The dream catcher?

Sometimes you’re just lucky while sometimes you need to pause, take a few steps backwards and let go of the chase until you know that your dream doesn’t even hold the place of a memory! “I was young and ambitious and wanted to become a teacher but I didn’t have what was needed to become one, I needed luck”, Mojilal continues. Mojilal was born into a poor family in Jungaliya. He didn’t get the opportunity to study further and he had to give it all up in order to earn for his family. He was elected as the Sarpanch of his village 6 years back. Mojilal continued to live oblivious of anything that happened around him as time passed quickly and we come back to talk about what happened in the year 2007 when the watershed development program had just begun in his village.

What happened?

‘Shramdan’ meant ‘contribution of work. It took a long time before the people inhabiting this village began to have faith in this Program.  In the beginning Mojilal wasn’t satisfied with the whole concept of shramdan or its rules and conditions. Unable to understand why people should work without getting paid in a village where people are already starving, Mojilal still had no option but to participate in all its activities. But this didn’t last long; very soon all his doubts disappeared. “When I understood the program, I participated in the shramdan. Seeing the leaders of the village participating in the shramdan, other villagers also participated in huge numbers and the work started in the village.” Mojilal added. This was one of the characteristic features of the program which united whole communities and societies.

WOTR works with rural Indian villages that come voluntarily with a desire to take part in development programs. This is the only way that program sustainability can be ensured. If it is imposed upon a village then it will be unlikely to have social or political support, making it an unsustainable proposition no matter how helpful it could potentially be. But when a village decides to work with WOTR, both sides know that they will be equal partners in development.

As soon as WOTR saw initiative amongst the people of this village, they brought the NREGS (a government scheme) through which every able bodied person in the village who could work would get work and get paid for the same. A small village where people had to migrate to revolting cities and towns in search of work slowly saw a transformation as they started moving towards self-sustainability. Not only were the people exposed to newer and better farming activities, people were shown the importance of information and were made aware of the rights they held as a citizen. As the NREGS was active in his village, they planned their watershed work in such a way that no work was replicated and everybody in the village got the best opportunities to work and earn in the village itself.

“I noticed that the other villages took four or five months to get their wages through the NREGA, however, payment would clear within fifteen days in ours. This was because we kept our records meticulously and followed all the procedures through transparency which meant that we were accountable to the people and everything was open to be checked or inspected by anyone. This made it easy for the government to release our payments on time”, Mojilal continues.

Tell me and I forget; teach me and I remember; involve me and I learn

- Benjamin Franklin

“During this Program I have been able to learn many things as well. Now, I have a broader understanding of how I ought to manage the village and its resources and I have successfully extended my network to different government departments. This has increased my level of confidence and government officers know that I have the necessary knowledge of the system now”, Mojilal adds proudly.

Getting rid of a battlefield…

During the area treatment, different people from the village worked together towards the development of the village. This united the people who decided unanimously to cancel the election process this time and selected Mojilal as the Sarpanch of the Gram Sabha. “When I remembered the election processes that took place in the past, a picture of a battlefield appeared in my head because that was what the situation was like once upon a time. People used to drink alcohol and fight amongst themselves! This is what our village has been able to get rid of successfully and this is what has made all the difference”, adds Mojilal.

Visions and dreams…

Mojilal has a vision to take his village to the next level now. Firstly, he wants to make sure the forest area is made into a common property. He wants to make sure that there will be enough water for agricultural and consumption purposes and he values the importance of education and wants to make sure the children in his village avail the best opportunities to study.

“If someone asks me how I have benefited from this program and how things have changed for me, I will always talk about the kind of exposure and information I received that have played a major role in defining me today”, concludes Mojilal.