A group of around 19 young students from IITB left around 8.30 a.m on 26/09/2013 from IIT,Powai to Ranshet,Dist:Pen which is located at a 2.5 hrs drive from Mumbai.
On the way, we sang the GRA Geet "Hum Yuva hain, Hum karein muskilo ka samna.." which was quite motivational & inspirational for Bharat's Nav-nirmaan.
Introduction: Ranshet is 1 of the 9 wadis (villages) where Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram social workers with the help of previous IITB students have solved drinking water problem for the villagers in the past. Ranshet village has a population of 375 & 92 families live there. It is also calledThakurwadi after the tribal community living here 'Thakurs'. Ran=forest & shet=farm. Hence the name.
Guides: After reaching there we were guided by Mahesh Ji Kale's wife Smt. Mansi Kale & ex-sarpanch of Ranshet,Nagu Lende Ji.
Maheshji & Mansiji lived in the village for 4 years, so that they can be a part of the community & understand their 'actual problems'. In fact they educated their son up to 4th standard in the village school. After living there, they realised the graveness of the villagers 'drinking water' problem. They had to spend around 5-6 hrs a day, just to get few 'kalashis' of drinking water. Every person of the family (even children) carried water from the well (in the valley) to the uphill located village,Ranshet.
History: The pucca houses here were constructed by a Norwegian Social organization. In 1985, few villagers made wine from jaggery, which was the root cause of quarrels among villagers. By 1987-88, Nagu Lende & few good men from Ranshet managed to bring a ban on liquor.Nagu mama & others faced opposition from the villagers for bringing this ban. Gradually, people started farming. 5-6 landlords of the village provided their land for free to the villagers for farming. Initially, they got loan from the Government. Later, they started collecting Rs.2/- per month from each family. After accumulating 1000/-, they deposited the money to get an interest of 200/-.
Developments: Today, the village is self-sustained and have 7-8 lakh funds with agriculture as the main occupation!!
Previously the farmers had lot of trouble finding shared vehicles for selling their vegetables in Pen & lost practically the whole day in Pen. Over a period of time, they have gained confidence & have bought a vehicle for selling vegetables.
Girls previously studied only up to 4th standard & later took care of children at home. Now they live in hostels of a nearby secondary school for pursuing further education. Nagu mama's relative has completed higher education & is now working as a air hostess.
Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is encouraging sports like kabbadi, relay, langadi & representing the villagers at the district,state & national level. Under their 'Sanskar Varg' programme, they try to carry the culture to next generation. Under their 'Arogya Vikas' programme, they try to provide medical help locally.
There is scope for utilizing wind energy here.
Occupation: Villagers are given yearly loan for farming purpose. The nearby dam water is available for farming through canals. During farming season, maximum village families shift to the low-lying farm area, with their cattle for months together. The main produce here are rice, tomato, raddish& bhindi. Villagers sell vegetables in Pen. Although they use chemical fertilizers, there is a nearby wadi, where organic farming is done under Mr.Pawar's guidance.
In Ranshet, people have a belief that cow milk is meant exclusively for the calf. So they dont do milk business. However they are planning to run a poultry farm. As of now, hen & goats are bred here & are sold on festivals.
Integrity: The older generation still have a 'mayalu' & 'man-milau' nature. We asked the villagers, if they ever felt to leave the village due to the problems. A villager replied that they never felt like leaving the village (love & compassion of the villagers). They wanted to stay back to maintain the village.
Whenever there is a marriage in any village family, the whole village comes together & they divide themselves into small groups for different activities like cooking, purchasing, etc.
Failures: Women cut forest wood in summer. This wood is stocked near every house & is used for cooking in rainy season. In the past, there were attempts to use biogas but due to insufficient organic waste it was stopped. However the villagers have a good practice of collecting plastic waste seperately & then they burn it.
Also there were attempts to run a flour mill in the village itself, but due to quarrels about 'who will run it?', this idea failed. Villagers have to go to Pen to get the flour.
Current problems: Educated youth here is working in cities because there is no money & infrastructure for running small-scale business in the village.
The old temple here was destroyed by a lightning. Villagers want to build a temple for the residing dieties, Lord Shiva & Durgadevi. The estimated expenses are 80,000/-.
The kuchha road over here, which is used for selling the vegetables in cities gets damaged in rainy season. The government is neglecting this huge-budget project.
However, personally I fear that road development will convert this village into a town & ruin the culture of villagers.