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House No: 933, Kankradi Road,
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Tribal Girls Voice Community Concerns at Palghar Zilla Parishad Office

AROEHAN organised an exposure visit for the adolescent girls of Mokhada to the Zilla Parishad Collector’s Officer in Palghar. Visits such as this are instrumental for the growth of tribals as it gives them a chance to connect and learn about environments that are different from their own. 27 out of 37 girls visited Palghar City for the first time. They also built a platform for themselves to voice their concerns about their communities in front of Federal Government Employees and hope to remedy the overlooked issues.

We were greeted by Extension Officer Govind Dhanga who gave brief information about different departments in the building. We visited the Education Department where the education minister and deputy education minister of the department addressed the group. They informed about initiatives like Manav Vikas Mission through which girls can get free bicycles if they don’t have transportation means to schools, free bus services, etc. The girls raised a question that there aren’t Zilla Parishad schools beyond 7th grade in their areas. That has stopped education for most of the students and also increases the risk of child marriages in their hamlets. The minister retorted that they had been given the go-ahead to open high schools in a few tribal villages and that operations would begin gradually.

We visited the Mahila Vs. Bal Kalyan office, where the Extension Officer, Anganwadi Chief, and District Programme Officer Praveen Bhusare were present. The activists and attendees voiced their concerns which has been affecting their communities. Grievances about child marriages still occurring, Amrut Aahar not being given in all Anganwadis, lack of access to government programmes, and school closures were brought to light. They requested them to personally visit isolated hamlets and review the situation. We met with Zilla Adhyaksha Prakash Krushna Nikam and COO Bhanudas Palve who originate from tribal areas. Lastly, the group mobilised at AROEHAN’s Palghar Project Office for a session by Aakruti Kendra from Boisar. The girls were explained about the importance and scope of Self-Help Groups and different kind of organic products that have emerged from tribal areas to the city.

A journey of lost letters and rejuvenated confidence

Even though the exchange of letters has fallen out as a necessary means of communication in today’s Internet age, people in remote areas still largely rely on the postal service for receiving important documents from the government ID cards and several other crucial documents necessary to qualify for government schemes are still sent by post. However, what if these priceless documents never reach us? What if they disappear along the route? Just the thought is enough to make one’s heart skip a beat. If there is a possibility of that happening to the well-educated or urban population, its unimaginable what the tribal population will go through, a person who work as daily wager and is largely affected by it! Losing an important identity document costs these tribals at multiple levels. They pay the transportation fares to visit the government office and miss out on their wage for that particular day; the chances of them receiving their documents in a single trip are woefully low, leading to the rightful fear of losing daily wages for each subsequent visit. The process of applying for a new document is a tedious task for tribals.  Due to the lower literacy level among tribal areas, they often have to search for someone literate to fill out the forms for them. This is followed by assembling the required documents, which are unavailable due to the same negligence from the postal service.  At last, they have to wait restlessly for months for their documents to arrive and there is a fear of never receiving them. Chari-Kotbi in Dahanu Taluka is a village which is far from the main road. However, it has a decent route that connects it to the main road. Along the interior of this route lies a tribal settlement. Since last year, AROEHAN has been working on health and local governance in this village through public participation. At each hamlet, AROEHAN has created committees, called Pada Samiti, consisting of selected locals in an effort to solve hamlet-level problems via the Gram sabha and bring in local governance. During a training session for the Pada Samiti members, villagers made a shocking revelation that they don’t receive their letters.  The postman responsible for the same drops off all the letters at a villager named Kuna and asks him to distribute them throughout the village.  Some of the testimonials spoke that despite applying for Aadhar Card months ago, they have not received them yet. Not only did some important documents did not reach them but some were deemed to have been lost on the way. This not only made them feel the regret about being assumed as uneducated, but also enraged that the fundamental right of having their letters delivered to their home was being denied.

Since this problem was prolific in not just one, but in multiple hamlets of the village, all the Pada Samitis took the unanimous decision to write a letter to the post-master informing him about the same. During the late evening hours when everyone returned from their daily wage work, Pada Samiti members held a formal meeting. Since the current postman was a resident of the village and could lose his job if a formal complaint was lodged, all the Pada Samiti representatives decided to solve the issue by talking with him. This sensible decision was accepted by all with no objections. The Pada Samiti members informed the postman of their troubles and suggested him to deliver the letters directly to each recipient’s home. In the meantime, the postman, who used to work on a contract basis, left his job due to personal reasons. The very next month, a new postwoman took up this post and now the letters are finally being delivered to the recipient’s doors.

