|HER WORLD||Sunday, May 16, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
Spirit of enterprise
service of history
True to its name, Palampur-based Samridhi has brought prosperity to rural areas. Ravinder Sood reports on HPís first-ever womenís cooperative
SAMRIDHI, an organisation operating from Palampur, has brought a radical change in the socio-economic lot of womenfolk in Kangra district. The first womenís cooperative of the state, Samridhi, has emerged a pioneer in the last five years.
The cooperative society began with the technical and financial support provided by the Indo-German Changer Eco-Development Project. The aim was to change the destiny of the women of Palampur and Bhatiyat regions in 1995-96. Inputs, besides technical guidance worth Rs 10 lakh, were provided by the project to the cooperative society.
Two voluntary organisations, New Hope of Kangra and Himalaya Bachao Samiti of Chamba. were involved under the economic generation programme. In collaboration with the Indo-German Changer Project, both these organisations lent a helping hand to the women groups to first conceive the idea of Samridhi and then put it into practice. It was a successful experiment in participatory natural resource management by rural women.
Changer in Palampur and Bhatiyat in adjoining Chamba provided the resources for harnessing the potential available. Both these regions are degraded belts of broken hills and ravines but in the mixed forest of this sub-Himalayan region, fruits grow in abundance.
Since times immemorial, these have been supporting nutritional, medicinal and fodder needs of the local villages. Common fruits trees are amla, bil, mango, dhieun, harad, behar, are abundantly grown and most of them are wasted.
According to T.D. Sharma, Director Indo-German Changer Eco- Development Project, availability of surplus fruits was an advantage that could facilitate income-generation initiatives. Women in the region were motivated to form a cooperative society for creating a sustainable income generation. The focus was to be on those from socio-economically weaker families. At present, it is a federation of village-based Women Production Group (WPGs). Sharma says the cooperative is committed to strengthening capacities of women and empowering them in their struggle against natural and social conditions.
A visit to the production centre of the cooperative society is an eye-opener. Women bring fresh and graded hand-picked wild fruits from trees and do the initial processing in their different small collection centres under stringent quality control norms. The products are then brought to the apex unit at Thakurdwara, near Palampur. The production involves maximum of manual labour and uses processes derived from the traditional skills of sun drying and natural preservation. The products being made in this womenís organisation include chutneys of amla and mango, pickle of mango, dheuin, garlic, ghanhilai, green chillies, amla Garlic and sweet lime. Even candies of amla, citrus and ginger are being produced.
In past five years, Samridhi has made remarkable progress. This is evident from the fact that in the year 1995-96, when this organisation came into existence, there were only 16 women members and the production was limited to only 375 kg. During the year 2000-2001, the production touched 28000 kg, while number of the women members has risen from 16 to 182. Today the earned wages are to the tune of Rs. 6250. In addition to this the wages earned by the members of the society stand at rupees 4,35,103 during the current year. It was also seen, that all the products are checked and have to move through stringent quality control standards. The products are marketed under the brand name of Changer and are receiving a good response from the consumers.
In fact, Samridhi is a lone institution in the state which is owned and managed solely by rural women. Not only do the women get wages for their labour and as producers but the final profits too are used for the common good.
Another defining feature of the organisation is the representative character of the cooperative. Elected representatives constitute the managing committee at the apex, which in turn controls the over-all enterprise.
Samira Makhmalbaf, daughter of Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf has
won accolades at Cannes Film Festival and the International Film
Festival of India. As a little girl, Samira had watched her father
make films and had also featured in them. The girl who wielded the
camera at 18 also made Apple and Blackboard to make a
comment and capture the nuances of life. Her third venture, the
much-acclaimed At Five In The Afternoon is the story of a young
woman in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. It shows how the
reopening of the schools for girls and throwing off the burqa
reinforces a womanís confidence. For her, more than being merely a
Muslim country, Iranís core is Oriental.
service of history
FOR nearly 30 years now, Professor Indu Banga's only concern has been to deliver the goods in the classrooms, keep her students well-informed and up-to-date. Awards and felicitations have happened for her just by the way.
A professor at the Department of History, Panjab University, she was recently awarded a gold medal by the Asiatic Society, the 'oldest institution of learning in science and humanities', for her 'outstanding contribution to the field of Indian history'. "It feels nice that there are people who recognise your work and contribution to the subject. I shared this piece of information with my teachers and students first. I felt they had a share in the award," says this alumnus of PU.
While teaching was not Banga's first choice, her affair with history gradually took precedence and she shelved the idea of taking her Civil Services examination to join as a lecturer. "I had got the examination form but never got round to filling it up. A workshop conducted by eminent historians on the campus proved to be the turning point for her,"she adds.
Banga had made up her mind to pursue research in her final year of postgraduation at PU. And, then, along came the workshop, with Dr Romilla Thapar, JS Grewal and Rabindra Nath, all of them young turks among Indian historians.
"That was the first time I was face-to-face with the historians. Being among them, talking of research and just knowing their view point was a very satisfying experience. During the many interactions, it seems I made quite an impression of being earnest towards the subject. I didn't realise I was being interviewed during the course of my conversation with history teachers from a college at Batala and was tipped to be lecturer," she recalls.
"I was staying in Ambala and the Principal of the college in Batala was passing through my city. I met him at the first class waiting room of the railway station and, over lemonade, I was offered my first job. That's how my romance with teaching began and it is continuing till date. I have absolutely no regrets that I never filled the Civil services examination form," she concludes.