Carol Andrade column: A story of 15 villages that is both happy and happening
There is one story to which I keep returning again and again, because it is guaranteed to make me smile. After all, how many happy stories do we have at this point of time?
It’s the story of 15 villages in drought-stricken, parched, impoverished, hopeless, rain-starved Beed, a sad district in the Marathwada region, itself geographically disadvantaged with not a single major river flowing through it.
In May 2016, it was staring at its third year of drought and the situation was dire, with drinking water the most immediate need. At this point, the Fulora Foundation, an NGO headed by former AAP leader Mayankh Gandhi, entered the picture and through a crowd-funding initiative driven by his impeccable reputation, thirsty Beed got 1.57 crore litres of water by tanker. It was a pitiable sight.
Mayank is a restless soul and he recognised quickly that providing water to the region of seriously poverty-stricken villages was like trying to stanch serious blood loss with a band-aid. There was an air of helplessness that rattled him, no light in any of the eyes turned towards them. Farmers were committing suicide, farms lay barren because of crop patterns and lack of water for irrigation. Families migrated to cities to live on the edge, and did not return.
In an area of less rainfall, there was also no water conservation. Ironically, 2016 was also a year when the region got surplus rainfall, though still far less than other parts of the state. The water table was below 350 feet and sinking further. The people in Beed “were only alive because they were not dead”. Alcoholism was rampant with its attendant evils and the impact upon families was dire.
At a time when it was felt that the region could not sink any lower, Global Parli, rather boringly described as “a pilot project of Nation Building through Revival and Empowerment of the Villages of India,” covering 15 villages, was born.
What it aims at is so bold, so path-breaking and so inspirational, while what it has already accomplished is so joyous, that there is happiness in merely keeping updated on its progress. This is why I return to it again and again, making inquiries, asking for progress, taking pleasure in the little details on what must be among the most remarkable projects in the world!
There has been no miraculous turning back of the clock and Marathwada has continued to have less rainfall as usual. But there has been a massive change in mindset and attitude, thanks to Global Parli. And this has led to a sea-change in circumstances and a corresponding change in conditions. Imagine whole village communities getting together to deepen and widen river bed and canal, earth dam and bund, and then waiting calmly for the rains.
Imagine schools springing to life again and even going digital. Imagine the promise of hundreds of thousands of fruit trees with a promise to ultimately plant one million, mango, guava, sitaphal, lemon and moringa.
Imagine crop patterns changing to reflect a new and heady prosperity through papaya and watermelon. Imagine watching deepened rivers and widened canals gradually filling up. Imagine knowing that the water table has risen phenomenally to now just 50 feet below ground.
Imagine corporates, activists and NGOs coming together to acknowledge the value of what you are doing in your own villages where there are new ambitions and brand new hopes that you know can come to fruition in real joy. Importantly, Global Parli is not CSR led, but more a catalyst for government mechanisms to kick in. And they are collaborating in ways meaningful beyond compare.
Global Parli has been showing results beyond imagining but its best gift is one that will keep on giving. It can be replicated all over the country. The question is, how does one replicate Mayank!