Seeking to make a difference in lives drowned in liquor (Development Feature)
They all reach for the "hari goli" or green tablet whether to treat a mild headache or even malaria as this is the only panacea available for 250 Sahariya tribals in Rajasthan's Baran district where healthcare facilities are non-existent but where liquor flows abundantly.
"All my life I have had this hari goli whenever I have fallen sick," says an emaciated Kaushalya Devi, 60, one of the Sahariyas in Baman Deh village of Baran, which is the poorest tribal community of Rajasthan eking out a miserable existence.
The "hari goli" is nothing but diclofenac sodium - a pain-killer - that comes in a green strip and is available in the two local grocery shops.
Situated in a vast expanse of arid and almost un-irrigated land, the obscure village of Baman Deh is devoid of a primary health care centre, school, electricity and even roads.
Daya Ram's two-year-old daughter died in August last year after being stricken by some disease. She could not be attended to or taken to the primary health care centre - 15 km away - as the village was cut off from the main city due to rains.
"It does not matter. I will have another one (child). This is how our life is," the gaunt Daya Ram, a landless farmer, told IANS.
In the name of Anganwadi (state-run mother and child care centre) lies a dilapidated two-room building, which villagers say has been non-functional for the past decade.
What is ironical is that the government built a rainwater harvesting tank besides this non-functional Anganwadi in November last year.
When IANS visited the nearest community health care centre, a big lock was found hanging on the door.
"The lady who was posted here has not come to this place for months," said a local.
Dinesh Kumar Sahariya, 21, is the only villager who has completed his schooling, but from some other village.
"It is not that we don't have land, but how would we irrigate it as we cannot afford diesel-run irrigation pumps. Hence, almost every male goes out of this village to work as labourer," Dinesh told IANS.
Another villager, Ganesh, said there is hardly any work available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). MGNREGA is an entitlement law that aims to guarantee the right to work and ensure livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment.
"How will we make our ends meet when have no work?" says Ganesh.
The villagers complain that ever since December 2013 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the state, they have stopped getting their quota of rice and kerosene oil which they got under the previous Congress regime.
Liquor has ruined the men of the village. Liquor is supplied through motorbikes. Men force their women to work so that they can pay for their addiction.
"There is no dearth of liquor, but medicines are hardly available. It is because of liquor mafia that it is available so easily," added Ganesh.
The World Vision India, a non-governmental organisation, is trying to make a difference in the lives of Sahariyas who until a few years ago worked as bonded labourers. It has installed several solar panels which light up the mud-thatched houses in the village. A few solar-run street lights can be sighted in the village.
"At least we have light now. The children will not have to face the problems which I faced," says Dinesh.
The organisation is also planning to install solar-run irrigation pump so that the villagers can till their own land.
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 02-03-2014)