December 9, 2005

save our farmers, a plea

have you ever visited a farmer in maharashtra, anywhere in india?
i have.

i was very young then, but i remember my father driving through the inner villages of nasik, kolhapur and other places around pune.

the farmers i saw had tobacco-stained smiles, but they were always smiling. they were a happy people. always willing to help, be it water for the carburetor, a few extra hands to push the car or lift the wheel stuck in the muddy pothole on the road. the women took us to well-hidden bushes where we could relieve ourselves after a long, back-breaking journey. sometimes they parted with the bhakris-and lasan-chutney and chai they had made for themselves. i remember my father insisting on paying them, when they loaded sackfuls of onions they were picking from their fields, into the boot of our car. i remember the sounds of the hand-wheel turning on fresh sugarcane, and the taste of those hot afternoons.

i can never forget the happy farmers in haryana, extending their big hands into our rented-sumo with tall glasses of chai and lassi. we were on our way to vaishnodevi then. i am so thankful for all those road trips.

today when i read about the farmers of vidharbha, i have to swallow the lump in my throat. i have to convert the pain into anger. anger to defend. anger to protect. in this cold home so far away, i have to do something to save my warm memories.

some days ago, i got my british citizenship. it took me the entire week to understand why, and what i was getting into. i felt i was betraying my country, and praveen had a hard time explaining i was not, and that i still am an indian in every sense. “look at it this way…now we can make the best of both the worlds,” he had said.

so here is my challenge, and also my request. i am not an agriculture expert. i have never worked with an ngo but i have travelled with my mother’s colleagues for some of her innerwheel social activities. i am also not a teacher. my father recently admitted, he consciously kept me away from politics in the country and abroad, forcing me to read history instead. he also said, “perhaps this was both a good and bad thing.” now i know why. it makes me tiny in the ways of the world, but it also makes me an optimist.

i always have believed it is never too late to change. it is never too late to give an education, to learn. to the 25 million of us indians who are abroad, let us make the best use of what we have. let us stop to read about the farmers on our homelands. let us think if there is anything at all we can do?

can we give them a free education? can we reach them simple computers so they don’t need to travel to school? can we make pesticides that kill pests and not the farmers? can we pay off the money-lender’s loans so the farmers are debt-free and can concentrate on their produce? if we stop one death, the family lives. if we educate one person, the family learns. this is a big dream, a difficult project. but maybe, it is not impossible. there must be a way.

just think.

more links:
gaurav sabnis has a few suggestions on the indian economy blog

india together

sonia faleiro’s blog

the good news in india


  • jaidev said:

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    First of all congrats, and i myself had a debate on the australian citizenship, while i do not have a luxury of a fantastic spouse to drill some sense in to me.Having said i also believe that u do not always have to be @ ground zero to be patriotic. U Can comfortably be in Phoren land and be more patriotic that some of the numerous indians who spit at every given opportunity at streets, platforms etc.

    I had written some of my thots here – Hope that is an added tonic to what praveen has already mentioned.

    Way 2 go

    P:S: Did u not get people who said ” how can u get british passport – they are the same guys who ruled us and torchered us and looted us and …. blah blah yawn yawn ” …. heheheehe

  • Anonymous said:

    There was a tape by Mr Doug Wead, Ex Special Asstt. to President Bush Sr as also Jr where he narrated how as a student he along with other students decided to forego one lunch to help the poor in some desolate country. As an example he said, students stood in line, collected their plates and returned the plates without eating.
    Years later, after he has done the donkey work and progressed and prospered to the position that he is today, he declared to the world that
    empty plates do not feed the hungry. One has to work, become rich and only then you can help the poor. Poor cannot help the poor, only rich can. So the right thing for any phoren patriot to do is to become rich and have surplus money which can go to help the poor.
    There are plenty ot opportunities provided by
    various ngos particularly where one can contribute with the assurance that it will reach the poor.
    As a Rotarian, stung with the same feeling that you had about helping the poor, i organised a fund raiser with the generous help of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Mrs Devki Pandit at the Nehru Centre, Worli. I
    collected approx. Rs 14 lacs physically plus
    commitments from committed service oriented multinationals to the tune of another
    50 lacs. The money was utilised to construct two check dams on the hill slopes of Jawahr in Thane District so the poor farmer will have water to raise another crop. Another advantage was to raise the water table level so their wells on the hills do not drain out fast.
    You can contribute to such efforts and feel proud and patriotic . This year efforts are on
    to cultivate atleast 10 hectares of hilly tracts
    in jawahr with jetropa and other oil seed bearing trees which will give gainful employment to the locals. Presently as soon as the monsoon is over farmers rush to Thane and other nearby cities to work as labourers in factories or construction workers.

