I have been wanting to write about this for a few days now. The event happened on 1st May. I know it not very long ago but I do not wish to dilute my content which generally happens as time passes.
As you all know we have been talking about food and water security for a while now. One of the reasons we started The Co Company is food and water security for rural India. This activity is not a person’s job. It needs mobilizing the entire village. Once the community is mobilized the procedure needs a lot of funds to implement food and water security. Our current operations are not big enough to start our dream project yet. But we can always start contributing to an NGO that is seriously doing this kind of work. We came across Paani Foundation and decided to contribute some amount each month.
We got in touch with the Paani Foundation Mumbai team. We were trying to understand their working patterns etc. That is when Mr. Sagar, from Paani foundation, told us about the MahaShramDaan Divas. “Maha” means “Big”, “Shram” means "Efforts" and “Daan” meaning “Charity”. Maharashtra has been facing a drought-like situation for a few years now. Paani Foundation like several other NGOs has decided to make Maharashtra water abundant state. Each year for last 3 years they have been arranging a competition called “Water Cup”. Villages and not people participate in this competition. People are trained by Paani Foundation on watershed management and then for 45 days community does watershed work in their villages and nearing area. The one which does most effective work gets a reward money. The money again goes to the entire village and can be used for implementing more expensive watershed tools like dams, lakes, etc.
Please note that Paani foundation only encourages people to participate and provides training for free. All the labor necessary for the development of watershed tools are contributed by villagers. The machines like bulldozer, crane etc., necessary for the activity is provided by another partner NGO Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana.
So on 1st of May, being a World Labour Day, Paani Foundation had arranged for MahaShramDaan Divas wherein people across Maharashtra can participate in various watershed activity happening across Maharashtra. You can select a district of your choice and then you would be allocated a specific village. Of course, it was ShramDaan so people do not expect any returns. We always wanted to be part of such projects and so we actively participated. We were allocated a village called Patpimpri in Nashik district. We took evening batch 4 pm to 7 pm. We somehow managed to reach there by 1 pm. It was a lunch break and the Sun was right above so people were taking a break. It was extremely windy making things easier on the hot sunny afternoon. The CCT, we would call it trenches for simplicity, were already marked and the soil was tilled. People were planning and managing and entertaining the guests. We were asked to wait till 4 pm. 3 hours seemed too long to wait. We made a long journey just to get involved with our dream project, why wait now. At around 2:30 pm we saw a group of 4, shawling the tilled earth. We decided that we can’t wait anymore and joined the group.
Initially, we did not find shawling very difficult. The procedure was simple, shawl, filling the soil in a container, lifting the container and emptying it on the side of the Trench and then repeat. Seems simple right?! After around 10 -15 mins we took a break, chit chatted with people around. Each time we lifted the shawl again it seemed more and more difficult. Your shoulders, upper back, and hands hurt due to shawling and lifting the dirt filled container causes your lower back to pain. Chit chatting made the job easier but only to an extent. Several people had come from all over Maharashtra, Pune, Mumbai, Nashik, etc. At 5 pm we had to leave as we had to catch a train at 6:40 pm from Nashik (There were no trains to Mumbai till 10:30 then). By the time we were ready to leave we were all sticky as sweat immediately dried, due to heavy wind, leaving us dusty and tired.
It was a day worth spent. Taking up this activity was very important at it reminded us of what we want to do and why. Was very tired waiting to reach home asap. Thinking about a nice warm shower brought another thought to mind. For someone who does this kind of work quite regularly in the fields, getting a hot means, putting an efforts to pull out or pump out water from a well, bring it to his home, warm it on a stove and then get a bath with whatever water he has.
Seems unfair... isn't it?