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2010 | 2011
Chirag Sahjeevan Simayal, Banni, Bhuj, Nainital Gujarat
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” -T.R.
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” — Pico Iyer
These two quotes remained with me throughout my fellowship. So did my reason for joining the fellowship. It had stemmed from the knowledge of what I did not want to do rather than what I wanted from life. I did not want to work in a corporate environment. Today I understand that knowing what one doesn't want is not necessarily sufficient and not nearly same as knowing what one wants. Moreover, the responsibility of a fulfilling work-life situation as well as seeing to it that I get work that is both relevant and interesting to me and useful to those impacted by it, is firstly on me and then on the rest. As I compile this report, I realise that this fellowship has indeed been a parallel search for 'Swa' and 'Swades'.
(Oh, the very many preconceived notions and all that blah blah!)
Having worked in rural areas before, I have empathy and certain prior understanding about them. I wish to build upon what I already know and purge presumptions if any. I have previously worked at Kohane Village, Ahmednagar (WOTR), at Auroville (Upasana for Small Steps project), at Gass Village, Vasai-Mumbai (self initiated mini-research project and a short film) and have certain “readings” “observations“ and “inferences“ from the same. An opportunity to be a part , of Swades Ki Khoj provides me with a fertile testing ground for the ideas I have previously thought of. Each village is different and perhaps working with an organisation as opposed to being on my own right away will foster better understanding of issues that plague rural India and how they are being tackled. The realm of culture preservation has always interested me but when I actually pursued a research project on the same I realised the irony that lay in there. External attempts to retain or revive an ancient culture by exotifying it or by force or favour defeats the purpose of the culture existing in the first place. The reason ancient cultures are becoming obsolete are very deep and need a serious study and analysis before we propose projects and write policies and I wish to experience multiple cultures and understand how they work- their politics. I have lived in Bombay since birth and have experienced the crowding of cities, the resentment locals have for people who have migrated to Bombay. Driving people away from cities can hardly be an option- so I am keen on looking at how employment opportunities can be created in villages and how traditional knowledge and skill sets in the migrating population can be saved and tapped into. I have been associated with arts and design by ways of education and industry experience of in all 7 years. A jump into development sector is a drastic change and I want to test my strength emotionally and mentally before I make the plunge. I have no lofty notions of changing the world or the organisation I would be working for if selected, if anything I am into this for self-growth and self-discovery. If in the process an organisation benefits, which I believe will- then it’s a win-win situation. As an individual I am open to lot of possibilities and very many directions my life can take. I have deep-set passion for three things dance, art and development (mine and others). My life has been to some extent so far and will be from now on an interplay of these three- in what measure, remains to be discovered. But being at a very critical juncture this moment- personally and professionally, I am looking to give myself away to a place/ an organisation/ a movement, loose myself completely before I re-find myself anew. I say this because most of my life I have been a very protected and sheltered child and have operated on the value system and a moral compass of my parents, believing it to be my own. This is about to change now as I step out of my comfort zone and discover for myself what I am made of. As a contribution to the rural organisation where I will be placed if selected, I hope to bring fresh ideas and my perspective. I bring to the organisation a zest for research, ethnography, documentation, communication and design which have emerged out of my education so far. I look forward in my modest capacity to conduct workshops on whatever little that I know. While studying at the Industrial Design Centre we were encouraged to focus a lot more on process, iterations and incremental development than the final outcome. I bring this sensibility with me. I also bring to the organisation a system-design driven approach which looks at the bigger picture temporarily discarding smaller obstacles, as if being in an ideal world so as to bring into effect a new idea/ new system or improve upon an existing idea/ system. Proposals crafted in such a way seem to carry in them seeds of higher impact and cancel out unnecessary dogma of “this has to be so and so” and “we can’t operate without such and such” System design has . a beautiful approach of working with what you have already got and building on it- we studied it, developed a proposal based on it and now it remains to be tried out real-time. I podcasted last semester for the first time and creating a radio show not merely consuming one has been an interest ever since. At the heart of it all I look forward to spend a year, interacting with real people not merely staring into my computer screen. I look forward to exchange of ideas. I look forward to belong to a new place, make it my own. I look forward to learn a new language and a local craft. I look forward to work much more in the field than simply sit at my desk and dream what it would be like to travel. I would really appreciate if I get placed in a situation where I travel a lot traversing new terrains, meet many people, conduct research, analyse information and look for nuggets of insight-wisdom. I am not averse to technology or computers but I have overdone that for the past seven years and need to break away think and work with my hands and other senses of the body. I am on the cusp of making my life more meaningful.
Khoj at a glance
Month June swaDes ki khoj Uttarakhand, Kumaon, Simayal, Ritha, Kasyalek, Sitla, Mohan Da’s at Odakhan at Chirag/ Sahjeevan SWAdes ki khoj
At Chirag, post an unending How important is it to win every railway journey. The mountains argument? are so gorgeous and as the weather goes from beautiful to stunning outside, we sit in our training hall discussing wicked problems- ironic indeed Orientation begins, endless PPT sessions, getting to know staff at Sahjeevan No friends, no language skills, Bhuj shuts by 10:00 PM, no girls on roads mostly after 7:30 PM, bad direction sense, Anjali guest house is semi-shady, safety concerns, fights with Umesh Convocation, discover a fledging scene of interns, young employees at Bhuj, I have friends now, Bhuj is not so bad after all Storms in Bhuj, Ganpati Festival- Dandiya style, 11 sep “The Incident”
Arrival in Kachchh, staying at Anjali guest house, lunches and dinners at Maruti Bhojanalay, sight seeing Still at Anjali guest house, discovering new places in Kachchh though
Krupaben helped plan an orientation schedule, in between periods of just reading at Sahjeevan, visits to ACT, Khamir, Qasab, UMS, SJS, first visit to Banni Jat hamlets' survey coordinated by Bhavana, Pashumela beckons, so does Ghee brochure, general help with documents etc.
Finally move into a rented apartment but oh-so-expensive, Rs 3,000 a month- but landlord and landlady are gorgeous. Bhuj is like a saucer Discovered some places in Banni like Daddhar, Bhitara etc.
Plastic collection drive during Navratri, Pashumela winds blowing stronger than ever, endless meetings, Diwali holidays beckon too, Archean chemical factory public hearing at Haji Pir, Banni Attended global gathering for pastoralist women at Baichranji, volunteered at Pashumela 2010, Hodka, Banni, designed communication material for Pashumela, ghee brochure
dandiya playing inhibition, Banni, Banni more Banni- can’t shake off the ‘incident’ feel dirty, love my landlady and landlord but want to move out to safer and cheaper place, going home for Diwali Post Diwali, back at Ummednagar- new house, rs 1500 a month, eccentric landlady but cheap and safe area, loneliness, reading, got work from Khamir- annual report
Busier, touristy Bhuj, thanks to Rannostav, too many foreigners everywhere, carnival like atmosphere
Chirag mid point meet, annual research seminar at GUIDE
Folk Museum tucked away in my backyard, landlady driving me crazy, find it ironic that two of my top friends during Swades ki Khoj are in fact Pardesis, also discover not all Americans are Dubya clones, Shilpa Bisht gets married, snow in the mountains@Sitla newly acquired cooking skills, but everything always tastes similar no matter what the ingredients, corn-flakes save the day
Finished post-Pashumela report, diving deep into bottomless oceans of all things ethnography, reading and reading some more, first ever night halt at Dadhhar, Krupaben puts her foot down regarding my work at Sahjeevan Swades Ki Khoj in full swing, shifted home and office to Banni, full time Banni Symposium by GUIDE, reading Farhana Ibrahim’s book on Kachchh, work drags at office
Self-doubt, taking one day at a time nonetheless Home=field=home Zack leaves swinging between Banni and Bhuj, complete depletion of selfesteem, depression, perhaps emotional rock-bottom, feeling rootless and very lonely Emotional unrest continues, self-esteem takes frequent dips, discover ‘passive aggressive’, move to Bhuj, room Rs 2000 per month
Banni + Bhuj
Kinnu Dhui, Sadhara
Intermittent documentation, work drags at office, write articles for Banni website, try articulating the purpose, audience, voice of the website. Start working on information architecture of the website.
Jim Corbett national park, Umesh’s field area in Abdasa- Nimri Vandh
website information architecture skeleton completed, coordinate with Nimishbhai to start gathering the content, understand grid based layouts for websites and revisit my learning at IDC, speak to Kala-Raksha but meeting pending. Banni website, consolidating Swades Ki Khoj, the report and presentations
Promise do deliver a fully laidout website by 15th but don’t. My mind is messed up from all the negativity, my friend from IDC visits and there is a brief looking at Kachchh/ Bhuj through fresh eyes.
Ram Kund, Bhuj
Tanima visits, living in a dream like state, heart in Mumbai, body in Bhuj and mind in Banni, strange feelings about leaving Bhuj, Banni
July 2nd/ 2010
Pahadiyo mein, jo chalta hai, jo kaam karta hai, use thand nahi lagti. Jo baithta hai, use thand lagti hai!
Early morning, tea-time advice from Bhopal Da or was it Basant Da?? July 1st/ 2010
How important is it to speak up, in order to win each and every argument?
(Sun-downers at Mohanda's- musing while Shakti broke out in a debate for nth time with me regarding how bad Mumbai is, nauseated my mind drifted elsewhere on its own trip.)
Chirag orientation exerciseBring objects from the surrounding that best describe you.
Phool aur Kaante
Tough exterior trying to mask a vulnerable person within
July 13th/ 2010 In two days, I turn 25. Frankly it doesn't feel any different than it must have felt like five years ago or so. The only thing missing would be aai+baba this time. And ovalni :). I turn 25 in transit. Literally and metaphorically, perhaps it is reflective of the year to come. At this juncture it would be useful to recall the advice Mohanty sir gave me when I was leaving IDC. He said-
...talk less, do more learn by doing not by over analysing take care of yourself, be safe fool around, don't settle till 30 don't do anything with notion of helping othersit's pointless, work with hands, create more, bad things might happen but follow your bliss. Always.
van jee ah lo S hel ag, hir C ye db oo G
We left Chirag on my birthday, 15th of July 2010. Us, the Gujarat gang comprising Shilpa, Sandeep, Umesh and me were the last ones to leave that day. Since morning the weather was cloudy and it rained on fellows saying goodbye; heading out to their destinations. It was sentimental to say in the least. We traveled from Simayal to Haldvani to Barielly. Our Swades Ki Khoj began at Barielly where we could not find a room (night halt). The hotels were either overbooked or too expensive. The guard outside the railway resthouse refused us entry because the 'boys and girls were together' and traveling on one common ticket. We girls ended up in the ladies waiting room while the boys benched it out on the platform. The only dinner we found were peaches locally called 'Aadoos' in Simayal lovingly gifted to us by Kalpana- a Swades ki Khoj co-fellow. After what seemed like eternity, we reached a very humid Bhuj on the 17th of July and were taken to Anjali guest house- a temporary arrangement before proper accommodation was found. The next month up to 25th of August was all about discovering Kachchh, various organisations and different field areas.
Khamir Abhiyan ACT SJS KMVS Ujjas Qasab
Daddor Ratadiya TundaVandh Chari Dhand Vesalsar Banni-Bhitara
A fresh white page- is scary whether you are painting or writing. I had to write this someday. Sahjeevan, Chirag and more so my parents would have wanted all the details anyway. The trouble was worth it I suppose- trying to articulate what has been happening with me ever since I came to Sahjeevan, Bhuj. My parents were right I should have started writing from the moment I moved here. I have been writing in my journal sometimes, but that stuff was for personal use. How many months have I been in Bhuj? I came here on 17th of July and started work on 19th. First two months were more of an orientation, to Sahjeevan and other organisations based in Kachchh. First two months were also about Anjali guest house and it's ever increasing shadiness. First two months were largely about, wanting to be on my own and yet having to put up with Umesh. Initially it was not very clear what I was going to do for a year anyway. My very first assignment was cutting an article out of newspaper and pasting it on a paper and displaying it on the AHKC display board. That was when AHKC was located on the ground floor at Sahjeevan premises. Things have changed since then. My second assignment was helping Bhavana write a nomination in English for a Maldhari who kept cows. I went through several rounds of proof-reading, re-drafting, just reading through old reports and making them more reader friendly. There was that initial week where things had not been decided for me and Umesh and we would just show up at Sahjeevan and wait for something to happen. I kept reading and checking FB. Umesh did the same. Both of us began to sprout those ugly initial doubts as to if the first week or so is as nasty and we feel as clueless, how are we going to last a year long. We would soon find out. Meanwhile, Krupaben came into the picture and fixed us a neat almost month long orientation plan. In terms of accommodation, we were living out of shoe-box sized rooms at a semi-shady but comfortable Anjali guest house. We would eat out- for lunch and dinner at a place behind the guest house called Maruti Bhojanalay. It was a budget joint. Perfect for my pocket while on a NGO stipend. Initially what seemed like a shady eating joint, minus any sense of hygiene, became a comfort zone in days to come. One of the very few places in Bhuj where I felt absolutely safe. Roti here costs rs 2, sabji rs 5 and rice rs 15. Perfect. I usually spent rs 21 to 26 per meal depending on how hungry I was. First month was a huge challenge on the personal front, I had no friends, Umesh did not count for several reasons although he was a support at times, people at office were too interested in reveling in their Gujaratiness than anything else. I made several first impressions, regarding people around me and a lot of those have been turned inside-out or upside down now as I have been here for eight months or more. Two of the most important things that happened to me are Banni and very many interesting characters I met while in Kachchh. Orientation details
Jignesh, Ghatit Laheru KUKMA | 21.07 .10
The word Khamir has been borrowed from Kachchi language and means pride in one’s craft. Khamir was initially known as craft resource centre. It works in the realms of art, craft, music and heritage. They also work in the realm of traditional Kachchi music under the moniker of Kachch Sangeet Sadhak Sangh (KSSS). The structure that stands today as Khamir was designed by architect Prof. Nilkanth Chaya of CEPT and built by Hunarshala. Khamir works with several crafts and artisan clusters across length and breadth of Kachch. There are pottery clusters in Mundra Taluka’s Tuna. So also in Khavda and Lodhai, where potters originally hailing from Sindh are located. Khamir works with metal craftsmen from Nirona and Jhura along with whom they have developed bells which chime the Sa Re Ga Ma. Another craft division developed under the KMVS umbrella Qasab looks into the embroidered crafts hence Khamir primarily concentrates on the non-embroidery crafts. Khamir works towards uplifting of craft and artisans- both. They identify clusters, in most need of attention, get experts and designers to collaborate with artisans to develop innovative products that
can keep the craft alive, earn the artisan a fair price as well as sell in urban markets for which it was designed filling the gap in desire of city dwellers wanting to own a piece of traditional craft. Collaborations between Khamir, the consulting designers and artisans take place at multiple levels. Artisans are also invited to attend workshops organised at Khamir to get an idea of needs of urban markets as well as to refine their own skills. We were told that of all crafts in Kachch today, the weavers, block printers and metal workers are slightly better off than rest of the artisans like say the potters and mobile loom weavers. Such groups need more attention than the rest. Khamir also allows block printers to use blocks designed and developed at Khamir; a part of Khamir’s block bank initiative. On the condition that no newly designed block can be used by any artisan for the first two years to create his own wares to be sold in the market. For the first two years a block would be used only on a “Khamir product” Khamir conducted a workshop for artisans in the past where they . got help from ILFS in costing and product pricing etc. Khamir is also working towards getting the artisans recognized for their work by investing in GI (geographical indication) and IPR (intellectual property rights) of the products created by the artisans.
Shreshtha Roy Bhuj | 23.07.10
Abhiyan is a network of some 30 organisations engaged in development work at Kachch. As a network Abhiyan’s primary role is capacity building, advocacy and policy making and creating village database. Abhiyan came into being around 98, 99 after Kandla storms and it’s role has been redefined post 2001 earthquake- it now consists of creating (K-link, SETU, Khamir, Hunarshala), collaborating (Drought mitigation, Disaster management, cluster based dairy initiative) as well as service providing. Generally people looked at drought relief as an opportunity to create daily wage work paid for by the government’s NREGA scheme. Abhiyan, however started a more proactive programme to deal with droughts known as Drought Proofing Programme or DPP Phase 1 of . DPP dealt with basics of food, fodder and water. While DPP phase 2 (ongoing) deals with dairy, livelihoods and cluster development. Abhiyan Network covers 450 villages in Kachch through its member organisations and 18 SETUs (of which 14 are currently active). Abhiyan has worked extensively in disaster relief. Be it Kachch 2001 earthquake, Tsunami, 2005 Anand flood, Kashmir earthquake, Surat flood 2006 and Bihar flood 2008. Abhiyan’s role was to get a community involved in re-building their own houses. This a) brings in ownership- owner driven construction and b) helps the community get over trauma faster. Training of para-professionals Abhiyan with partner organisations is engaged in creating a cadre of para-professionals in every village consisting of village youth to sustain SETU initiatives (which could involve working in a village, building rapport with the villagers as well as building relationship with the government). They work in various sectors like NRM, governance and capacity building of Panchayati Raj institutions, legal aid, micro-credit, handicraft work with artisans, health, education. Following are the member organisations: Anarde Foundation, Ashapura Foundation, Bhimani Khadi Bhandar, Bhojay Sarvoday Trust, Bidada Sarvoday Trust, Cohesion Foundation Trust, Corbett Foundation, Gram Swaraj Sangh, Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology, Kachch Fodder, Fruit and Forest development Trust (KFFDT), Kachch Mahila VIkas Sangathan (KMVS), Kachch Yuvak Sangh, Kachchi Visha Oswal Jain Mahajan, Lion’s Club of Bhuj, Manav Kalyan Trust, Rural Agro-research and development society, Saath, Sahjeevan, Saraswatam Trust, Sarva Sewa Sangh, Shri Sangh, Shroff’s Foundation Trust, Srujan Trust, Unnati, Veerayatan, Viksat, Vivekanand Gramudyog Society, Vivekanand Research and Training Institute (VRTI), Yusuf Meherally Centre and Yuva.
Jayantilal Ghorasia Bhuj | 24.07.10
ACT or Arid Communities and Technologies is an organisation that combines traditional knowledge with scientific technique and work in the realm of water resources. They are mainly study and research oriented and not implementation oriented. They work in water (both surface and ground) as well in farming (soil quality). They provided the necessary technical support in Pani Thiye Panjo (PTP) project along with VRTI, Manav Kalyan Trust and KFFFDT and Sahjeevan (implementation), financially it was supported by Suzlon, hardware was provided by WASMO while the software was provided by Argyam, Banglore. The primary requirement for water in any village is for drinking and farming. ACT helps the village plan its water resources better. Once they begin working in any village they first study local geology, the existing water level, presence of bore wells and existing usage pattern of water. Incase of farming the plan would vary depending on whether the agricultural land is rain fed or irrigated. They also study tectonics and recharging processes of local water bodies. Two main problems in Kachch w.r.t. villages and water resources are salinity and ground water recharge. Incase of farming, soil becomes the first priority and water becomes the second priority. In this case mixed cropping helps. For the water survey in 165 villages of Abdasa Taluka, villages were divided across 5 categories: very bad, bad, ok, good and very good. Incase of a water source they look into how sustainable the source is, how far is the source from the community, regularity of water availability in the source, how much should villagers trust the source, how dependant are villagers on the source. ACT tries to study how drinking water can be made available to the worst affected villages in a drought year. ACT trains the Para-engineers. ACT has trained para- workers at Naliya service centre. Today this service centre functions independently.
RWSS: Regional water supply scheme.
Iqbal Bhai, Khatta Ben, Megu Ben, Meena ba, Kuvar ba, Kaislash ba Nakhatrana, Bibar | 26.07.10
SJS or Saiyere Jo Sangathan simply means a collective of women friends. It was quite a long bus ride away from Bhuj. When we visited SJS we met Iqbal Bhai, Khatta Ben and Megu maasi. Iqbal bhai briefly told us about SJS. He was keen on us telling him what our primary interest are, so that he could then talk about that particular topic in SJS’s context. He introduced us to Khatta Ben and she told us about how SJS started. In 1994 when Sushma Ben had began work in Kachch, there was this idea that there should be some property/ money/ saving in a woman’s name. There should be a place or a reason for them to gather, meet up and discuss their issues, joys, sorrows. In the good rain years, women needed loans for farming and the sahukar charged a whopping 10% interest rate (10 years ago). It is to save women from getting into this loan trap that SJS was started with the objective of saving from whatever a woman earns. Money collection began with the amount of Rs.5. Later on women engaged in the handicrafts suggested that would want to save whatever money they’re making. Alka Ben, Meena Ben came from Bhuj to help these women for the same. That’s how the idea for starting a savings and credit society emerged. Today there are 4 village clusters, 45 villages, 120 groups, and 3,000 women involved with the savings programme of SJS. On the 15th of every month women gather to collect money to be sent to the bank for saving. This is known as conducting a “Bachat Bank“ At the same time other topics are discussed be it issues related to home . front or difficulties with work. In Banni region SJS covers 10 villages, with 27 groups, collecting Rs.50 per woman for savings. Each Ben earns 6 % interest per year. The collective was registered as cooperative with the government in 2008 in the name of Shri Paschim Kachch Mahila Bachat ane Dhiran Sahakari Mandadi on 17th
January. Bens can be given loans of up to 5 times their saving amount and a maximum of Rs.30,000 can be given out in form of loans. Bens normally take loans for home expenses, building a house or a toilet, weddings, education and farming. After money collection from all the villages on 15th of every month, a “Karobari meeting” is held on 24th, monthly. Having taken care of all the expenses every month SJS has had a net saving on approximately Rs. 2,oo,ooo. Till today loans of up to 7 lakhs have been given out. If the loan is up to Rs. 5,000 it is paid in cash, above that amount it is paid in form of cheque. For education purposes, a Balika Yojana was started where in a woman can save money in her daughter’s name and take a loan at the rate of 1% for the child’s education. After getting to know about the credits programme we headed to Bibar to witness quality check of embroidery samples made by the village women. It was raining cats and dogs, cows and buffaloes even and not many turned up with their work and some of those who did, came with minor faults. Such work with minor mistakes is retuned to the respective woman artisan for corrections and later accepted when the job is finished well and up to the mark. Meena Ba, Kuvarba and another others from SJS had taken us to Bibar to witness the above. It was a good experience and I learnt the basic most chain stitch.
Tannistha Roy, Chandu Bhai, Bhartiben, Yogesh Bhai, Jigna Ben Bhuj | 27.07.10
KMVS or Kachch Mahila Vikas Sangathan was started by Sushma ben and her friends Alka Ben and Meera Ben when they sensed the tremendous need for work to be done with women in Kachch. First of all, for the longest time Sushma ben and her friends were not even allowed in the households or to interface with the rural women as the villagers thought they have come from police/ CBI and were anxious. So the question before Sushma Ben and others was how to break into this very closed group and how to get women together. Thus creches or “Gudia-ghar“ were started for working women to drop their children at, during work hours. Under the pretext of Gudia-ghar more and more women began to gather at the centre and then family issues and problems came out. That became the basis of the work for KMVS. In the KMVS orientation, Tannishtha showed us two presentations, one about history of Kachch and other one on the history of KMVS. Later on we met Chandu Bhai who looks after the Panchayati women’s cell or Sushasini. Panchayat Knowledge Centre- works with women elected into Panchayats as Sarpanch and members. Every Panchayat meeting in the village would have 70% current elected members, 15% past members and 15% potential members. Upcoming Panchayat elections will be held in October. Panchayat Knowledge Centre also runs a magazine, “Panchayat Mitr” that repeats important notes and the main lecture from Panchayat meetings. A help-line was started for the same which today covers women’s issues on a broader level. It’s called Hello Sakhi (9913391234). A chat with Chandubhai revealed how things function at a Panchayat when the seat, in a particular year is a “Mahila Seat“ Mostly it’s always the woman’s . husband who has a say in what happens and what decisions get taken while she is just a rubberstamp. Also lots of community and caste politics comes into play. And a woman has a very little scope to contest the elections as an independent candidate as the powerful political parties hungry for power have their own methods of getting it their way. Currently some 400-450 women are being trained to be able to contest Panchayati elections as independent candidates. Print media cell of KMVS was active since 93 publishing newsletters for which screen printing would take place at Mundra- with Radhaba illustrating and both Radhaba and Javjiba screen printing it. Later on, it was decided to start community radio programmes to spread awareness through entertainment media and radio seemed ideal as it had a far and wide reach. Between the years 98 and 99 the radio team then comprising Bharatiben Ahir, Ahmed and Stalin from Drishti media who came to help them conducted an extensive research in Kachch w.r.t what people like to listen to and how? In what doses can awareness be given? In what format? How important is it to use local music etc? Eventually this resulted into several shows which ran successfully and got a great response,
even from fishing villages in Pakistan. Some of the shows were- Kunjal Panjhe Kachchji, Tu Jeear Ain, Kutchji Musafari, Lokvani, Bandhani Ji Gaal. Bharatiben informed us that since KMVS does not own a community radio (CR) license itself- it records it’s shows in it’s own studios but has it transmitted through Akashwani. She also spoke at length about some of the social problems in Kachch specially in the context of women. She concluded by saying for a woman to have enough confidence to step out of her home and be independent- she must have a respect and a voice in her own family first. HRIDAY- Human Resource Institute and Development Academy headed by Alka Ben looks into community first aid and Post disaster mental health. Apart from that they conduct several training workshops- for KMVS staff, for NGOs in Kachch through an OPENUP Programme and Kachch- Gujarat need based training. They have also developed a Sinchan series that aids in the process of induction into KMVS. They conduct proposal writing workshops too, and develop tools and formats for applying what is learnt during the training. The Urban Project: Jignaben and Sheetalben spoke about the urban project they run called the “Sakhiben” project. It’s basically door to door waste collection (so far half of Bhuj has been covered in phase 4) by women from urban slums, giving them livelihoods and establishing a better waste management model. 11 Sakhi Ben cover almost 2100 households. KMVS has also given them a personal accident insurance to cover for mishaps at work. Today in all 124 women (Sakhis) and 60 men (Sakhas) are engaged in this project. The waste from urban households is collected and segregated. The plastic that is separated from the waste is bought by Khamir at Rs. 10 per Kg. And the organic waste is taken by the animal husbandry team as the cattle feed, Hunarshala is in charge of this. Sahjeevan has been promoting this under the solid waste management programme and has helped create awareness about the same. The second project within the urban fold is that of home-managers called 'Sakhi-Sanginis'. Home managers look after the homes of their clients (cleaning/ cooking/ serving/ welcoming guests/ looking after children etc). Again these were women without much education or employment opportunities from urban areas that were targeted. But KMVS had stopped this project for time being as there was constant tussle between the home-managers and their employers. The third project under urban unit of KMVS is the pickle-unit. Pickle is currently sold under the brand name of Sakhi Kachchi Kairi. Every evening between 4 to 6 Sheetal from urban team calls up all the households that fall under Sakhi-Sakha waste management fold to enquire whether the waste is regularly picked up and if the behaviour of Sakhis/ Sakhas is up to the mark. They check for absenteeism if any. For absenteeism, sakhis/sakhas suffer a minor cut in their salaries.
