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A Proposal on Gaudiya Mission Green Project

Posted on: August 27, 2018 Posted By: ADMIN

                                                                                 A Proposal on Gaudiya Mission Green Project

                                                                                                              (First Draft)

                                                                                                        (Jyotirmoy Goswami)

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (MGNREGS) has been functioning for more than a decade now. No doubt it has offered some good results so far by augmenting the family income in rural areas. Yet, it is not functioning up to the expectations it had generated. There is an impression that MGNREGS has crippled small farming and small businesses by drastically inflating the cost of daily labour. Some observers say the scheme should be more inclusive, while some others advise extending the present cap of 100 days of work per year to 200 days. We propose to reorganize the 100 days of work under the scheme in such a way that it leads to year-round employment, as well as other benefits for everyone in the community.

                                                                                                               Background

The backdrop of the present proposal is a combination of several major crises gripping the country. The crisis of employment is known to everyone. That is what MGNREGS was intended to address. The problem of insufficient new jobs is compounded by the loss of traditional livelihood, particularly in the agriculture sector. The crisis in agriculture, which followed decades of unsustainable practices previously regarded as ‘scientific’, is manifested through loss of soil fertility, depletion of groundwater reserves, dwindling profits of small farming, rampant distress and suicide of farmers and widespread migration from villages to urban areas. There is also an accompanied environmental crisis that shows no sign of abating. With increasing isolation of human settlements from their sources of sustenance, people lose sight of large-scale degradation of air, water, soil and forests. The people themselves are also affected by the same isolation that leads to accumulation of stress and degradation of their mental and physical health. These outcomes reveal the fallacy of relying upon the economic models of urbanized and developed countries, none of which has ever dealt with as large a population density as in India. Making rural life healthy and sustainable is a necessary condition for addressing the present crises. That may be regarded as the broader objective of MGNREGS. Its stated goal of employment generation has to be fully in tune with this objective.

A key element of the above crises is the breakdown of linkage between man and nature, and also between man and man. Struggle for survival has led to the domination of competition over cooperation. Yet the emerging predicament of the isolated common man is ample proof that he is much more than a merely economic entity. The spirit of cooperation can revive the lost bonds.

The projects currently undertaken with MGNREGS funds do bring people together for a common activity, though in a somewhat mechanical way. This can be turned into an occasion of organic cooperation, if it is for an inspiring cause that holds potential for common and tangible good.

                                                                                                      Green resources for all

About a square kilometer of agricultural land may be identified as the core area for this work. Some parts of this land would invariably be unutilized or under-utilized. Typically these parts are irregularly shaped, too small, too narrow or not flat enough for regular cultivation. Such pieces of land can be located at the edge of an agricultural field, in between fields, by the wayside or next to a water body. Without any change of ownership, these plots may be used for planting trees that would become vital resources for the entire community. These would consist mostly of fruit trees and some trees for timber.

Protection of the crop grown in the core area from cattle and other domestic animals can be turned into another resource-generating enterprise. There would be a crèche for daytime upkeep of these animals (much like crèche for children). Owners would be encouraged to keep their animals there for a fee/labour or both instead of taking them out for grazing. This animal crèche would provide regular feeds to the animals and a limited amount of fenced space for recreational movement. Consolidation of the animals would lead to economy of scale, which would encourage others to keep animals for supplementary income. With some investment on infrastructure, the crèche would be able to utilize animal manure and urine to produce organic/natural fertilizers and pest repellents. MGMREGS funds may be used to put together the infrastructure of the animal crèche.

With easier availability of natural fertilizers and pest repellents, there would be encouragement for natural and diversified farming, particularly in the core area. The importance of moving away from the green revolution-era technology (chemical fertilizers/ pesticides, patented seeds, etc.) is being stressed all over the world. Many farmers, including those who appreciate the need for sustainability, are afraid to take the plunge for fear of immediate reduction of income. Easy availability of natural fertilizers and pest repellents may make the vital difference for them.

 

Diversified farming requires increased supervision and security. Even with animal intrusion obviated by the animal crèche, there would be need for security from human intrusion or pilferage. Cooperative action can be beneficial in this regard, as organized vigilance of the core area would be easier than separate vigilance of the plots owned by different individuals. Vigilance would also be strengthened by the watchful eyes of numerous stakeholders, as we shall see shortly.

                                                                                                         The stakeholders

The endeavor described above is far more complex than a typical MGNREGS project. It will require continuous involvement of a group of people. This job may be entrusted to a local club, a cooperative, or a body selected unanimously by the villagers specifically for this purpose. In the present discussion, we will refer to this group as the club (even if it is something else).

Natural and diversified farming, largely a lost art, is being reinvented and improved upon. It is also a subject of cutting edge research. The technology of many varieties of natural farming is not readily available to small farmers, who may find it difficult to adapt to them. This is where universities and colleges (with their expertise in knowledge dissemination) or NGOs working on these matters (with their experience) can step in. At some stage, suitable agencies of this kind may also be entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing proper utilization of the MGNREGS funds. In the present discussion, we will refer to this entity as the agency.

