Kalahandi’s Women Farmers Scripting Stories of Success and Self-Reliance
The development landscape of Kalahandi reveals an interesting saga of how two-way information sharing from citizen to government and from the administration to the native of the district changed the perception at both ends to cater and accommodate people’s demands and suggestions. It has brought massive changes in citizen’s lives. An interaction with beneficiaries like Geetanjali Bhoi from Laitara village of Kesinga block shows their receptivity towards development and narrates an increased people’s participation and responsiveness of government intervention in the district.
According to Geetanjali, Kalahandi in recent years has become synonymous with good irrigation, farming, women collectives, empowerment and a new approach towards the development model practised by both people and the government in the district. Prior to the Indravati Irrigation Project, the entire Kesinga block was facing a severe water crisis for all their requirements, be it in agriculture, horticulture, fishing or drinking water. The entire working age group of this block was engaged only for six months in agricultural work, and in the remaining period, they either had to sit idle at home or work as daily wage labour in the nearby towns and bordering districts to make ends meet.
Kalahandi remains imprinted in public memory as one of the backward districts in the state. But at present, a new narrative has been scripted due to increased public participation of the local population in various government programmes particularly by the ‘Maa Chasi” or the Peasant Women. Continuous water supply, irrigation and electricity have created an opportunity in the district to encourage citizens to remain engaged the entire year in farming-related works and motivate Peasant Women to work hard and become self-empowered, breaking the shackles of stereotypes and beliefs about a poverty-ridden district.
There is great merit in the people-centric development programmes and policies being implemented by the State Government on the ground. It is promoting competitiveness among people in the district. Now, opportunities created by the government through various innovative programmes and supported by the hard work and aspiration of people have paved the way for a transformative change in the district.
“We have faced severe water scarcity. The initiatives taken by the government for water conservation have helped us continue farming throughout the year. Earlier, we didn’t have access to water. Now, we can continue farming during summer, grow vegetables, engage in pisciculture. As the water table becomes higher, we will be able to get access to drinking water also. We are very happy and thank Hon’ble CM for this initiative. With the success of farmers, there will be benefits to daily wage labourers also. We have become independent and self-reliant. Landless farmers have hugely benefited. We will be able to earn in Kesinga instead of going to faraway places for livelihood. We thank Hon’ble CM once again,” said Gitanjali Bhoi, a farmer.
It is because of the hard work of farmers like Geetanjali, the district is steadily scripting its distinctive model of development, stepping itself through various innovative district transformation programmes to compete with other advanced districts of the state. Aiming to improve the economic status, the administration is targeting to become the number one district in the state in cotton and pulse production.
It is also refreshing to witness an improvement in the road infrastructure of the district. Now every block is connected with quality two-lane roads that have improved connectivity. Such developments in the district are helping improve the socio-economic conditions of the citizens.
There is no doubt that the transformation of Kalahandi’s development landscape is a long way ahead, but there is sufficient evidence that the journey of empowerment of Peasant Women and an improvement in the socio-economic status of the people of the district has well and truly begun.