Javjiba, Ramba, Mala ben, Rina Ben, Chetna Mundra | 27.07.10
A visit to Ujjas Mahila Sangh or UMS as it’s called meant we take 2 modes of transport to get there, it was completely worth the distance. As there were no sterile power point presentations, instead there was a very talkative Javjiba, who was involved with Ujjas from day 1 of its inception. She was to us like a doting grandmother and told us several stories about Ujjas, how KMVS began it’s work in Mundra and the scenario in Mundra today post the setting up of SEZ. She was emotional and passionate in her stories and painted a very real picture of what conditions might have really been like. Javjiba started her story with her initial days. She said being a Rajput woman, she was not really encouraged to step out of her house. So coming to Ujjas premises was in itself quite the adventure. The gossip mongers in the village threatened these young women wanting to work with the NGO saying that they would be sold off in the brothels of Kolkata. Battling these and several other fears she stepped into the Ujjas office for the first time. There she was offered tea by one Preetiben. Unsure about it she and her accomplice Ramba exchanged tea cups so that if there is something mixed in the tea, the person offering would suffer it first. But when Preeti drank her tea and remained unaffected, Javjiba and Ramba followed the suit. They would lie at home saying they were
going to the hospital. That was the only pretext under which Rajput women were allowed to step out of their houses. On one occasion, they had to go to Gandhidham, it was most scandalizing to the women, stepping out of their village boundary. But that’s how it began. They would also screen print KMVS newsletter here at Ujjas. Javjiba says, as if the earlier problems were not enough, along came the SEZs. Earlier only a few men in the village consumed alcohol after hard day’s labour. Today, thanks to SEZs a lot of migrant labour has poured in. To cater to their needs people have started brewing liquor at home and selling it without any fear, from within the factory premises. Even prostitution has picked up in the city of Mundra. Local women be it rural or city women, even young girls don’t feel safe stepping out of houses and walking on the streets anymore. Several cases of misbehaviour and molestation have been reported. The social fabric has gone for a toss. Could environment be left behind? Apparently, when the SEZ proposal was being floated- the people involved knew that it would affect the fruit belt of Kachch. Mundra is famous for its Cheeku, Kesar Mango and Date plantations. But today large chunks of arable land have been bought for SEZ purposes. The farmers while their land was being purchased were made to believe it is being bought by a fellow farmer but all the while the land in fact was being hoarded for the SEZ to come into being. People who sold of their lands made a fortune but it lasted little while and it was not even properly invested. Most of them blew it up and have little source of income. Most of the people here are farmers with little education or an alternative skill set to hold them in a good stead. The SEZ, does not employ many locals either. The reason cited being not enough education etc. Plus migrant labour from states of Bihar, Chattisgarh comes cheap. For those farmers who haven’t sold off their land, their farmland is now surrounded by factories spewing smoke. With the polluting factories closing in on the arable land, even it’s productivity has reduced forcing the farmer to sell it off for a one time fortune and lifetime of struggle. In this context a lot of work in Ujjas deals with violence against women. Based on 2005 domestic violence bill a Hello Saakhi help-line operates at Ujjas as well. Malaben in charge of it. She told us of a shocking story of a 11 year old girl raped by her own cousin. As a collective Ujjas was registered in 2002, today it comprises about 4000 women across 45 villages. It works in the areas of legal aid, health, animal husbandry, DPP generating wealth for the , fisher-women, saving and credit (25 groups), helped the fisher-women form a producer company helping them fetch the right prices so that, loans can be given out from within the company to start supplementary income activities during the non-fishing months. Ujjas also helps the village health committees to function better. Thus YMC looks after the welfare of Children, Setu of Abhiyan looks after welfare of Men while Ujjas looks into the welfare of women. Around 36 women from Ujjas are involved with the Ghee unit. Following are the people involved: Overall coordinator Rina ben, Savings and credit- Shantaba, Animal Husbandry- Sudhir, Panchayat affairs- Ranjanba. 10 villages come under the para-legal services provided by Ujjas and are catered to by the Hello Sakhi help-line. Ujjas is also working in the realm of women’s land rights specially in case of single women. UMS board members are as follows: Javjiba, Rinaben, Kuvarben, Ramba, Malaben. Fisher folk- Pagadiya- go on foot with a net. Lodhi- Deep water fishing, go in a boat. While we were waiting for Rina Ben to return from the ghee unit we chatted up Chetana, the accountant at Ujjas. Hers is an incredible story of grit- how she pursued her education in face of difficulties. Finally she had it her way and topped too.
Pura ben, Namma Ben, Kaladhar Bhai, Kalpesh Bhai, Jayanti Bhai, Manish Bhai, Rakesh, Puneet Soni, Nikhil Maheshwari, Mani Ben, Hansa Ben, Pakko Ben, Mundra | 27.07.10
Qasab is a self-sufficient, non-funded, profit making unit of KMVS that sells products made of
embroidery. Qasab mostly works with following communities for embroidery purposes. MuslimsJat, Mutwa, Sindhi-memon and Hindus- Rabari, Sodha Rajput, Harijan.
Discussion with camel breeders at Mundra (Tunda Vandh)
Breeding Practices: They have one breeding bull for entire population of female camels. The breeding bull changes every three to four years to prevent inbreeding. Breeding season is winter (November/ December) Maldharis/ camel breeders provide good food, ghee to breeding bull in breeding season. They also provide ground nut oil Selection of breeding bulls is based on the following parameters: Good height-body Hump slim and heightened Small chest pad Head and mouth raised upward and looking forward. Erect ears Chavro colour (a shade of brown and black mixed) Scrotum uplifted The distance between fore legs and hind legs (below abdomen) Shearing Practices: Once a year- December, sometimes twice a year: Dec. & May Average wool sheared at once- 0.5 to 1 kg per camel Young camels provide more wool as compared to adults. Process of making wool a) Shearing b) Pinjvu c) Vedhi valvi d) Katvu e) Be Vamvu f) Vavt Bhurvu g) Dori Vanvi Wool Items/ Products Making Veno/checko (to prevent milking by calf) Bags- purchased by foreigners Khurad Reproduction Parameter Pregnancy is detected when a female camels lifts her tail, not scientifically The breeders do no know the time of heat/ in estrus (though mostly seen in winter season) Calving interval- 2 years Gestation period- 12 months Service period- 10 months Females stop milking before four months of calving. Camels mature by the age of 3 years Age of first calving- 4yrs Selling Practices Camel breeders sell camels to Rajasthan for draught/ agricultural purpose and to Mehsana for milking purpose Buyers of camel from Rajasthan and Mehsana are in direct contact with the camel breeders there is no trader involved between them.
Price of camel: Average- Rs. 15,000 to 25,000 per camel. Rajasthan buyers purchase camel and walk back to Rajasthan within 1 month. Camel Breeds Kharai and Kachchi breed is similar except for the feeding habits. Kharai breed is mostly seen in costal areas of Lakhpat, Mundra, Abdasa. This breed mainly depends on mangroves of the costal area for feeding. Camels of Kharai breed are small, produce less milk, are not well built, have small legs and are fierce compared to Kachchi Camels, normally found in Kachchh. Camel grazing in the mangroves is now prohibited as the areas now falls under the cover of forest department. Camel Milk: Milk is sold to the nearby stall at the rate of Rs. 10 to 12 per litre.
Para-vet workshop at Abhiyan
The para-vet workshop at Abhiyan was aimed at transferring knowledge from an earlier workshop at Anthra, Pune to the para-vet cadre being trained under the Drought Proofing Programme being implemented via the Abhiyan network. Before the workshop began we were asked to outline the questions that we wanted answered by the end of the workshop. These were mine• What do para-vets in Kachchh do? • What are the most common diseases/ problems faced by animals in Kachchh? • What are the challenges faced by the para-vets? • How do the para-vets combine indigenous traditional knowledge (ITK) with modern medicine? The para-vets do the following• Preventive and curative treatments • Vaccination • Village-wise animal census • Artificial Insemination (nil in Kachchh although present in rest of Gujarat) • Provide primary health-care, combine traditional medicine • Look into helping livestock keepers access quality animal feed (that is look into animal nutrition) • Laboratory soil testing, then check the nutritional value of milk in dairies and grow animal fodder accordingly so as to compensate for missing nutrients • Look into livestock keepers having access to quality mineral mixture powder • Conduct village wise meetings for awareness on animal husbandry based issues (animal nutrition, vaccination, animal insurance etc) • De-worming • Put livestock keepers (who are milk producers as well) and dairies into touch so that the producers fetch the right prices for their produce • Organise medical camps- de-worming, vaccination, providing additional information • Attend to emergency cases- like complicated deliveries Often times the villagers notice the symptoms but cannot diagnose the disease, the para-vet is expected to be able to communicate at multiple denominations. Exercises that were a part of the workshop• What do para-vets do? • Seasonal calendar of diseases • Create a chart- service providers in a village • Mortality-morbidity survey • Men-women roles in animal husbandry • Benefits from each kind of animal • Problem ranking
Challenges to animal husbandry in Kachchh
• Invasive Ganda Baval • Grazing land eaten up by industries and others • Industrial pollution • Unavailability of veterinary services • Lack of fodder, water • Disinterest of new generation in AH • Indigenous traditional knowledge not being transferred • Infrastructure like roads passing through grazing land leading to several hit and run cases • Quality feed concentrate at a reasonable price • Problems brought about in animal trading by communal forces in society • FMD- Foot and mouth disease- Kharva Muva • HS- Garsundho • Diarrhea- Jada • Tympani- Afra • Ephemeral fever- Vala • Mastitis- Khapri • ROP- Retention of Placenta- Aas nikalna • RB-Repeat breeding- infertility • Constipation- Apacha • Anorexia- Ocho Khoraag • Rabbies- Aadaguaa • Fracture- Hadku Bhagvu • Arthritis- Va • Tumour- Rasodi • Bleeding- Lohi nikadu • Milk Fever- Dudhia Taav (Post delivery calcium deficiency) • Dystocia- Difficulty in delivery • Horn Cancer- Kamodi • Maggot wound- Singda mein Kida • Endoparasite- Kurmi • Ectoparasite- Lice, tick • Tripnosomiasis-Chakri • Skin infections- Fungal infections, ring worms • Abortion- Garbhapaat • Fever- Taav • Poisoning- Jehar • Pneumonia- Sardi • Weakness- Ashakti
List of common diseases in animals
Journal entry from my first ever visit to Banni during orientationMy first ever contact with Jat community was made during two month long orientation at Sahjeevan. Somehow plans to visit Banni kept taking shape and fading into oblivion. It was the month of August and monsoons. Road connectivity to Banni during monsoons was also a constraint. Finally, one day the plan to visit Banni materialised. Banni is wow! Simply WOW! Today Umesh, Bhavna, Rameshbhai, Nathani sir and me went to Banni via the Nakhatrana route. It was a cloudy day and I don't wear a watch, but can safely say that we reached Banni, specifically a village called Bhitara by 11 AM. The moment we stepped out of the NGO owned Bolero and entered what was 'animal service centre at Bhitara- we were greeted by the sight of three men sprawled on khats, on very colourful and ornately sewn duvets (later came to know they are called 'dhadki' locally), in the drawing hall or baithak of a man called Haji Alla Judiya, who had ben elected sarpanch twice in a row, unopposed. We
patiently sat outside that room, waiting for them to wake up. Wake up they did approximately after five to seven minutes. They woke up, washed their faces, sent for other men to get water from their homes, which lay hidden just behind the service centre. The service centre was really a room, a pucca structure with three khats and a few plastic chairs. The bare walls had an Urdu calendar showing pictures of Mecca Medina and cliched posters showing European style bungalows with clumsily photoshop-ed water falls and meadows for wall decoration. As water was being served, more men trickled into the room. Banni men, shook hands with Bhuj men (colleagues from our NGO) and us girls were largely ignored except for very awkward 'Salaams' from a few older men. To my utter surprise and even dismay I noticed that all men had blood shot eyes. I wondered if it was a conjunctivitis epidemic of sorts. I was happy that culture here did not encourage men and women shaking hands, I did not want to get anywhere near men with possible conjunctivitis infection. I had a scarf to cover my head, but no dupatta and it made me self-conscious. As the conversations began on warm and lazy note, I scored my initial negative points when I declined drinking water, an older gentleman almost gave me a 'WTH' look. Post initial introductory chit-chat I left the men folk to be with the very gorgeous Jat women, Bhavana accompanied. Like in any village, once you enter the sanctum sanctorum of a house that is full of women, more women join in. And then there are giggles, stories exchanged, notes taken, jewelry and embroidery flaunted, numerous jokes made about the 20 something unmarried girls from the city. And all this requires no language. How alien can you feel in your own country? Very. The women served us tea. Yummy tea, made out of buffalo milk, that travelled from kettles to saucers, no cups in-between, cools faster, saves water and efforts to wash and is consumed very quickly. This custom of tea consumption is common everywhere in Kachchh, no matter what caste or community. Earlier, I had had tea similarly at a Sodha household in Bibar when we went to visit Sayyarejo Sangathan, Daddor- a women's collective started by KMVS. Anyway, my conversation with women wandered and meandered. I attempted a little Kachchhi myself- saying Tor naam Korje/ kor or some such meaning what is your name and got laughed at. By now boys and younger men had begun gravitating towards the womenonly congress. And no matter how hard Bhavana and I tried to get them to leave they wouldn't. As if sensing our need to be with women alone and not approving of it. Bhavana agreed, she said the boys had come not really to say hello but just to 'check out city girls' an otherwise rarity in Banni. The cheeky boys never left us alone after that, although we moved away from the women's gang and their house to go see a nearby pond. The purpose of our visit besides fellow orientation was a regular meeting that takes place at the animal service centre. While I assumed the meeting was taking place while Bhavana and I were with women, it was to take place at somebody else's baithak. So we drove some distanceHajibhai accompanied us. The meeting was then held at the house of a man called Khushi Mammad. Rameshbhai was not too happy about the fact that out of the registered 15 members, only 3 had showed up for the meeting. But the room seemed full anyway with the passersby joining in. Following was the agenda of the meeting: organising the activities of animal service centre better vaccination camps for livestock (many maldharis are superstitious about vaccinating their animals and later have to face animal death due to diseases, not to mention many misconceptions they have about it ) Training local youth (boys) as para-vets Preparations for Pashumela Strengthening the Maldhari Sangathan starting a feed centre, supplying good quality animal feed within the village itself at affordable prices, saving maldharis additional costs from trips made to Bhuj. The meeting came to an end after several hot and cold discussions and eventually a consensus was reached about the fact that non-performing/ non-interested members of the service centre
sangathan should be left out making way for new enthusiastic members. On the way back Rameshbhai mentioned the names of grass varieties and tried to explain to me the difference between a 'jhil' and a 'turaah/ talav/ talab'. He also explained to me how Banni gets flooded during monsoons. And while I wasted time taking pictures of a lush green Banni, a buffalo died in delivery (one of the Maldhari's had asked for Nathani sir to be sent for that case, but it was too late and we could not make it in time there). Nonetheless, our day ended with a mawa Kulfi at Maankuva.
Aditi Kulkarni- M.Des, IITB, Batch of 2008/2010
After the orientation with partner organisations of Sahjeevan and before orientation within Sahjeevan started I took off for Mumbai on August 1st, 2011 for my convocation ceremony. It was surreal to see all my batch-mates again and notes were exchanged about everybody's daily doings, life, love and work. It was an emotional affair and it was sweet to see my parents proud of me and all. Almost all my friends barring two have taken up corporate jobs. As I read the pre-graduation pledge I was reminded once again about the fact that I do not know where all of 'this' is going and where Swades Ki Khoj will take me but one thing is for sure I am being true to my self and the pledge being read. It was moment of faith restoration, faith which was momentarily shaken when I decided to give placements at IITB a miss and take a plunge into social sector with Swades Ki Khoj.
Hamirsar overflows 9th August 2010
Landed at Bhuj around 8Am instead of the customary 7:40 Am. Convocation was okayish. Time spent with friends was brilliant. I went with the notion of finishing a lot of unfinished business in Mumbai but left the scenario untouched. Everyone is going places. Felt good to be back on campus. It is not IDC but IIT that I miss. IIT is gorgeous. Today, 9th August, happened to be an accidental holiday. Hamirsar Talab had overflown early in the morning owing to heavy rains. This has happened only 28 times or so since independence. In an arid ecosystem of Kachchh such a thing called for a celebration. There was indeed a boisterous celebration taking place in the streets akin to Ganapati Visarjan in Mumbai. Loud drumming, people dancing and chanting slogans in the streets, Gulaal being thrown around, mayor and other dignitaries being garlanded. Unfortunaely some people were celebrating by throwing in flowers enclosed in plastic bags into the lake. Rameshbhai took us to see the celebrations.
With that our orientation came to an end. On August 25th, we presented our learnings to an audience of Sahjeevan team. I had presented a pdf and tried my hand at audio presentation in a radio show format. Orientation involving organisations we work with was followed by getting oriented with several teams at Sahjeevan and spending a stipulated time understanding workings of each team. We spent the longest with animal husbandry knowledge centre. Perhaps that is the reason both Umesh and me were fascinated by the same. It was then time to pick up a project we related to the most so that we could start work. I was too fascinated with my first ever Banni visit- I would not have chosen anything else over it. I did inform seniors at Sahjeevan about my Banni leanings, however I was not sure what would I be doing and how. One day after the orientation, Rameshbhai sat with Umesh and me explaining traditional livelihoods in Kachchh. I found the whole thing pretty interesting and the gist of it reads like this1. How do traditional occupations come to be? 2. How come Kachchh has such a huge livestock population? 3. Why did dairy business not survive in Kachchh initially despite of having a large livestock population? 4. Has rain been historically fluctuating in Kachchh or is it a recent 'climate change' induced phenomenon? 5. Why do communities settle where they do? 6. Why do communities rear the animals they do? 7. When livestock keepers (known as Maldharis locally) choose a breeding bull according to their understanding how do the females in the herd come to accept the bull as their mate? Isn't this an arranged marriage of sorts without giving the female animals any choice? What do the female animals feel about this? 8. In Kachchh livestock graze all by themselves, w/o much monitoring, especially buffaloes. And mating happens naturally, that is when a female is in heat (state of arousal), the breeding bull senses it and provides service (mates with her). How do Maldharis ensure that the females from their livestock, mate with the breeding bull from their own herd? What if the female chooses to mate with breeding bull from some other herd? And in the process, the quality of
offspring suffers. Answers 1. The traditional occupations in Kachchh are • Dry land farming • Animal Husbandry • Fishing • Sea Trade • Handicrafts • Business • Industries/ factories Traditional occupations as I understand come to be owing to the very obvious factors of geography, availability of natural resources, climate of a place and umm err I need to read up on this ;) 2. Kachchh has a huge livestock population due to the following factors: • Absence of predators like lion, tigers in significant numbers • There haven't been severe droughts in a long time. • Veterinary services are available today • Better transport ensures availability of fodder even in lean time and access to resources • Government schemes and subsidizes • Present day thriving dairy business, encourages livestock keepers to further AH activities • Lot of initially available water was exploited using technology etc, the amount and quality of water being lesser and inferior today has led to farmers shifting from farming to AH • Communities out of spiritual beliefs and solidarity support livestock shelters (mostly cattle). 3. Dairy business did not survive in Kachchh initially despite of having a large livestock population because • Kachchh faced severe droughts in the past (for thee out of five years in a cycle) • Lack of forward (organized, efficient and transparent milk collection system, milk storage, marketing of milk and milk products) and backward (availability of sufficient food, water, health care facilities and hygienic living conditions of livestock ) linkages. • Fluctuation in quantity of milk collected, depending upon rainfall that given year • Huge distances and poor infrastructure hampering connectivity of collection centres in villages with markets in adjoining and urban areas. • Producers' not getting paid the prices they deserve for milk and milk products due to erratic supply chain management and quality and quantity of milk-milk products. • Management of milk cooperatives, slack and corrupt (eg: fat percentage changes when checked at the collection centre and the eventual dairy where milk is sold, tampering with milk and milk products while in transit). • Lack of transparency even at producer levels. 4. Livestock keepers have gradually shifted from rearing cows to buffaloes because • Government's idea of planting Prosopis Juliflora or Ganda Bawal to contain desert backfired as cow's chewing on it's fruit developed paralytic conditions of mouth while buffaloes could chew on it's fruits unaffected. • During green revolution, several agricultural technologies came up and tractors and mechanized farming became a norm, as a result the demand for draft animals reduced dramatically, so also livestock keepers were lost interest in farming bullocks. • Due to damming of rivers, increasing salinity of grazing lands availability of fodder and grass reduced, in such conditions buffaloes give more milk output as compared to cows in terms of input resources versus quality-quantity of milk output. • After white revolution, milk with more fat content began fetching a better price- the fat content of buffalo milk is obviously higher than cow's milk and livestock keepers preferred the former. • Also farmers and livestock keepers as well those engaged in hard-labour benefited from the higher fat content of buffalo milk than cow's milk, in terms of their day to day consumption.
5. Communities especially livestock keepers with nomadic lifestyle settle where they do depending upon: • Their native land, • The food / grazing requirement of their livestock. • Whether they are into farming and livestock keeping or only livestock keeping. Therefore the herd size of animals. Maldharis or livestock keepers with nomadic lifestyle as they are known in Kachchh are fantastic people; as they are one with nature. They live with and for their livestock I.e. domesticated animals so much so that they migrate according to the food and water requirements of their animals, not their own. Which we outsiders and governments of various states view as failure or lack of basics which in our eyes pushes them to migrate. We fail to see that apart from the need of their animals they migrate to allow nature to recuperate behind them from grazing etc. Maldharis of Banni inspired me to write thisLuckily, they have remained till now, off the map our thoughts don't travel this far A mostly Muslim community, this one is closer in it's mind to Sindh although, they now tread the Indian soils And why not, their radio catches Pakistan stations They are Maldharis, they are keepers of buffaloes, sheep, goats and more They shun permanency and perhaps that's why rest of the world, me included find it difficult to trust them they migrate with their cattle wherever the cattle finds food and water they migrate at the expense of their own comfort so that the land recuperates after them they still have families back in Pakistan and a train from Jodhpur takes them to their earlier home they live with little make do with what they have they speak a dialect between kachchhi and sindhi the men folk travel the world the women don't cross the home thresholds women don't even watch tv or listen to the radio it is forbidden apparently their community finds itself without girls these days and so girls are brought in from Kolkata, UP for marriage By themselves their customs seem cruel, crude but who am I to say, because they are survivors, droughts, earthquakes, storms, calamities they have braved it all and so they stand tall and proud, also greedy for free money at times who am I to say they want it easy for their life has been anything but easy at times they have survived by eating seeds of grass and barks of trees will I ever understand them and come to trust them or even trust myself enough to be able to work with them
Meanwhile Sahjeevan team revisited the exercises from an earlier gender equity workshop which I had not been a part of. I however participated and ended up writing my ideas on gender and how it manifests itself in various realms. Write-ups in the appendix.
Jat Patti Survey
Before anything could be figured out on Banni front in terms of my work two things came up simultaneously- survey of Jat hamlets coordinated by Bhavna and Pashumela 2010. I participated in both in my modest capacities. I will go into it one by one. Since Sahjeevan has assumed responbility for Jat villages as it's cluster in the Drought Proofing Programme (DPP) a detailed survey was planed and executed by Sahjeevan team under coordination of Bhavana. I had scant Gujarati skills then let alone Kachchhi skills and was extremely doubtful as to how will I be able to contribute to this survey. I would just tag along with my survey team for the day and take notes. Sometimes I would ask people in Banni, questions in Hindi and it was interesting to get to know them, even if superficially during the survey. One day when I was teamed up with Rameshbhai for survey- he just kept talking to Jat people and taking on information orally and suddenly announced I should fill in forms too- to my extreme horror- but allowed me to fill the forms in English. From that day on till the time survey ended I filled in a few forms and got a taste of quantitative surveys. Although I did not particularly enjoy the notion of quantitative surveys as I felt we were being lied to several times by people. I did not know how to keep that in check or even how to confidently say that the data was accurate. Below is a journal entry from a night halt made at Banni during the surveyAn overnight stay at Banni was fun, the moon five sizes bigger than I would see in Mumbai was shining brilliantly on the Pakkas (temporary houses of Maldharis) we ate a modest but lovingly cooked meal of roti and dungri shaak and crawled under elaborately stitched quilts. The women of the house took out the newest ones for us. What makes these people of such extreme conditions so courteous to visitors? Post the overnight stay, the morning after when periods hit me and I knew there would not be any toilets around- I was ready to break down. But there was work to be done and these things were quickly forgotten. A day after that one, when I had the choice of not going, I decided to stay back and work in the office. I feel so ashamed for not having enough guts to go to Banni today. This feeling of helplessness sort of kills me a little everyday. How will I manage to work in Banni, I have no clue. More so, the fact that I am not exactly in love with some people here (in office) doesn't make it easy. Will I ever have enough balls, Jhumpi I miss you dearly- I miss your words of wisdom and courage which have always egged me on.
