An ideal village
There was a village- in a remote part of Bengal. It was like an average village of Bengal- perhaps worse than that. Because the land was not that fertile there like most of villages in Bengal, and it did not have good source of natural irrigation. Poverty, illiteracy, consumption of liquor (and beating women at house), fight over land (and occasional murders) and involvement of political parties to magnify the problem were part of its life. For the villagers there was no other scope of employment other than agriculture. But the land every family had was not sufficient for a comfortable living. They had land reform 3-4 decades ago and every family got a piece of land. But small holding has its own problem. You cannot increase its productivity much as it is not economically feasible to invest on the land. But every family has added two more generations in last 4 decades. Naturally there are more dependants on the small holdings than it was earlier. Now more people were trying to survive on a piece of land- more than that it could afford ( economists called it ‘ disguised unemployment’). Many of young people had to go to the cities or other states looking for job. There was no school, health centre – not even drinking water.
One day the villagers thought something must be done. From common sense they knew if they combine their land they could increase the productivity of their land and use the combined land more economically. They thought of sharing the profit from cultivation among themselves. But some people had more land than the others. Then why should they share the profit equally. The BDO babu hearing their population gave the solution. They can share the profit on basis of the size of their land. If a villager has 2 bigha of land then he will get double the amount of those who had 1 bigha of land. A capitalist’s formula of community farming. However it seemed a fair deal for everyone. With the help of government officials a trust had been set up to look after the process and also for the management of activities on combined land. The BDO promised all type of help from his part- arranging loan for the trust to invest on the land, help from agricultural institutes etc. They decided to detach ownership from labour. It means if a co-owner decided not to work in the land he was free to do so. Then he will only get his percentage of profit. But those who worked in the land would get wage on standard rate – an extra income. They landless peasants (they used to work in other people’s land) were happy too as new experiment would not cost their only mean of living. Many of the land owners decided to look for some other occupation (This time by choice not by chance) as they were assured of some income just for giving land to the trust.
Earlier all family had to cultivate paddy irrespective of the quality of the land to fill their bellies throughout the year. But now they have many options. With the help of Babus from government institute they divide the total land under the Trust in different categories in terms of quality as well as location. Even the scientist-babus felt it easier to teach the management of the Trust than every individual farmer about scientific farming. Tractors and other equipments were purchased, different crops had been cultivated according to the suitability of the land, the infertile lands were left to utilise for commercial purpose in future. Many ponds were dig to harvest rain water. Someone gave the idea of starting fishery in those ponds.
Few years have been passed. Now the trust has totally diversified agriculture. They produce some commercial crops too- even flowers. Now it has greater bargaining power to market its product. All funds of government schemes are channelized through the Trust. It has assumed the role of Panchyet more efficiently. They did not allow any political parties in last Panchayet election. They selected candidates through consensus and made them winners as Nirdal candidates. Now they have roads, electricity, school and health centre in their village. The Trust donated some of its infertile land for those purpose. To increase earning they have utilised these infertile lands. They have leased lands for store houses. A company has opened a factory for agro-products on leased land. They carried the improvement in other fields too. They have beautified larger of their ponds and their nurseries. Now people from Kolkata come there for picnic. They have demolished the Bhatti (the desi liquor shop). Now nobody is allowed to consume liquor in the village. Literacy level is improving. They are doing well in other HDI index too. All their effort has changed their life. Increased productivity, income from fishery and diversified products, income from leased land have all contributed to increase income in their hands. (More than double they used to earn previously). Now add the wage they earn as extra income or from other profession – they village is a very prosperous now. The increasing income leads to increased purchasing power. So some villagers have become traders permanently. Now there is a market complex and a movie hall too.( Again they have utilised their less fertile land). People from neighbouring village come to this market or in health centre, kids come to school. All these lead to increase in economic activities of the village and its level of employment and prosperity. May be in few years it will be a nice little agricultural town. The poverty stricken village of yesterday is now an ideal for neighbouring villages. They all are trying to replicate it.