photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 19)








Khwada village, Balganga valley, Tehri Garhwal


October 1996



Section 1
What is your name?
Radhakrishan Semwal.

How old are you?
I am 75 years.

What is the name of your village?
It is Khawada-Patti-Basar.

How far is it from the road?
About 1.5 or 2 furlongs.

When did you settle here?
Long ago. Many generations have lived here. I have no idea.

What are the castes in this village?
Mainly Rawat Semwal, Bhatt, Raturi, some other craftsmen, blacksmiths and Bajasi, etc. We have over 300 families living here.

Where did you come from?
There is a village near Chonti called Semwal, we came from there. Our forefathers came there from some other village.

What was special about Khawada? What were the things that grew here?
We grew paddy, wheat, jhangora (barnyard millet), kauni (proso millet) and other crops. Earlier, rainwater was collected for irrigation. Even for paddy sowing that water was used. Now the government has built a 12 to 14 km long canal for irrigation. We use that for irrigation. At times the water is insufficient.

Why do you think your ancestors settled down here? What was special about this place?
Here nature is very kind and generous. There is an ancient Shiva temple, Neleshwara, where there is a water spring. The place is very beautiful, and besides this we get good crops here. As far as my memory goes, people from far-flung areas – even from Ramali Patti – used to come here to buy grain. Agriculture has been the main source of livelihood. Now many people have started picking up jobs. Earlier everyone was engaged in agriculture and nobody had a job.
We used to supply food grains to 2-3 pattis (groups of villages forming revenue units). It is said that 12 Mahadevs (great Gods) live in Basarpatti and because of them it has been named Basar. This place is beautiful. It has temples all around. Raj Rajeshwari, Jwala Mukhi and Neleswhara.
Section 2
What were the major crops?
Paddy, mandua, kauni, jhangora (varieties of millet), mustard and others.

What is the situation now?
Now people do not grow kauni and jhangora. Earlier we also had a good crop of masoor (variety of lentil) but people do not pay so much importance to agriculture now that the young have mostly gone away in search of jobs. They have gone to foreign countries and mostly the old are left here, who can't look after the fields. Now nobody will do this work even if he is given half the produce. Beekeeping was also very popular earlier. Next to our village there is another village where every crop grows. Earlier we used to live in that village.

Why has the yield decreased?
The main cause is the absence of the young people who have gone in search of jobs. Nobody from the family can look after land. Earlier, people had more cattle, but not any longer. So there is insufficient dung for use in the fields.

What are the weather-related changes?
Earlier, the climate was very good. It rained whenever we needed water. There were no canals. Whenever water was needed for irrigation, we invoked the gods and goddesses and it rained. Now, in spite of the canal, irrigation is poor and the canal has cracked at several points. The condition of the water supply line is also bad. We have approached the officials several times but nobody seems to take any interest. Now, even the level of natural sources of water is dropping lower. After the earthquake there has been so much turmoil that these natural sources have either dried up or the water level has gone down.

Why do you think there is a change in the climatic conditions?
I think it is due to the lowering of moral values. We do not have faith in our deities any longer, nor do we worship them. We are going astray.

Is the yield from the land sufficient for your needs? How much is it?
It is [enough] but not as much as it used to be earlier. Before, our paddy was of very good quality and the yield was very good. The grain was big and it was a task taking it out of the husk. It was very nourishing. Even the starch used to be so good that if we had a plateful of it we would not feel hungry for the whole day. The present-day seeds get better crop yields but have less food value. The earlier seed was thick and required more labour, so people do not sow it any longer.

Which manure was used?
Earlier, we used the compost dung as manure. We collected leaves from the forest, spread them under the cattle, put it inside the pit to prepare the manure. But now chemical fertilisers are used with this. Only if sufficient water is available for irrigation is the yield good. Otherwise the crops dry up. Compared to the use of the compost manure, the yield [produced] with chemical manure has increased but it is not as nutritious.
Section 3
Where is drinking water available? Is it very far away?
Not very far. It is near the Neleshwara temple where water is available all the year long. Earlier, this temple was known as Chaileshwara and later became Neleshwar Another water source is very close to the village but its level and quantity have gone down due to the quake.

Is the only source a natural one or is there any other source too?
Water is brought through the pipeline from natural sources, to the village. The water corporation has spent 15-16 lakh (hundred thousand) rupees and has brought a pipeline from far away - Silgarh - but it is broken and damaged at several points. So now only the stand posts remain. We have been to the water works and corporation authorities a number of times but they don’t pay heed.

What was the water situation in the beginning?
Earlier, we had many sources from where we fetched water. Now the water quantity has decreased. But we have just sufficient water to fulfil our needs.

What do you think is the cause of that?
I feel it is due to the earthquake.

What do you cook your food in?
In pans and pressure cookers. Many people now have gas stoves. Most people get wood from the forest and cook on the fire.

How far do you have to go to get wood?
About 5 to 6 km.

Did you have to go that far earlier also?
No, earlier the forest was closer but due to the increase in population it has receded. The population has increased six fold and so has the village’s demand for wood.

Was there a hospital here in the village?
No, there was no government hospital, only a vaid (practitioner of indigenous medicine). When I became pradhan (head of panchayat) I had a hospital built. I have been the pradhan since the inception of panchayati raj (village council administration). I also made arrangements to have a Junior High School built.
Section 4
Does the government hospital have a doctor?
No, not for the past one year.

When was this started?
7 to 8 years ago.

And before that?
There used to be one government Primary School in Naul Basar for the 25 villages of Basar patti.