The spirit of cooperation can be revived if everyone in a village community can be involved in the project and benefit from it. This may be achieved by extending the idea of sharecropping to medium and long term farming of timber and fruit trees, as mentioned above. The proceeds of this farming would be shared by the owner of the plot (whose only role is to allow the trees to be grown there), the club (which manages the planting and maintenance of the trees and provides the human capital required for the activities, over and above the MGNREGS resources) and the agency (which facilitates knowledge acquisition/dissemination and possibly fund flow under MGNREGS). Their shares might be approximately in the proportion 40:40:20. The sharing formula is meant to be an incentive for generating new wealth for everyone, rather an occasion for conflict over redistribution (as in the Tebhaga movement in Bengal around the time of independence). Depending on the success of wealth creation, the landowners may offer more productive plots for this mode of usage.

It has to be noted that some of the proceeds of the club’s activities (such as profits from selling of natural fertilizers and pest repellents, fees collected from animal owners, fees for vigilance service) would materialize in the short term, while another part (such as profits from fruit and timber from the trees planted by the club) would take a few years to come about. This delay is in sharp contrast with the sudden injection of cash associated with the usual operation of MGNREGS. People who are not used to handling much cash and have limited access to banks, tend to spend their income immediately, rather than saving a part for future. The club can convert its potential income into a number of formal shares, which can be freely exchanged, within, the visage. The goal is to involve every single member of the community in the project. Everybody (even including the young and the infirm) would contribute and everybody would get some shares. They can physically participate in the activities of the club (beyond MGNREGS activities), or contribute in cash. The excess cash is to be invested by the club.

People receiving payment from MGNREGS can also choose to buy some shares as a ready means of saving. A ready means of saving is absolutely essential in areas receiving MGNREGS funds, just as drainage is essential in fields receiving a sudden dose of irrigation. The ill-effects of too large a role of money in society have been well documented, and need not be listed here. The exchange of shares can facilitate revival of other non-monetary exchanges such as barter of goods and services, which are conducive to cooperation.

                                                                                                      Right and duty to greens

The present proposal seeks to channel MGNREGS funds from scattered projects towards a single integrated endeavor to create green wealth for the rural economy. Just as investment for a single big industrial project are said to spawn several ‘downstream’ industries, the MGNREGS activities such as creating infrastructure for the animal crèche, vigilance service and rainwater harvesting for the core area etc. would readily spawn gainful downstream activities such as preparation and distribution of natural fertilizers and pest repellents, preparation of fodder, rearing of livestock, preservation and exchange of organic Iseeds, nursery for saplings, fruit processing etc. These activities would be left to initiatives and creative energy of the local people. As these initiatives begin to produce results, the common cause would gain further prominence, thus enhancing the spirit of cooperation.

The multiple crises mentioned earlier call for a commitment of the general public to every citizen’s right to a healthy environment and the complementary duty to it. The present proposal provides a context for fulfilling that duty and asserting that right. Further, in the backdrop of dwindling profits from agriculture, population growth and migration from rural to urban areas, rural food security is a matter of paramount importance. The present proposal seeks to provide a partial solution to this problem through

Horticulture in land that is mostly unutilized or under-utilized. It also seeks to create conditions for sustainable agriculture in the core area (and potentially in neighboring areas also), which might further strengthen food security.

While the present proposal is exclusively for rural areas, there is potential for voluntary participation of people in urban areas through contribution of part-time labour, purchase of shares, purchase of quality fruit, vegetables and processed agro-products. In the age of Foreign Direct Investment, there might emerge possibilities of investment from cities to villages, however small that might appear initially.

                                                                                                          NSS and MGNREGS

Involvement of colleges and universities, mentioned earlier, can be strengthened through the National Service Scheme (NSS). It is said that NSS is the biggest youth organization of the world, while the MGNREGS is the biggest employment generation scheme run by any government of the world. NSS students can participate in the proposed project on a short-term basis by contributing labour and earning some shares. The contact gained in the process would be vital to their development and orientation. It could also provide impetus to conducting applied research in universities for addressing the issues of vital importance to rural communities. The Departments of Higher Education and Rural Development of the Government of West Bengal have already expressed their encouragement for research on the present proposal under aegis of NSS and MNREGS. If the biggest youth organisation and the biggest employment generation scheme can create the resonance in line with the proposal mentioned above, there will eventually emerge the biggest self-employment project and the biggest shareholding system in the world.

 

 

                                                                                                      Capital value of goodness

Through the millennia of human history, we have observed the power of self-interest as well as the power of goodness, compassion and love. In the recent decades, we have witnessed the pinnacle of the power of self-interest. We have also watched with horror the all-round destruction that it can unleash. No government and no regulation can reach the breeding ground of that destruction that lies deep inside the human mind. The only way to address it is by invoking the streak of goodness that is as basic to human nature as self-interest is. It is in communion with nature and other human souls that this goodness blossoms. The blossoming need not happen in isolation from other aspects of life. If it can happen through the activities mentioned above, only then the ‘project’ would succeed fully.

Can we think of this experimentation in some districts of our country, possibly leading to a countrywide ‘Swami Vivekananda Awakening of the Rural India Scheme’?

 

SRI GAUDIYA MATH

16/A, Kaliprasad Chakraborty Street (Bagbazar), Kolkata – 700003,

P.O – Bagbazar, P.S – Shyampukur

Nearest Location: Opposite Of Bagbazar Girish Mancha (Theatre Hall)

Parking Of Vehicles: Due To Narrow Lane Do Not Park Vehicles Infront Road Of Gaudiya Mission, Please Park Vehicles Infront Of Girish Mancha.

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