The Beed district in Maharashtra is known as the region of sugarcane workers. The yearly migration for months of over 6 lakh labourers to outside districts and states has given the drought-prone district this identity, which speaks in itself about the dismal state of local employment opportunities. These migrants include small farmers like Jotiram Gaikwad.
Jotiram Gaikwad owns around 4 acres of rain-fed land in Pali Pargoan village, Majalgoan block in Beed. Because of the depleted groundwater level, his three earlier attempts to dig a bore well for irrigation had failed. He wished he could build a farm pond to harvest rainwater, but did not get enough financial support from Agricultural Department to go ahead. After knowing that he can do so under MGNREGA, he got into action. With support from Pragati Abhiyan CRP, his papers got ready in no time. Almost 65 other labourers in the village also filed the demand for work. But no one in the authority responsible to process this demand was willing to accept their applications.
While Sarpanch refused to accept it saying it would cause him ‘unnecessary trouble’, as it is impossible for him to start work, Village Secretary refuted it by saying that their union has decided against accepting any demand for work other than the housing scheme. The labourers experienced a similar reluctance when they met Additional Programme Officer and Block Development Officer in anticipation. The BDO promised to look into the matter but did not accept the applications. When the group of workers met the Deputy Collector, MGNREGA, he discouraged them from pursuing their demand for work. Despite the obvious disinclination of the administrative officers to do what was their duty, the workers did not budge from their demands. They kept asserting their entitlement to demand work that they wanted in their village. Their consistent follow-up led to the approval of the farm pond project after three months with around Rs. 5 lakh 30 thousand funding.
The work started on 10 January 2022. The 100 feet by 100 feet pond is 10 feet deep and spread over 20 gunthas on Jotiram’s land. It provided wage work to around 15-20 labourers for a period of over two months and created an asset for the farmer. Jotiram looks forward to the monsoon when the pond will get filled and functional. Apart from irrigation he also plans to use it for fish farming and increase productivity.
(By CRP Jeevan Rathod, Majalgoan, Beed)