How old is your house?
Our old house that had eight rooms was damaged due to the quake and now is in ruins. The place where we are sitting was meant for cattle. Since we could not build a new one, we renovated this building and started living here. We have not yet been given subsidised wood. For the entire village we have been given only five trees. But now our numbers have increased and the wood is insufficient. We need more wood this time as the earthquake has damaged people’s cattle sheds, houses and so on. We have to console them with assurances that all those who have not been given wood will be given it next year. Earlier, we used to get ramana (subsidised wood) every year. But now it is given only once in three years. This is causing lots of problems for farmers.

I understand that there was a problem in the Rayala forest. What was it all about?
Green trees are being felled. We, along with the Mahila Mangal Dal (rural women’s council), went there and stopped that. The Rayala forest is very far from the village and the contractor was getting the trees cut in great numbers under the guise that he had permission to cut five of them. He took the help of Kashmiri labour for this. If the forest trees are indiscriminately felled we suffer a lot since the water sources dry up. As we got to know about this we all went, beating the drums, and stopped the felling.

When was this?
This was about a year ago. Sunderlal Bahuguna had also accompanied us along with other volunteers. We tied amulets (a symbol of protection) round the trees and took a pledge that since trees are like our brothers we will not allow their felling.

What development projects are going on here?
Roads are being constructed, foot tracks are being made. The jawahar rozgar yojna (government employment scheme) activities are also going on. We have made a panchayat (village council) house.

What provision is there for electricity?
We do have electric connections. There are electricity poles but the supply is very poor. People get electricity bills but no electricity! So some families are tired of it and have got it disconnected.

How many families have got the connection disconnected?
About 15 to 20 families.
Section 5
What about other amenities?
The telephone department has put up antennae but telephones have not been installed!

How many members are there in your family?
Three brothers and their three wives. I have 7 to 8 grandchildren. So we are in total about 22 to 23 members.

Are you all living together?
We do have a joint system of giving gifts, etc.,

How many sons do you have?
I have three sons and five daughters. One son has five children and two wives. The second one has three children. My youngest one is doing B.T.C.

What are the elder sons doing?
One son is a cashier in a bank and the other one was in the Arab countries for a long time, but now he has a job in Singapore.

How educated are your sons?
Two of them are educated up to class 12 and the other one has done High School.

Where did they study?
In Tehri; the eldest was sent to Allahabad but being a weak student he had to complete his High school from Tehri. So I got him a chowkidar's (watchman’s) job in a bank. How he is a cashier. My daughters studied up to 11th and 12th class in Vinaykhal Intermediate College. Out of them three are married and two are still unmarried. The husband of one daughter is an S.D.M in Muradabad.

How old is the college?
It is about 10 years old.

Is it fully staffed?
There are four to five teachers, or less.

Are the Primary and Junior High School fully staffed?
They are in a very pathetic condition. The Junior High School has only three teachers.

You said the younger men are running away from here. Why?
People want to enjoy themselves and relax, earn the maximum possible money. So some are doing jobs in big cities or in foreign countries.

You have mentioned that both hospitals and educational institutions are understaffed. What efforts have you made to correct this?
I discussed their problem in the district committee and brought it to the notice of the concerned officials but nothing positive or constructive has come out of my efforts so far.
Section 6
In your opinion was life better in the days earlier or is it better now?
Earlier, things were better. Today many development plans are underway but people are not as honest and contented. Earlier the king ruled the state and the public paid taxes and worked for the king. That is over now. Development has taken place. Roads are constructed, schools and hospitals have been started, but the people are not honest and are never satisfied. They have become so greedy that they want to get anything even by foul means. Earlier when the pilgrims crossed our area there was never any danger of their few belonging being stolen. Today, with the quality of education, people's characters have deteriorated, so have the standards of honesty.

Do you suggest any solution for these?
All this can be solved only if we all feel that others’ souls are the same as ours.

Have you benefited from roads, schools and other development projects?
Well, the only disadvantage is the loss of character. Earlier we had to walk up to Tehri. This took two to three days. The advantage now is that we can reach Delhi within a day. Things have become very costly. Earlier one could get eight padha (1 padha = 2kg) of paddy for one rupee, 1 kg of ghee (clarified butter) for four annas (old currency). Today, to buy ghee is too expensive.

Are you satisfied with the development projects in your area?
Had we been satisfied why should we be agitating? We have made a number of sacrifices for the formation of Uttarkhand State. We all know what atrocities our men and women protestors had to face in Mussoorie and Muzzafar-nagar. So many people have sacrificed their lives. I was also one of the agitators going to Delhi and at the crossroads of Rampur we were badly beaten up. I fainted, and had a deep wound in my right leg. I had to get treated in Muzzafar-nagar hospital for almost 10 days. The treatment, later, continued in Tehri. I am still limping. People are boycotting elections as they feel that there is no point in electing a representative to the parliament where their demands and needs are not looked after, and instead our representatives want to destroy us. There is no use in electing such representatives. Where and what is Lucknow (the capital of Uttar Pradesh)! An ordinary person cannot go there. If we want to send a representative from the village, we first have to make arrangements for his travel expenses. I had gone to Lucknow to press the demand for a hospital in the village, and for that I had to make four trips and spend about 10 to 12 thousand rupees.
So we want a separate state from the government where our local problems and needs can be looked after with appropriate planning. We would also be able to protect our forests and plan our development according to our needs. Our demand was not considered; we were humiliated. This is the reason why people are boycotting the elections since people feel that a government which is not considerate is of no use.

Where are implements for agriculture made?
We have village blacksmiths who make them. First we used to give them iron for making them, and gave them food grains in return once a year. This practice continues even now. These days those who are working outside even get implements from there.
Section 7
Do you have other industries in the village?
No. I made efforts to get a sewing training plan but so far even that has not been done.