Renewing Turmeric & Spices perspective in Bankura district

A few days back I went to see some areas growing turmeric. I was moved to the prospects of this hardy crop in dry tracts. I documented as much as i could from the fields. Again, I got a call to visit Bankura and share with farmers on the perspective of spices. Initially I was hesitant to visit counting my age, health & family bindings. However I had to change my mind set as soon as I was told that Savars from Lipidiri will participate in a spice –workshop. The news sparked me and I consented to join with a condition that I must return back on the same day. I know the long distance I have to move but I had no alternative.
Yesterday we started from Kalyani at 6.30 a.m. The cloud surrounded us as we crossed the Ganges and reach Mogra. Thereafter it was raining.. non stop raining. The car moved with care and came to a break at Saktigarh. Nobody of us took umbrella. Nice gesture from the Langcha-shop( sweet-shop) who rescued us from the cab and made our safe reach to the shop. We finished our break-fast and till it was raining . The road became flooded. It is difficult to see anything from the windows. Lights were on. The discussion was whether we could be at right time or whether we have to turn back or whether participants would present if rain persists in Bankura & surroundings. We were keeping contact with the persons at Bankura. We were told that there was cloud but no rain. Any way , we found less-intensity of rain at Durgapur. The crisis is about over there.
We breathed with anew energy. Dr. Moloy Majhi accompanied us from there. He was delighted to meet his teacher- Prof. Jitesh Hore & Prof. Dipak Ghosh. We halted at his farm sometime. He has transformed the outlook of farm with his continuous devotion and monitoring. Again I saw the turmeric field. It was so green and vigour that i could not shut down my eyes. We also visited the plot where rhizomes given by Dipak were planted. Thereafter I looked at the guava & mango orchards. These have been weeded out and cleaned. I understand a model farm is coming up in Bankura. Dr.Majhi has seeded elephant foot crops. These were nice. I recollect my attempts at Chhatna & Amarkanan four years back. We also got tremendous results. I also documented success story as well as pictures of Elephant Foot crops . These are still in net. I had the notion that this will be a possible cash crop under rainfed in Bankura district. The matter is of quality seed and extension service. Other issues are also there but those could be overcome. Very recently I visited Amarkannan Ashram. Maharaji showed me ol-plants standing at the campus. With sipping a a cup of tea we started towards Bankura.
This time it was sunny. There was no alarming from rain-God. Thanks to the almighty we reached in time at the venue. Venue was selected at the Minority Community Hall . Swaraj & Sanjib-the duo- volunteers made the situation ready to start. In the mean time I was counting the members representing. My eyes went to Golapi savar & Shanti Savar. I came to them and asked “ do you remember”? –“ yea” replied.
I was enquiring about the mango orchards , turmeric –production etc. etc. Golapi & Shanti have a self-help group named Ladda Savar Para Mahila Indira Group. They have twelve members. With the support of MGNREGA they set up a mango orchard. Two or three years back I accompanied by Dr.Dipak Ghosh visited it. I got a positive hope there. The trees were yet to give fruits that time. Now to my query they said “ We are happy with the orchards. We harvested mangoes”. They know that their mangoes are in high demand in Khatra, Bankura. They also know that their mangoes reached Kolkata and New Delhi. I enjoyed when Golapi mentioned that she attended New Delhi and received prizes from the government for their quality mango and endeavours. It is a heart touching moment to hear from them for their reorganization. Who will distinguish them as Savars unless said by some one. Their appearance, dress. Etiquette every thing has been changed. They are now self-conscious . Their voice is not now passive rather aggressive. Dr. Babulal Mahato contributed a lot. Babulal not only brought economic changes for them but lifted their social status. We are concerned with the livelihood of Savars. We read about their poverty, misery and health hazards. Their pitiable stories come up frequently in news papers or media . However, the positive stories are overlooked. I salute to Babulal and his team mates for doing social justice to these down trodden people.
I came to know Savar groups prefer to plant turmeric as it could be raised under rainfed or using a little water. Moreover, these nomadic clans have grown vegetables as intercrop. They want to seed garlic. I asked them if they are trained to seed other spices. They showed interest on methi. By the by Golapi informed me that individual member received Rs 7000 .00 from the sale of mangoes. They also have been receiving a regular income from vegetables.
“ What are changes after setting up orchards”?- I asked them
-“ we are in better position. Earlier we had to work as wage earners. We used to serve as daily labours in others’ field. We had to migrate east(pube) in Burdwan. Now we work in our orchards. We get jobs under 100 –day employment project. We also engage ourselves in vegetale cultivation. “- They are happy. I also felt joy on hearing their words. I got a voice recorder gifted by my daughter. I am lucky that I recorded Savar’s confidence & powerful attitudes to hear and share frequently.
Next I turn to a group of young guys whom I did not see earlier. I was introduced by Swaraj they are from Arra ; Chhatna and belong to Sidhu-Kanu self help groups. Paritosh Saren was smart and fluent in dialogue.” What have motivated you to grow turmeric”?-i asked
-“ we have tar(up lands) where nothing could be done. We planted turmeric ther”- he replied.
-“how many of you seeded turmeric”
-“ thirty members this year. Next year more will do”
-“I have 10 kathas of land. In earlier i used to grow paddy. For the last few years I could not owing to water scarcity. The land was filled with grass & trees. I planted there clearing grasses”
The same answers i was receiving. Fallow lands, uplands have been devoted to turmeric.Again I was informed by Saren that they grew turmeric in a sporadic manner earlier. This time they have been cultivating in a wide scale. I also knew they know the processing and they make turmeric-powder using traditional Dheki.
Thereafter, I met Lalmohan Pal & Bari Kanta Mondal coming from Saltora. This is the second time they are growing turmeric. Bari kanta has planted 3 bighas of up-lands under turmeric. He is satisfied with the growth of plants. He is interested to introduce spices requiring less water.
I renewed my friendship with the members of Raibandh. Sanjib Goswami brought members from his organization: Raibandh Palli Unnayan Samiti, Bankura-ii. Shantimoy Rana is trusted lieutenant, ShantiMoy is now a well known personality in turmeric circle. He produced 25 qtls from 15 katha of land. His story has been published in news paper. He is now a successful turmeric entrepreneur. He always encourages this crop in the rain-fed areas. Today he shared his experience with the participants and the guests.
I was delighted to see Laximdar and his team members of the farmers’ club. I have visited Gurputa a few days back. They have been doing good in turmeric practices.
I got much pleasure to share with other members. Finally I met the SHGs of Gouripur. They are socially outcast people. They are cured lepers but rejected by families and society. They are staying in a colony adjacent to the Hospital. This year they have set up orchards with succour from MGNEREGA. Dr. Babula Mahato took a noble initiatives to rehabilitate those deprived members. They are interested to grow turmeric as well as spices. I was delighted to see them.
I see hope for Turmeric & other Spices specific to the environment of Bankura.

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