Ghee brochure and Pashumela
The story of ghee brochure goes back to first week of joining Sahjeevan. We had learnt about the ghee brochure during Sahjeevan orientation as one of the AHKC team programmes. I was personally very excited about this enterprise as it was almost an all women show. Kavitaben had asked me to make a Ghee unit brochure as soon as I had landed at Sahjeevan that is in July but the brochure was finally designed, printed, folded and distributed during Pashumela that took place in November 2010 at Hodka in Banni. For four months between August to November this project parallely took shape along with other activities I was involved in at Sahjeevan. I knew nothing about animal husbandry before I came to Kachchh. Our family did not have any farms or own animals so I had little hands on experience. It is through design of ghee brochure I learnt about conservation of Kankrej Cow and the benefits of pure Desi cow Ghee. I literally created this brochure from scratch- gathering all the information about importance of cow ghee, traditional methods of making cow ghee, it's importance as advocated by Ayurveda, it's mdeical properties etc. Post all the research- I developed content for the brochure, which Zack Shlachter a volunteer at Sahjeevan from AJWS helped me refine.
From the content emerged the brochure's form- hand drawn illustrations incorporating Kachchhi motifs. Finally the task of getting it printed, cut, folded was also managed by me and we had the brochures ready just in time for their distribution during Pashumela.
Preparations begin for Pashumela 2010
Although Sushmaben had suggested a 'coordinating role' in Pashumela for Umesh and me, given my background in design I ended up getting lost in graphic design and copy-editing. Pashumela was earlier slated to take place in the last week of October but was pushed several times, one rumour suggested it was pushed so that CM Mr. Modi could attend. Alas, that was not to happen but Pashumela post several date changes ended up taking place on the 27th and 28th of November. Pashumela is an animal fair that has been taking place each year in Banni for past three years. Pashumela 2010 was the fourth one and is one of the activities of Banni Breeders' Association locally called Banni Pashuccherak Maldhari Sangathan (BPUMS). Sahjeevan helped form this association that aims to bring all the livestock keepers of Banni on the same page. Planning for Pashumela involved figuring out who will do what- what will be BPUMS's role and how much responsibility will Sahjeevan shoulder. This was the first time I was going to be a part of an animal fair. And I was not sure what to expect. One thing for sure though- there were endless meetings. And Sahjeevan office practically became Pashumela headquarters for the next three months or so. I ended up redesigning or designing the following:
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At Post Hodka (Banni), Taluka: Bhuj, District: Kachchh, Ph: 02803 296222/296902, Mob: 094272 89802 web: www.banni.in | email: email@example.com
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From Anjali Guest House to Ambika colony In the month of September besides infinite Pashumela meetings several changes were taking place. First of all I was able to find accommodation as a paying guest in Bhuj, although I was paying a bit too much. This was after almost two months of living in Bhuj at the Anjali guest house. My landlady and landlord were nice people and I got to know them better over next two months or so. September was also the month when I witnessed Kachchhi style Ganeshotsav. The Dandiya style aartis amused me a little. It was pouring heavily by then in Bhuj and all the Ganeshotsav mandals were having difficulty installing Ganesh idols. I attended the first evening aarti for Ganapati at a Ganesh Pandal near my new found home. But that brilliant evening had a nasty end. As I returned home that night after Ganesh Puja, I was groped on the street between my office and my PG residence. I could not do much in the name of protecting myself and I felt tremendous self disgust for days to come. It also affected my work, I was now all the more insecure about my safety while at Banni and generally wherever I went in Bhuj. I practically did not go anywhere apart from office in the week to come after that incident. I began getting home before 7:30 PM. It took me months to finally come out of it. This is what my journal read like that nightThe left one, again I was in my second year maybe third. At Rachana Sansad, college of applied art and craft, Prabhadevi. I would walk to Dadar station after college to take a train home. It was the year of 2006, yes the legendary one when Bombay came to a halt for a good three days. It was one of those days when it had rained cats and dogs in Mumbai and the railway schedule had gone for a toss. I was lucky to get out of college half an hour or so early. Meaning I was at Dadar platform just in time for my 7:57 semi-fast, Kalyan. My happiness faded as soon as I reached the platform because it was more jam-packed than Siddhivinayak on Tuesdays or Juhu Chowpatty on Ganeshotsav days because an earlier Badlapur Fast had not passed through and it was that rush combined with the 7:57 rush. I had cabbed it to the station that day. As I was fully loaded with my drawing sheets and stuff. It had been the annual academic exhibition day, I was definitely going from second year to third and seeing the rush I feel instantly drained. A 45 minute wait later my 7:57 arrived but instead of the conventional 12 coach it was 9 coach that day so the wall of women and men ran into and across each other as would happen in any mosh pit on rock nights! I ran too...but was slowed down with all the weight I had, meanwhile I tried to avoid head on collisions that might so easily have happened. When I was trying to balance stuff in both my hands and keeping myself from having a fall- a gentleman my father's age was rushing in my direction. He was one of the easily-missable in a Dadar crowd types and I assumed I wouldn't have to jostle for space with him, he somehow just seemed benign enough to accommodate me. And right then he stuck his hand out grabbed by left breast and squeezed it so hard that it hurt, I am not kidding you, it hurt like hell. I would have immediately nursed the pain but both my hands had weight in them. I just stood there shell shocked. At what had happened. He was my father's age. I wanted to scream out loud, cry, lash out- react but none of it happened. When the shock subsided, I ran after him, to the train coach where he was standing- I decided to give him a piece of my mind. I wasn't letting him get away with this. When I found him standing at the door- and looked at him. He looked back, as if nothing had happened. More so he had that, "go ahead, try me, what are you going to do anyway" smug grin. That's precisely what happened. I stood there, furthered disillusioned by his smugness. Meanwhile the train honked and I ran back, just in time to the ladies'. I went home really late that night as the train slowly chugged on to Dombivli. I reached almost half an hour or so late. I thought, the disgust I felt for my own body would subside, when I fell into the arms of my mother at home. But I was the first one to reach home that day. I went straight to the bathroom. I was soaked to the bone. But I took some 3 cold water baths. Vigorously rubbing my breasts all the while, just to get the man's touch of me. I felt so horrible about being a girl, about having breasts and about even the fact that I could not protect myself, as I had imagined I would in my million anti-eve teasing day dreams. I felt the worst for not being able to stand up to that wretched person. My left breast hurt for three days almost. Today onwards Ganesh Chaturthi starts. For the next ten days, the atmosphere in Mumbai and so also in Bhuj will reverberate with Ganesh pujas and aartis. I had dinner just now with friends
Tarini, Teresa, Prateek and Nikhil at the meeting point and then we headed to Prateek's for a rather pale coffee. Made by me. Then, the clock struck 10:15 PM and I thought it was a good time to leave. So we did, Prateek and Nikhil hung about at Prateek's house finishing some office work while me Tari and Teri left. Tari-Teri live perpendicular to where I stay. I bade them goodbye and began walking towards my place. It was pitch dark and I was glad for having bought my torch with me. Meanwhile a guy kept shadowing after me. Once or twice he moved right behind me- I panicked but I thought it was the usual hyper me. I quickly imagined a scenario where he would grab my purse so I slung it across my shoulder. Now it would be difficult if not impossible for him to steal it. Anyway, I randomly crossed the road and he did not keep up so I was relived and thought- good riddance. Suddenly he got behind me very close. I waited matter of fact-ly to let him pass him in front. He did and suddenly tuned around and mumbled something. I couldn't hear him so I moved a stepped forward and asked him "Kya chahiye". I was so dumb, what would someone want on a pitch dark a night like today's. There are barely 3 street lights in the mucky walk I take back from wherever I eat and back. The guy said something I could hear but not understand and he put out his hand and groped my left nipple. I yelled, I screamed as loud as I could. I for the first time uttered a hindi gaali. So much for my bravery. And once again Aditi failed to protect herself. This person was young. One of those daily wage or cheap hotel waiter types who migrate from smaller towns to cities for jobs. I felt horrible and disgusted once more. But more than that I was very very terrified. As there was still quite a bit of way back to my place. He ran away as far as he could when I yelled, but he ran in a direction parallel to where my house was and I knew for sure that the road meets again somewhere later on. There were bungalows in the vicinity, but nobody came out. No one. I walked some more distance, all the time flashing my torch in all possible directions. I walked and waited to check, walked and waited to check again and when the last turning was crossed I practically ran back to my room. I am a PG at a house where the landlady works with the police. I toyed with the idea of telling her what had happened. But then started reasoning, I shouldn't because practically I asked for it. By returning late at 10:15 PM, on a dark lonely street. It has stormed earlier in Bhuj today evening and electricity was out in quite a few places. And I was wearing a loose Salwar Kameez but without a Dupatta. I asked for it indeed. Ironical, I thought, I was once a demonstration participant for Blank Noise. The antisexual-harrasment-of-women movement, whose motto was "I never ask for it". I stood for their women's day human chain at Bandra Band stand- with the sticker "I never ask for it" plastered to my chest There was certainly so much strength in the collective at that point of time. And I felt extra braver walking back home that day. Even when I crossed the Andheri East-West bridge. But none of it came in handy today. Because this person too managed to grope me wilike had happened the previous time. But then again, so many things could have gone wrong tonight making it even worse. To begin with had I forgotten my touch, like I initially had while I was leaving my room. It would have been a lot worse in complete darkness. Then, had I not let the guy pass and had he attacked me from the back, I would have been worse off. Had I not yelled and tried to wrestle him myself, he would have not run off like the scared person he was. I missed having my knife with me. Which I always carry. Also, when the thought initially crossed my mind instinctively that this person was shadowing me and getting too close, second thoughts told me I was over thinking. My second thoughts are almost always wrong about everything thing.
Gender equity workshop at Khamir 20/09/2010
This workshop acted as therapy of sorts and we could discuss a lot of gender based issues that we encountered in day to day life and especially in development sector, quite openly. Sahjeevan team was broken down into smaller teams, each team took up a project that Sahjeevan is working on and highlighted gender-technology aspects of it. It was very interesting indeed. (Refer to the gist in the appendix) October to February and 'high time I chalk out my Swades Ki Khoj assignment' Pashumela was a month or more away and it was mid October already, two months had passed since I came to Sahjeevan and still it was not clear what I was going to do or when I was starting
with it. I had expressed my desire to work with women of Banni and Krupaben had suggested I try to understand their perceptions of what Banni is. I was also urged to look into women's role in animal husbandry at the banni grasslands. With that I formulated a research proposal of sorts and presented it to Dr. Das and Krupaben on October 12th. I was able to make assignment related visits to Banni only few times between October till the end of January. I visited Banni several times enriching my understanding of the place but each time it was someone else's agenda that I was working on. Finally- I represented my research proposal in last week January and asked to be shifted to Banni if indeed some genuine research was expected out of me. Between October to January Navratri gripped entire Gujarat, Pashumela 2010 finally took place in November last week, I shifted residence for the second time to a lower middle class area called Ummednagar where my rent was half the earlier amount and the place was safe. Diwali came and went, December saw a busier, touristy Bhuj thanks to the state promoted Rann Utsav. Chirag fellows took to mountains come last week of December for their mid-point retreat. I was not very kicked about the mid-point meet because my 'real Swades Ki Khoj' project had not yet kicked off. All I had was several questions, complaints and too much self-doubt. Alas mid-point gave me the much needed vigour and rigour to get back to Bhuj and to Banni. There was still some more design work to be done in month of January and I finally started my work in February first week. Meanwhile this what my journal read like during post mid-point meet at Chirag. I was shying away from the mid-point meet as it was another break too soon after Diwali holidays and the break I tool to attend Shilpa's wedding in December. But I am glad I came. The travel from Sahjeevan to Chirag was fine. We reached Chirag on 26th of December which was spent largely in aimless banter- us Swadesis and Basant Da around a neat bonfire. 27th morning that is today was spent sharing stories about 5 months that have been. The discussion was moderated by Madhavan Sir and after all the stories were heard we broke for lunch. Post lunch Madhavan sir pointed out at things he had found interesting in the discussions that had taken place in the morning. He said"Everyone is undergoing a process of change. Right from society at large to all the organisations themselves, internally at the leadership level and even as individuals. And it is indeed because of this 'manthan' that these times are full of uncertainty in positive and negative ways. But this period of uncertainty would be followed by some very positive changes." For the collective problems and disappointments that were voiced, he joked that he should go into mild depression but proceeded to explain the following: "All the NGOs we have spoken about have been around at least for 15 to 20 years. The time when these NGOs were being formed- they were formed with the clear picture of what an NGO would do and what the government's role is. Private sector was never even considered as it was branded a 'thag' or cheater. But today the private sector had entered the picture through CSR and government seems to be an absent or withdrawing partner. There are again two sides to thisFor a development organisation partnering with government means more sustainability in terms of work/ project impact even after the NGO withdraws. Being within the government fold perhaps means an access to all the government schemes, however it also means entering a very bureaucratic, slow and uncertain process. Specially if the organisation is dependant solely on government funding. On the other hand if we are partnering with private players most often we get funded for activities that are visible and tangible, example building water tanks, wells etc. But private players most often might not be interested in projects that fill in critical gaps purely as such output is largely intangible. Often, the approach and goals of the development organisations may start mirroring the needs of the private organisation than taking into account needs of the people which the development organisation is working for...."
My Banni project finally took off in Feb., after I had moved to Banni. I was going to stay at Bhirandiyara, with the Meghwal community at Habhubhai's spare bhunga. Here's the why, what and how about my chosen project.
Sahjeevan has been working in Banni region for almost four years with regards to making traditional livelihoods in animal husbandry more viable. Sahjeevan helped form Banni Breeders’ Association locally known as Banni Pashuchherak Maldhari Sangathan (BPUMS) to bring big and small livestock keepers in Banni (known as maldharis locally) on the same page. BPUMS with help of Sahjeevan with partner organisations is making available services such as health, animal feed and pushing for advocacy based issues like land rights, the community’s bio-cultural protocol etc. BPUMS is also the first ever community based, community driven organisation to have initiated a breed recognition process (in this case the distinct breed status for Banni buffalo) and have met with success in their endeavour since this is the first breed to be recognised post independence. They have been conducting an animal fair or the Banni Pashumela for three consecutive years now starting 2008. All in all, this had contributed to Banni buffalo fetching a better selling price in the market. Not to mention the rate per fat that milk producers are obtaining. This combined with the community dynamics as well as the pull of two major political parties competing at national level, means that the scene in Banni, although rural is bustling with activity. Add to it Mr. Modi’s desires to see a vibrant and developed Gujarat and the diversity of meaning the word development holds for different people. After all Banni is not only a grassland teeming with rich biodiversity and natural resources like grasses and many species of medicinal plants, it is also acres and acres of flat land that many people see as ‘wasteland’ in need of ‘development’. To an ecologist it is a rich ecosystem that is in need of protection from the evil eye of land sharks. Sounds interesting and challenging? Very well, but where are the women in this entire discourse? Did the word maldhari or livestock keeper automatically imply men and women? And if so why does Sahjeevan not know much about Banni women even after working there for as many years. Women of Banni, who don’t ‘step out’ remain a reality in parallel universe to many a people, even after having worked long years in Banni. Who are these women? Where are they? What do they do all day? Do they contribute to animal husbandry too? What do they know about the bounties of the famous Banni grasslands? What are their perceptions? How far is their social and physical reach? How much do they know about world outside? If they don’t step out of their houses much, or listen to the radio or watch TV, how do they know what they know? The list of questions is endless. Women of Banni, since I did not see them often myself until much later, they almost started seeming like mythical entities. Not for too long though. This is the research proposal I submitted-
Friday, 28 January, 2011 Subject: A study of women in Banni grassland. Keywords: Banni- creation, evolution, history & mythology Grassland, ecology, water Pastoralists: Women, men, children, youth Cows, buffaloes, sheep, goat, camel horse, poultry Community 90 %+ 10 % Culture, religion, traditions, customs, rituals Dynamics- social, cultural, political, economic, intra-inter village Mineral-rich, fossil-rich Banni? Banni- off the map, but not quite. Mr. Modi’s White Rann Critical Issues: Accasia Nilotica vs Prosopis Juliflora Degrading grassland Corporate-political-industrial land-grabbers Commons’ Land vs 10 acre individual chunks
Forest land vs revenue land Drinking Water sources Traditional decentralized vs Modern Government owned Livelihoods: Traditional- Animal husbandry Businesses today- Dairy, coal-making, driving Working in industries Threats & concerns: The land identity of Banni Industries and pollution Erosion of traditional livelihoods and ethos Health of women and children Recognizing women's’ skills, strengths & role in AH Education Abstract: This study aims at decoding the Maldharis or animal herders, especially their women through a complete immersion in microcosm that is Banni grassland. An outcome of which may be a document containing my observations, experiences and a gist of my interactions with women of Banni. I will try to present this in form of patterns, insights and perhaps ideas on what initiatives can be taken up with them in future. Methods: Participant Observation, FGDs, map-making Initial Ideas: 24hrs stay at every village. Be on first name basis with a woman local swinger in every Vandh. Ask, listen, tell, record conversations, Show pictures. Constantly keep a watch for where and how initial theories and assumptions are proven wrong, Talk to maulawis Get people’s oral histories of Banni: regarding AH, trade routes, migration from Sindh Trace the histories of each sub-community. What is a drought? Get people’s stories. Study organisation of homes into villages, vandhs, sub-communities. Seasonal migration in Banni The culture of being generous hosts in face of adversity A documentation of jewelry and embroidery in Banni Visual Diary of Banni milk-flags, mosques, schools, places of living, worship places of community gathering places they have conversed for grass to grow, water illegal encroachments- cultivation, housing, industrial jewelry and embroidery artefacts- kandruti, kettle pots, toys etc Vandh maps Family trees Water resource maps Daily time-table Identify ojhal and non-ojhal communities Leti-deti customs Information journaled regularly can later be organised in chunks based on
community-wise profession-wise happiness index-wise age group wise region wise (east, west, central Banni plus road-kinare vs remote) degree of freedom/ access to information resources wise Hindi/ gujarati/ Kachchhi spoken-wise Banni questions 1. What do women, across different age groups, do through out the day? 2. What do women know about the Banni grasslands? 3. What information do they have about what is beyond the threshold of their houses? 4. Have they themselves traveled and seen the outside world? 5. What are the other ways in which they acquire their information? Who are their information sources? 6. What is their role in animal husbandry? 7 What productive/ re-productive activities are the women involved in? . 8. On what occasions do women get together? 9. What do the women like/ dislike in their lives? 10. What according to the women are the difficulties faced at the individual, family, village level? Have some of the problems already been addressed? How? 11. What skills do the women have, that get used within the homes/ outside their homes? 12. What is the accepted age for marriage in the given group? 13. What are the leti-deti customs pertaining to the given social group? 14. Whom can the girl marry/ not marry? Why? 15. Are children a planned choice or just accidental by-products? 16. What traditional practices/ rituals are followed before, during and after pregnancy and child-birth? 17. How do men and women look at marriage in the given social community? 18. What are the levels of education in the given social group/ family? 19. What has been the most difficult time of your life till now? 20. What is the women’s attitude towards their skills in embroidery- do they see it just as a hobby, or something of functional use or as an income generating act? 21. Do the women have money of their own? Did they earn it? Were they given the money by someone? Whom? 22. (zack’s question) Are they allowed to travel and shop on their own? If not, what do they spend it on and how? 23. What factors determine the degree of freedom that a woman enjoys? 24. Which women are the most vulnerable, across communities, villages etc and why? 25. Which places in the village and time slots in a day, does a woman consider safe/ unsafe? Why? 26. Gather stories, songs etc. 27 How does one approach community elders and leaders? . 28. What is the physical geography: 29. (surface, vegetation, altitude, climate)? 30. What is the size (geography, area) of the community? 31. What is the history of the community? 32. What is the major technology (horticulture, herding, fishing, trading), crops, 33. What is the economic system? 34. Is there cash crop money? 35. Exports from the community? 36. Are their groups already active in self help? 37 What are the important customs and beliefs? . 38. What are potential areas in which to begin self help activities? 39. How are decisions made in the community? 40. What are the roles of community leaders? 41. What are the community sociological and demographic characteristics: 42. Size (number of people) 43. Location (on what major roads? Relation to other communities?) 44. Settlement pattern (how and where do people live, locate their houses?) 45. Age structure (dependency ratio), pyramid
46. Religious composition 47 Levels of education and ratios . 48. Ethnic composition and Languages spoken. 49. What is the gender situation, relations between men and women? 50. How are women/men seen in roles: 51. water, health, child raising, food production 52. What is the health situation? 53. How is disease understood and treated? 54. Are there factions (political, religious, ethnic, clans)? 55. Any violence? 56. If there are factions, what is the potential for unity organizing? 57 Who are the opinion leaders? . 58. Who is influential? 59. Who are the educated people? 60. How are they seen? and 61. What people are away (eg in urban areas) that have an influence on the community?
Banni map customised by me marking Panchayats, major water lines
Animal husbandry Kachchh
The science of breeding and tending to farm animals Kutch district (also spelled as Kachchh) is district of Gujarat state in western India. Covering an area of 45,612 km², it is the third largest district of India after Ladakh (173266.37 sq.km) and Barmer (71601.24 sq.km). Kachchh literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry; a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kachchh which is shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The same word is also used in the languages of Sanskrit origin for a tortoise and garments to be worn while having a bath. The Rann is famous for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the shallow water dries up each season before the monsoon rains. (source: Wikipedia)
Banni grasslands form a belt of arid grassland ecosystem on the outer southern edge of the desert of the marshy salt flats of Rann of Kutch in Kutch District, Gujarat State, India. They are known for rich wildlife and biodiversity and are spread across an area of 3,847 square kilometers. They are currently legally protected under the status as a Protected or Reserve Forest in India. Though declared a protected forest more than half a century ago Gujarat state’s forest department has recently proposed a special plan to restore and mange this ecosystem in the most efficient way. The word ‘Banni’ comes from Hindi and Sanskrit word ‘banai’, meaning made. The land here was formed from the sediments that were deposited by the Indus and other rivers over thousands of years. Old villagers from this region say that before the 1816 earthquake, the river indus flowed right through banni and the local farmers reaped a rich harvest of crops like red rice and sindhi chookha etc., red rice was the staple diet of the people of the region and it was even recommended by medical practitioners as a ‘light diet’ for ailing people. However since the earthquake of 1819 the river Indus changed its course and now flows through Sindh in neighboring country of Pakistan effectively turning this entire region arid. Banni grassland is peculiar to the Rann of Kutch, it has some forty Sindhi speaking Maldhari (cattle breeders) hamlets, home to the Halaypotra, Hingora, Hingorja, Jat and Mutwa tribes . It was first declared a “Protected Forest” in May 1955, using the nomenclature of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Since then, the actual transfer of the land from the Revenue department to the Forest department has not been completed. (source: Wikipedia) My version There are several communities in Banni (the number varies between 18 to 22 from the accounts obtained) namely- Halepotra, Raysipotra, Mutwa, Jat, Hingorja, Node, Sumra, Juneja, Jiyenja, Theba, Saiyyad, Korad, Khaskeli, Bhamba, Pathan, Sameja, Meghwal Marwada, Wadha Koli, Baloch, Munjawar. The population in Banni is 90% Muslim and 10% Hindu in composition. Several sub-communities (they are in fact clans) under the Muslim umbrella are Sunni in faith. All the communities whether Muslim or Hindu are distributed in small hamlets called ‘Vandhs’. Each village has multiple Vandhs. Typically everybody in a Vandh belongs to one community and have evolved from one household. Everybody is related by blood as marriages are endogamous and first cousins often marry. There is no fixed number of households that a Vandh may hold- it can range from 5 to 50 approximately. Houses are built on an elevated mud platform to keep water from entering during monsoons when Banni gets completely flooded. Each household has a drawing hall locally called ‘Baithak” where all the guests are welcomed. Men from outside the household, who are not closely related even if from the same village are not entertained beyond the Baithak. Once the Baithak is passed one often enters a courtyard of sorts that houses small kitchens mostly mud structures and circualr Bhungas which hold a family’s assets and act like a living room cum bedroom. Several khats or cots with jute or recycled plastic meshes can be seen around on the courtyard. Bhungas may be made out of mud or even concrete ones which were constructed as part of post-earthquake relief work after 2001. There is a meticulous division of labour. Although the larger burden as is the case in most of rural
India is shouldered by women. Women are responsible for household chores, drinking water security, milking, feeding and rearing animals. They are also responsible for young ones. Men on the other hand keep records of milk sent into dairies, they are responsible for breeding animals, choosing the appropriate breeding bull, they are responsible for ensuring that livestock has sufficient drinking water. Every hamlet has an ‘agevaan’ meaning leader who is loved and respected by the entire hamlet and whose word is taken as final. He is consulted time to time on various topics be it trade or even marriage etc. Agevans of Banni enjoy tremendous support and loyalty from the Maldharis so much so that even political decisions, legal decisions are often tinted with agevan’s opinions. Banni is an arid region. In the past people consumed fresh water from rains that would accumulate in ponds, lakes and low-lying areas. Banni being extremely flat and such water bodies being largely shallow, the evaporation rate is high. Normally surface water resources last only a few months after the rains. When Maldharis run out of surface water they dig wells in the ground called ‘Virdas’ which are holes up to 11 feet deep and up to 5 to 6 feet wide. The idea behind digging such shallow wells is to not let the salinity ingression from depths to rise to the ground level. The width of the well is limited to prevent loss of water through evaporation. Often a virda is connected to a large rectangular trough that holds drinking water for livestock. Virdas for drinking water for Maldharis are separated from Virdaas for livestock. Typically for human beings potable water comes from a Virdaa nearer to the homes and women fetch this water. Where as Virdaas for livestock tend to be further away from the households as large herds (even 500 or more animals at a time) gather here for drinking water and if it so many animals gather in proximity of houses it may cause a lot of chaos. Each family had at least one Virdaa of their own in the past. These Virdaas don’t occur randomly. There are regions in Banni which are considered ‘sweet’ that is having very little salinity ingression. Such areas act like natural aquifers and are called Jheels. A jheel can be spotted on a Banni horizon when one squints and sees a thicket of trees belonging to native species like mango, Desi Bawal, Bordi etc. They are bound to flourish in a jheel. While a jheel belongs to a village typically, families may own one or two Virdaas each. Same Virdaas are dug again and again every year. Digging normally takes places during summers, well in advance of monsoons. If the virdaa gets spoilt due to salinity ingression, there is no way to repair it and has to be abandoned for a new one. When it rains water seeps through the soils. A virdaa apart from being a hole in the ground is lined with grass stashed between wooden logs. This sandwiching arrangement acts like a natural filter. The water typically seeps in through the sides of the Virdaa and gets filtered due to grass as it collects in the virdaa. Maldharis trust the judgement of their elders when it comes to deciding how deep or wide should a particular virda be dug. If you go too deep there is a fear of the water becoming saline. Banni and its ties with world outside The primary occupation in Banni is that of animal husbandry. In the past it was mainly animal breeding and trade add to it the arrival of dairies today. Banni’s relationship with world outside emerges from this- due to bullock trade that Banni is known for Banni has relations with farmers in Saurashtra region and other regions of Gujarat wherever rain fed agriculture is practised. Through dairies, Maldharis have connections with private dairy owners through whom milk from Banni gets distributed to urban areas. Maldharis from Banni wear a block-printed wrap called Ajrakh which is multipurpose. It can be a turban, a scarf, a shawl, a bedsheet and is even used to swing infants when tied from the side of a Khaat. This cloth is sourced from a community called Khatris which mainly reside in Ajrakhpur and Dhamadka areas of Kachchh. Everytime a Maldhari earns money after a good year of rainfall, ample fodder-water and thereby ample business from selling milk and livestock he invests in jewelry. Maldharis rotate their money than save it as the annual income is not fixed and is more or less at the mercy of the environment. A lot can change depending upon annual rainfall, availability of fodder and water. For buying silver they rely on Sarafs (a community that makes and sells jewelry). They buy their week’s supply of food and vegetables from the Vaniya community. Maldharis from Banni rely on artisan communities within Banni too. They barter milk and milk based products and now perhaps pay in cash the Wadha Koli community for furniture, wooden articles like the buttermilk churner and wooden urns (lacquer work). Maldharis rely on Harijans or
Meghwal Marwadas for leather articles like shoes, bags, even mirrors and for mudwork that decorates the interirors of Bhunga. Depending upon where a village is located hamlets may have the above mentioned connections with different villages spread over kachchh. People from eastern Banni that is Bhitara, Hajipir ,luna have more connections with people from Powar Patti or Nakhatrana region. Where as people from Central Banni have more connections with Bhuj and Khavda. While people from eastern Banni have better connections with communities from Sumrasar and Dhori. Status of women Banni is a traditional, conservative, patriarchal society. There are several restrictions on women. They do not really step outside their Vandhs unless they absolutely need to for health reasons or when they visit relations during marriages and other ceremonies. They may travel on their own in groups, if they are alone they will be accompanied by a male member of the family. Women do not watch TV, listen to the music, radio or read newspapers in most cases (there are rare cases of exception). Women are mostly not allowed to study beyond 5th standard that is post puberty. Marriages are arranged by the elders, women often do not have a choice or voice in these matters. They cannot make choices as far as their reproductive health is concerned either. The concept of family planning is considered anti-Islamic hence not followed. Similarly use of sanitary pads is also considered anti-Islamic and not followed (barring a few cases where traditional methods maybe used to ensure hygiene) There are mud or wood stack bathrooms in Banni but no toilets, people simple go in the bushes. Status of men Men enjoy more freedom than women. But even men are under a very strong influence of their elders. Men have better educational levels than girls. They largely control finances in a household. Health and education Standards of both health and education are very poor in Banni. There are several schools, each village if not Vandh has a school but lack of teachers, teacher absenting and apathy on part of Maldhari families means schooling is not ensured. A lot of children participate in work activities of their families and miss school. There are government run medical facilities in Khavda and Bhuj which the Maldharis make use of. They also visit private clinics and hospitals. Shroff Foundation Trust (SFT) has a hospital at Hodka which has been providing medical facilities in Banni. SFT also runs bridging educational courses for adolescent boys and girls. Although there are efforts being made it is a long way to go. The above mentioned Banni overview was a result of several day trips I made to Banni to understand what Sahjeevan did at Banni so on and so forth. Participating in a quantitaive survey that took place in Banni also helped me meet more people in Banni. I accompanied Mamta and Bhavana when they made trips for their Banni related agendas.
