I would like to share the story of Govind Majhi, a tribal youth of 29 years, living in a remote tribal village known as Patua, amidst forests of Latikata Block of Sundergarh district in Orissa. During my over 12 years of working with tribals in many tribal areas of our country, I have met several youths many of whom have developed as good dedicated volunteers who work for the welfare of their community in and around their area, but Govind Majhi is one youth who is totally different from others, who has proved that poverty can not come in the way if there is a strong determination and confidence to address the poverty.
My first encounter with him was hardly of a minute or two. I was the Speaker at a public meeting that was held near to his village, Govind was one amongst those over 5,000 tribals who had participated in that public meeting. After the meeting, just as I was about to board the vehicle to take me to Rourkela, Govind Majhi tried to talk to me. I asked him is there any thing specific or urgent; he replied that greatly inspired by my address he wants to work with us to improve conditions at his backward village. Since I was getting late for another meeting, I advised him to meet our district officials and assured that we will definitely work if he prepares a good team of dedicated volunteers.
Almost over two months had passed, during which there was no news from Govind. On one evening, when I was at Kolkata, he telephoned me informing that his team of about thirty youth is now ready. He also requested me to visit them in my forthcoming visit to Sundergarh district as we had three more programs on 8th and 9th August, to coincide with World Indigenous Day. Since all the programs were fixed, I advised him to join us at the seminar at Rajgangpur on 9th August, 09 where I will be with him for half an hour.
Soon after the seminar was over, I invited Govind for discussion but media reporters including OTV took half an hour before we could hardly discuss any thing. Govind was anxiously listening to our interaction with the media. I invited him and others to discuss about our organizational matters. Govind also called in few of his villagers to have talks with me. I learnt that almost all of them are very poor, making living as daily wage earners. They stated that for the first time in his life, they have met people who work for poor as their friends. Govind was anxious to say so many things in that short time. I also noticed tears in his eyes. I advised him that if he can come with me and stay with us for that night, we can discuss at great length. He promptly agreed. It was little over 9 PM when we reached Pantha Niwas at Rourkela where we were staying. I and Govind talked till about 3 in the morning which I share with you all in shape of a real story.
Patua is a small village with a population of about 3,000, almost all are poor tribals. No internal roads, no electricity, no high school, no college, no doctor in the primary Health Centre is the reality of development. Ganju Tola where Govind resides with his father, wife and 2 ½ year daughter is a part of the Patua, which is part of Bad Dalki Gram Panchayat in Latikata block of Sundergarh district of Orissa.
Govind Majhi, hero of our true story was born in the year 1981 to Kali Majhi (father) and late Raibara Majhi (Mother). He has a younger brother Laxman Majhi and two married and one unmarried sisters. They own besides their small house is one and half acre of non irrigated land on which except paddy nothing is grown.
What is poverty was not known to Govind Majhi in his childhood days. The family used to take one meal a day which was considered as a routine as almost all the houses same was the practice. A private secondary school that had come up at Bad Dalki was also instrumental in brining in change in the lives of the Majhi family, thanks to the efforts of Govind. At the age of 17, he studied up class IX and X in that secondary school. Here he came in contact with other students, some of whom became his friends. He used to visit them at their houses where for the first time in his life came to know that they not only take two meals a day but also enjoys breakfast and have other luxuries. He was in dilemma, not able to understand the realities of life.
He asked his father why they do not eat two meals a day as his friends do at Bad Dalki. Kali Majhi, his father tried to impress upon him that he is now grown up, it is time for him to understand hard realities, if he wants to survive, as they are poor, they can not afford the luxury of meals twice a day. Paddy grown in their one and half acre of land is not enough for one year, if they take meals twice a day. All the rice will be finished in five to six months. What they will eat for the rest of the year till new paddy arrives? What ever little money he earns working as a daily wage earner is not enough to meet other requirements. They will die of hunger, if they eat twice a day. Govind was upset by learning lesions of the realities of life. His father even advised him to keep away from visiting houses of his friends. Young brain of Govind was in puzzle as to why they are poor and his friends at Bada-dalki are rich. He decided to talk to his friends.
Next day he asked his friend at the school, how many acres of land they own? He was surprised to know that they had no land at all. He got confused as how without land they manage to have so much rice that feeds them twice a day throughout the year. Another friend informed that they have eight acres of land that gives them enough paddy that is much more than what they require, as such they sell those surplus paddy to buy other necessities.