As people believed that not receiving their letters was a personal problem, they did not take any initiative to fix it, being afraid that their voices wouldn’t be heard. However, seeing it at as a community problem – suffering the same strife, they concluded that the governmental systems won’t notice them unless they come together and speak against this injustice as one.  Only then could they deal with this vexing trouble by themselves. Even though this issue and the consequent change brought; may seem minuscule to some, it helped ignite the confidence among the villagers of being able to overcome their own struggles in an organized manner by coming together as one.

AROEHAN celebrates PESA and Panchayat Raj Awareness Month in 150 hamlets

The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, or PESA is a law enacted by the Government of India for ensuring self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India. Panchayati Raj is the system of local self-governance of villages in rural India. It consists of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) tasked with, economic development, strengthening social justice, and implementation of Central and State Government Schemes, through which self-governance is realised. On April 24, 1993, the Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act of 1992 came into force in India to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. AROEHAN is celebrating PESA and Panchayat Raj Awareness Month from March 15th to April 2023 in accordance with the 25th anniversary of the declaration of the PESA Act, and the 30th anniversary of the Panchayat Raj Act.

We conducted awareness programmes in 150 hamlets of Mokhada, Jawhar, and Dahanu. In order to raise social consciousness in society, awareness rallies were held by AROEHAN with the participation of students and locals. AROEHAN conducted an exhibition for locals of the IEC material including booklets and posters on the Forest Rights Act, Ration Dakkshata Samiti, Maharashtra Gramin Yojana, Gram Sabha Kosh Samiti, and MGNREGA.

On April 11th, a PESA awareness programme was held in Banachiwadi. AROEHAN’s Pada Samiti and the newly elected PESA Gram Kosh Committee facilitated the programme. Sarpanch, Deputy Chairman, Zilla Parishad members, Agriculture Assistants, Anganwadi workers, and Gram Panchayat members were present in the programme. A Shivar Pheri was conducted to assess the needs in the village for the preparation of the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). In the presence of 55 villagers, we raised awareness about the PESA Act and the rights and entitlements of the residents of tribal villages.

Mokhada girls visit Palghar for the first time

On 17th February 2023, a group of girls from Mokhada came to visit the Palghar Zilla Parishad for an exposure visit. At first, they visited AROEHAN’s Project Office in Palghar, where they were greeted by CEO Mr. Amit Narkar. Out of almost 47 of those who visited, 32 girls were visiting Palghar for the first time. The group included adolescent girls between the ages of 11-19 years, including students, school and college dropouts and even young mothers accompanied by their children. AROEHAN Prerikas, PCMs, Health PO Tamanna, Documentation Officer Naitri Patel and admin PA Pramila Watas were part of the visit.

At Zilla Parishad, the Extension Officer Mr. Govind Dhanga greeted the group and introduced the girls to different departments within the building. The group took a tour of the Health department, Education department, Women and child development department and CO offices. They were guided thoroughly by officials at each department. The group gathered in a speaker hall and conveyed their concerns regarding healthcare to the Extension Officer and other officers. They spoke up about the lack of resources and facilities in the healthcare systems of the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and rural hospitals. AROEHAN’s activists as well as locals from Mokhada were also vocal about the negligence of government employees toward the needs of the communities and their arrogance toward the tribes. They requested to look into the lack of resources in their areas and suggested supervising the situation.

Later, the group visited the office of Childline 1098 in Palghar. They were guided by Rushabh Nikam about the organisation’s work for child protection and safety. Most of the group had never seen a railway station or travelled in railways. Hence visiting Palghar Railway station was also a part of this exposure visit. They were guided about trains and train platforms and were provided with a demonstration for purchasing train tickets.

Releshani: A workshop on relationships for Adolescents

Adolescence is a tender yet complicated period of growth. Teenagers go through major physical and emotional life transformations and are often oblivious to how they can react to these changes. It is necessary to provide them with complete knowledge about their growth and the growth of their peers to help them grow into empathetic and capable adults. AROEHAN held a three-day workshop on ‘relationships’ in Kosbad, Dahanu facilitated by AABHA -Arogya Bhan Collective Association. Relationships with self, friends,peers and adults were explored in this interactive three-day camp.


