Education for Dalit children, Solar energy and self-rule village-councils in villages of Hardoi (Uttar Pradesh State)
An interior village of Dalits (people of untouchable castes)
After graduation, I had two options; get a job in a government or a company or go for higher studies before getting a job, a smooth comfortable and secure life. But the OTHER, working for de-conditioning, social-sustainability, harmony, social-solution with the meaningful purpose of life, and practical experiments and understanding on the social ground. I chose the OTHER option.
Usually, pains, insecurities, discomforts and tortures motivate many of us for choosing a smooth, comfortable and secure life. But I firmly believe in universal consciousness. I do not believe in rebirth. Thus, I never wanted to spend my whole life just to own a car, good clothes, a house, luxury, security, tasting different wines, tourism only for personal pleasures, sexual pleasures, bank balances, etc. I wanted to contribute my life making the world better for all humans and creatures. There are billions of people and animals, who do not get food, roof, comfort, safety and security; they only get continuous exploitation, pain, brutality, violence, cruelty, etc.
There was a village of financially very weak Dalits, the untouchable caste people, in Hardoi district, around one hundred fifty kilometres from Kanpur. These villages had no road, no electricity, no school, no drinking water facility. Villagers were living in mud and straw huts and used to work in other's agricultural lands.
It was a rough and suffocating bus journey to reach the area, around nine hours journey changing three buses, densely crowded, very suffocating many times with no space even for turning the heads. I used to travel this area periodically when I was an engineering-undergraduate student. I used to stay there for a few days to teach their children, working with the villagers in agricultural fields, eating food with them and discussing their issues.
While staying in that village, I used to sleep on mud-floor without any bedding, bed sheet and pillow but with the high possibilities of snakes, insects and mosquitoes. Many times, in the morning I ended up sleeping with dirty street dogs, stinking goats and chickens. Many weeks I cooked food for many people in mud stoves using wood.
A village of Dalit traditional-prostitutes
More or less around ten kilometres, there was a village of Dalit prostitutes. This village was established a few hundred years ago by upper caste people for their sexual lusts. The children did not have fathers, only mothers. Still, girls are supplied as prostitutes from this village to metro cities in India; some girls are supplied to foreign countries. Brothers sell their sisters as prostitutes to the customers, and mothers teach their daughters how to please the customers sexually. In Indian society, you could still find many villages of untouchable traditional-prostitutes. In their families, you do not have fathers. Anyone could go to them and use them for sexual pleasure with nominal payments.
I spent many days living in this village. Neelkamal and Ramkumar, two energetic youths from this village, were making efforts to aware the people of their village. They started a few education centres and self-employment skill development programs with the support of an NGO. I also supported them for these activities.
I was one of the rarest persons who stayed many days in this village but never touched any woman. I accepted them as my sisters; they also had regard for me, they always behaved with me as family members, not as prostitutes.
The Rainy season was too bad for that village. Their houses were tattered, dripping in the rain, changing places all night avoiding dripping. By one day rain, the village was used to entirely disconnected for more or less a week from the main roads because of the morass in village track ways, even walking was very tough; feet were captured up by the morass to the knees, hard to lift the foot.
I worked for the uses of renewable energy, smokeless mud stove also for the education.
"Self-rule" village councils, smokeless energy-efficient mud stove
When I visited these villages the first time, villagers did not trust me. They thought I am an engineer thus came to their villages for fun, tourism, change of taste without a serious commitment. I was starting my day at 4:00 am in the morning and ending the day at around 11:00 pm at night. I built smokeless energy-efficient mud stoves in many houses of these villages. At first, I did not know how to make mud-stove but I learnt from the illiterate village-women, I accepted them as my teachers. I modified their techniques to make their mud-stoves a better smokeless and energy efficient. The technique I used for building the mud-stoves needed six to eight small iron rods for each stove. Daily after getting up in the early morning around 4:00 am, I used to spend a few hours to cut long iron rods into small iron rods by hands using a handsaw. In my life, I never had done this type of works thus used to get big blisters on my hands. Villagers took a few months to trust me, but they still remember me.
After gaining trust, I shared my idea of self-rule village-councils with the villagers, and they supported me for these ideas. These village councils had minimum one person from a family in the village council board. I motivated women and teenager-girls to join the board and attend the weekly meetings. These village councils were different from government village councils.
I also had been attending weekly village-council meetings. I motivated them for village funds to solve various issues locally. Villagers did many works with their small-scale village funds. Few families were in enmity and had killed each other's family members in the past for revenge. Using weekly village-council meetings, followed by many talks and mediation with these families, somehow I resolved their issues and motivated them to stop blood-violence to live with peace.
Solar Energy in villages
Nowadays many villages of India could have grid electricity transmission's basic infrastructures although no proper and continuous electricity supply. But those days, the year 2003, around sixteen years ago, there were not even infrastructures for electricity in remote and backward villages.
After having dialogues with local people, I formed voluntary solar councils in villages. I was not interested in grant programs, I wanted to establish an economy system with employment for local Dalit youth, but was very tough work because villagers were not aware, also not interested on solar energy systems.
Because of unawareness and illiteracy, most local youth and villagers could not understand benefits from solar energy systems but I kept continued awareness dialogues with local communities. A few youths who came forward, did not dare to move even a step for some years, but their patience won and these youths established good solar business for themselves in coming years in the area.
Free mobile phone call-services, and other financial supports for families
I had been visiting villages in the region, I knew that no public call booths or cellular services in these villages. Because of no mobile towers nearby, it was very hard to find mobile network in mobile, had to search a point holding mobile in hands even for very-very weak mobile network.
By my research-stipend, I rented a mobile set from a friend. Whenever I visited these villages I used this mobile as free cellular services for villagers. Almost from each family, some members used to go big cities to work as unorganised labourers; families did not have facilities to talk with kin or hear their voices. These families were poor, not able to pay for call services, I was running call services for them without any payment, was paying cellular-company bills by research stipend.
Other than cellular-company bills, I was supporting many families financially for food, repairing huts and small scale self-employment activities. Except buying a bicycle and a good raincoat, I never saved, also never spent money on my wishes because was spending all money of stipend on these villagers per month.