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(INDIA 14)






head of Mahila Mangal Dal


Chatti village, Tehri Garhwal


June 1994


Jubli Devi leads the Mahila Mangal Dal (rural women’s council) set up to address the problem of increasing “anti-social elements” including felling trees and drinking.

She speaks about the recent lack of rain. “It appears that the weather gods are unhappy with us.” This has deeply affected agriculture; “there is no water even for drinking”, let alone for crops and cattle. Despite repeated assurances the government has failed to supply electricity and water, yet the village continues to pay taxes for the water supply: “When we pay the money we ask for water supply and in return we are given assurances but not a drop of water comes.” Though “the water problem is so acute” the village has not refused to pay: “Ours is a peace loving village. We do not want any tensions.”

She says the young generation “are not interested in agriculture” and the men find paid work away from the villages; “Nothing can be grown in our hill area so why waste time?” However, the older generation “do not want to leave our motherland. We want to die here. Our children always tell us not to leave as if there is a gold mine here.” She also speaks of the positive side of migration. “Children have got some education, have seen the outside world, so maybe they are ahead of us - not backward.” She continues: “Now by God's grace our children have seen the world and got good clothes for us, and arrange for our meals.” Jubli herself has never travelled away from her village, or encountered a radio or TV - “I have seen only the horns of a buffalo, nothing else!” She is knowledgeable about the traditional herbal remedies, and local beliefs in spirit possession and ghosts.

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Section 1-2  Family details. A widow, she lives in a joint family in a village of 80-90 families. She and her husband were uneducated, but her children are educated, and have migrated. Her family is “going through tough days”, struggling to make ends meet.
Section 3-4  Feels positive about the next generation, who are ahead of the old. Poor yields. Lack of rain, resulting in little grass and water for the cattle. Fodder from the fields when it rains; otherwise from “fast disappearing forests.” Buffalo milk for family consumption. Activities of village panchayat (council).
Section 5-7  Many castes in village. Harijans barred from the temple during prayers. Her sons live away, but take turns to visit her. Village customs - folk dance, rituals, etc. “Now our children have left the village so all the customs have died out.” The bhandara folk dance. “People worshipped trees and danced but today the boys wear pants and walk in style with hands in the pockets. How can they dance?” Women’s lives have improved - now she is listened to. In the village there is “Agriculture, nothing else.” Most have jobs elsewhere
Section 8-10  Children have to study outside the village, as there are no schools. New generation “not interested in agriculture. This is because nothing grows in the absence of rains...” Work of the Mahila Mangal Dal. It helped close local breweries, and punishes drunkards “with a garland of shoes”.
Section 11-13  Community forest: new trees are being planted and fenced-off. Importance of education: “We have not taught our children anything. How can they get any job? They are just wasting their time.” Belief in evil-spirits and possession -“it is a belief in the hills.” An exorcism using animal sacrifice. “If a good man dies he becomes a deity but if a mentally unsound person dies he becomes a ghost and starts jumping.”
Section 13-16  Water shortage and lack of irrigation - yet the village has been paying tax for a water supply they have not received. Crops, livestock. New seeds would give better yields “but…there is no rain.” Cow dung manure more practical than bought fertiliser. “The fertiliser of the store needs lots of water, which is not there.” Rules of land inheritance. Other than one Harijan family, which sews clothes, there are no crafts in the village. Villagers break stones for a living.
Section 17-19  Community forest protection/ forest fires. Big distances to collect wood/grass. Climate: “The greatest change is that it is not raining at all.” Uses kerosene stoves/pressure cooker. No firewood available. “Even if we go higher we see only villages everywhere. There are no forests.” The small local forest is protected, but “outside people” steal its wood.
Section 19-20  Impact of road. No compensation for loss of fields caused by road construction. Vehicles have brought thieves and burglars, so villagers are suspicious of strangers. High inflation – due to a lack of rain and crops – everyone has to buy goods they formerly produced themselves. .
Section 21-24  No electricity or tap water despite promises: “… there are taps fitted but there is no supply of water.” Medicinal plant cures no longer used “Now the people find them bitter compared to the doctor's medicines” She retains knowledge about traditional cures “but the children refuse to be treated by me.” Mahila Mangal Dal: “at one call all the village women gather together.” They try to prevent brewing and consumption of alcohol.
Section 24-26  Was married at 11, but now with education, girls “are becoming more aware that they should not marry early”, and more confident about refusing this. Views early marriage as the “ruination” of girls. Her mother-in-law worked her hard: “In those days, child, we never opened our mouths.” However “now the educated lot say straight away whatever they want to.” Beaten by mother-in-law and husband but has good relations with own daughters-in-law.
Section 27-29  Never seen/heard a radio or TV. Has not left her village - cannot visit her sons who live far away. They are not equipped for agricultural work. “They feel that they are city dwellers. They have scooters and cycles. They are not used to walking.” Shortage of dairy produce; new generation buys milk from Harijans. Changes in attitudes to caste: “For them it is all fine, but in my old age, I can't change. My mind cannot accept it.”
Section 29-32  Calls for local schools, hospitals, electricity, and a water supply to solve the acute water shortage. But “no information about any plans from the government.” Recent earthquake caused much damage. Villagers filled in forms for compensation; none was given. The pradhan from another village “did nothing for us.” Water taps were fitted 12 yrs ago: “But there is not a drop of water.” Village pays the regular taxes that the government demands for water supply. “Ours is a peace-loving village. We do not want any tensions.”