Nomadic pastoralism is considered one of the most suitable subsistence strategies in the semi-arid zones. The mobility of the domestic herds provides the most crucial advantage in the survival during drought years. Even in the normal rainfall regimes, the practice of transhumance helps in the optimum appropriation of the necessary natural resources such as water and fodder. Mobility is perceived as an adaptive response to the ecological constraints in these marginal eco-zones, where no other subsistence strategy is a viable option (Source: Mobility of Pastoral Communities in Gujarat: An Ecological Perspective, Length of the
I had my initial doubts about being able to be on my own in Banni especially moving around from village to village- Banni has very few state run and private vehicles, locals (mostly men, travel on their personal bikes. That is to say there were ample options to travel from Bhuj to Banni and back but not as many to travel within Banni from village to other. This meant I make do with what was available- meaning dairy vans, water tankers, charcoal and animal transporting vehicles etc. It was interesting indeed the process of hitching rides with complete strangers and just hoping that I reach my destination on time and one piece. I made some very good friends in this process namely dairy van owner/ driver Hamzah Bhai from Bhagadia and the police officials posted in Banni. They would always look out for me. Paper: 10,300 words including references+ 1 Map. Author: Dr S. Swayam) For the want of Kachchhi skills (questions I wanted to ask women in Banni in English & kachchhi)
• What time do you wake up? Subohjo kila vaghe uthiyonda? • What do you do then, the whole day? Poi akkho di koro koro kariyonda? • At what time do you go for filling water? Paani bharela kitle vaaghe vaneta? • How many times in a day? Kitli vaar kariyonda? • What festivals do you celebrate? Kaya Kaya tyohaar manaiyonta? • What do women do? What do men do? Baimaadu koro kariyonta? Bhaimaadu koro karoyonta? • What village (are you from)? Kiyon gaam? • What is your name? Tojo naalo koro aain? • My name is Aditi. Mujo naalo Aditi aain. • Why so? Hairo kolaai? • I am from Maharashtra. Auun Maharashtra thi aiyyan. • In which seasons, animals graze where? Kayo season ma chopa kiddaan vineta? • What are the difficulties in your village? Aanje goth mein koro koro mushilaat ain-yien? • What dreams have you seen for your children? Aanje chokrela kala aain koro koro sapna nehriyonda? • Can I take your photograph? Auun photo gini sakati? • Where is the bathroom? Bathroom kidaan aiin? • Have you had food? Aiin Khai girra? • Give me some water- Muke paani diyo. • What do you know about Banni grasslands? Aanke Banni ghasiya bhoomiji koro khabar aiin? • What lies in the surroundings of your home? Aanji gharji ajju-bajju koro koro aiin? • Do you go out? Aiin kiddai bahra viyo? • Have you traveled? Till where? Aiin kidda musafiri karine bahrah vya-aiyon? Kitle sudii? • If you don't go out how did you get this information? Aain bahrah nahi viyan- to ii mahiti kann ritte • What animal husbandry related work do you do? Pashupala nu koro kaam kariyonda? • On wht occasions do women gather? Aero kayo prasan aiin jenmein baiyyon bhegi thiyenti? • In your daily work, what do you like, what do you not like? Aain rojje kaam kariyonta, enme koro
pasand aain, koro naain? • What are your personal difficulties? Aanji pindji koro taklif aain? • What are the difficulties of your family? aanje kutumbji koro taklif aain? • What are the difficulties of your village? Aanje gothji koro taklif aain? • Which problems of yours have been solved? How? Aanji koro koro taklif duur thaivi aaiy? Kann rite? • What all can you do? Which skills are used at home and which skills are used outside? Aake koro koro acheto? Inmejanu koro ghar mein kari sako ane koro bahrah kari sako? • At what age does marriage take place? Kitla varenji umar mein viya thiyento? • What all do you do for dowry? Leti-deti mein koro koro kariyonda? • Whom can this girl marry? Whom she can't? Why? II chokrija viyaan kinje saathe thai sake? Kinje sathe nai? Kolai? • How many children do you have? Who decides how many children to have? Aanja ketra chokra aiin? Ketra chokra kaina aiin, ii ker nakki kare? • What rituals are practised before, during and after delivery? Delivery thi pahila, darmyan ane puthiya koro rivaaj aiin karyota? • What are your community's thoughts on marriage? Aanji naat mein viyaanje baarein mein koro
• Till what class are children educated here? How far have you studied? Aain chokreke kitlo bhanai-
yonta? Aain kitla bhanela aiyyon? • Where is the school/ community hall? Nisal/ Samaj vaadi kitthe aiin? • Are there any water tanks here? How many? Paanijo ko taako aain? Ketra aiin? • Where are the other drinking water troughs for animals? Biyo havado kitthe aain? • How is the land (quality)? Jaamen kaiidi aiin? • What is the name of (this) pasture? Simadejo naalo koro aain? • Which was the worst time of your life? When did it come? aanje jeevan mein savthi kharab samay koro aiiyo aiin? Kade aiiyo aiin? • Why do you embroider? Bharat kaam korella kariyonda? • Do you have money of your own with you? Which you can use in your own way? From where did this money come? Aan vatthe anja pindja paisa aain? Jeke aiin pindji rite vapari sako? Ii rupaya/ paisa kiddanu avya? • Do you go out (of your homes) to buy articles? What articles do you get? Aain kee vastu ghinnela bahrah nikrota? Koro ghinota? • If you do not step out (of your homes to buy articles)? What do you do with your money? aain jo bahrah nata vinno- toh aiin rupayejo koro kariyota? • Which woman in the village is in worst living conditions? Why is she in such a bad condition? Goth mein savthi kharab halat aiin, bai ker aiin? Unji halat kharab kolai aai? • In which parts of the village do you experience fear? At what time? Gamjo aero kayo vistar aiin, jeda draah lage? Ann kann time te? • Please sing any song or narrate a story for me. Muke koi pan geet athva varta sunao. • Tell me something about yourself. Aanje barein mein keepan sunao. • What drinking water facilities exist? Pideje panila koro sagvad aiin? • For how long does water last in these? Enmein ketro di paani haleto? • How is the water (quality)? Is it good? Is it potable? Paani kaido aain? Khaaso aiin? Pidelayag aiin? • What are the (drinking) water conditions according to seasonal variations? Rutupramane paniji koro paristhiti aiin? • How far is the well from home? How many times do you go (for filling water)? Kuvo gharthi ketro chete aiin? Kitli vaar paani bharela vinnota? • What was the condition of (drinking) water in the past and what is the condition today? Paaniji pehle koro paristhiti vee, heverjo koro aaiin? • How many wells would you use in past and how many wells are being used today? Pehle ketra kuva vaprindava, heverjo kitra vapriyota? • How do you care for/ maintain your wells? Kuveja dhyaan kann rite rakhiyonda? Kuvaa sachvela koro kariyonta? • What are your thoughts about drinking water facilities for yourself and your animals? How should it be? Pindje paani la ane maalje paanila aain koro vichariyonda? Kaido honu khape? • What is at the centre of the village? Goth je vachmein koro aiin? • Where do you go (migrate) during the monsoons? Varsara mein kidda vinnota? • Who will come with me from here? You come with me- Hetethi ker haldo? Tu haal muuh bhedi. • mine-meri-asanji • yours- aanji • ours- paanji • his/her- inki- henji, unki-unji • here-idhar- hedda • there-udhar- hodda • now-ab- hevar • then- tab- tade Now that 'what' in the field was established I had to figure out 'how' to go about doing 'what' was planned by Krupaben, Sabya sir, Rameshbhai and me. A new colleague had joined Sahjeevan a month after I had and she was instrumental too, in whatever I achieved. Mamta's advice in dealing with day to day practical situations in the field came in very handy. Here is the 'how' of my study-
Sampling methods (or lack of them)
Known people They were forever in ‘welcome Aditi home’ mode Everything was always bright and cheerful, real issues were elusive Digging deep was difficult They would censor their thoughts Random people Were more forthcoming Learnt about how BPUMS is seen Wasn’t treated like guest- was treated like family, could participate better ‘Stranger’s safety net I made my first visit to Banni regarding my project in the month of December, two more visits followed in the month of January. But the project did not take off until Krupaben put her foot down
regarding my role at Sahjeevan (whether it was design related or the project I had myself chosen.) I expressed a desire to move to Banni and on Feb. 3rd, for the third time I shifted residence. According to outline, I had decided to do participant observation (through 24 hour stays that included night halts with the family) and interviews whenever my scant Kachchhi permitted me. For focus group discussions, Krupaben, Bhavana and Mamta were to join me later on. As I began staying with multiple families in Banni, mingling with the women folk a generic schedule of what a woman in Banni did the whole day began to emerge. Apart from the schedule other factors emerged too. A brief list of all the night halts, interviews and FGDs has been mentioned below. (Places marked in pink, communities marked in grey) Daddhar Hingorja, Chher Seth Vandh, Hodka Halepotra Sameja Vandh, Dumado Sameja Ajimani Vandh, Dumado Halepotra Pannavari Mutwa Sargu Node Savalpur, Sarada Jat Bhagadia Jat Vaghura Sumra Harijan Vaas, Bhirandiyara Harijan Redhar Vandh, Bhirandiyara Raysipotra Bhandari Vandh, Bhirandiyara Raysipotra Juna Vandh, Bhirandiyara Raysipotra Bhitara Jat Misariyado Wada, Bhamba Tools + methods Tools Question bank Notebook Camera Voice recorder Herbarium Drawing books Methods Participant Observation Map-making, drawing Interviews Informal discussions Focus group discussions 24hrs stays at every village The idea was to live with the women of Banni. Enter their minds via their kitchens. I realised that when one lands up in the village for the first time with forms (quantitative research) in hand or even a detailed questionnaire for FGD without really getting to know the people first, it becomes a mechanical activity. It just becomes a number crunching exercise, although necessary. And real emotions, bonding and genuine information go flying out of the window. Insights, ideas, questions that emerged from this exercise are presented below. The detailed accounts of actual visits, notes, summaries, phone numbers of people and other oddities are included in the appendix . I am breaking the information here into following sub-sectionsbreakdown of tasks in animal husbandry, livelihoods based on animal husbandry, gender roles in animal husbandry and connected livelihoods, women’s know how about Banni grasslands women’s perceptions about life in Banni
Finally to sum up I present case studies of subjects I feel are necessary for this discourse. What did I find? Women’s livelihoods Animal husbandry based Dung collection Sale of poultry and eggs Embroidery and handicrafts Charcoal making (illegal) Tailoring Aanganwaadi worker Agricultural labour unskilled labour Gundar collection Home based shops Midwife (honorarium in kind not cash) Men’s livelihoods Animal husbandry based Milk & milk brokers Animal selling Sweet mawa (shops) Sale of poultry and eggs Animal grazing charges Charcoal making (illegal) Cash crops (illegal) fodder crops (illegal) Manage hotels and shops Driving Handicrafts Service Government Companies Organisations Carpentry Agricultural labour Unskilled labour Maulana (religious teacher)
Who can claim what?
Men claim money and full authority over making decisions regarding its expenditure from all the livelihood options mentioned alongside Women only claim money that they earn through embroidery, sale of animal dung, honorarium for midwifery etc. A family earns the most from animal husbandry and charcoal making followed by handicrafts, if women are contributing to on all those counts and are not able to keep their share of money from it they are missing out on lot of money. The problem with forming more embroidery work based SHGs is that women with the aim of maximising their family income eventually end up overburdening themselves with more work in addition to current work plus managing the home.
Animal husbandry Details Livestock/ Poultry Buffaloes Cows Sheep Goats Hens Horses Donkeys Camels Animal Feed Khad Oil-cakes Bhuso Wheat bran Kapasia Cotton linters Jowar Gowarji Goatri Mineral mixture Ganda Bawal pods Additional nutrition Jaggery Eggs Ghee Breeding Natural Shelter Concrete Mud Ganda Bawal Health Traditional medicines Modern medicine Oxytocin (illegal) Who does what? Women’s role Soaking animal feed Mixing animal feed Packing feed into bags Tying the bags around animals when they eat Milking animals Ensuring lactating mothers feed their infants sufficiently Collecting all the milk in specified cans Carrying the cans to milk pick-up points Gathering animal dung Giving animals additional fodder crops Feeding infants with milk bottles when their mothers refuse to feed them In case of poultry caring for eggs Ensuring young animals and poultry are secure in their shelters Administering traditional medicine Monitoring the delivery of animals, post natal care Building animal shelter, ensuring they are clean
Men’s role May participate in animal feeding May participate in milking Collections of milk samples in bottles for fat testing In certain cases dropping milk cans into dairy on bikes/ in vehicles Breeding and selling animals Buying animal feed Informing a veterinarian incase of animal health issues Administering vaccines Taking animals for a drink, filling the troughs of water for animals to drink from Building wells in the ground, from which the troughs will be filled Administering traditional medicine Intervening incase of complicated deliveries Feed: To soak or not to soak oil-cakes Soaked because They almost double up in volume when soaked, animals have an illusion of having eaten a lot, making it cost-effective for marginal livestock keepers Has a cooling effect on animal’s digestive system especially during summers Not soaked because Soaking is believed to cause the oil in the oilcakes to rise and float on water as they are immiscible. Later when this water is discarded the nutritious oil gets discarded too. Oil in the oil-cakes provide protein which is why they are fed to animals in first place.
Oil-cakes are tough to chew on soaking it makes When oil-cakes are not soaked, they are tougher it easier for younger and older animals to chew to bite on and swallow. Thus animals take a longer while chewing on them, giving the livestock on them keeper more milking time. Once soaked oil-cakes soften and are easier to mix with wheat bran Oil-cakes have several impurities, on soakingthese rise up in the water and be discarded
Feed sources • Within Banni Hodka, Misariyada, Daddhar milk vans • From Bhuj milk vans • From feed manufacturing factories in Ahemdabad trucks ferrying charcoal Fodder crops • Grown illegally on forest land, such a plot of land is called Vada. • People from BPUMS, the executive members and seniors from the community who are fighting for land rights in Banni and protesting against the working plan proposed by forest department as well as the demand of 10 acre chunks of land from certain sections on Banni population themselves have very big Vaadas and are thereby encroaching on forest land. • This land is considered to be a part of commons and hence people cannot stake individual claims on this land, it is meant for collective use as grazing pastures. • A vaada may enclose fodder and or cash crops • One is forced to think why Vaadas are increasingly becoming common day by day? • If everybody makes Vaadas will there be any commons left? • Why are these Vaadas being made? Just for additional income? Does it mean AH is otherwise non-viable today? • Or are the Vaadas are a result of people’s insecurity of not owning any land in their names and just another way of staking claim on Banni’s land?
Unhygienic milking techniques/ malpractices
• • • • • •
Not particular about washing udders, before milking Lot of mud/ dust from animal’s body plus flies falling into the milk Cans used for milk are not washed Mixing buffalo milk into cow milk to ‘increase’ I.e. fake higher fat content Administering oxytocin injection if the animal refuses to be milked Adding water to the milk
Humans inbreed & Buffaloes out breed • Maldharis of Banni with a large herd size (around 50) maintain a breeding bull within their herd, that is often shared with the smaller herds in the vicinity • When the female is in heat- breeding takes place through natural methods, although dairy has made inroads in Kachchh one mostly does not see AI taking place • These breeding bulls are groomed very well and given best of the diet (ghee, jaggery, eggs) so that it is mature ad ready to give service by the age of 2 • Breeding bull is exchanged with other herds in the village every 3-4 years to prevent inbreeding. • Maldharis understand the value of livestock’s genetic resources and prevent in-breeding at every cost • Contrary to this, the marriage customs amongst Maldharis are such that often first cousins marry. There is constant inbreeding- due to which the genetic characters and the consequent phenotypic characters are either tending towards the best (good health, sharp physical features) or the worst (many children are born mentally challenged or are physically much more susceptible to diseases) as the gene pool in their case has to had a chance to expand. • When asked about this dual policy- they simply say we know about consequences of inbreeding but it is our rivaaj that girl does not marry outside of fadiya (all the families in fadiya are an endogamous group) Women’s know-how about animal health and traditional medicine Every household where animal husbandry was the primary occupation had a woman or two who were in charge of looking after the animals alone and not engage much in household chores. They could be said to be ‘full time’ into animal husbandry and I refer to them as women AH experts. These women, have been involved with animal rearing from a very young age and in terms of knowledge are par with their male counterparts. These women are aware of various pastures around their hamlet, which ones have sweet/ salty grass and can track the movements of their animals even without physically going after them. They treat their animals incase of indigestion, pitta, lice etc. For something major they rely on the veterinarians. Women not only use traditional medicines but also administer injections like Teramycin. The sad part however is that women who learnt administering injections, don’t think twice before administering oxytocin either which is available in local animal feed shops and are not at all expensive. Women think an animal not giving milk or enough milk is some sort of a disease that needs to be cured and they do not realise that these are synthetic hormones and will have adverse effect on the animal health. A typical day in life of Banni women where AH is primary occupation Wake up, heat water for washing face, wash face offer Namaaz. Make tea for everyone. The senior most woman is the first one to wake up. It is 5:45- 6ish by this time the buffaloes/ cows have returned the AH woman experts of the house take over- they feed the animals and simultaneously milk them. Milk is collected in the cans, dispatched off to be picked up by the milk vans. Women also ensure that younger animals have been fed by their mothers.
This process roughly takes 2 hours. By the time the animals are sent off for having a drink of water and younger animals are secured inside their shelters- its about 8 am A second round of tea follows Women (15 years to 45) now rush to fetch water. It is a tiring exercise- it easily takes up two hours, twice a day morning and evening, especially in the villages that face water scarcity. By 10:15 women are back, all have gathered in the kitchen- for another round of tea. Now that the water has been fetched they will wash vessels from last night’s dinner and all the tea-cups that have been in use since morning. They will take turns bathing and washing clothes. Around the same time- mothers will start pushing their kids to get ready for school and send each one off. Once a woman has bathed she will rush to the kitchen, start the mud-stove and begin preparing brunch. Banni folks prefer eating a very early lunch- around 11 AM. Even in the Kitchen the work is divided. Women share the load- somebody makes rotis, others rice and vegetables. By 12 the lunch is ready and the family eats together. First men are served and women who cook eat the last. By 1:30 lunch is consumed and the plates are washed. Women roughly get a two hour break in the afternoon where in the gather and embroider- gossip and discuss day to day life. Depending upon whether milking takes place the second time in the after noon and at what timethe women arrange for feed bags to be packed again at around 3:30 for example if the animals are returning around 4. They get free by about 6:15 PM, then they go fetch firewood. By 7, the dinner preparation starts. By 8 dinner is ready. By 9-9:30 PM everybody has had their dinner, the plates are rinsed and the kitchen shuts for the day. By 10 women meet again to embroider and chit chat. By 11 everybody is fast asleep. Earning opportunities in AH based livelihoods Livelihood opportunity Animal breeding and sale Poultry- sale of chicken & eggs Milk sent into dairies Milk brokers Ghee Sweet Mawa Bland Mawa leather work sale of dung Who works? men work men, women and children work women work, men sometimes men work women work women- milking, men- mawa preparation men and women men work, women embroider on it women work Who earns? men earn men and women earn equally men earn men earn men earn men earn men earn men earn women earn
Drinking water: Tank water vs. Virda water People use tank water because • It is ‘ready-made’, available for use without putting any effort to maintain the pipelines etc • People believe that virda water comes mixed with sand and grass elements and is therefore not hundred percent clean • According to people, when they visit a doctor for medication, he tells them to consume medication with tank water (believed by urban people to be cleaner- there by healthier) • Some people believe tea from freshly drawn virda water is rendered black and hence tank water is more suitable People use virda water because • Due to conditioning, people say Virda water tastes sweeter and hence they use it for drinking and cleaning. In place where both tank and Virda water are available tank water is used for washing and bathing. People fill in tank and virda water alternately in such places. • People believe water in tanks comes from far off and it is unclear how long it has taken for water to reach the village or in journey of water from where it was drawn to where it finally reaches how many people have taken bath in it etc. Certain notions of purity keep people from using tank water • Government tank water is unreliable, when the line breaks or the dirty water gets supplied virda is the fall back option for the communities. Today people on Banni are heavily dependant on tank water just because it is easier an option, of course until the water supply stops. In that case people are reminded of their traditional decentralised drinking water sources. Insights and case studies
• Are the women in Banni who don’t ‘step out’ supporting the family income from within the walls • Banni folks are letting their daughters attend school, but every time the female teacher is re• Brightest kids from the class are often asked to discontinue their studies post 6th or 7th grade
placed with a male teacher a drop is seen in number of girl students in class and are instead enrolled full-time into religious education programmes that will ensure them the job of religious teacher that is Maulana if all goes well- this is considered lucrative and has great respect attached to it in the community. • Case of rampant oxytocin use It is a common knowledge that Maldharis treat livestock as their kin. There are no two ways about it. Over the years however, the occupational pattern has undergone tremendous change. Once upon a time animal breeding and selling, sale of ghee was the primary income generation livestock keeping activity in and around Banni region. Today, it is undoubtedly the dairies that bring in consistent income round the year. Consistent income from dairies depends upon consistent quality and quantities of milk being sent to dairies daily. This has put a tremendous pressure of sorts on Maldharis. Especially when the livestock's milk yield decreases each year due to reasons ranging from pregnancy, to diseases to lower availability of fodder or water during summers. On such occasions, the present day Maldharis rationalise that if they are spending on the cattle-feed, medicines and general up keep of the livestock, the livestock too has to deliver. When the milk yield decreases, Maldharis resort to other means. Oxytocin injections are one of them. Although officially banned by the government, Oxytocin injections are easily available at local medical store and cattle feed shops. They are available illegally for as little as 50 paise or Re. 1 per injection. Due to their illegal nature, the process of buying oxytocin injections is a shady one. One has to ask for the small box (Rs 50) or big box (Rs. 100) of 'penda'. And promptly enough boxes resembling sweet boxes will be produced which in fact contain these deadly injections. There are certain traditional medicines made from plants and Banni grasses that are known to enhance the milk production in animals. But Maldharis resort to Oxytocin as it's effect is of their homes? If so why aren’t the men acknowledging it?
instantaneous. Perception of Maldharis, especially women who milk the animals is that this is 'a medicine that corrects the low milk yield problem in the animals'. FGDs conducted in Banni and participant observation of milking techniques at various villages and time spent with several communities reveals this misconception. It just does not occur to any of the women that Oxytocin is a hormone and not a casual medicine that they are injecting into the bodies of the animals. The women are not exposed to ill-effects of such practices. It is a serious issue for Sahjeevan as an organisation who works with these communities, not only because Oxytocin is a banned substance but because by the way of milking animals it is entering the food chain. The credibility of producers of milk is bound to be affected by this but so also the health of milk consumers who are likely to buy Banni milk known for it's high fat content and other qualities. A thorough investigation needs to be carried out regarding the following• Number of milk producers using Oxytocin • Effects of Oxytocin on animal health, off-spring born • Effects of milk (taken from animals who have been frequently injected with Oxytocin) on consumer health. • Economics of losses borne due to use of Oxytocin that further deteriorates animal health Once the facts are established, further action could be taken in terms of conducting awareness programs and wiping out illegal Oxytocin availability.