    Another service I undertook last year was to give vision to the blind due to cataract. Each operation costs approx. US$35. Last year I
    arranged for 390 operations by contributions received from individual and corporate donors.
    In Thane Dist. alone there are 1.25 lac avoidable blind people who are a big burden to their families. You can help by sponsoring
    more operations.
    This is grassroot service. Sympathies and
    economic debates will not help the poor. So through your blog I want to inform the phoren
    patriots particularly that they can and should
    help by identifying the right channel for sending a part of their surplus . Till you have the surplus money we can only donate words.

  • parag said:

    Ya Radhika, I too have same thougths that what we can do for rural areas?
    Sometime back I tried to unite all the friends who can do something?
    First of all we need have to summerize the basic problems. And then after prioritise them we can decde action plan.
    If you or anyone want to discusson this ,are most welcome..
    I have experience of village life. I have some plan for it..–Parag

  • radhika said:

    dear parag

    thanks for leaving your comment. yes i would be interested in knowing how we can help. do you have a journal where i can read about your plans? i am sure we could start with something, even if it is small beginning.

  • parag said:

    Thanks for the reply and your interest to start something..
    No there is no as such formal journal with me…
    But I think we can follow Gandhiji’s idea..
    to make villages self dependent ..
    following are the main areas where definitely we can do something..
    1) use of non traditional Energy
    2) Rain Water Harvesting
    3) Education
    4) Use of toilets by everyone.
    5) Market for traditional skills or bi product for all agriculture crops.

    Can we form a group and plan out something?


  • Anand Srinivasan said:


    Despite all the hue and cry about India prospering and marching ahead to be a power to reckon with in the league of nations, we have ignored the plight of those who live in villages. As Gandhi remarked India lives in her villages. They live in abysmal conditions and the governments of the day have not been able to provide any succour.

    We need an intermediary to channelise funds for appropriate causes. I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel. There are many trust-worthy and reputable organisations who work at the grassroots level for such noble causes.

    after all we live and work abroad thousands of miles away therefore it is not practicable for us to be there and micro-manage the effort.

    if you think your life would be better spent serving the poor then you should return to india and be prepared to get your hands dirty. We live in a sterile environment where pain and suffering is hidden from our view. The English children are trained to hide their emotions aren’t they ? When i spend almost a pound on a Krispy Kreme doughnut at Tesco I think of how much it can buy someone back home.

  • T.Ajit Kumar said:

    Dear Sir:

    I am in chennai i came to know that some infarmation is being printed in dayanik bhaskar news papper on jetropa plant in jodhpuer edition. pleas forward the information. NEWS PAPPER dated 02/01/2006.
    E-mail :

    Thanking you


  • Kay said:

    Radhika, In another 3 years, I might get into the same dilemma too, but with a different country.

    The long term dream of me and B (DH) is to go back and so social service, maybe open a free school for kids/elders which would teach them life skills instead of just textbook information – Something that they can use everyday.

    Also, I’ve read in Indian Newspapers when I was in Pune, that organic farming and organic markets are picking up in India. I would like to have my own organic farm and educate others on how to have a self sufficient organic farm. IT is not that difficult and has long term benefits for the country and future citizens of India.

    Check out

    Well, It’s just a dream right now.

  • radhika said:

    sometimes i wonder what exactly do our villagers need.. do they really need computers…what kind of education do they they need education on the westernized patterns…right now we appreciate them for their simplicity and innocence…does our education teach people to continue being like that….is the same naiveness going to stay in coming times..
    we definately need to educate the society to make them self sufficient and develop the ability to think for themselves…we definately need to help them with money so that they can live happy lives…they should not be cheated for their innocence….but i still dont know
    how exactly this help should be provided….
    i dont want our country to loose its own identity and create new problems which may be worse in solving the older ones…….

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