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Fruits of change

Fruits of change
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Once the barren land of Bankura in West Bengal, infested with the Maoist cadres, is now going to produce world famous Mandrain Oranges of Nagpur and Alphonso of Maharashtra. The change is happening thanks to a dedicated team work by the local administration, along with some NGOs working with Sabhar community, otherwise known for their notoriety. Not only they had changed the social status of the tribal people but also made them independent in terms of earning their livelihood.

It all started couple of years ago when a handful of government officials – concerned over the poor economic condition and hunger, especially in the four blocks of Bankura (Ranibandh, Raipur, Simlapal and Sarenga) – churned out an unique idea of to convert acres of barren lands in to fertile under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Bankura.<br>Initially, a Self Help Group (SHG) consisting of 12 Sabhar community was formed and under the leadership of District Nodal Officer (DNO) Arup Dutta and Block Development Officer (BDO) of Kotulpur in Bankura, Abhinanda Mukherjee.

They started training these people in Mango cultivation, and during off season, other added vegetations, including turmeric, cashew trees, okra and pumpkin. In the last few years, these blocks of Bankura have been converted into model villages with good drainage facility. Several community development initiatives have also been started. In Kotulpur alone, 95 per cent of people were covered under the 100 days of employment schemes of MGNREGS.

District Magistrate of Bankura, Vijay Bharati – who had won an award for his commendable job from Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh – said, ‘Getting land was a major problem before us to start this project. Also, the Sabhar community was reluctant to come forward in accepting our proposal. But over the years now they have understood that with this unique initiative they will be able to make their livelihood in a better way.’ He said, ‘The initiative is unique as tracts of barren and fallow land in the district have been leased from the landowners by the SHGs for the creation of orchards with agreement for income-sharing among SHGs, landowners and the gram panchayats as the project implementing agency in the ratio of 60:30:10. The project has potential of substantial future income generation peaking up to Rs 1.6 lakh per family per year from the 8th year onwards of the mango tree plantation which will lead to self-reliance of the poor families.’

While elaborating more in to the income-sharing, he said, ‘We have distributed the profit slab in three parts. Out of 100 per cent, 60 per cent profit will go with the SHG, 30 per cent will be given to the land lord for using their area in lease and rest 10 per cent will go to the Gram Panchayat.’ So far the SHGs have managed to cultivate Ambrapali and Mallika mangoes in 138 orchards spread across 350 hectares of land. ‘We are now planning to procure seeds from Nagpur and Maharashtra for Mandrain Oranges and Alphonso,’ Bharati said. Bankura is one of the nine districts among 690 districts in India to get a special recognition from the Union Rural Development Ministry for effective implementation of MGNREGS. The Lego gram panchayat of the district has been selected as one of the 11 Best Performing Gram Panchayats of India, from among 2.5 lakh gram panchayats.

Recently, in February this unique initiative focusing on employment generation and livelihood creation to benefit tribal communities in left-wing extremism (LWE) affected blocks of Bankura received a special award from the Union Ministry of Rural Development. Not the least, with a special effort from the local administration, Bankura district was recently recognised for its performance in ‘enhancing livelihood through convergence with MGNREGS’. West Bengal’s Principal Resident Commissioner in Delhi, Bhaskar Khulbe said, ‘There is a remarkable degree of success has specifically been achieved in different development programmes, especially in MGNREGS in the LWE-affected blocks of the state.’ ‘In the four blocks of Bankura including Ranibandh, Raipur, Simlapal and Sarenga where the person-days generation under the scheme has been increased from 12.51 lakh in 2009-2010 to 21.82 lakh in 2012-2013 with the participation of women touching an impressive 42 per cent (approx). In 2013-2014 the figure is so far 76 lakhs till few days ago,’ Khulbe said.

‘Creation of 138 big mango orchards covering the area of 350 hectares through convergence with Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), National Horticulture Mission and National Mission for Micro-Irrigation has ensured financial empowerment and social inclusion of poor tribal families,’ he claimed.
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