He started his work among the Pardhis (a nomadic tribe) 25 years ago, and since then has succeeded in establishing permanent settlements of the Fase-pardhi tribe at various places all over Maharashtra. Shri.Balasaheb Joshi, a civil engineer, has been helping Shri.Girish Prabhune with the Pardhi settlement at Magar Sangavi, a village near Solapur.
At his residence we got an overview of the Pardhi tribe, its history and the present problems faced by it. The Pardhis had participated in the struggle for Independence and had helped it by looting the trains of British Govt. and hence been declared by the British Government as 'criminal' tribe. But unfortunately this stamp of a 'criminal' tribe was not removed even after Independence. Hence the Pardhis were forced to lead a nomadic life. They were also shunned by the society and had to resort to criminal activities and hunting for their livelihood. To add to this their life was rendered miserable by widespread superstitions and blind faiths.
Shri.Girish Prabhune managed the herculian task of convincing the Pardhis that their development could only take place if they were settled at one place and found some other source of livelihood.
From Solapur we first went to Yamgarwadi village where they have opened a 'Ashram Shala' (a hostel for children upto 7th class and a residencial school for children upto 3rd class) for the Pardhis' children. This ensured that the children remained uninfluenced by the superstitious and violent attitude of their parents. In addition to schooling, the children did many things on their own and in a timely and orderly fashion. The discipline among them was really commendable.
On the evening of 27th we had group discussions with the children and found out that some of them were very intelligent inspite of the fact that their forefathers were completely isolated from any type of schooling. Also the rugged life of Pardhis have made them tough, strong and agile which was reflected in the children as well.
Highly impressed by the talents of children, their disciple and their simple lifestyle we set off for Magar Sangavi the following day(28th). At Magar Sangavi each one of us had his own experiences regarding the superstitions and in general their way of living. We saw houses built for the Pardhis, wherein Balasaheb Joshi had made the houses earthquake resistant(to some extent) by having an arc shaped roof. Also the bricks were not the usual ones but were much larger and could be easily manufactured at the same place since they had a compactor and used local sand. The only ingredient brought from outside was cement. That was a very good instance of Appropriate Technology. We had a discussion with the full-time social workers along with some relatively developed families of the Pardhis that night. We learnt that most Pardhis did not consider education to be important. Also, women in the Pardhi society had a very low status and were always insulted and treated inferior by the men.
Although hunting is still prevalent as a main source of livelihood, the development project has various schemes for alternative source of livelihood. A bakery has already been started in Magar Sangavi where children(above 7th standard age) work and get paid. The bakery products are then sold at markets in Solapur. The following day we went to each Pardhis house and had a chat with them to get a deeper insight into their way of living. We left the place by evening and reached Solapur by night.
The next day we went to a place near Ankoli(a village 30kms from Solapur) called 'Prayog Parivar' where a person named Arun Deshpande has invented a new way of living for the farmers based on some of his principles.
During our discussion with him he stressed the following points,
1. Farmers have always been neglected in all the economic policies of the country since Independence. The farmers were much better off in 1947 than today.
2.This is mainly because the farmers are disorganised and hence the raw products from the farms are given very low price by the wholesellers or food processing industries. Since food products are perishable the farmers are forced to sell their produce within a stipulated period, no matter how low a price is fetched.
3. The solution to this oppression of farmers is to organise them and agree at some minimum price for the farm produce or to modify the farmers' living in such a way that they are no longer dependent upon the urban people.
4. Arun Deshpande in his experiment at Ankoli has tried to make the latter option a success. This is accomplished by meeting all needs through utilising local resources. For instance he has planted bamboo trees in large numbers and they serve as building material for houses. Self-reliancy is also acheived in some other areas like energy resources (solar and gobar gas) etc.
5. In addition to this he also stressed that a lot of energy is required to transport and process farm products until they are finally consumed by the urban consumer. Due to this the cost of the same product consumed by an urban consumer is much more than that consumed at the village itself. Hence if one calculates the cost of all this extra energy spend on the urban consumer he should be paying much more than he presently does.
On the whole, the camp was a great learning experience. It gave us an insight into the varied lifestyles, problems and way of thinking of the people of India.