Other States

‘Not research nor analysis, but a look at poverty in 125 villages’

Educationist and author Heramb Kulkarni talks about his report on food, loans, healthcare, migration in rural areas

Namdev Savra of Jawhar tehsil in Palghar lost his child to malnutrition in 2016 and despite the State’s Women and Child Welfare department sanctioning a flour mill for him, the installed mill was taken away as he could not pay ₹2,000 to officials.

This is one experience out of hundreds recorded by Heramb Kulkarni, educationist and author based in Ahmednagar, in his report, Daridryachi Shodhyatra (Searching for poverty), which was penned after visiting 125 of the poorest villages in 24 districts of Maharashtra. It was written to find out whether 25 years of opening up the economy helped India reduce poverty.

Mr. Kulkarni travelled the State between June 2017 and February 2018, on his own. “I wanted to bring out the real picture of the State and had kept it in mind before selecting villages. The report isn’t a research paper nor a survey, but a focused group discussion with villagers from all classes and castes,” he said.

The report delves into issues like food consumed, availability of jobs under the employment guarantee scheme, migration of agricultural labourers, alcoholism, farmer suicides, farm loan problem, Dalits, women self-help groups (SHG), excessive expenditure on health, and conditions of nomadic tribes.

“One key observation was increased migration — around 50 lakh people were moving from the tribal belt to irrigated land and from villages to cities every year. People want to minimise dependence on the government, and chose to migrate immediately after they didn’t find work in their villages,” Mr. Kulkarni said.

The report chronicles farming cycle, which is letting farmers and agricultural labourers down, leading them to suicides. “Farm area is decreasing, leading to lower crop production, while input cost is increasing. As a result, farmers aren’t willing to pay more to labourers,” he said.

Mr. Kulkarni points out that agricultural reform is the only way to eradicate poverty. “The government apathy in recording farmer suicide was visible,” he said. Excess money is being spent on healthcare due to the breakdown of the public health system, forcing people to go to private doctors. Private money lending companies are also replacing women SHGs.

The report, a collection of interviews and case studies, was published in January. “I have presented my observations and not relief measures or analysis. I have tried to speak to the person at the bottom and that voice should reach all,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 7:58:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/not-research-nor-analysis-but-a-look-at-poverty-in-125-villages/article26231552.ece

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