• Case of Aanganwadi mess
The centrally funded ICDS scheme, if implemented well is a brilliant scheme that will ensure proper nutrition and health care to children between 0 o 6 years of age, young adolescent girls as well as expecting mothers. Villages in Banni, like other parts of India have Aanganwadis. It is run by local women. Even if the women run the Aanganwaadi, often the accounts for the same are kept by her husband or any other man related to her. Having visited several villages, many instances of negligence and sometimes corruption were spotted:
pretty much function according to the whims of the woman in charge of it. • The children at the Aanganwaadi were not given hot cooked meals in the afternoon, they were instead given raw materials i.e. packs of Sooji etc. • Parents complained that the quality of such packs was pathetic and often they fed it to the livestock. • The adolescent girls also get food packets, but once the packets were taken home, they were stashed away to be used when there were guests at home. Clearly, what was meant to be supplementary nutrition for an adolescent girl perhaps does not reach her in the quality and quantity that is expected. • Often, compared to the purchases made at the Aanganwadi, such as brooms, cleaning liquids, there seems to be over expenditure vis a vis the quality of products purchased. • Aanganwadis seem like mere creches, it remains to be seen if the children are regularly weighed and their health records maintained. • More accountability is needed at all the levels of a Aanganwaadi. Regular checks have to be kept on the finances as well as food supplies given out from the Aaganwaadi. Parents have to be more aware and help with keeping a constant watch on what their wards learn at Aaganwaadi. Discrepancies should be reported. • One does not see such a degree of awareness in Banni. Parents especially women have to be made aware of all that their children are entitled to through the ICDS scheme. • Case of periods, operations, sagai-shaadi Banni was not as rigid in 80s as it is today with regards to religion, especially restrictions placed on women. Conversations with women revealed that it is a common perception at most places in Banni that Islam forbids family planning methods or even use of sanitary napkins during menstruation cycles. Once religion and sensitive issues of women's reproductive health get entangled the situation gets difficult.
• To begin with Aaganwaadis do not open on time, sometimes they don't open at all. They
Ideas + to do
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Basic Literacy Self help groups (SHG) (DENA bank schemes to facilitate this process) Bannni specific herbarium Maps (women’s perception) Banni women and ITK (women healers) Banni women full time in AH (potential BPUMS members) Clean milk and anti-oxytocin campaign Land-rights campaign Reproductive health and hygiene: brainstorm problems and design solutions Rights and duties: Information dissemination activities explaining what women can claim, schemes for them etc and their duties such as voting, birth and death registration etc Health and nutrition: women and children Develop linkages with other NGOs (Kala Raksha, Shrujan, Qasab, Khamir ) Know women: get voters’ list, Aanganwadi, ANM list etc Negotiate better ‘Khatar’ prices for the women and possible linkages with organic farming initiatives Campaign against hit and run cases that kill animals while crossing roads Biogas plants and richer khatar, reduction of labour towards firewood Drinking water: planning and security Accidents and safety: children, especially the girl child Training women on the use of Ayurvedic medicinal kits Exposure tours and educational screenings Investigation into Aanganwadi menace Workshops with women Sarpanches, awareness Tap gundar women for their forest knowledge for Rohit’s desi jhaad study
Seasonal migration in Banni • What exactly happens when pastoralists from Banni migrate? • Collect oral histories of pre-partition migration (routes, stories, challenges, memories, hospitality offered on the way). • How have migration routes changed post partition? • What are the new routes, new experiences, new challenges? • Why migrate (ecosystem recuperation, in search of fodder and water, trade routes, seasonal migration due to monsoon, other reasons)? • Who all migrates? Men, women, children? • What are the roles and responsibilities of each member during migration? • How does it affect men, women, children- physically, mentally, emotionally? • What all activities take pace en route and once they have reached destination? • How are daily schedules affected due to migration, what about basics like drinking water, shelter and factors like health, education? • How do people tend to self, their families and animals as they migrate, after they have reached their destination? • Why is the government unsure of people who are constantly on the move and so also society, why is migration perceived as a taboo? • what are the benefits, negative aspects and challenges of migration? Other activities • Pashumela • Clean-up drives • Seminar and symposium conducted by GUIDE • Camel vaccination camps • Archean chemical factory public hearing • Anti-corruption rally in support of Anna Hazare • Gender equity workshops at Sahjeevan • Visits and excursions
• All that was a distant reality, be it SEZs, industrialisation, land acquisition suddenly became ex• Understood some more the dilemma of industrialisation vs environmental concerns • The idea of decentralisation made an impact on me • I became aware of climate change and the fact that it will hit those the most who were least re• • • • • • • • •
tremely loud, incredibly close and in my face.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
sponsible in causing the mess in the first place There will be blood: POSCO, Jaitapur, Banni FRA- Forest rights act- what is it?? Read up. Condition of women and children, especially the young adolescent girls. Someday I will set up my own initiative that creates better sanitary options that do not choke my planet- like eco-friendly sanitary napkins Food for thought- do women need to be married to be able to lead a dignified life? What does a woman need to be on her own and live life according to her own terms? The small changes that need to be made urgently- CFLs, no more plastic bags and water bottles Solid waste management in urban and rural area- before plastic entered rural areas nothing would go waste there that could not be decomposed. But the sad consumerist culture of today is messing everything up. I learnt that American civilians are not as bad as American foreign policy I want to be more open minded, tolerant, accommodating and I definitely want to stop mistrusting people based on their caste, class, religion. One needs to work in conjunction with minorities of every kind, otherwise it will lead to a national level mess and pose a bigger security threat to our country than any external factors. I want to say no to anxiety, stagnation, inhibition and procrastination. One does not have to unlearn all their conditioning, one just needs to be aware what parts of the conditioning are becoming an unnecessary baggage. Some baggage I am trying to get rid of: people be trusted (or mistrusted) based simply on their class, caste, religion, people who differ from me in various aspects such as thoughts, lifestyle, habits, education, socio-economic background are not necessarily a problem. The answer to migration (legal/ illegal), poverty, overcrowding of cities is not as simplistic as 'send them back to where they came from'. Working with communities needs a lot of patience, there is no point giving up too soon. To be safe and secure when I travel to diverse destinations or even when I am in my hometown- I need not destroy the signs of 'feminine' in me to portray a 'tough' exterior. A woman can be completely herself, being agile helps- to know when to be nurturing and when to be aggressive. I fear the unknown as I do not know where it will take me. Perhaps it will help to be open-minded and take each day as it comes instead of anxiety being my default reaction to all things new. Ego plus negative emotions are a bad combination. It helps to plan, be on time and groom well. Document, document, document- notebook, camera, voice recorder. keeping disciplined field notes and constantly reviewing them before further trips is absolutely necessary, no matter how tired post field work. While conducting interviews in the field look for interviewee's comfort first and then one's own. Record conversations electronically as well as in notebooks. Travel light, buy locally. Several acts and schemes that one needs to know about while working with communities- FRA, ICDS, SEZ etc Networking and professionalism helps. To be able to work with women/ girls in an orthodox society, the idea is not to bypass the men but work with them to be able to work with women. I got to look at two diverse ecosystems- Himalayan and arid. For any community project to succeed, community's ownership is of utmost importance. Generally for those working with community a ratio of 70:30, field time: office time is most optimum time division ratio. Government vs. non-governmental organisations vs. corporates, it seems as far having a positive social impact is concerned there are no enemy camps. As the boundaries blur in the devel-
opment sector between the three, it is time to put the cynicism about greedy corporates and dysfunctional governments behind to forge meaningful partnerships between the three to do what needs to be done. Example- Sushmaben is involved with Abhiyan network and is on board of CSR for Tata power plant. • I learnt a bit about the fact that funding agencies now perceive India as more or less a developed nation than a developing nation. Thus the pattern of funding is changing, earlier long term projects would be funded with generous amounts, today however lesser funds are available for shorter duration projects.
Appendix Gender equity workshops
My thoughts about women Every woman, I believe is graceful. Her body is beautiful and her mind intelligent. She is nurturing. She is an emotional fool and a pillar of strength at the same time. In my circle, I have met very many kind of women- some coming from challenged backgrounds but very hardworking and strong willed. Some who are so independent that they don't confirm to what society expects of them but weave their own universe around themselves- based on their own thoughts and value systems. Some who could not realise their full potential due to circumstances. Many are manipulative and seek favours based on the fact that they are "conventionally beautiful". Some are humble, practical, sporting and motherly at the same time. A woman according to me makes a better multi-tasker at home as well as in office- I have no empirical evidence to support this except for having seen my parents deal with work and family life. I think a woman primarily needs another man or woman more so to channelize the love within her than for support or as an emotional crutch. As a woman I try not to judge others, but in the event that I am forming an opinion about others I look at how they treat people around them, what their habits are and most importantly if they can respect other women. Biologically, a woman needed a man to conceive- but adoptions, invitro fertilization and other miracles of science are pushing these dynamics further each day. I don't like it when women put a facade of being fragile and vulnerable in presence of men just to get work done. I think such women have zero self-respect. In my opinion society is very quick to brand free-spirited women as morally low, or loose- charactered. I think there should be no pressure on any man or woman, to marry, bear children, lead a domesticated existence. It should always be to each her/his own. I have created following stereotypes of women in my mind: All rounder girls: They are passionate about their chosen field of study/ work. They are heavily into sports, organising activities, getting people together and are generally nurturing of all whether on work front or family. They are equally in tune with the lives of their friends and kin. These women are fiercely independent in their thoughts and action but they never feel the need to advertise the fact. They can be emotional and practical as and when the situation demands. Such women make for good friends and colleagues. Insecure women: They constantly seek either attention or sympathy. They can't operate independently. Are more worried about others' progress than their own. They are forever jealous of others' success instead of atempting to unlock their own potentials. Are never able to actually make good use of the potentials inside them. Deceptive Charmers: Are extremely intelligent almost cunning. Use their "beauty", "charm", "sex appeal" and fake "vulnerability" to have it their way. Cheat, lie, do whatever it takes to get ahead. Men, "hate the balls of such women" but want to nevertheless be seen in their company. Bimbettes They want to always look their best, want trips to the mall and spa regularly. Want to marry rich and do nothing much for a comfortable lifestyle. These women largely have no other ambition in their lives, are mostly harmless and yet useless. They just make for good conversation topics and both men and women treat bimbettes as eye tonic.
My thoughts about men: I make friends easily with men than women. Almost all the men I have met in my circle can be classified as either indifferent, ambitious, practical, big-hearted or permutation-combinations of these. Most of them have a strange "male-ego" which can manifest itself in funniest of ways and very pre-occupied with the notion of masculinity. In my experience they expect women to be pretty, sexy, submissive, docile, intelligent or permutation-combinations of these. But I have also been blessed with closest of friends who are men, and are capable of being sensitive, working efficiently, running a house, cooking cleaning and have set standards for those around. Quite a few of them are chauvinist pigs, although this sounds so cliched. Quite a few men are simply obsessed with women's bodies and "check out" every female who crosses their path- what's worse is some men even feel women up, in public without women's consent- it's disgusting and euphemistically known as "eveteasing". I tend to slot men in following categories: Playboy: Flirtatious, indifferent, exploitative, abusive, useless, self-obssesed, no ambition in life and mostly addictions too. Ma ka ladla Has no opinion of own. Will limit himself to plans decided by parents. Will not step up for his woman/wife. Will date infinite girls w/o informing parents but eventually will marry the girl his parents choose. Suave men: They know the right thing to say at the right time. They groom very well and are generally attractive in body and mind. They could be easily mistaken for being one's support system until you realise that they are in it solely for their own benefit. They are in everybody's good books and live life to fullest. Friend material They respect women, whether friend, mother, sister, daughter or wife/girlfriend. They are reliable and you could call one up anytime, anywhere for anything. There is no gender issue with them- the equation of women with such men is practically genderless and only individual to individual. They are kind, sensitive, unselfish to their friends. They always have good advice to offer and are a wonderful support system. Are passionate about their work and play. From the friend category has evolved a sub-branch Boyfriend/ husband/ partner material: Is opinionated with strong point of view on things. More passionate about their work than even wife/girlfriend. Have the capability to respect a woman's point of view. Are easy going, open minded and fun to hang out with. See women as co-creators or co-conspirators in all plans. SELF I currently believe being a woman, living on her own I am not very safe and have to protect myself from the evil forces of the world. At times, I feel vulnerable and naked to the male gaze. I hate this feeling. On a more positive note, I am trying hard to not believe in gender. I am trying to become genderless and believe that men and women are just two kinds of people not opposite or complimentary in any which way.
INTERPERSONAL I have lots of good male friends and few good female friends. I chose to believe that I don't like unnecessary favours because I am a girl. At the same time I expect family and friends to give me the space and respect I deserve. I am very quick at making acquaintances but have very few good friends. We are a nuclear family my mom, dad an I. Everybody is on equal footing hence I have never had to use "my power/ position to influence my family". We discuss and take decisions together. Although, all the household work is done by my mother- she also works. My dad works for a bank and his bank's union. He has a very active public life and is almost never at home. I have been away from home for past two years and also we have shifted residence. My mother is practically left alone these days with nor me or my father to talk to. Her old friends have ben left behind. She is trying to make new ones and has a few at the new place of stay. But its not the same thing. I try to keep in touch with her over the phone. I share everything- literally everything with my mother. Nothing is private for me as an individual. My life has so far been an open book to my parents. Right from my first crush in school to the latest exploits, fights, adventures, misadventures etc. I know no other existence. And this has been the case as my parents never made me feel I am inadequate in anyway because I am a girl. They have been very generous in their love and forgiveness for me. Their have at times been conflicts at home as our value systems differ. But over the time it seems my parents have grown to respect my value system and the differences that lie therein. ORGANISATION I am extremely moody and impulsive as a person and don't make a good team player. Only people who have known me in and out and still love me with all my faults, I.e. friends have been able to work with me. I am also known for certain skills in the organisations I have worked for but mostly I am known to be over-analysing and anxious person. Both of which I am. I have never been able to set examples as such- my work ethic has not been as effective. Also I don't find it very difficult to win arguments- but at what cost? HOW DOES THIS CONTRIBUTE IN THE SHAPING OF MY WORK I have been told, I come across a feminist. I believe I am a humanist. More than the labels I need to work on making my time management more efficient and I need to start planning. This is to say that more than the gender perspective I need to inculcate in myself some good work habits just like I value the values of self-respect etc. Also I am trying to work towards perceiving those I work with as colleagues first and individuals later. I easily get caught up with the kind of individuals they are and this adversely affects my work. Gets in the way of communication etc. I want to be less alarmed, around unknown men. I want to be more confident within my body and mind to have all these external undesirable factors, affecting me lesser than what they do now.
Gender equity workshop at Khamir 20/09/2010
Concepts in gender trainingConstruction of gender- How does gender get constructed in self, family, society, organisation and how does it manifest itself? Projection of gender- Masculine, feminine Gender stereotypes in our culture Filters of society- (that set definitive guidelines as to how a girl or a boy should be) Media, family, schools, books, age, caste etc Day 1- Self-reflection on gender Day 2- What is feminine/ masculine in me? Day 3- When did I realise I am a girl/ boy?
What work do men and women do? What work can men and women do? Proverbs, idioms, local sayings that outline what feminine/ masculine is. Case studies- Cheti and Ramli Profile of a gender sensitive organisation Filters in creation of gender How does media portray gender What factors influence a child's construction of identity and gender since birth? What and why does society perceive as problematic when a male exhibits overtly feminine characters or vice versa The case of eunuchs. What is gender? Gender is not the physical being itself- it is also a mental construct fostered by society. It does not mean bringing in more women in the project. How then can gender be integrated to bring in change? Just making more women's SHGs or getting them elected to Panchayati institutions is not the answer. The workshop on 20th September was aimed at looking at gender at the household level and institution level. The second day of the workshop looked at what is technology and where does gender feature therein. Following interesting ideas/ insights emerged from the churning processThe process of gender integration and change is not just an external activity it is also an internal process. Different skills, capabilities, degrees in freedom and space, opportunities lead to difference in values, access, control, power, entitlements, privileges etc. For a woman to be strong and confident does not mean she has to forgo what is feminine in her it perhaps means she could be agile enough to be nurturing and aggressive as and when required. Gender as a word is not a bad word and does not imply woman vs man it implies woman and man. At its basic level gender is interpersonal and intrapersonal in nature it exists not only between women and men but also between two women and two men. Men are not women's only problem, so are other women. Can we make use of technologies that will help bring in balance in the gender-power dynamics? What are these technologies? Is cell-phone an enabler of such kind? Could it be made one? Now that we have learnt about gender equity it can be introduced right at the planning stage of any programme.
Daddhar visit | 6/12/10 The idea was to start without too much ado, so here goes. I hurried and scurried from Sahjeevan office at about 3:05 PM for a bus that was to leave at 3:30 PM from Bhuj bus depot. I reached the bus stop, sat around waiting assuming the bus had not come yet, when indeed it was waiting unnoticed in the middle of the bus stop surrounded by other buses. As I looked around, I saw signages in Gujarati- which I could read but very slowly. I tried imagining what it would be like to be illiterate and to be at the bus stop. One would have to rely on passer bys to get anywhere at all. If anything, literacy does usher in some level of independence. Education does more and like girls in Daddhar later pointed out to me, the two must not be confused. The bus that I took to get to Daddhar was primarily leftovers from what once must have been a semi-deluxe variety and was absolutely jam packed. I walked right till the end, the last seat, where there was space. Two dosis (grand mothers) had dumped their stuff on the seat, under it and all around their feet. When I hinted, they made space for me with reluctance and so did the gentlemen sitting next to their stuff. I was skeptical* about my two hour long bus ride squeezed next to this man, but he was decent and no nautanki (meaning drama) happened. Meanwhile- I began talking to the dosis. They told me that they had been to Bhuj for a three day sojourn at their sister’s. It was amusing to me to see that not very unlike me they had carried their stuff in rucksacks except for the fact that they were real sacks as in jute gunny bags which they moved in and out rather fast through the window of the bus. During the conversation I found out that they were maternal aunts of Meru Kaka, a respected Maldhari from Banni and agevaan of his communitythe Hingorjas. Meru kaka was going to host me for my stay in Banni while at Daddhar. They were amused- they could not figure out why a city girl was going to Banni. When I told them about my fellowship and overall purpose of being in Kachchh in my very scant Kachchhi they outrightly dismissed me as a ‘sansthawali/ mahilawali’. The bus continued to chug on, it was gradually filling up with beedi smoke and news on finances, animal trade, soaring prices of animal feed so on and so forth. It seemed fantastic to me that I could have made this same journey in our NGO vehicle in exactly half the time with enough time left for a tea break in between. Like all the passenger vehicles, whether government or private this one halted at Bhirandiyara for chai-nashta-beedi. Men folk got off the bus for chai and beedi, they passed chai and paani for women traveling with them who remained seated inside. The dosis I had befriended passed me a drinking water tumbler which had traveled to them on its own via the windows. I was tempted to buy the very famous Bhirandiyara Mawa but did not budge from my seat. Post a 10 minute break we were on our way to Daddhar again. The remaining journey was a blur except for the fact that we halted at what was Vaghura (the village before Daddhar). Since that halt I was ever anxious of missing Daddhar bus stop. Finally I landed at Daddhar and met Hassan Kaka, Meru Kaka’s sibling who had come to receive me. But instead of taking me to Meru kaka’s house he advised me to go to Kajjuben’s with an elderly gentleman who had also been on the bus with me. I accompanied the rather old gentleman all the while wondering how he an Kajju were related. But I did not want to pry. Just in case. As I made my way to Kajjuben’s place- I bumped into a girl my age Salma whom I had known from my previous visits to Daddhar. I told her I was planning to stay in Daddhar for a night or two to study life in Banni and asked for directions to Kajju ben’s house. She said both Kajjuben and herself stayed in the same fadiya (a group of houses built on common mud platform, indicating a big joint family) and were neighbours. Before I could process what was happening- my bags and belongings were dropped off at Kajju ben’s bhunga, my wallet was locked in her cupboard and I was matter of factly asked to accompany rest of the girl gang to fetch water. The water tank was almost a 7 minute walk away from Salma’s fadiya. This water tank catered to all the fadiyas of Nani Daddhar. So it was very crowded indeed with women from Nanni Daddhar, Cherr Vaas and Node families who lived further away from Salma’s fadiya. Once near the water-tank I noticed that there weren’t proper steps to be able to climb onto the tank. So women had to tip-toe over a precariously arranged pile of stones. Once one managed to climb up, one had to be real quick and take turns fetching water. Soon enough, I saw the tank surface get inundated with a number of women- approximately twenty, multiplied by 30 that is some 60 pots all on the tank surface. Everybody was jostling for space and akin to a Mumbai local train travel there was lot of pushing, shov-
ing and elbowing involved. I found myself praying, hoping that nobody falls off or into the tank. At the end of this nerve wrecking exercise women were able to obtain water that was a strange shade of yellow and quite a few women could not get any water at all as they were late. I witnessed and participated in this ‘fetching water’ exercise during my stay at Daddhar each time and the situation never improved. Salma said this water is used for all purposes that is drinking, cooking, washing and bathing.. I noticed that once water was filled, every woman except me- younger girls included were carrying anything between 15 to 35 litres of water (smallest pot called Ghoni- holds 5 lit, bigger pot called handa holds 10 lit, while milk cans hold 20 lit). I was ferrying water in a handa and was not carrying more than 10 lit. We made multiple trips- almost four. Also interestingly our gang of girls had split into two units. One unit was “fetchers” who were good at drawing water and were stationed atop the tank while the other unit which I was a part of were ‘transporters’ who ferried water to and fro between homes and tank. The entire exercise took us two hours. By the time we came back, it was dark outside. It was almost 7 PM. Younger girls from Salma’s fadiya ventured out in the near by woods to gather firewood called ‘bartan’. Once they were back dinner preparation began. I found it interesting that unlike our city homes which contain the drawing room, the kitchen, the bedroom and the washroom in one unit, houses in Banni were broken down and each part was a stand alone unit and away from each other with a dung and mud courtyard connecting it all. The living and sleeping area was a round room with a conical tiled roof called ‘bhunga’. The rasoda or the kitchen was a few steps away- a square structure with thatched roof and just enough space for 5 people sitting down Indian style. As it was low ceilinged, one could not stand up straight and even the 5 feet 5 inches me had to bend whenever I stood up. The utensils hung from the walls or were stashed away in corners. There were 2 chulha’s that used firewood and were attached to the mud floor of the kitchen while there was a kerosene based stove locally known by its brand name- Primus in the kitchen corner. On the day of my visit some guests were over. Women of the house began cooking and roti making seemed to go on for ever. First the guests ate so did all the children, next up were men from the family and women of the house (me included) were the last ones to eat. At some point- a rolling pin was thrust into my hands- but I was no good at it. Post dinner an amazing thing happened- all the women of the fadiya congregated even as I was finishing the vegetable especially made for me. I took this opportunity to ask women, questions from the question bank. The mothers took me seriously the daughters were awaiting their turn to ask me questions. After I was done asking questions it was their turn to ask me questions- how come I was not married yet, how come my nose was not pierced, how come I was no good at cooking, what am I doing at a place like Banni having finished my masters from a place like Mumbai, they wanted to know about college and what it was like when girls and boys studied together, they wanted to know if I had a boyfriend, at one point I began feeling that they had been able to ask me more questions than I was able to ask and get answers for, which was unfair. We slept late that day, 11:30 PM or so. Salma and her sister had warned me that no matter what we had to be up by 5:30 AM at least, for milking the buffaloes. It was bitter cold, in the month of December. Kajju ben took out newest quilts for me. Four went on the floor for bedding and three went over me to protect me from the cold. I slept like a log. The next thing I remember was bitter cold and sounds of bells jingling in the distance. I dismissed it as a dream but it was Salma’s buffaloes returning. Salma’s sister came to fetch me, their mom was the first one to wake up around 4:00 am, she set two pots of water on the mud stove- one for heating water for washing face etc, the other one for making tea. We jumped out of bed and began folding the sheets but Salma said “not now, later, we are late the buffaloes have been here for half and hour” we that we rushed, she quickly washed her face- it was too cold and I decided to skip it. We gathered aluminium buckets, quickly packed in feed bags and rushed to feed the buffaloes. I was too scared and stood at a distance, while Salma began to milk the buffaloes. She urged me to do the same and after certain resistance I tried, the buffaloes udders were ‘rubbery and slippery’ and I was no good at the beginning plus my wrists just did not seem to have any strength. Over my 2 days stay I got slightly better at the milking exercise but still have a long way to go.
