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farmer/waged work


Goni village, Alaknanda valley, Tehri Garhwal


early 1994


In contrast to many narrators, Satye says that he has not witnessed much change in the forest or climate. However he does report a dramatic decline in traditional handicrafts and agriculture. The new generation have left their traditional occupations completely. Today, whatever work is going on in this field is being done by those people who belong to the old generation. The cause of this decline is the spread of education and the facilities in jobs being given to them by the government.” He says that as a result, “Our culture is declining, gradually.” He feels that education has also led to increased migration: “It is but natural that the educated persons will go elsewhere for their respective jobs and business and as a result of it the village would wear a deserted look.” He suggests: “our children should have their roots in the village. Whenever they start their business they must establish it near the village.”

A traditionalist in many senses, he expresses a preference for the old judicial and medical systems that he feels the modern generation has abandoned. He is outspoken against the Tehri dam, and the resulting displacement of communities: “It was because of their helplessness that they were cut off from their ancestral homes. The culture and the memories of their birthplace will keep haunting them throughout their lives. Certainly they are restless there in their new settlements.” Yet he also draws attention to the lack of modern facilities within the villages. “For an ideal village all the facilities - like roads, electricity, water, education, health care - should be available.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Family background. The village is of several castes, majority his own. Role of and attitude towards women. No change in marriage customs: “all the norms are followed and observed conventionally. Caste and creed play an important role in settling marriages”. Education up to the intermediate level is available in the village. Need for vocational education People follow traditional occupations, along caste lines. Primary health centres in the villages but are of low quality. Many families migrating to the cities. “More earning means that better means of education and other facilities in the plains are sought after.”
Section 3  The village is expanding. Female education is “a favourable change” which “brings new awareness in the society” but it also contributes to the neglect of agricultural work as women pay more attention to domestic work and some have jobs. Older generation “cherish greater affection for farming” Temporary migration of families occurs, especially during off-seasons. It disrupts family connections and “mutual work suffers”. “But at the same time, this is our ancient custom and it needs to be preserved.”
Section 4  Customs surrounding untouchability continue to be practised in the villages. Rising crime “partly due to the use of television and partly due to the communication with the outsiders.” Unemployment compounds this. “Traditional ways of punishment are still observed. Social boycott is still popular in the village and it has to be accepted.” Local judicial system problematic and expensive. Younger people now being elected and they lack the wisdom and virtue of the elders. Government aid “does not reach the needy… officials and employees and the politicians swallow up the better part of it”.
Section 5-6  Alcohol, brought in from outside the village, is creating “tension in the family and in society as well”. Despite the attempts of women and youth organisations to protest against the opening of government wine shops “the habit of drinking is flourishing!” Marriage/funeral ceremonies still performed: “People give respect to their ancient social traditions.” They all cooperate; the younger generation too. Road construction “plays a great role in the village development” but “there must be some limit to it”. The Tehri dam will not benefit the villagers much – they will only get electricity; “Only the outsiders will get the benefit.” A big dam that is damaged “becomes genocidal”. Small dams “which involve less destruction” would be better.
Section 7-8  The cash economy has “reduced the feeling of mutual help, co-operation.” Recalls the 1991 earthquake. Government assistance was “inadequate and unsatisfactory”. Cottage crafts have declined but some older people continue to weave bamboo mats and baskets. The “new generation has left their traditional occupations completely”. Cause: the spread of education and jobs. Village fairs “still held in their traditional fashion.” People prefer traditional seed and fertilisers, but new varieties also used when available. Grain stored in bamboo baskets sealed with dung. Traditional water-powered mills, which were inconvenient, have given way to flour mills run by electricity.
Section 9  Crops grown. “In rural areas the forests exist as they were in the past. No notable change has taken place.” Government afforestation schemes “were executed but very few plants survive today.” Inadequate protective measures against cattle grazing. Traditional Ayurvedic medicine is used only by the old generation: “The modern generation believes in modern treatment methods because the allopathic medicines give prompt relief… even if it is generally momentary”.
Section 10-11  Traditional dancers abandoning their occupation because of “education and their better economic condition”. Laments that “with their disappearance our ancient culture is disappearing...” “Supernatural beings” continue to be worshipped, with some animal sacrifice. Increase in tourism due to new road facilities. Shrines becoming spots for tourism: “It has certainly diminished the faith in those shrines.” Some improvement in living standards Labourers and craftspeople supplement their income with agriculture.
Section 12-14  Inheritance of land: divided up equally among the sons. Women’s “workload is reduced and their freedom increased…A new social order has set in.” Causes of forest fires. Village development: “We want all the modern conveniences and facilities. New techniques, new crop, new fruit trees like apple, orange and all other developed means and assets.” Migration connected with education: “It is but natural that the educated persons will go elsewhere for their respective jobs and business and as a result of it the village would wear a deserted look” Mutual assistance.