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Rajasthan trail day - 1

by amar last modified 2010-01-19 20:32

Lok Awas Yatra begins in Rajasthan

Yatris getting together…

The Rajasthan trail of the Western leg of Lok Awas Yatra began from Bharatpur. More than 50 yatris from 8 villages in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh collected the evening before at the Kisan Bhavan in Bharatpur. Three masons from Mador village in Bundelkhand were the unassuming heroes of the day- the trio made it to the collection point at 11 in the night, having made a train journey from Jhansi to Mathura and then onward to Bharatpur with scant experience of rail travel and familiarity about their destination. When greeted with relief, they said with a smile – “Milne ki lagan thi to yahan tak pahunch gaye!”

Next day 17th January – A suitably cold winter morning with a comfortably setlled fog all around! Fresh piping hot breakfast served straight from the ‘kadai’ by resident roadside hawkers was a perfect way to greet the chill and warm things up for the inauguration of the Yatra.


The inaugural session was presided over by the Chief co-ordinator of Lupin Foundation in Rajasthan- Col.Murli Nayar. Lupin Foundation is the CSR division of Lupin which is a pharmaceutical business group and have made their mark over the last 20 years through  various initiatives addressing holistic rural development. A presentation was made by Basin-South Asia to bring everyone on board about the origin and objective of Lok Awas Yatra. Issues of environment quality, cost effective housing, livelihoods and saving, water storage and management were among those highlighted, not only by development professionals, but also by participants from villages who bring a first hand meaning and experience about them.

Time to board the bus, our means to traverse over 2000 km across Rajasthan all the way upto Ahmedabad, to be reached 5 days after. Flagged off by Col.Nayar and we are on the road. The first day was spent in visiting two projects of Lupin Foundation.

Powered by cattle…

The first project was a model farm at Borai village, which Lupin Foundation helped set up. The farm uses biogas to meet its cooking and lighting needs and 13 households in the village have adopted the technology. The biggest benefit is undoubtedly to the women who have a clean cooking fuel and are no longer vulnerable to respiratory disorders caused by conventional firewood chulhas. The biogas plant of 10 cu.m capacity is of Chinese make, incorporates a fibre dome and produces gas equivalent to three LPG cylinders each month with an everyday charge of around 50 kg fresh cowdung from 3-4 cattle. 60% of the Rs.35000 investment is provided by Lupin with the remaining coming in from the family. As compared to the more common ‘deenbandhu’ model, the plant uses much less space and can be maintained much more easily by removing the fibre dome. Apart from cooking, the gas also lights up lamps which creates the possibility of a better education for the school-going children. The resulting slurry from the plant is an organic compost which reduces chemical fertilizer requirement by about 80%. Among the nutritional garden grown by the family, Napier grass provides excellent fodder for cattle, thus completing the loop!

The 10-12 cattle on the farm are also the basis for the New Generation Milk Co-operative set up by the National Dairy Development Board in February 2009. 75 villagers of the Yuva Jagriti Group  supply  milk from their surplus (after consumption) to the Bulk Milk Chiller and earn 20 Rs. per litre for the milk – a deal better than any other in the market. The plant manager, a salaried employee, has been trained by the NDDB which also regularly monitors the quality of the entire operation and its produce.

Other innovations at the farm include an improved cattle shed where two rows of animals face each other with the fodder trough in the centre. The design also facilitates easier dung removal from the two ends of the shed. The fodder cutter has also been engineered to operate both manually and mechanically.

Food from the mud kitchen and folk music…

Before visiting the second project, perfect use was made of the time while lunch was being prepared. Peformances in music and dance were put up in the quintessential ‘mandli’ style of performing arts in villages. Traditional Rajasthani food of Dal-Baati-Choorma followed from a nearby kitchen constructed in mud and completed a thoroughly enjoyed interlude before visiting the next project in a nearby village.

Building capacity to own a house

Naya Barkheda village has been adopted by Lupin Foundation for enabling livelihood-driven housing. 13 new houses have been constructed using a three source financing model. Lupin acts as a Micro-finance Institution and takes loan from SIDBI against mortgage for further onward lending of an amount of Rs.17000 to houseowners on 12% interest into individual bank accounts of each family. This loan is taken from SIDBI for livelihood generation among young men of the village. The training for livelihood, which is currently offered in animal husbandry and tailoring, is a conditionality for accessing the loan. This is a key factor in empowering the family to repay the loan in equal monthly instalments of Rs.630. An equal contribution is made by Housing for Humanity International (HFHI) in kind through cememt bags. The remaining amount is contributed by the owner either in cash or labour. Lupin Gram Vikas Panchayat is a key village based body in this initiative which selects the beneficiary and also ensures regular repayment of loans through creating social pressure. As a result, the village can boast of a good repayment record as proudly confimed by the LGVP. The president of LGVP is selected by Lupin and is the chief intermediary between Lupin and the families – “a tower of the Lupin network in the village”- as described by Bhim Singh ji of Lupin. LGVP forms the core of the implementation strategy and ensures representation of the community in the process.
LGVP also uses its position and influence for infrastructure upgradation of the village through MPLAD and MLA LAD funds.
The houses are constructed in bricks and/or stone masonry, stone patti on MS girders, precast concrete door frames. The design remains simple – rooms are adjacent to other with each having a separate entrance and a common elevated plinth level to account for rise in road level when it is upgraded/ constructed. This design is finalized by the community and is generally adopted for all new houses. The old houses constructed in adobe bricks are still being maintained next to the new ones and serve as kitchens and fodder storage space.

The day ended with travel to the barefoot college in Tilonia, arriving under a glittering sky canopy and finally taking our sleeping places in an old colonial building renovated by the Barefoot collegee to serve as a school for children from neighbouring villages.

basin South Asia 2009 Designed and supported by OneWorld South Asia