Let us work for a new Indian rural heritage!
Our age-old countryside needs a new vision. Copious rains this time! Two tractors are ploughing! There are now enough tractors in the neighbourhood. Why, our farm manager is now sporting a mobile phone! So, prosperity is back in the villages?
Yes, such is the more optimistic view of life in the villages now. Only just now, after these rains, more so in our South West monsoon region of the Palakkad Pass, just this side of the Walayar river. The rains had come so ferociously this year, after nearly a gap of half a century! So, as in the olden days, rains poured ceaselessly for weeks and weeks. Rainwater ran through the village roads as if it was like in my childhood days!
Oh, what a relief, I was so pleased and astonished. Villages might not be there as we know, in the USA. There, the large farms are the standard. In the UK and Europe, we have still the small farmers. I myself had lived in much of the English countryside and also lived in the French and German countryside. There is a universal attachment for people to stick to their age old rural dwellings. Just now I read a book review of a book by a famous philosopher who chose to live in a village just 130 kilometres to the west of London. What a moving description of how he observes the villagers, their problems, the hand of a heartless bureaucracy.
So, I read now about an agriculture fair in Paris and how the French President and Prime Minister took time to spend more time with the farmers and villagers. There is a sense of truth in the life of the villager. As Tolstoy famously observed the life of the average peasant is the life of truth! Yes, I too realise this great truth in moments of despair! In India the harsh realities, the mindless politics of the present selfish politicians puts me off. Here we have a different history. The Sir Thomas Munroe, who settled the land on ryothwari basis had turned most of the farmers in the old Madras Presidency areas remain small farmers and also so poor.
We should have a modern, vigorous agriculture. For this we need a fairly more larger size farming systems. Then only farming will become viable. Forget the past. Forget the fools as zamindars! The new generation farmers must be educated, technologically and otherwise very savvy people.
Preferably only traditional farming family will stick to farming and also willing to live in the villages, in the countryside. I want to preserve this as a rare Indian rural heritage. I want to urge Indians and fellow farmers to join me for a new crusade and work for a more peaceful, relaxed, beautiful rural heritage and preserve our unspoilt countryside for the benefit of the entire society and country.
Why not? We all admire the British, French countryside. But when it comes to India we get into the weeping mode. We only talk of poverty and poor people. In the next decade 50 per cent of the people would live in the cities. So, we have to look at the future of our villages in a long-term vision. This is my view. Yet, I stick to my firm beliefs and continue to keep my links with my village! I love to see my villagers, the old and the young and I like to chat with them as far as possible. I love to visit my farms atleast once a month. Walking on the hot or wet soil is a spiritual experience in itself. Stopping by the wayside you encounter an old farm hand, she might be haggardly poor but full of old world warmth and attachment to the old ways. Now, I can give some help to those who are in dire need.
Medical emergencies are now a priority. Villagers, as elsewhere in the world have their own strengths and weaknesses. They still quarrel on petty matters. Over a temple idol or some other things. Luckily, the police, the fire service or other government agencies have more and more educated personnel, so they seek our help to solve many of the tricky problems. The younger generation living in the villages, because of the land attachment are a mixed lot. They are all confused, the outside world, the government neglect of their lives are not yet fully grasped. So, I have fears for their future. I have paid a heavy price for my romantic attachment to village life!
Now, whenever I read or receive letter from UK or France, I have so many friends and families who live in their countryside I feel encouraged. The French President Jacques Chirac visited the agricultural fair in Paris and stayed for three hours! His Prime Minister did the same and spent 7 hours! The point is that even in advanced countries they care for the rural areas and farming and farmers! France is the biggest agri country in European Union, you know? Four fifth French country is rural! India too has a large rural population. What I want is to give some new rural vision and also a solid base for a new agri development strategy to India. In the village I keep my learning aside, in the city I come back to the fighting mode! So much for village life as a priceless Indian heritage.
But agriculture and living in the villages is no more what it was in the last generation. This reality is our only hope in the absence of enlightened politics. We find a new generation of educated farmers, the educated members of the traditional farming families are buying our English language magazine, they are using even our online services and there is every indication that the new generation farmers will take to modern cultivation practices and more so the modern marketing of their produce for a profit!
To draw again a personal example, we abandoned farming for long periods. We concentrated on other non-farming activities. After we felt confident we resumed farming. Anyway, I continue to visit my village every month for a week or so and I enjoy living in the very midst of the poor and the small farmers! I enjoy a rare sense of bonding with my people, my traditions and my sense of geography, history and heritage. This is life, isn’t it so?
The English love their rural heritage and they make it a fashion to live in the villages. I often read, read rather eagerly about how the English love their countryside and how the rest of the Europe live in their villages. Villages wont go away!
I have my own historic view point. After Tipu Sultan’s fall in 1799 the bloody Britons in a hurry wanted to settle the lands under the Ryotwari system and hence Munroe did his job that way. That system, in my opinion, had kept farmers in this part of the country permanently small farmers and hence poverty in farming remains as a historic legacy.
I don’t want to look back. I want the new century India too look forward.