This cycle sort of repeated itself over two days. My take aways or points to ponder were: Women strangely seemed to have at least some voice in this household. Kajuben although an ally, is she doing her best to run the Aanganwaadi? The school and the school teacher seemed good here. But were girls really using their education? There are many young girls and they are heavily invested in animal husbandry, they already follow some clean milk practices, could that improve? Can we start an embroidery based SHG and savings and credits scheme here? Reproductive health remains a concern as always. 17th January, Seth Vandh Hodka An older Halepotra woman: We women don't know where our animals go and graze, which pasture I mean. The men-folk do. "When he grows up, I want my son to be a Maldhari and herd animals". Her daughter in law finally spoke up. Which grasses do our animals feed on?! Oh, they are so many- I can only think of Gandhir and sonel though right now. Hey ladies (gestures to the women around), can you name a few more?? We do have the pipe-line water, but we use it for washing and bathing purposes, we don't use it for drinking. It is too bland for drinking and cooking. We prefer our Kuva water for that. About health facilities- frankly opening of a hospital nearby is an additional expense of sorts. Not that we would not spend on health but isn't Jhurra cheaper for medicines? Everybody in the village takes embroidery orders from Srujan. We need the extra money. Whatever money comes in from the milk and dairy business gets consumed for buying Khan-daan for the buffaloes. Do you have any idea how expensive things have become around here. The money from embroidery gets used for food and clothes and expenses for children. Speaking of difficulties, give us taps, bathrooms and toilets in every house. We have only these issues, otherwise we have no other problems. We are happiest, sitting at home, embroidering. We do not feel the need to step out of our houses and see the world outside. We have not even seen Srujan's store where our embroidered articles go for sale. What's more, we haven't even been to the place for rotis, that hotel next door. But it is alright, we don't mind being at home all the time. For us the embroidery business is best in that sense, sit at home and do what we love to do. Initially our girls never went to school. Even today, they go to school only up to class 5. That is our "rivaaj" and we like it that way. The only other time we step out of our houses is when we need to see a doctor or when there is a marriage or a function in the community. "Asanje bathroomji ani paaniji taklif aain, byo kee naah". "Bathrooms and water availability are our only problems nothing else." -I was stunned by the fact that, despite having visited so many villages in Banni, I had never ever seen a Halepotra woman in flesh. I had only heard of their existence through my seniors. One such opportunity came when I visited Sadai, and met up with Ramzan Kaka's sister and other women from the family. But younger women seemed completely absent from that landscape. Why were these women trying to hide. Or is it that the social structure in Halepotras was such that one never met or saw younger women from their community, I wondered. Thus when I had the chance, I decided to go stay the night at Hodka, Seth Vandh. Above mentioned monologue belongs to Hodka. Lakha Bhai, himself a resident from Seth Vandh and a Sahjeevan contact was reluctant and hesitant about my idea, from the moment I announced it. He gave me all sorts of reasons from the language hassle I will have, to the fact that the women simply won't open up with me, so on and so forth. Finally when the time came, he dropped me off at Seth Vandh. It is true, the women and I barely understood each other, nor was I able to make any kind of a Vandh map with them. But the fact that they let me into their home and allowed me to observe and participate whenever possible in their activities was good enough a beginning for me. The way Seth Vandh is located, it is some distance away from the main road. Even when you get there, the entire Vandh is fenced with Baval, high enough to cut off visibility from outside to inside and vice- versa. And for women who rarely stepped out of their houses such a thing cut any visual contact with what lay outside their homes and Vandh. I found that a bit unfair, but that's how it was. Once you entered through the creaky little fence gate, one saw a massive Pakka room- called the Baithak or the drawing room. This one belonged to Salam Bhai's father. An influential elder, whose words are taken seriously by everyone in the Vandh. There is a Masjid near by and yet another walk
took you further to the heart of the Vandh where the kitchens and thereby the women were stationed. The older women had some degree of exposure, from all the droughts in Kachchh and the subsequent migration but the younger women were completely untouched by information on outside world or even malice or prejudice of any kind. Their innocence stunned me. It being winter, the buffaloes returned late from the pastures leaving the younger girls waiting in the cold while their mothers who too were waiting with them headed back home to perform other chores. One such girl who waited around for her buffaloes to return urged me to sit by the little bonfire she and her mother had lit and we had a conversation in my scant Kachchhi. She had heard me ask the older women questions about grasses and pastures and the fact that they had laughed my questions off. Sympathetically she offered names of few pastures nearby where she knew her buffaloes went for grazing. Although I was greatly touched by the gesture, I couldn't understand or pronounce those names well. I will have to return to Hodka once again for that information. The house where I had stayed the night, did not have girls my age at all. The girls my age were couple of houses away. And when I beckoned them to come join me with all the chattering women last night, they refused, I haven't been able to figure out till date whether women in Seth Vandh generally don't mingle as much or whether they don't mingle as much across age groups or whether my presence was just making them very shy. There were enough kids around to compensate for absence of adolescent girls. I adored them. They too, were untouched from all the malice, prejudice that has come to be characteristic of city kids, my own nephews and nieces included. They were precious indeed. I became good friends with Lakha Bhai's oldest child Abdullah and niece Jena Bai who was very talkative and it did not seem to bother her that she spoke in Sindhi-Kachchhi while I kept replying in Hindi and scant Kachchhi. She was just too happy to show me around the village and show me all the stunts she could pull like jumping over huge mounds of dung. I spotted some differences, comparing my visit to Daddhar and my visit here. For starters although the older women told me about their water woes, frankly they were nothing compared to the terrible water situation at Daddhar. Women in Hodka (Seth Vandh) had the water board pipe line water as well as their own decentralized traditional drinking water source that is "Kuuva/ virda". The method of drawing water from a "kuuva" is different from the regular throw in a vessel with rope around it and tug at it. Two women were required to draw water out of "Kuva". They threw in what was known as "Chadas", and two women pulled it upwards towards them standing at diametrically opposite ends. The design on the Kuuva was such that any water spilled in the process of drawing it out and filling the water pots was routed through a small channel in the ground to a rectangular mud tank built for the animals to drink from called the "Havada". It was a wonderful system. There were infinite frogs in the "Kuuva" that stunned me, but I know that the frogs act like natural filters. The women informed that initially the "Chadas" used for drawing water was made by Harijans of the village using leather in exchange of ghee/ milk etc that the Maldharis provided them with. But today, Harijans make the "Chadas" out of waste truck tire tubes. Hodka women made just one trip at a time, two times a day, with a quantity of water on their heads that was far less than the 3-4 trips that the Daddhar girls had to make twice a day with almost 35 litres of water atop their heads. Fetching of water in Daddhar, I realised was akin to boarding a crowded Mumbai local. It was competitive, aggressive and one had to be quick and fetch water in little groups with people watching out for their own group's safety. The "peeshab-paani maate ni naavni" i.e. the bathroom here was an elaborate stack of Ganda Baaval branches. There was a lot of fodder security too, I could tell by looking at stacks of dry grass in one corner of the Vandh. The rasodas were different too. Daddhar had bigger ones, the ones at Seth Vandh were extremely low ceilinged, Rasoda for one (sitting on the floor). Girls my age, like I mentioned before were either absent, absconding or largely invisible. Everybody just seemed too quiet and content. The girls who have studied up to fifth grade could barely read, and had to quit after 5th grade. As the high school was far off, in Ghorewalli someone mentioned, it was unthinkable for parents at Hodka to send their daughters outside of their Vandhs for schooling. Add to it, the fact that girls helped with home chores, ensured that they were left at home post class five. I discovered that the women were happy with the kind of assignments and payments Srujan gave them. Buffalo young ones, I was informed had two kinds of shelters or "Vaadas". The minimalist ones for summer
and ones which provided more enclosure and were lined with hay for the winters (too many mosquitoes). Jenab Bai, the four year old kid remarked when the winds blew up a sand storm that it is nothing to worry about, it was just white face powder and I should not be hassled by it. Indeed! The feisty Banni kid. When I tried analysing what might have led to such a dismal response from the women of Seth Vandh, I figured, it was perhaps my "been there, done that" attitude, w.r.t all things Banni. I realised then, that the ability to look at same things over and over again with new eyes is imperative. The differences are too "jhina" or fine to be lying on the surface. My ability to see the bigger picture, analyse the patterns will be the deciding factor as to how rich the study will get. It has barely been two night halts so far, many more first visits and further interactions what really has emerged from the whole exercise? Across villages, across communities, households, dressing and embroidery vary. There are difference in the levels of exposure and the ability to express on part of the women. The difference between the degree of freedom, access to information and or opportunities for women across communities and vary according to their location in Banni. Presence of different kinds of NGOs at different points in Banni and their preference for certain communities over others must be looked into. <Apart from their organizational agenda, on what basis do NGOs choose what communities to work with and in which village?> The surprises that have emerged so far: Are the over-protected women from Hodka, supporting the men's income from within the four walls of their households? Why do the men not acknowledge this fact? Or is it that I am blind to this? For what reason do Halepotras and pretty much everybody in Banni look down upon Jatts? Questions that need to be answered: What sort of social mobilization practices did Srujan, Kala Raksha and other NGOs working with women of Banni undertake? How did they decide on the villages and communities they wanted to work with, as in what were the parameters? What strategies did KMVS employ in Banni- Pachham areas? Does each NGO have a different perspective on the women of Banni? What is it and how does it vary? Post my night stay at Seth Vandh, Hodka, people from Sahjeevan had promised to pick me up and we all later on headed to Dumado for a meeting at Sameja Vandh. The Maulana of Seth Vandh accompanied me as he noticed that I was leaving for the main road alone. He walked with me till we reached the CC road that connects Seth Vandh to the main road. I reached the main road and plonked myself on the KM sign by the road side. It was so quiet and peaceful but my thoughts refused to leave me and I began journaling. The quiet is interrupted every once in a while with sounds of explosions taking place in the distance. The Maulana had told me earlier on, it was the "BSFwallahs" getting rid of the expired ammunition. As vehicles zoomed past me, I overheard two men on bike who slowed down as they came towards me to wonder out loud "isn't she scared??" but rode off without ceremony. Thank God! -Maldhari Sanghthan Meeting Dumado 18/ 01/11 Next stop Dumado, the occasion was Banni Maldhari Sangathan's Karobari Sadasya meeting that had been organised at Ibrahim Bhai Allana's place at Sameja Vandh. The set-up for the meeting was rather elaborate. There was a "mandap" with several quilts on the floor for the people to sit on. Elaborately embroidered pillows or "usikos" were strewn about. There were huge plates with cigarette packs and kish-mish-supari. Maybe this is how a conference in Banni is supposed to look like. We were six girls and others from the NGO while rest of the 50 or more people present there perhaps were men. The men took over the entire space of the "mandap" leaving very little space for us girls at he back. I did not know it then, but it would be reflective of the afternoon to come. Although the NGO staff looking after the Maldhari Sangathan work in Banni are 2 women and one man, we women were largely absent from the discourse that day. The meeting had been called in for the agenda
of starting an animal service center at Jatt-patti, regarding training of local boys as para-vets, for the land-rights issue and last but not the least for planning out water work that is to start at Banni soon. The meeting, its safe to mention this now got hijacked by arguments over starting an animal service centre at Jatt Patti, which is when Shailesh Bhai, our engineer from the water team decided to go survey Dumado's Jhil. I accompanied. Following write-up was generated from that visit. Dumado Dumado consists of following "Vaandhs" Ajimani, Kandhani, Sameja, Meherally, Pathan, Sheikh Vandh, Udi Vandh, Koli Vaas. The Sarpanch of Dumado is a woman from Ajimani Vandh, however her husband manages all the work. Ajimani is the biggest Vaandh in Dumado with a population of about 500 people distributed across 35 families. The animals do not drink through out the day at the havadas in winters but that is the case in summer season. The biggest water tank locally called "Samp" is located at the heart of Dumado with a capacity of holding 80,000 lit of water, to which the Sarpanch has attached a motor that pumps water to the smaller tank from it, it has a havada too. Ajimani vandh itself has 3 water tanks with a holding capacity of 5,000 lit each and 4 "jheels" in which family wise the Kuuvas are separate. It would create quite a chaos if 500 animals gather at the same point for a drink. The need for potable water for humans has been largely met by digging of Kuvaas, it is the drinking water need of animals that is the larger challenge here. Big and small, there are in all 12 ponds in Dumado, Ghade Talav being the biggest one. They do not make any Kuuvas in this biggest pond because the local perception is that the there is no point in digging from scratch at a surface where no prior cavity exists and in any case the family owned, family managed Kuuvas are better cared for than those belonging to entire community. I am glad I made some friends at Ajimani Vaandh and that would be Ruksana, the girl from Kolkata and some more in Sameja Vandh- Roshni, the teacher at Sameja Vandh school. -Chher Vaas with Mamta for BYP 20/01/11 Mamta and me were at Chher Vass, followed by couple of other villages on the "Ugamni Banni" side for the BYP survey. In conversation with Kurli Bai from Cherr Vaas it was apparent that the kids from Cherr Vaas were not going to school although the school was so close by and had a good teacher. "Kids create 'raada' in school and when the teacher scolds them, they cry and run home, hence we also do not insist on them attending school everyday" she said. Was this for real, I wondered. There were rumours of how the other communities did not want Cherr Vaas kids to go to school with their kids. Cherrs were initially Wadhas and became Cherr on acceptance of Islam. "Cherrs won't be encountered elsewhere in Banni, only Daddhar side" the women pointed out. 22/01/11 Bhuj-Hodko- Mithdi-Bhitara Land rights' issue Salim Kaka: In late 70s, early 80s, when I was trying to sell milk at Bhuj, people from Banni were never really entertained. I had to approach several dairies, be left there waiting and often ignored. By that time, the milk would go sour and obviously nobody would be willing to buy spoilt milk. What is funny is that mineral water was selling for a higher price than Banni's milk which had a fat percentage of 8 and was selling at rs 4/ litre. The trouble with asking for 10 acre chunks of land is that who knows what will happen next? Today the pastures belong to all and our buffaloes move around and graze freely. While they are at it, with them their dung and urine spreads far and wide, enriching the soils of Banni and leading to more grass. It's after 32 years that there is as much grass again. Before that, thanks to constant drought when our buffaloes ceased to be even the grasses ceased to be. Hence the process- of buffaloes grazing freely in the commons and grasses regenerating in the commons is symbiotic and cyclic. Our animals, depend on the grassland and the grasslands on the grazing animals. All this talk of development is fine, but companies and factories that pollute and degrade the environment is that all there is to development? These businesses are not environmentally sustainable. Everyone is after
money today, and fast cars, companies that can produce desired goods for consumption which inturn depend on diesel, petrol, coal and other fuels. What will happen when the fuel ceases to be? We might not be affected because of this, while it's true, even we may take perhaps three days to travel within Banni, but we wouldn't come to a halt, thanks to our animals and sustainable business. Remember it's the grassland that will hold us in a good stead. Feb. 1/ 2011 BYP survey + Khan Dan work + Maldhari Sanghathan office work Shifted to Habhu bhai's at Bhirandiyara. Was not as complicated and cumbersome as shifting might seem, thanks to help from Mamta and Suresh Bhai. Visit today- Misariyado Vaadha Vaas Mamata and I were at Vaadha Vaas, Misariyada for counting hens, chicks and for collecting information which later becomes the monthly Backyard Poultry report. While at it, we engaged in a freewheeling chat with Chena Bai,who could be called the natural leader amongst the 7 Vaadha families at Misariyada. She outlined a few threats faced by poultry- flooding, predators, diseases and consumption (not in a particular order). Apparently solution for a lot of problems was building a mud house for poultry (or at least my NGO believed so) and making use of indigenous traditional insect repellants like neem leaves, garlic which will give them a clean, cool shelter and keep suffocation, diseases and predators in check. Besides poultry- Chenabai and her family is involved in charcoal making. But her family does not own a four wheeler that can help transport the charcoal once it is made. Such case with many a family in Banni has led to the rise of vehicle owning 'bitchotiyas' or middle men who buy charcoal from families in Banni for cheaper rates and sell it either to the Nigam or private buyers. Chenabai told us that current rate for charcoal sold to the Nigam is Rs 250/ 40 kg that is Rs. 6 per Kg. However, Aminbhai from Bhagadiya told me the other day that the rate has now increased to almost Rs. 7/ kg and the coal makers are trying to pressurise the Nigam to part with Rs. 8/kg. Chenabai does not own a vehicle to transport the charcoal she makes to the Nigam and ends up selling coal to the vehicle owning middle-men. In this process, the coal makers end up earning Rs. 150/ 40 kg while the middle men keep Rs. 100/ 40 kg. This was rather unfortunate. After a chat with Chena bai, we headed to Majna Vaas, Misariyada to meet Majna Ali Bhambha. Most maldharis in this Vandh still keep cattle and are involved in selling 'Mora Mawa' or bland (without sugar) Mawa to Penda Makers in Bhuj. The purpose of our visit to Majna Vaas was increasing Sangathan membership. I noticed that post pubescent girls did not attend school although it was so close to Majna Vaas. After Majna Vaas we headed next to Nehri, a village bang opposite Misariyado. Neri had one of the few functional schools I have come across in Banni. In all it had 33 students registered across 1st to 6th grade. It supposedly had more girls than boys registered as students. Two teachers were managing the show at Nehri school who lived in rooms on the school premises. Both the teachers were named Ramesh. A peek inside an ongoing class revealed that not many students were around- the teachers reasoned this absence due to the Eranda (castor) harvest season as well as charcoal making. I somehow did not buy their reasoning fully. Total population of Nehri- approximately 165 people is spread across the following VandhsBudhia Vandh- people from this Vandh have mostly relocated to Sheikhpir, for the availability of fodder and water for their ruminants. Jagani Fadiya- Mostly Halepotra population rearing buffaloes Kablani Fadiya- Halepotras, rearing sheep-goat, poultry and buffaloes. Our contact in Nehri is a Halepotra man named Ramzanbhai (9427766904) who showed us around, interestingly in comparison to Seth Vandh Halepotras, Nehri Halepotras were not well off at all. I wonder what has caused the difference. February 2/ 2011 Cherr Vaas Cherr Vaas consists of roughly 32 families, our contact here is a man named Hasam Haaji (9879684581) Mamata and I went to Cherr Vaas to follow-up in the BYP project. While we went around, counting hens, hatchlings and observing what they were being fed, more and more people made demand for the iron cages. Mamata told them that the iron cages were not long lasting and
were barely the solution to a lot of their problems. But the general sentiment here was that of 'getting out as much you can from an NGO'. She also mentioned to women a possible exposure trip to inspire them to do better business. At some point we were surrounded by a lot of men and women who could not stop whining. I was pretty disillusioned by the attitudes of people from Cherr Vaas after this visit. Strangely this is a non-Ojhal community but does not send their children to school. Sameja Vandh, Dumado I was back from filling water before noon, and was surprised at how much girls from Sameja Vandh at Dumado knew. They could tell exactly how much each 'matka' weighed, perhaps they use the same 'matkas' for milking the buffaloes or some such. I was hanging out with extended family of Sameja Ibrahimbhai Allana - one of the 21 executive members from BPUMS. In fact one of the younger ones even knew how much was spent on hiring a bulldozer when the jhil area was being renovated. She quoted an amount of Rs. 3000 a day, which Ibrahimbhai corrected to be Rs. 1800 a day later on. And although Rs. 5 Lakh was spent towards making provisions of drinking water, Sameja Vandh did not have an independent water line/ tank and there by no regular supply of water board water. Ibrahimbhai explained to me that there were two main water lines that ran through Banni, providing (and at times not providing) water to various villages in Banni. The routes are as followsLine A> Bhirandiyara- Sadai- Vadli- Karnavalli- Erandavalli- Meherally Vandh(Dumado)- Dumado and Line B> Jhurra- Mota Sarada (entire Jat patti except Bhitara and Luna)- Thikariyado- Ghorewalli. Ibrahimbhai tells me Samejas are spread in and around Banni, Bhuj, Daddor, Uthokdi, Bhojardo, Jadura, Rajkot and Rajasthan. Samejas from Banni, headed to Bhuj in search of fodder and water for their animals, the ones better off continued to spread all over Kachchh from there on, while poorer ones returned. Quite a few Sameja families are settled in Bhuj in the camp area. Both Ibrahimbhai and his wife believe that the government line water is 'chokha' and they manage to drink virda water because of habit, although it contains sand and grass. Often, water freshly collected from the virda renders tea black. Apparently whenever they visit a doctor and he prescribes them medication he asks them to take medicines with the government line drinking water rather than the water from their traditional source. Sameja Vandh is fully infested with flies. Even after constant lipai and using insect repellant powder, there are many flies- Niyamat Bai, Ibrahim's wife tells me. There are three schools in Dumado at Ajimani Vandh, Sheikh Vandh and Sameja Vandh. The school at Sameja Vandh is currently operating in the community hall provided by Ibrahimbhai as the actual building is under construction. This temporary school premises has been functional for over a year now. Two lady teachers are in charge of operations here- Roshni (09408526458) and Neelamben (9408361057). Roshni is barely 21 years old and has been here for 7-8 months. Ibrahim bhai and his 3 brothers collectively own 50 buffaloes and 15 cows and all of these drink water at the havada near ibrahim bhai's house. Ibrahim Bhai also has a sister- Fatemabai who has only sons and no daughters. She laments this as she will be responsible for all the household chores with no one to share her burden, until she marries her sons and daughters in law come home and help her. It will be a long while before that happens are her sons are very very young. I asked Fatema bai would consider getting an operation done or if she has any preference in terms of a girl child or boy child to which she said that she doesn't have a preference nor is she considering an operation "Allahji den aaiin (it's a gift from God)" to which I smile. Unlike Niyamat (Ibrahimbhai's wife) Fatemabai's health seemed fine. Niyamatbai came to Banni from Bhuj almost 21 years ago. Her sisters and brother live in Bhuj in 'flats with toilets inside'. Niyamat used to stay at Jalaram colony (where Sahjeevan is located), it was a jungle back then. In Sameja Vandh, women on average seem to have 5 kids. They have awareness regarding sterilisation operations as well as how pregnancy after pregnancy their body weakens for the lack of iron in the blood. Following was observed regarding milking techniques: Not particular of washing udders before milking. Not particular about too many flies falling into the milk cans. Although the Sameja vandh 'fadiya' is
chokha (clean and well maintained). Ibrahim bhai took at least half a litre of buffalo milk and added it to cow milk- trying to justify his action by saying that people in the dairies always make a mistake calculating the fat content of cow milk sent in, this will compensate for the error. While Ibrahimbhai was busy making what seemed like 'milk calculations' I ventured into his sister's that is Fatema bai's kitchen. It had a cupboard made from mud, wood and dung with rounded corners. Perhaps urban designers should take lessons. Another interesting fact I noticed the human young ones fed the animal young ones. A cavity of sorts was made into the government water line that came to Sameja Vandh. Ibrahimbhai told me he had decided to break open that pipe as it did not bring any water anyways. A hole had been dug from the ground, below till the pipe is seen and this is a well of sorts, called Kundi, his theory is that there isn't enough pressure ever for the water to climb 'up' and fill the tank that it is supposed to fill so this arrangement works fine. As this hole is really small- only girls aged 7-8 can climb down two at a time and fill smaller pots or Ghonis by pushing water from the pipeline into the pots. I was not sure what I thought about this. On one hand Maldharis breaking open the water lines was the very reason why water was not being managed well in the first place. But what is one to do, if indeed a pipeline has been allotted to the Vandh but has not received consistent supply of water in years- 5 in this case, perhaps people will eventually get desperate and try finding a way out. It perhaps thus makes sense not only for Banni but for all of us to look for decentralisation. Speaking of animal husbandry at Ibrahimbhai is not seen doing much animal husbandry work- in fact it is his eldest daughter Mummal and his younger brothers Misribhai, Ahmedbhai, Sallubhai and wife Halima who care for 50 to 60 buffaloes and three cows. Basically all these people hold the primary responsibility of milking the animals. If Mummal is not available or unwell her older brother Bhachaya steps in. During the morning milking session a cow had delivered a calf which it continuously licked. While I could see the placenta hanging loose from the rear of the cow. The cow had delivered in the middle of the area where all the animals assembled and had to be tempted with ghamela of Khad-bhusa so that she moved. While Halima herself picked up the calf and deposited it next to it's mother. Around the same time one of the buffaloes called 'Bhuri' refused to be milked. She had lost her calf no one knows why- although Hamida, Ibrahimbhai's younger daughter claims due to infection caused my maggots and was being very hostile to other buffaloes. This condition I have noticed elsewhere too, where an animal due to death of young one stops yielding milk. Mummal, Ibrahim bhai's eldest daughter and the drone bee of the house instantly brought out the 'milk injection' and tried injecting the Bhuri with it but failed as Bhuri would not stand still. So her uncle and Ibrahimbhai's younger brother Misribhai injected Bhuri with oxytocin. I was unsure what to tell them about adverse effects of oxytocin. Post morning milking, all the brothers in the Allana household put their milk together. It is sent in Ibrahimbhai's name. After the cans were packed the unthinkable happened- Mummal's mother, a very frail woman probably suffering from anemia lifted up a 40 litre milk can and walked quite a distance etc where the cans had to be dropped of for them to be picked up. A weak woman and such hard labour? There were men around who carried fat samples (tiny bottles containing milk to be tested for fat content) or some such. Strange! Post dropping off the milk cans for pick up by a chakkda, it was time to sweep the courtyard clean. Mostly it was older women and younger girls who were seen sweeping. The woman of the house in Sameja Vandh is typically a woman between the age group of 25-40. This cannot be generalised though, as in one case the woman was way older than the man she was married to. Niyamat bai told me usually daughters are married to sons from the kaka's side that is the paternal uncle. Niyamat bai and I had a never ending conversation. She told me how despite of being from the city (Bhuj) her father gave her off in marriage to a person from Banni. She had very little say in the whole matter. She lost her mother when she was 12 years old. Ever since, she and her sister worked as maids at Ushaben Thakkar's house in Bhuj while her brother worked as construction labour. At her mother's place she was used to cooking on a 'Primus' (an Indian brand of kerosene based stove) earlier and an LPG gas later. But once in Banni her life had been turned over completely. Does she regret it, I asked her. She said she did initially resent it but not anymore, not after her children were
born. The oldest one "Mamad" uses a Kheerji gaadi that is a milk van for collecting Ganda Bawal wood for charcoal making. He has 'partners' involved in this 'business' and they split money from this venture post deducting his vehicle costs. Second in line is Bhachaya- besides following up his school education with a "Hodkeji ji Talim" does odd jobs when required around the house. When Mummal ran out of Khad- Bhuso he got her the gunny sacks from yet another room where they keep a stock of animal feed. He also helps Mummal with 'dohai' that is milking. Bhachaya is followed by the humble, uneducated drone bee of the house- Mummal. Immanudin and Hamida follow her. Both are smart and outspoken. Last is Niyamat's apple of the eye- Abdullah. This really young child- along with Hamida and other female cousins goes to fetch firewood every evening. Perhaps it was because he was the youngest but Abdullah seemed closest to his mother. Early morning discovery. Like I have mentioned before there were a billion flies and they were everywhere, not in the courtyard as much as in the rooms or Bhungas. In the morning when I had to attend nature's call I discovered where the toilet was. It was in the backyard and very close to where all the Bhungas were. Perhaps that explained all the flies. Also unlike all the other houses I have seen in Banni- the Vathaan (or the area where all the animals assemble and rest whenever they return to hamlets for milking) was simply too close to the houses and the kitchens. Speaking of hygiene and health- women in Allana section of Sameja Vandh were too weak. Halima, Niyamat's sister in law was pregnant with her sixth child for the want of a boy. Niyamat at night told me how some women in Banni just quietly go get 'operations' done thanks to push from the local nurse. Both Niyamat and Halima complained of bodies weakening pregnancy after pregnancy and the fact that perhaps their bodies did not have enough blood due to which they felt constantly dizzy. Ajimani Vandh My trip to Ajimani Vandh was limited to Ayub Ali's house- which is one of the more influential families in Dumado. Thus, my time spent with them and my understanding of their life is not representative of the entire Ajimani Vandh. Younger Halepotra girls from Ayub's family seemed more educated than their counterparts in Seth Vandh, Hodka. There is a school here and girls study up to seventh grade. The Halepotra girls of Ajimani Vandh are engaged very young age, some as young as 9 - 10 years. They get married later on, by the age of 20-22. This is when they move into their husband's house. Ayub Ali's house has a gigantic 'Vaada' where he grows rain fed Gowar, Jowar and Til (sesame). The older women here like ones in Sameja Vandh wear a 4 m long cloth lungi-style called the 'Pot' (t pronounced not as T in tamarind but T in the Indian name Tushar). Although while traveling there were 'ghaghro' or a lose 'salwar'. As these women are Hindi speaking they understand me better than Halepotra women in Seth Vandh. The standard of living here is better than that witnessed in Sameja Vandh and homes here are cleaner. When these women are not cooking, cleaning, milking the buffaloes or some such they are embroidering. The life of Halepotra women in Ayub Ali's family involved less physical labour than that of Sameja Vandh. I reached Ayub's house at around 11 in the morning. As soon as I came the women said it was lunch time and I was fed an amazing lunch of shaak rotli and chaas. The plates, glasses and all the cutlery like is always the case whenever there are guests visiting Banni were spanking new. Post lunch, all the women gathered around me and we talked and giggled about this and that. One of the girls Julie- Ayub's sister could speak Hindi and had studied up to 7th grade. I was pleasantly surprised about that one. My visit to Seth Vandh had created a unidimensional image of Halepotra women. In some sense these women had simply accepted their fate so to speak and never questioned it, being confined to their houses and being kept away from exposure and the world at large. Julie on the other hand seemed to be fairly well-informed. These women were much more outspoken than Halepotra women of Seth Vandh, Hodka. They asked me one question that I have been often asked in Banni, how come I was roaming 'all alone' and wasn't I scared of it? Just to keep the conversation flowing and in fact entertain them- I showed them a china-made knife I had bought while at Bhuj. It was Rampuri-like but with a lock to prevent the knife opening accidently and an LED light. They were thrilled to see it specially the LED light that came with the knife. After I showed them my knife I wondered if I should have done that? What if they tell men folk of their family about it and what if I am perceived as some sort of corrupting influence on women. But clearly I was over-thinking and none of that happened. All the while we spoke women had been embroidering exquisite Khambiri quilts.