After a week or so, on a Sunday morning Govind reached his friend's house that had no land at all. Here he understood that besides land, jobs in the state and public sector also helps to earn salaries with which they can buy all the rice and other food stuff as well as fulfill other social and economical requirements. He wanted to know, how his father can also get a job that can earn him salary. He understood that jobs are not easy, since required educational qualification is a must for getting any job, which is neither with him nor with his father. He understood that the circumstances in which they are living do not permit him to go for higher education as there is no money to buy even books. He realized that even he can not they can start working Govind learnt one more lesson to put at rest the question that hanunted his mind.
Instead of getting dishearten, he decided to accept it as a challenge that he will not accept it as their fate but will do every thing that can bring in the change. He decided to discontinue studies after class X and work with his father as a daily wage earner to earn money that can help his younger brother Laxman to go to college at Rourkela. He discussed with Laxman who ultimately agreed to do what ever is best in the interest of the family. This was the turning point for the better for Kali Majhi family.
Govind after finishing class X at Bada- Dalki left the studies; joined his father to work full time on his farm and also working as a labour to earn wages. His brother Laxman studied hard as was greatly inspired by the sacrifice of his elder brother. He went to Vedvyas and Rourkela where he not only graduated but also cleared his Diploma in Electrical engineering with good results. One out of many of his applications for jobs; finally he got a call from the Indian Railways with whom he now works in their electrical department, presently posted at MALDA in West Bengal.
Majhi family not only now enjoys food twice a day but also afford to spend money on other needs and comforts they need. Govind has one mobile phone through which, he is in regular contact with his brother and married sisters. Kali Majhi is now 65 years of age. He has stopped working as a neither labour nor works at his farm any more. Govind sighs to say that his mother died of cancer seven years back, was unlucky to see the change in our lives. He regrets that if the change would come few years earlier, she would have died happily. He gets disturbed to say that his mother never enjoyed the luxury of eating two meals a day.
Govind also proudly says that Laxman has made two Fixed Deposit of Rs.10, 000/- each i.e. Rs. 20,000/- in the name of his younger unmarried sister Jasumati so that with that money with interest, they will spend in her marriage. He intends to make one more fixed deposit of Rs. 10,000/- later in this year. He has also paid all the money that was spent for the marriage of one of his sister few years back. Besides, the same Laxman also paid medical bills of about Rs. 8,000/- that was spent in the illness of one of his sister and also of his father. Laxman's college friends are also employed elsewhere. Three of them are in BSF, five are police constables, one is with HAL at Sonabeda and five are at Rourkela Steel Plant.
Now Govind aspires to bring a change in his village. He states that in the name of development what they have got in last sixty years is one Anganwadi, a primary school that has classes up to class VIII, few tube wells that often goes dry in summer. Rivulet which flows round the year is at a short distance of ½ kilometer but only Kudar Tola residents are given the facility of lift irrigation that irrigates their 20-25 acres of land. No internal roads or lanes in the village. During rainy days, it is extremely difficult to ride bicycle or even walk on those muddy and marshy lanes full of pits. No electricity though power lines are not far off. The post office is a one man show with postman performing duty from postman to postmaster.
Primary Health Care is a cement concrete structure with no medial staff, forget about doctors. He says. No body has seen any doctor from the day that health centre has been constructed. No ambulance has ever come to their village. When some one falls seriously ill, they used to take the patient, lifting with cot to take to Latikata walking all the way. Now they take patients to the main road, from where they take them to Latikata or Rourkela by bus or Auto Rickshaws that ply regularly.
He adds saying that just as they suffered, there are many families in Patua who are as poor as they were on one day. They also manage with one meal a day to survive. He adds to say that when guests arrive at some ones house and they have no rice in the house, they manage by taking from some ones house to be returned later on. Govind wants that all the villagers should come out of their tragedies at the earliest, as they have managed to do so. Rs. One or Two per KG rice scheme has no doubt helped few families but neither all the families have cards nor the quantity they get in a month is sufficient for them. He says instead of giving us rice at Rs. One or Two per kg, give us water from the rivulet that flows round the year near to their village to produce rice that they need. He also lists elephant menace as one more area of problem.
About NREGA he says that till date no work has been done under NREGA at his village. The only work done is to construct a road from Deditola to Kendu Berli, which is five KM away from their village. They demanded work near to their village but no result. Even after the road work is over before one and half year, no payments has been made till now. Villagers have gone several times to Sarpanch and also to BDO but all in vain. Sarpanch says he has submitted all the required papers while BDO informs that the papers are incomplete and not sufficient.
This real story of a poor tribal boy demonstrates that where there is a will, there is a way. Poverty does not come on the way, if there is strong determination and self confidence to deliver results. We have found a leader in a small village through whom, we are sure, changes at a fast pace will take place in the days to come.
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