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Magazine Editorial

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Category Shodhyatra-33 PART-II
Title When frugal is more efficient
Abstract The 33rd Shodhyatra in Mahendragarh District (May 24-31,2014) revealed so many facets of human ingenuity, hesitation, courage and conviction one could not but be inspired, intrigued and instigated to explore more. Read here the second part of the walk when an orchard owner does not mind fifty per cent fruits being partaken by birds, strangers welcome us with buttermilk with no expectation of any reciprocity, and casual discussion at a tea stall leads us to an interesting insight about cycle plough in a land of tractors.
Details In the first part, we experienced a very rich tradition of offering drinking water to strangers on the roadside, memorials to martyrs, encounters with organic farmers and the creative ideas of many children. When we reached Dhana, after walking from Rambas, the community offered us Raabadi. It is a refreshing local drink, which protects people from sunstroke apart from boosting energy instantly. During the demonstration of food processing machine by Dharamveer, the community members did not agree that it could generate so much of revenue as he claimed. Finally, after an intense debate, the elders agreed to send a few young students to be trained by Dhramveer so that they could test the technology in the village.   On the way to Mauhadi, we saw a farmer on a motorbike trying to scare away a herd of bluebull to protect his crop. We gave him a booklet based on alternative practices for the purpose pooled from the Honey Bee Database. After reaching Gomla, a village recipient of the President’s honour for one of the cleanest villages, we gathered in a garden and started an impromptu dialogue with the children about new ideas. Ravikant Sharma, class six, suggested a recorder which gave a printout of the recorded matter in a few minutes. He obviously meant that the printer should have the ability to convert voice into text and then print it, an idea far ahead of where we are today. He also wanted an iron press charged by solar light for ironing the clothes.   On the way back, we met the former Sarpanch of the village who stopped us and explained how he had managed to lay down proper sewerage lines, make pukka roads and develop gardens for children to play in. Yatris noticed while walking to Mohalda that tree density in cultivated fields was much higher than observed so far. This practice was observed first when I was doing my doctoral research in the area forty years ago. Given the high dependence of people on livestock in this region, the lopping from trees provided much needed fodder. The trees also helped as a windbreak, when strong storms lead to soil erosion during the summers. Most of these trees are not planted. The saplings are allowed to survive while ploughing the land with bullocks or camels. Wherever tractorization has taken over, leaving such saplings aside has become almost impossible in such dry regions.   Walking through the fields we came across a trench digger used to lay down the pipes for installing sprinklers. The lady from the house nearby invited us to have buttermilk and take a little rest. We moved on after enjoying the hospitality for strangers like us. On the way, we observed remnants of some old structures reminding us of the rich architectural heritage of the region. The villagers in Mohalda were initially skeptical about the herbal practices for pest control. They wondered how could herbal pesticide work when even high doses of chemical pesticide were ineffective. We explained that many of the herbal pesticides were actually anti-feedant and thus the knock-down effect was low but pest were controlled by not being able to eat leaves.Women brought delicious local recipes and handicrafts. The ones used for supporting the water pitcher on the head were particularly impressive. Even in pain, while carrying water pots on their heads over a long distance in the past, the aesthetics of the headrest and beautiful frills (Idoni) were not ignored. Catharsis through art is a typical preserve, perhaps of hardworking women in the region.   Devdutt Singh was felicitated in Rata village for having planted trees in temples, schools, crematorium and other vacant spaces. He would water the saplings early in the morning everyday. He will feed the grains donated to the temple during Shravan month (August) to the birds throughout the year. He put this very succinctly: the trees, rivers, mountains serve others, shouldn’t we emulate them in our life. Yatris came across a beautiful orchard having a variety of fruits and flowers on the way to DairoliJat. Though almost 50 per cent of the fruits are partaken by the birds, they still do not spray any pesticides on the trees. Instead they hang CDs on the trees to deflect sunlight to scare the birds way. As if the local artistic traditions were not enough, an immigrant Muslim family had a beautifully decorated interior in their hut. Originally they were from Uttar Pradesh