I assumed for Shrujan. It came as a surprise the fact that they hand over their embroidered articles to a person from Harijanvaas, a middlemen who in turn sells it in the market. These 10 to 12 women, at around 2 in the afternoon made a fuss about it being the 'dohai' time and that everybody should leave aside their embroidery work and get to work. Interestingly, when I went over to the dohai spot I noticed that the women merely helped bring in Khad-Bhusa bags and monitored the milking session. Later, I was told that in the presence of the menfolk of the house women don't milk the animals. Post dohai too, women did no physical work such as carrying the milk cans, dropping them off to be picked up etc. They picked up empty feed bags to be deposited into the Khad-Bhusa room and got back to embroidery in no time. The milk pick-up van comes to Ajimani Vandh at 4:30 PM everyday. Ayub Ali, keeps the register for the dairies whether government or private. He collects milk from everybody in Ajimani vandh as well as Kandhani Vandh. The milk is sent to dairies and the money comes in four different accounts- those in the names of Ayub's uncles- not Ayub himself. What is the system or understanding between all of them that allows these things to operate smoothly? What is the system for same in Sameja Vandh? I noticed all the Allana brothers had poured their milk in together. In both Vandhs and pretty much everywhere else in Banni, milk was split and sent into private as well as government dairies (NDDB-Junagadh, Amul-Sarhad dairy ). Why do Maldharis make so many divisions of their milk? What do private dairy owners have to say about this (arrival of government dairies considering at one point milk from Banni sold for paltry sums, was valued less than bottled mineral water apparently as an elder from Sargu remarks.) Although private dairies pay less, Ayub sends a portion of the milk into private dairies, he tells me in Hindi- "unke saath abhi samabndh ban gaya hai, woh log hi dukh sukh mein kaam ayien hain aur aaj bhi hame koi loan chahiye, 1 lakh ka bhi loan chahiye toh yeh private waale denge. Bhains ke liye bank loan toh ab milna shuru hua hai. kuch Rs. 40,000 jitna milta hai". When I asked Ayub about insurance for buffaloes, he mentioned what he knew about insurance for humans instead. Someone from NDDB had thrust into Ayub's hand a flier by LIC, adapted especially to Banni's conditions. The scheme was such that a deposit of Rs 200 into LIC scheme ensured a Rs 30, 000 payback on death. While Ayub Ali was telling me all this, I had a epiphany of sorts that he was a milk broker. He said, all the people have agreed to send their milk through him because he was able to fetch them a good price. Does Ayub charge a commission for this milk brokering business? Does he monopolise the situation at the cost of other milk producers in certain way? Interestingly women in Ayub's house were engaged in some very exquisite embroidery and that is a source of income too. They were being paid Rs. 1000 per quilt and Rs. 100 per the Mutwa strip they were embroidering. I asked them what they do with their money, for some reason I asked them if they spend this money on health, visits to doctors etc. They declined saying 'aadmi' (one's husband, but essentially the man of the house so could mean father before marriage) gives them money for health expenses. They spend money on bangles, jewelry; basically pindja paisa is spent pindji rite. These women use the money from embroidery as their 'pocket money' to buy goodies, unlike Sameja Vandh or even Hodka where the women claim to use this money for household expenses like food and other necessities. Milking techniques were not very different than those in Sameja Vandh- except the treatment given to Khad-Bhusa. Folks at Sameja Vandh would soak the oil cakes immediately after the afternoon milking session and would mix it with wheat bran at night post dinner in ghamelas. In winters they would pack soaked oil-cakes with wheat bran at night itself just before going to bed. Where as in summers they packed the feed bags in the morning. Otherwise it would ferment in the plastic bags Ibrahimbhai said. Ajimani Vandh claimed that they soaked oil-cakes only during the summer. Ayub's father mentioned the differences between the two pure blood lines- Sindhan and Kachchhan. He mentioned the subtle differences (whether the horns curl outwards or inwards and whether the scales on the horn are on the outside or the inside of the horns) using which, one can tell a Sindhan or a Kachchhan apart. Sagais In Ajimani Vandh, the 'sagai/ engagement' takes place at a very young age. Once engaged a girls wears a huge disc like nose ring called 'Shiri/ Siri' They eventually marry and move into their in-laws house around 20ish. The average number of children here was 11. Despite of having more children
that those in Sameja Vandh, women here at least in Ayub Ali's house were healthy and seemed full of life. Ajimani vandh & Sameja Vandh Kuva paani vs. Government waterIn Ajimani Vandh, they filled drinking water in the morning from the Kuva and they would fill in water for washing and bathing in the afternoons and evenings from the government water tank near the house. When asked why they follow such water related practices both men and women from Ajimani Vandh said 1> It tasted better, 2> "Apni jameen se nikla hua pak pani hai, jo paani line se ata hai woh pata nahi kitna dur se ata hai, kitne din pipe mein raha hoga, aur kahan kahan se behkar aya hai, kaun kaun usme nahaya hai." Perspective in Sameja Vandh was exactly oppositeTank water was better than Virda. Kuva water as 1> The doctor said so, especially while you are on medication (Ayub seconded this perspective, i.e. he does not believe in it but the doctors from urban areas do insist on Banni people giving up their old ways, that includes drinking Kuva water. 2> Freshly drawn Kuva water renders tea 'black'. 3> Niyamat believes this is because the Kuva water contains percentage of sand and grass from which the water passes in a filter process before collecting in Kuvaas. What I found interesting was that the government tank near Ajimani Vandh was connected to the havadaa (drinking water trough for animals) via an underground valve connection, when it was time for the animals to drink water, Ayub would simply use the valve to route government tank water into the Havada, found the solution very urban and Dombivliesque. Pannavari- Mutwas I was excited at the prospect of being able to meet Kaladharbhai from Mutwa community who had agreed to host me and help me further in my study. He is a renowned Sindhi poet and wishes to start a Sindhi school for students in Banni as currently they have to make do with education in Gujarati alone. As I make my way into Kaladhar bhai's house his youngest child, daughter Amesad pesters her mother for a watch to wear and is 3 years old. Amesad has a very lovely frill frock. I ask them where they got it from and they tell me there is a tailor in Pannavari who can stitch those. I had lunch soon enough after I came in. To my surprise they had cooked a local delicacy- the bird Tittar or Partridge, when they heard I was coming over. Sad indeed, as I don't consume eggs but not birds really. Soon enough when they were milking their animals, I went to the dohai spot and made friends with Miria who is one of the three animal husbandry experts as I call them in Kaladharbhai's home. I noticed that they never chained their animals or tie a rope around the animals' hind legs which is a practice common all over Banni. Also Kaladharbhai's buffaloes were used to eating from ghamelas straight, not out of feed bags which was also a common practice all over Banni. I saw several hens and chicken run around and wondered if they have a poultry business. Kaladharbhai's mother told me besides buffaloes they keep goats for milk and hens for consumption by family and guests who visit so not really a business. These hens are stored in iron cages during the night and let out everyday morning. These iron cages have been around for 15 years. This was in absolute contradiction to what BYP had to say about iron cages. Soon Kaladharbhai left and I got a chance to meet his wife Satar Bano, Miria who is her sister and is married to Kaladharbhai's brother was around. They were engaged in what was the finest and the most delicate embroidery I have ever seen. They took embroidery based assignments from Shrujan. They would initially embroider for Kala Raksha- but made a switch to Shrujan as it gave them bigger and finer surfaces to embroider which meant better payments too. The women tell me they recently finished embroidering a beautiful saree, 10 of them split work between themselves and got paid Rs 15, 000 for it. They each marked out spots on the saree and embroidered it accordingly. When I walked into one of the kitchens I noticed a huge gunny sack of vegetable which get stocked up every 10 days. The older women of the house told me that as children they always drank kuva water but it has been over 20-25 years that Kuvas have altogether disappeared from the seven Mutwa villages. But water situation must be better here- I saw at least 3 Havadas in the vicinity of Kaladhar bhai's house. Meaning there must be enough water to fill them at time. I wondered how so many havadas can be in such close vicinity- I had seen very few per
hundreds of buffaloes everywhere else in Banni. Here the Havadas to animals ratio was much better. Just as the buffaloes gathered before milking, I saw that they were given a bath, for first ever time in Banni. And it was winter season. Surely, there is plenty of water here and I know not how. Apart from the 3 havadas I saw there was a CC tank dug into the ground with steps that went in. I thought it had something to do with rain water harvesting but younger girls told me it was a 'kachra taka'. Shroff had built that one with the aim of starting a garbage recycling initiative, but is yet to take off. Amesad, meanwhile started singing. Apparently she sings all day- Arabic songs from the Quran which probably her mother sings to her at night. It is interesting how mothers in Pannavari put their children to sleep. All the families hold huge wooden cradles that swing, locally called Pinglo or Hindora. Mums swing their children to sleep by swinging the cradles themselves and signing Arabic songs . Perhaps that is how Amesad knows of the songs. Mutwa houses in Pannavari are all packed together closely, perhaps more closely packed than Halepotra houses in Seth Vandh. Like everywhere else in Banni, Mutwa houses have baithaks too where in the guests are received. The baithak is also where all the brass pots and other gift items from weddings etc are stacked. Women in Kaladhar bhai's household follow a meticulous distribution of tasks be it home chores, getting firewood or animal rearing based activities. So when Sattar makes early morning tea, Miria is milking the buffaloes and once Sattar and Miria are done, Rukia takes over the kitchen to make early morning rotis. Mutwas are mild and learned. They are refined too. And soft spoken. I know not how one community in Banni is so advanced in terms of education. But this progressiveness of sorts is not essentially equally distributed. Gorevalli a village near Pannavari, also a Mutwa village, has a school up to 10th grade where both girls and boys can study. I think this is the only school in Banni to have class 10th. I am not sure that how such a school can be in one far corner of Banni. Often in my trips around Banni when I speak to parents they admit the fact that they realise that education is important but are not inclined to send their daughters to school as Gorewalli is just too far from their homes- which is sort of true and sad. Despite of the soft spoken behaviour and a refined demeanour one thing I could not dig deep into was whether all Mutwa women have it happier, easier than women in rest of Banni. I think even in Pannavari- I got a sense that although girls were attending school post-puberty, perhaps it was not perceived in the same light as boys of the same age attending the school. In the sense Miria told me she would rather her nephews get a job with Agrocel which is a Bromine processing company nearby than be Maldharis anymore. But she did not say that about her nieces. As if the boy's education was an imperative, a necessity and a given whereas the girl's education was merely ornamental. Miria although swears by 'Shrujan's embroidery work' as an important occupational option for women. Allows them to be at home, tend to all the responsibilities at home as well as add to the household income. Kaladharbhai's sister Hamida, has studied Sindhi, Gujarati and has finished schooling up to class 4. Apparently she also studied Urdu. She was the one to give me name of pastures nearby where the livestock they own grazes. Not forget that Hamida is a proud owner of a cell phone. She is one of the two women I know of who own a cell-phone in Banni. Although rest of Banni is crying hoarse over Agrocel, Miria praises it as it has given jobs to some Mutwa youth. But at what cost, I ponder-only if they knew. Sargu- Node- Salim Kaka's home I reached Sargu noonish, around 3:30ish. Salim Kaka, a senior and an active member of BPUMS had agreed to host me. I believe I reached amidst some sort of drama. Salim Kaka was admonishing his son Sanawallah for wanting to inject their cow with oxytocin as she was not yielding any milk that day. Salim Kaka was opposed to this as he understood the effects a hormone of this kind will have on the cattle. Salim kaka is voracious reader and is a storyteller in every sense of the term. He is a renowned Bhagiya meaning a traditional healer of Banni. I have made several visits to this house before and hence I expected things to be a lot easier in the sense of getting information from women of this household etc. It turned out to not be the be the case however. Since I was practically a friend of Salim Kaka's daughters the girls went out of the way to spend time with me and make me feel at home. As a result I was not able to see them in their natural element. Also as they spent too much time talking to me their daily schedule went for a toss. Salim Kaka's wife Amina is not from Banni but from Rapar. The case is thus similar to Niyamat- Ibra-
himbhai's wife who is from Bhuj. Aminabai comes from a much open environment than Banni. Her daughters whenever they visit their mother's childhood home get to watch TV and movies. Coming from a place like Banni where women are not allowed to watch TV, listen to radio or in most cases use a cell phone on their own, these young girls find life in Rapar rather exciting than back home in Banni. These girls kept asking me various questions about life in the cities, especially film industry. They assumed because I come from Mumbai, I meet actors and actresses on daily basis. When I told them that was not the case, they refused to believe me. The household work and home chores at Salim kaka's home are distributed between his children. Sannawallah, Razia are animal husbandry experts and sometimes Madina also pitches in. His eldest daughter Mumtaaz is a cooking expert and does not participate in other chores besides fetching water which all the three girls do together. Sanawallah repairs radio transistors and is planning to get trained in the use of computers and scoial media in a training initiated by Khari Setu, Khavda. The morning after my visit, was an 'Aabat' (not literal translation but means an open community invitation of Sharmdaan) at Haroon kaka's place for building a new house for his son. Haroon kaka is Salim Kaka's brother. All the girls of Salim kaka's vandh were planning to assemble at Haroon Kaka's house for the same. Such Aabats- they could be for building a house or even digging a virdaa/ Kuva are a symbol of community living. The host family arranges for breakfast, lunch and tea in-between for people who show up to work during such Aabats. The Aabat for building a virda involves men while as I witnessed at Sargu, the Aabat for building a house involves mostly women. I accompanied Razia the next day when she went to the lake to get silt needed for building a Banni bhunga. A chat with Aminabai revealed that for groceries, vegetables and what have you came from in and around Khavda. Deliveries take place in the villages itself with the help of midwife called Meghubai. Some children have been born in Khavda and Bhuj too. I noticed an interesting fact that people in Sargu were building houses for boys as young as 13, anticipating that within a couple of years he would be married and would need a house anyway. Their logic was it is cheaper to build a house now before prices soar further. While we were getting the silt- Razia innocently asked me if Bollywood heroines work in their own homes and whether they collect silt from the lake to build houses. I smiled, unsure of what to tell her. Later on I met Aminabai's sister- Salim kaka's sister in law. Normally girls from Banni do not marry outside their fadiya, although quite a few girls from outside of Banni have been married into Banni. Salim Kaka's wife is one such woman who came from Rapar which is far away. So that she would not feel out of place and lonely, he ensured that her younger sister also marries in Sargu. When the two sisters were sitting chatting with me about my year in Kachchh, I brought up the topic of menstrual hygiene and family planning choices. About both I was told that Islam forbids use of contraceptives and even sanitary napkins. I was told that girls just bleed through their dark coloured dresses onto the rags on the floor during 'those' days. Amina's sister believed that all the children and the pain, comfort or sickness that comes along with them are a gift of God. And God's will should not be tampered with. Thus she believed that nobody should get an 'operation' done. When the conversation was getting more interesting, Salim Kaka's daughters came by pots in hand- it was time to fetch water. I think we made 4 trips, same as Daddhar but the number of people depending upon the government water tank where we were filling water from was not as large as Daddhar's so it was peaceful in some sense- the water fetching exercise. Post water fetching, Razia began washing vessels from previous night's dinner and Mumtaaz was pottering around in the kitchen, this gave me time to listen to Salim Kaka's interesting stories. He said- "Bakari Kat ke khaoge toh ek din chalegi, par doh ke piyoge toh saari jindagi chalegi" he mentioned this popular Maldhari saying when I asked him if the goats he has are for consumption at home or to be sacrificed during Id. Then I asked him about the story behind the advent of Kolkata/ UP brides in Banni. He said the trend began in 91-92, when a man from Dumado was taken to Asansol near Kolkata where he married a Bengali Muslim woman. After him many followed as perhaps there were not sufficient number of women in Banni, or perhaps those who were, were not in a suitable age bracket. When riots broke out in Godhra, he was based out Ahemdabad, he had a buffalo shelter there and
was doing good business. He literally had to leave that behind and flee for his life as the rioting elements burned down his house. Still he believes it was all the handiwork of politicians and not civilians belonging to any community. He said so because, a Hindu Bharwad boy, also a pastoralist like Salim Kaka, took care of Kaka's buffaloes and dropped them off to Banni in a year's time along with other belongings that had been left behind. Salim Kaka is as I mentioned one of the more learned and well informed men from Banni. He further went on tell me the principles he lived by calling it not theoretical wisdom but 'aapbiti' meaning personal experiences. The conversation shook me to say in the least, can't say in a good way either. This is what the conversation was aboutSalim Kaka asked me about my family and I told him that mine was a family of three. My parents work, with my dad traveling for half a month every month and it has been three years since I have not lived with my parents. Essentially the three of us are doing three different things and consequently my mother spends a lot of time at home, alone. His reply was, " aurat ghar ka shringar hai, woh ghar chodke bahar rakhade aur gharko tala laga rahe toh kaisa lagega? Padhe-likhne ki manai nahi hai, jitna padho utnaa kam hai, par aurat bahar rakhadti rahe yeh achha nahi hai. Yeh uske aadmi ka duty hai ki woh kamake uske liye ghar pe laye." Then he said that people only saw faults with everything Islamic, but not with other religions. He reminded me of Sati tradition of Hindus and asked me what good that was, he said nobody criticizes such practices but if Muslims have many children, we blame them. He went on to add that Islam as religion not only permits widowremarriage but encourages it. He then gave an example of Japan and asked me to consider what was happening in Japan in the wake of fewer and fewer children. Soon they would be a nation full of old people and on the contrary to that in India more than 60% of population is under 25 which meant we are going to be a young nation full of possibilities (trying to vindicate what he has against family planning). He then went on to claim that a woman is like a food item or gold- " aurat khane ya sone ki tarah hai, bazar mein yeh cheezein hatheli par leke khulle mein ghumo toh har kisi ki nazar uspe padnewaali hai. Does it imply a woman is either an object of consumption or ornamentation? Nothing more? No thoughts, no feelings, nothing? He further mentioned how many people especially amongst Hindus for want of a son go in for a sex selective abortion and society does not find anything wrong in that but only Muslims are blamed for their beliefs and practices. When I asked him what was the point of not using family planning methods and giving birth to all these children one can't even feed or clothe- he said matter of factly that when God gives children he also gives one the means to look after them. Post this conversation I did not have much to say, when religion is used as a base to reason something there is little that can be said. Savalpur, Nana Sarada Post Sargu I began my Jatpatti visits and first stop was Savalpur, Nana Sarada. This was my first ever visit to a random house. As in I did not know the family I was visiting before hand. I was told that the only reliable and regular transport to the Jat villages are the dairy's milk vans. Hamzabhai, a person from Bhagadia operated one such milk van and he said I could hitch a ride with him to wherever I wanted to go in Jatpatti. True to his words, all the Jatpatti visits that I made were thanks to him and his milk van. Traveling in the milk van perched atop a milk can was semi-adventurous to say in the least. It had a Mumbai localesque camaraderie to it. Perched atop the milk can on day one when I had made up my mind to go to Sarada I got into conversation with a Jat lady who had brought her child to the SFT hospital at Hodka. Soon we were discussing health and other concerns- I told her about my study and I casually asked her if she could let me into her house and treat me like one of her own so that I know what it is like to live her life- she was reluctant at first but eventually agreed. This is how I ended up in Savalpur Vandh simply referred to as Savalpur in Nana Sarada. This is also the first and the only place where I tried my hand at charcoal making. My hostess's name was Jamudi and soon as we got home, she made me go through the doctor's prescription and the price and the expiry dates on each of the medicine bottles. At the end of it when we were sure that all the costs tallied up and the medicines were not outdated she told me that she feels she gets overcharged sometimes. The medicines were to be consumed post lunch. Her oldest daughter had finished coating the floor with dung and had cooked some lunch and rotis remained to be made. Jamudi quickly stepped in and finished making rotis. She told me today her schedule had gone for bit of a toss because she had to accommodate taking her son to the hospital. I was surprised but in a good way that a woman from Banni took her child to the hospital without needing
a man by her side. This was an indicator of the free-spirit of the Jats ad the fact that they were not as rigid as rest of the socioeconomically better of banni was. Perhaps that's why other communities in Banni thought of Jats as primitive and crazy. We had our lunch and soon Jamudi's eldest child- her daughter took care of rinsing the vessels and putting them away. By 12:30 PM we were in the charcoal making area near Jamudi's house. It was a working mom situation and had a very urban life vibe to it. I looked around and found only women, children and older men. Where were the younger men of Savalpur- I wondered as normally I would see these men lounging around in the afternoons before milking time as often there was nothing else to be done. While working to make charcoal Jamudi first taught me how to lay a mound of raw ganda Bawal branches to let it smoke and turn itself into charcoal. Everything is laid out in a conical fashion and one has to leave a cavity to insert lit match and hay so that the mound can start firing slowly from within. The innermost layer is that of dried grass, followed by a layer of fried coal- leftovers of coal that cannot be sold from previous 'bhattis' (mounds). This is followed by a third layer of raw, dry ganda bawal branches. Several lines of ganda bawal is arranged in concentric layers. Finally this is covered with mud. Holes are made in the mud for the smoke to escape from. The 'bhattis' are left to themselves for four days. This process is locally called 'bhatti khadkavani' literally meaning 'instigating a pile'. After four days, the next part takes place- called 'bhatti kholvanu' that is 'opening the pile'. With a spade, one starts removing the mud layer surrounding the ganda baval layer. After the mud has been removed, the layer of Ganda Baval now converted to charcoal begins to show, one has to carefully start spreading this coal on the ground without burning the feet and trying to seperate grass and coal at the same time. Once the coal and deposits of grass- charred by now, are all fairly separated I saw Jamudi sprinkle generous amounts of water on it. I did not understand why. She said- this cools the coal otherwise when packed it will set the gunny sacks on fire. Charcoal was packed twice- first in jute bags and then in white plastic bags. I do not know why this was the case. When I was still trying to remember all that Jamudi was saying- in came a jeep jam-packed with more ganda baval branches and some 7 to 8 younger men. Jamudi said it was her husband and his partners. Apparently, unlike today when we started making coal around 1, every other day Jamudi reaches her charcoal site by 9 sharp and continues to make coal till 6 in the evening, her husband meanwhile takes the jeep and makes three rounds between the forest and the charcoal site each time bringing in more bawal for newer bhattis to be made. Everybody in the village besides animal husbandry was also full time engaged in charcoal making. Every individual in the family including older women managed one or two bhattis at a time. Families in close proximity shared the charcoal making area. Nobody messed with other people's bhattis, in fact if asked for people would also care for others' bhattis like earlier in the morning when Jamudi was at the doctors, her neighbour and her aunt was caring for her bhatti. A conversation with Jamudi's husband Rajuda revealed that a jeep can easily hold 40 mhun and 1 mhun is 40 kgs, thus a jeep can easily hold anything close to 1600 kg of ganda bawal. However, 5 mhun of ganda bawal wood amounts to 1 mhun of charcoal. 200 kg of ganda baval amounts to 40 kg of coal. At about 4 PM in the evening I saw buffaloes that had come for animal feed in the afternoon head back to Simada. Jamudi's buffaloes some 60 of them are in Sumrasar for the want of grass. But they are tied up and can't graze freely. So grass is brought to them. I was surprised when I heard that fact as I had encountered it for the first time. But quite a few people in Banni also follow this style of animal husbandry. Jamudi's buffaloes in Sumrasar are kept on the farms of a certain Vallabhai. Vallabhai owns a Kulfi factory. A patel (agriculturalists) he lets these buffaloes stay on his farms in return of a milk being sent to his Kulfi factory for a payment of Rs 25/ lit to the livestock keepers. Somewhere around 3, Jamudi's eldest daughter brought her youngest child to the charcoal site. Jamudi took her first break of the day since we came here. She sat down on Banni sands blackened by charcoal. Soon enough the wailing infant began to suckle and quietened down. This was a scene straight from a very genuine anthropological documentary as far as I was concerned. It was an epiphany of sorts, Jamudi's eldest daughter was in fact the woman of the house at 13 years of age while Jamudi was in fact the quintessential working urban mom, except that she was in fact a Jat woman from Banni. Although I had made progress, spoken Kachchhi wise it helped that Jamudi has herself stayed in Sumrasar as a chid and spoke fluent Gujarati and some Hindi too. Until now all the visits I had made were to the houses of people I knew. They were always trying to portray