but had rented land for cultivating vegetables. There was a big meeting organized in Darolijaat, chaired by the grandfather of  Rishipal, a respected village elder. The vice-chancellor of the Central University and many other scientists had also attended the meeting. One of the highlights of the meeting was a demonstration of a compressed air driven car designed by Rishipal. At this moment, it could only go up to five kilometers in a single filling of the tank. But it can be improved further by incorporating tanks capable of carrying much higher pressure of air. There was an enthusiastic participation of children and women in the meeting who showcased their creativity and innovative spirit through paintings, craft and other artifacts. Praveen, a young boy suggested that to save the trouble for old people while boarding bus, there should be retractable steps. Anjali, a young student suggested that a car should not start unless one puts on the seat belt. A union minister who died recently in a car accident might have been alive, had her idea been implemented not only for the driver but also the passengers on the backseat. Omveer, a young mechanic had developed a low-cost motor winding machine costing Rupees three thousand which otherwise might have costed up to twenty thousand in the market. Big is not always better   On the way to Shahbajpur, we stopped by a tea stall. The look of an Amaltas tree in full bloom with yellow flowers was too much to just pass by. After placing the order for tea, the discussion with the bystanders wasn’t leadingus to any new innovation nearby. We did not want to give up. When we give examples of how we had met in the previous village several farmers who had developed cycle-based weeders and other devices, a young boy Sujit immediately recalled his meeting with a farmer innovator. He had developed a cycle-based millet sowing attachment. We arranged a vehicle for Sujit to go and fetch Maharam, the farmer innovator from a nearby hamlet of Shahbajpur. What followed was an interesting example of frugal innovation that was not only more efficient but also more productive than the costlier version. While walking with us Maharam explained that the depth of seed was never more than one and a half inches when sown with the cycle based sowing attachment. The cover of the soil was also thinner in this case. When sowing was done with tractor, the depth was more and soil cover was thicker. In the former case, tillering was higher, and the yield could be higher by about 20 per cent compared to sowing by a tractor drawn seed drill. Big is not always better.   Liquor consumption was cited as one of the most serious problems in the region. There were five liquor shops in DairoliJat apart from many on the way. While houses did not have toilets, addiction to smoking and liquor had taken a toll on the health of many young people. More than hundred people in the region served in armed forces. The fluoride content in the water was said to be higher than the tolerable limits, particularly in Antari village. The yatris spent the night in Mandana village, not very far from the village where Swami Ramdev was born. Unfortunately, neither in the school he studied nor in the village he was born, there was much developmental impact. Local communities wished it to be otherwise. Children gave many creative ideas during the competition; Jyoti suggested that medicine tablets should show the expiry status by change in their colour. Vaibhav was concerned that water wastage was a serious problem. He wanted a water ATM where people are charged for the water taken out. Tina wanted to have a two-sided fan so that everybody around enjoys cool air. Priyanka was aware that many times children do not reveal their exact position while answering a phone call from their parents. She wanted a feature by which parents would come to know the GPS location of children automatically. Saroj was upset with the increasing number of cases of molestation of girls. She wanted an emergency button on watches which would send a message to the nearby police station.   We felicitated several centenarians, outstanding social workers, voluntary faculty members of schools and colleges helping society apart from creative children, and innovative farmers and mechanics. How could we forget Hethramji of Khatoli village who used to do 700 squats everyday and consume at least 250 g of ghee everyday?   Just outside the school from where the Shodhyatris dispersed to their respective destinations, there was a mechanic who had made some improvements in the compressor for filling air in the tyres of vehicles. Though the physical shodhyatra had come to an end, it was obvious that the spiritual journey still continued for many. There was no way any yatri would forget a region where there was not a single malnourished child. Shouldn’t we search for solutions to national problems in places where extraordinary milestones of excellence in that domain have already been achieved? This is a thought, which we hope will reverberate in the corridors of power.
Volume No. Honey Bee 25(3) 4-6, 2014