themselves in a certain way. The one thing that struck me in case of Jamudi was that like Niyamat in Sameja Vandh she was indeed speaking to me and she was genuine while at it. When I mentioned the fact that her daughter is in fact woman of the house and not Jamudi herselfJamudi pointed out two facts. She said the few buffaloes she still has at Savalpur are currently paakdi that is yield little or no milk. She milks them once in the morning as milk will be needed for rest of the day for tea and butter-milk. Once they go back, there is no animal rearing work to be done. This time can be effectively used for a secondary occupation. This is where charcoal steps in. This bit about having the time and or need for secondary occupation was true, women from families with better socio-economic status also engaged in it- albeit they embroidered for more money. That is they earned out of an activity through which they could remain indoors. These woman looked down upon Jat woman because Jat women had to 'step out' and work; engage in some hard labour to get coal made. Perhaps more money was being made out of coal than embroidery and animal husbandry put together. Somebody needs to study the per community, per family earning split- who earns how much and through what activities (animal husbandry vs charcoal vs embroidery vs others). In a traditional society like Banni there is a certain premium attached to working indoors as opposed to working outdoors, especially for women. Speaking of livelihoods Jamudi mentioned that the money made from milk that is dairies/ kulfi factories can sustain the family but not the buffaloes themselves as the animal feed is getting expensive. Hence coal apparently becomes necessary as an occupation to sustain the buffaloes. This made me wonder for the nth time whether animal husbandry by itself is a viable option? It is definitely viable environmentally but what about economically? As all the people who say that animal husbandry by itself, without the help of secondary occupations is sustainable in fact have multiple sources of income like illegal cultivation plots, vehicles, other investments and a social standing, that is they already have sufficient assets outside of animal husbandry from which they earn a living. As Jamudi's household had just one older woman that is herself a new work distribution pattern had emerged. I am calling it the absentee woman of the house pattern. In Jamudi's case since she had assumed work responsibilities outside of house, so to speak- her daughter was involved in child caring, roti making, water filling and everything else- basically her daughter was the substitute home-maker. Drinking water situation in and around Savalpur was such, that there was a government tank and a connected Havadaa, but it leaked great amounts of water. What a waste! Perhaps the few pucca houses or rooms in Savalpur are the aanganwadi, school and community hall. There have been no kuvaas/ Virdaas in Savalpur post earthquake. Jamudi says there is definitely a need for a doctor here- for humans as well as animals but nobody is willing to set up a clinic here. Once a month, every month- the local nurse from Khavda comes to give medicines etc. Speaking of engagements and marriage- Jamudi said that a girl is engaged when she is about 11 to 12 years old and actually gets married by the age of 15 t o16 years of age. When her daughter would be married, while groom hunting the first preference would be given to the sons of uncles from the father's side. If for some reason there aren't eligible men on that side preference would be given to sons of uncles from the mother's side. During menstruation, they use cloth and wash it after use. They can't afford to follow any taboos as most Jat women 'step out' of the house to engage in hard labour. Life in Banni revolves around one's primary occupation. Literally. If animal husbandry is the main occupation in the household- the first major occupational activity to take place in the morning will be milking. While if charcoal making is somehow the more important occupation in a household- the major occupational activity in the morning would be cooking food, packing in tea for all the men and women (in case of Jat people only) who go into the forest to source Bawal wood. This takes almost 3 hours. There were more jeeps ad trucks spotted in Savalpur than the buffaloes themselves. Quite a few people have sent their buffaloes to Sumrasar and make coal, now that they have as much time on their hands that would have been spent caring for the livestock. Also from every family, a few members have shifted to Sumrasar, to live their and look after the livestock. There are 6 jeeps, 1 tempo and 1 tractor between the 10- 15 houses in Savalpur. When I asked Jamudi what she knew about the pastures and the grasses growing around Savalpur she named a few- Kal, Kevai, Mand-
hanu, Samo, Ekdi. I stayed the night at Jamudi's place and the morning after just before I was to leave, her buffaloes came back from grazing and I witnessed animal husbandry as it takes place in Savalpur. The animals normally return from pastures around 5 during summers and around 6 during winters. However at Jamudi's place the buffaloes retuned as late as 7:45 Am in the morning and her husband tried to feed them and all as Jamudi was busy cooking for the charcoal makers. This is the most chaotic form of 'Pashupalan' I have seen in Banni. It seemed that the man had no grip on what he was doing. Five of Jamudi's and Rajuda's buffaloes had arrived. Only one of them yields a litre or so of milk. So he milked that one and the animal feed bags were stocked already by Jamudi's daughter- they were very small, Rajuda carried these to the buffaloes and fed them. But the buffaloes themselves were very restless and moved a lot making it difficult for the feedbags to be tied around their heads. When it was time to leave for home, I decided to take a walk around the village. While taking a walk I bumped into Sajana bai who runs the Aanganwadi at Savalpur. I began chatting with them and got to know that Sajana bai regularly weighs children, once a month to be precise. But it was unclear what else she did besides that. Sajana bai and her neighbour were mixing dug and mud, preparing to coat the floor. I decided to give them a hand so that the conversation could keep flowing. They were talking about how their village used to be once. They said they were cow rearers at one point before they made an almost 100 % transition to buffaloes. And Ganda Bawal isn't the only reason why this transition was made. Cows need a person to go with them, otherwise they don't come back by the milking time and with dairies coming in, it is critical to send in milk consistently daily. Both confirmed what Jamudi had already told me- they haven't seen any Virdaas/ kuvaas in past 10- 11 years. They mentioned that they get the animal feed from Hodka, it is good quality according to them. They get it from Bhuj at other times. Babies are mostly delivered at home. If they cannot find a midwife- they end up going to the hospital. I noticed in Savalpur a phenomenon that I have seen in quite a few Banni villages. The women managed small shop that sells candy, tobacco, potato chips etc. Basically junk food that kids enjoy eating and tobacco. I see the family running it consume most from it. Does it then make any profit at all I wonder. There is a pattern to these shops too. In Muslim families, these shops are located within the house and only women have access in terms form sourcing from these shops- women and kids as it is located in someone's kitchen or bedroom. However in case of Harijan families, these shops are not only outside their homes making them accessible to more people in the village, they might even be manned by an older gentleman from the family although it is the woman who has probably invested in this shop from her embroidery savings. Locally this small tin shop is called 'cabin', incase it is located outside the house and is an independent stand alone structure. The Harijan family I was living with in Banni also owned such a shop and I had told the woman who had invested in that shop that she would make much more profit if this shop was further away from home and closer to the road. She agreed but reasoned that often her daughters run it too and it would not be advisable for girls to manage a shop located by the roadside. Also it made it easier for the family to source whatever they needed from the shop more easily when it is closer home. One grouse that the non-Jat have against the Jats is that they migrate even today seasonally, especially when their surroundings get flooded during monsoons. I brought the subject with Jamudi and asked her if Savalpur migrates too to which she said they don't unless the rains are really torrential and the situation very dire. If the situation gets very serious, they migrate to a place by Hodka roadside.
Poultry farming details:
Name of the community
women + children some men
economic motive and household use
economic motive, do not consume poultry economic motive, household consumption, used as feed for ruminants
men and women
men and women
Marketing and economic framework for backyard poultry: Poultry is always a secondary or tertiary occupation. Who are the poultry buyers in Banni? Cherr Vaas: Neighbouring villages Koli Vaas: Neighbouring villages Abdullah Vandh: Neighbouring villages, army The decision to buy new hen(s) / cock(s) can be made by women in Cherr Vaas and Koli Vaas. Technology involved: Medicines- ITK and homeopathic medicines provided by the organisations. Organisations involved: Sahjeevan, Rain fed Life Network, women's SHGs waiting to be formed Housing women Feeding women Drinking water- women Protecting eggs- children and women Selling- at cherr vaas- women sell eggs and chicken- men keep the money, at Koli- women sell, women earn at Abdullah- selling and monetary benefits and rights lie with men
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Interviewers: Krupa Dholakia, Bhavna Desai, Mamta Patel, Aditi K. Interviewees: Girls and women of Nani Daddhar, Amin Bhai’s Fadiya Tools and techniques: Sony IC recorder, Herbarium of grasses, question and answer, show and tell Date: 22nd March 2011 Time: 3:00 pm
Of embroidery....quilt making. The main profession is that of buffaloes
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Today we have gathered here, to talk and discuss a few things. We come to Banni almost daily, also its a tradition of Banni that women don’t step out. So far, we have not been able to talk women as much. If women don’t step out of their homes, if they are at home all day, what do they do at their homes? Of course I am aware that, you cook and clean, fill water, look after the children, get them ready for school etc. Now tell me what is your occupation, what is the main occupation of the people of this “fadiya”? From which you earn the majority of your income? So your main business is that of buffaloes, but what exactly do you do with buffaloes? Do you sell them, or their milk or make ghee from the milk and sell it. Yes we sell buffaloes, their milk and ghee, we do all of those activities.
Well, what I want to know is what all livestock related activities do you do once you wake up in the morning till the point you sleep at night? Do you milk them first or feed them first?
well, once the animals are back from the pastures we tie them in, then we give them feed and milk them. First we give them feed and then we milk them simultaneously as they eat.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Interviewers: Krupa Dholakia, Bhavna Desai, Mamta Patel, Aditi K. Interviewees: Girls and women of Nani Daddhar, Amin Bhai’s Fadiya Tools and techniques: Sony IC recorder, Herbarium of grasses, question and answer, show and tell Date: 22nd March 2011 Time: 3:00 pm
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When do you get the feed concentrate ready? In the morning or the night before?
But in the mornings, how do you prepare it?
How do you decide on what quantities of wheat bran and oil-cakes to be fed to the animals? Why should the low yield buffalo get so much food? Obviously the high yield ones get this much food. Yes, we give in quantities big and small depending on the quantity of milk that the buffalo yields.
Whenever we are free, depending also on how many animals one has. In winters we get it ready the night before, in summers it might get spoilt, it might smell foul if prepared the night before hence in summers we wake up at 5 in the morning and prepare it then. The night before, we soak the oilcakes in water and in the morning we fill wheat bran in bowls/vessels and add it to oil-cakes. And mix it thoroughly with our hands. We pack in 6 kg oil-cake and 6 kg wheat bran in a gunny bag and give it to the buffalo.
Do you give this quantity only to the high milk yielding buffalo or to every buffalo?
Even within the milk yielding buffaloes, the quantity of milk varies, does the quantity of feed given vary accordingly?
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Interviewers: Krupa Dholakia, Bhavna Desai, Mamta Patel, Aditi K. Interviewees: Girls and women of Nani Daddhar, Amin Bhai’s Fadiya Tools and techniques: Sony IC recorder, Herbarium of grasses, question and answer, show and tell Date: 22nd March 2011 Time: 3:00 pm
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How do you judge who would yield more milk and who would yield less milk?
Why do you soak oil-cakes in water, why not wheat bran?
We know, who understands a mute person, definitely the mother- so these our buffaloes, wont we know how much milk our buffaloes yield! What kind of a question is that, of course we can anticipate the quantity of milk our animals give. What do you think of us? We might be from Banni but we are trained in our traditional profession. Don’t underestimate us. (Laughs) We soak oil cakes so that they soften and it’s easier to make smaller pieces from the bigger ones, it’s easy mixing smaller soaked oil-cake pieces with wheat bran.
So you said, you wake up in the morning, pack in the feed bags and you already know the milk quantities that your animals yield so accordingly you seperate their feed quantities too?
Yes, each buffalo has her own feed bag, and its fixed for her alone.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
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How do you ensure the right quantity is added to the feed bags. How do you ascertain the feed quantity?
Once you give them feed, who milks them? And who soaks the oil-cakes etc and gives the buffaloes their feed?
we have a measuring container for 6 kg, 5 kg and smaller 2 kg and 1 kg ones too. The measuring cups for different quantities are maintained seperate. Men and women, both are involved in milking process. Women soak the oil-cakes and look after feeding them to the animals. Our buffaloes don’t eat gowar, sometimes we give them jowar.
Along with oil-cakes and wheat bran do you feed your animals with Jowar/ gowar?
So once milking is done and the milk vessels are filled, who carries the milk vessels to be picked up by the milk van? Before dairies arrived, once the cans were filled, our menfolk would take them to Bhuj in jeeps.
We (women) carry it on our heads. Men too carry them. Whoever is available carries them.
Now there are dairies and their milk vans to pick your milk cans up, but what was the situation before they arrived?
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Water, sweeping, sending animals off for a drink, cleaning the shed of younger animals, gathering their dung. We clean the whole place, then we fill our drinking water, wash vessels etc and cook lunch. They drink at the kuvaas (wells).
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Once milking is done what other animal husbandry based activities are you involved in?
So you are saying once milking is done, you send the animals off for a drink. But where do the animals drink? Here or in the pastures? Menfolk, women don’t go... Yes, we first cook and clean, wash our clothes and the lunch vessels and by the time everything is done, its the afternoon milking time and we have to get the feed ready again and put it in the feed bags.
At the Kuvaa, who gives animals their drink- men or women?
Right, so once animals get their drink, they are sent of to the pastures and you perhaps clean all their feedbags, gather all the dung etc. and do you immediately get the afternoon feed ready, as soon as all the activities associated with morning time milking are done with? What’s the afternoon milking time? 4 pm generally in the afternoons and 5 am in the mornings, but if we get free earlier and if the buffaloes have already come then we might do it at 3 o clock even...especially in the winters when the buffalo is paakdi and yields very little milk we might even milk them around 2 or 3 pm.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Both the times, it goes to the dairy.
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And the milk from the afternoon milking goes to the dairy or is it saved for use at home? How about before the dairies came in?
When do you make the buttermilk?
even before the dairies came in both the time milk was sent out for sale, in the morning around 7 and in the evening by 6. We do save some milk at home for tea, buttermilk etc. In the mornings, after the animals are sent off.
Do you gather butter from buttermilk? Do you sell butter?
Do you sell ghee as well?
Yes, we gather butter, we make ghee out of it and its selling for 250-300 rupees. Yes we make ghee, but mostly for consumption at home. If it is in excess we sell it.
What is the approximate proportion between the quantity of milk a buffalo yields and the amount of feed she gets?
If a buffalo yields 10 lit of milk the we give her 6 kgs of oil-cake and 2 kgs of wheat bran, she eats 8 kgs of feed at one go.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
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What about placing orders for oil-cakes and wheat bran? Who orders this?
How many buffaloes do you own?
Do you have to take any special precautions while storing oil-cakes and wheat bran? What about pests like mice?
Menfolk place order for oil-cakes and wheat bran. Depending on how many animals one has, the quantity of feed ordered week after week differssome need 90, some need 10. In 10 gunny bags that are ordered 6 are oil cake bags while 4 are wheat bran bags. Currently I have few, just 8-10 that are yielding milk. Initially I used to need 6-7 gunny bags now I need just 4, also oil-cakes have become so expensive. Currently few are pregnant. We have to store it in an enclosed space like a bhunga for example. There are pests like mice but they don’t affect the feed. (women are amused and laugh) we come to know from the quantity of the milk. It reduces and turns yellowish. Gradually after 7th month we have to stop milking as the milk quantity reduces, the milk thickens and turns yellow.
How do you get to know when a buffalo gets pregnant? Do you get to know immediately or gradually? What are the pregnancy indicators? The size of the buffalo's belly or her behaviour? When and how?
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Well, not really. We get to know it earlier as well. When she comes in heat- she gets excited and calls out loudly, in the hope that a male buffalo hears her, suppose there isn’t a male buffalo in the vicinity she might try to run away to a place where she can find one. If there is no male buffalo in the village then the menfolk of the house will take her to the nearest village where there is a male buffalo and she is sated. From the udders, they become heavy.
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You get to know if the buffalo is pregnant only by the sixth month?
This is in case of buffaloes who have had off-spring earlier on. What about a buffalo who is perhaps pregnant for the first time? The bull follows the buffalo before conception really, when the buffalo is in heat. And finally, when he stops her around or starts following another female, one can conclude that he has impregnated the earlier buffalo. We note down the approximate date then and count it as date of conception.
We have heard that the bull follows particular buffalo, is it before mating or after conception has taken place?
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
No, they go off for grazing after having had a drink of water and come back the next day at 5 am.
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Do you start sending animals off for grazing in the pastures immediately after the milking in the afternoon?
Who goes for drawing out water for the animals to drink from? Do you go or do the menfolk go? women milk the buffaloes, measure the milk quantities, have them sent into the dairy, clean the milk vessels, we cook and clean, wash clothes- the regular home chores we do all of that and eventually are free by 10 in the night but men are the ones who take animals away for grazing, done! The milk quantities are greater in the morning than in the afternoon.
No, we don’t go- the men do.
That means, women milk the buffaloes and...
When is the milk quantity greater- in the morning or the afternoon?
When is the fat content better? In the morning or afternoon?
The fat is better in the mornings. During the summers when the milk heats up, if we manage to cool of the cans in iced water, we know we will get better fat content.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
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Tell me, who decides whether a certain buffalo is to be sold or not and for what price?
When buffaloes contract diseases, who comes to know (men/ women) and how do you find out?
Like you mentioned Khipri, what other diseases do buffaloes contract? And what are the symptoms of these diseases?
That the men-folk decide. But sometimes even if the men have decided to sell and animal and a woman from the house (daughter, sister, wife) ‘keeps her hand on it’ (claims ownership over the animal) then the men will not sell the animal. The men come to know. (Someone from the back adds) ...why just men, we women come to know too! After all we milk the animals, if they have contracted diseases, the udders get affected too, they swell (incase of Khipri) and the milk also tastes bad, when you heat such milk, it spoils right away. Then we give diseased animals oil, Saunf, we soak the oilcakes in water before feeding animals with them which has a cooling effect on the animals’ bodies. We also give it curry leaves. If the buffalo is about to deliver- we give it coconut, jaggery, dates etc. They develop acidity. When they do, they do not eat the feed. That is how we come to know about it. To cure acidity, we boil Chai powder with salt and give that as a medicine. Apart from that, we administer injectionslike Teramycin etc.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Kharva mowa (Gujarati, aka Samodo in Kachchhi and foot and mouth disease- FMD in English). When they contract ‘mowa’ they drool a lot. Remain seated at one place. Then we fumigate them with smoke of fishscales and even petrol. Both men and women participate in the treatment procedures. Mowa normally comes in monsoons. Yet another disease is AFRO (). Post rains, with change of season, sometimes the buffaloes drink warm water and they fall sick. Then we give them Vagarni (hing/ Asofotida). Nothing happens to our buffaloes during summer or droughts. Everything happens to our buffaloes during monsoons. During pregnancy, depending upon the body type of buffalo- her blood might coagulate. It is not governed by seasons but may happen during monsoons or cold, in that case we put them on saline or give it warmth using heated sands etc.
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What other disease affects your buffaloes? Tell me about its symptoms and the antidote. And who participates in the treatment procedures?
What diseases do animals contract in summer?
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
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What do you do with this placenta?
Also, during pregnancy we women sit with our animals if they are about to deliver. We have to ensure that they don’t consume their own placenta otherwise their milk dries up. We either burry it or if we simply throw it out, the dogs take it away and eat it.
What it the animal is unable to shed the placenta? What do you do in that case?
In that case we give it spices- like Ajwain and we give the buffalo onions boiled in buttermilk. We also give asiriyo and camphor.
How do you tend to younger animals? Sometimes due to over consumption of milk, they face ‘Kurmi’ and start to shrink, how do you tackle that?
What do you do incase of ticks and lice?
We ensure that they get the required amount of milk from their mothers. And they eat sufficient amount of oil-cakes and wheat bran. For Kurmi we give them Hing (Asofotida) every week. We shave off their body hair, give them a warm water bath and use DDT powder on their skin.
Where do you source your DDT from (isn’t it banned too?)
We get it from Bhuj.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
We mix DDT and water, we soak a cloth in this mixture and later wipe the buffaloes with this solution. We call the doctor who administers the buffaloes with injections. We vaccinate our animals monsoon to monsoon. We vaccinate them for HS (Garsundho). And only since past two years we have started vaccinating them for FMD. They eat grass. Of course we get to know that some animals haven’t returned. Men go look for the animals that were left behind. Even women may go. There were times in the past- when during monsoons we women would escort the younger animals into pastures for razing as the pastures would be inundated with rain water then. That was in the early and mid eighties. We remember each animal with its name, we do not even exchange their individual feed-bags.
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How exactly is DDT used on the animals?
What do you do when knots are formed under animals skin? (As in case of HS)
Do you vaccinate your animals? What are these vaccines for?
When your animals go to pastures for grazing, what all do they eat there?
When you have a large herd size of buffaloes and one or two amongst them do not return after grazing, do you immediately realise that? Who goes out looking for the animals that were left behind?
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
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Where we are from, animals do not even drink from each others drinking water buckets. Buffaloes, again might drink from each others water buckets, but cows definitely do not drink each from each other’s drinking water. We give them injections (the milk ones). No, we do not make fake animals anymore. Our forefathers would do that, but we don’t anymore.
Incase a buffalo looses her young one and stops giving milk, what do you do? Do you take the skin of the dead young one and try to make a fake animal out of it, to persuade the buffalo into yielding milk? Yes, they are good. No they haven’t affected the buffaloes in any way.
Are these injections for inducing milk yield good for your buffaloes? Have they affected the buffalo’s health in any way? We get them from Bhuj. They come in boxes worth Rs. 100 and Rs. 50 etc. One pasture land will not suffice. They eat in multiple grazing lands. In fact they roam about from pasture to pasture. That is one day if they go graze in the south the next day they might go graze in the northern pastures. Buffaloes go where they desire.
Where do you source these injection from? Who gets them?
What about animals and their grazing lands? DO they go to same pasture every day or do they go to different pastures?
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
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Speaking of southern pastures, are you aware of the names of different pasture lands in different directions? The land where the southern pastures are located is it sweet or salty?
What about the pastures in the North?
And east and west?
South- Hanjjtal, khevayivaro, Lecchu, Kapuriyo, (Khariya, Gandhir, Oiin, Dinai, Kal, Dhamur). Khariya and Oiin are salty grasses while Gandhir, Dinai, Dhamur and Kal are sweet. The land of the southern pastures is sweet. In the north are Layiwara, Bhaur, Changu, Chelo, Keradwaro- there Dhamur ad Kal grows. Sweet grasses mostly, North land ad grasses are sweeter compared to the South so the buffaloes alternate between North and South, sweet and salty. East and west are both sweet.
There is good grass at a place called Kinnu Dhui near Sadhara. Do your buffaloes go there for grazing?
DO you go after the animals into the pastures and can you recognize a variety of grasses?
No, that is too far- our buffaloes do not go there for grazing. If they do, they will not return in time for milking and we will be late for sending the milk off into the dairies. So that is not advisable. No we do not go after our animals into the pastures but we can recognize a variety of grasses. Earlier on the women we go to, in the time of droughts etc, not anymore.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Oh, various places, Mirzapar, Sukhpar, Abdasa, Mandvi we have been to many places during the droughts. We would simply look for a greener place to go to. Only the menfolk go out of Kachchh, they have been upto Surat. Some buffaloes can’t walk as much, they have to be transported in vehicles. We have seen the sea too. We would travel with our animals everywhere, but that was before the earthquake. We haven’t been anywhere post the earthquake. Post earthquake, government made arrangements whenever there were droughts and provided for fodder etc. Before earthquake our Banni houses were Kachchha, post earthquake the Mahilawalis gave us permanent Bhungas with Nariya (roof tiles). Today because one gets his/ her bread seated at one place, why should one roam about? There was a time when our milk sold for rs 3/ lit, today it is rs 30/ lit. and just before earthquake it was rs 10/ lit.
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Where all have you been during the droughts? And did you go outside of Kachchh or you remained largely within Kachchh while migrating during droughts.
FGD: The role of women in Animal Husbandry in Banni Grasslands
Yes we sell animal manure. Women keep the money from it. We buy household articles, clothes etc from that money.
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Do you sell animal manure? Who keeps the money from it?
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