The workshop kickstarted with grounding techniques by trainers. Facilitator Dr. Mohan Des sang the song ‘My Yard is the Rhythm of the Tree’ which described the importance of the tree of life. After some warm-up exercises, the participants were opened to varieties of activities to understand complex topics like prejudice about genders, toxic behaviour, different emotions, needs and desires, the human body, evolving relationships, sexual health and the role of mobile phone and media in this day and age.


The participants performed skits based on the experience of children growing up, discrimination between boys and girls in sports, the importance of voting and societal myths around menstruation. Adolescents crave junk food and are often vulnerable to toxic substances like nicotine, drugs and alcohol. The trainers talked about the effects of such substances on the body and how to avoid them. The dialogue was then opened to social norms and discrimination based on gender. From clothes to their perceived roles, several gender biases were addressed. The body anatomy and process of reproduction through male and female bodies were explained using visual aids by facilitator Shruti Bhide. This was followed by an open discussion about the nature of relationships, different sexual orientations, genders other than male and female, the difference between sexual and romantic relationships, consent and care, contraception, incorrect representation of sex in media. Myths and truths about all topics were thoroughly discussed.

Adolescence is a vital time in any individual’s life. The learnings here lay the foundation for becoming an adult. Not all the information learned in this workshop can be relatable for each individual. However, it is necessary to understand human nature to live a full life and embrace each other as a human before our differences. As Dr. Mohan Des said, the conversation can sometimes get uncomfortable but he has never seen anyone get bored of it.

Adivasis and the Importance of Education

Indian social refomers and social leaders have time and again insisted on the importance of education in personal, social and national development. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule has underlined the necessity of education in six simple lines.


विद्येविना मती गेली
मति विना नि ती गेली
निति विना गती गेली
गति विना वित्त गेले
वित्तविना शुद्र खचले
एवढे सारे अनर््थ एका अविद्येने केले

So there is no need to reiterate how important education is. However, considering the state the education of the downtrodden has reached today, it is important to stress upon this topic.

Today we can say that the progressive and upper classes in the society have understood the importance of education. The work of a visionary like Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar also ensured that education reached the Dalit community. However, if we look at the downtrodden communities, we can observe that adivasi and nomadic communities stil have a long way to go as far as education is concerned.

Why are Adivasis lagging behind in education?

The horrifying statistics on the state of education in the Katkari tribe show that only 9 percent men in the community are literate, while the percentage amid Katkari women is barely 3 percent. Why is the situation in the community this miserable? On careful consideration, we would notice that the roots of this problem lie in the economic, social, geographic situation and a pessimistic mindset. That is why, the society and the government must strive to help these communities through optimistic approach and find appropriate solutions.

General understanding


When teachers, government officials or people in general talk about education among adivasis, you can often hear them complaining, “We have tried a lot for their literacy, development, but they do not cooperate with us.” Some also go a step ahead and say, “Afterall they are Adivasis! No matter what you do for them, they will stay the same… They will stay illiterate!”
The progressive people in the society often agree with them too. While many would believe this to be the truth, on introspection, we will realise that this is not the reality. It’s us who fall short of understanding this reality, or probably, we ignore it as well. Therefore we need to analyse what the ground situation is and take steps accordingly.

Why are Adivasis not getting educated?


Why are adivasi children falling behind in education? Generally speaking, the answer lies in poverty, lack of interest in school, apathy of parents towards education, migration and so on. If we look at these reasons through a holistic approach and ask ourselves who is responsible for these issues, we will realise that it’s the hundreds of years of exploitation, injustice, atrocities and slavery imposed upon these communities. (For many, the situation still hasn’t changed much.)
Thus, education has continued to remain the last of their priorities. Their mindset does not let them believe that even they could win or have a free will. In such a situation, how are they to be blamed for their indifference towards education that has stemmed from this pessimism and poverty? It is our failure that we do not ask ourselves these questions.
They have faced exploitation for ages. Now when we ask them to ‘get’ education, their pessimism and the trauma of exploitation make it difficult for them to ‘get’ education. This might, in fact, also come across to them as a new form of exploitation. And there is nothing unnatural in it. We cannot take it for granted that the mindset formed over a period of hundreds of years would change within merely 10-15 years. For this to happen, it is necessary that we create an environment of assurance and trust for them.
Even today, adivasis and other such communities struggle to find work in villages after harvest. Thus they are left with no other option but to migrate in search of work, along with their children. They call it ‘moving for a living. The poverty that they are enduring as a result of the traditional exploitation has confined them in a vicious circle of migrating for survival and neglect of education.
Which parent would not want for their children to get education? Who would want their children live a life of struggle and labour like they did? Which parent would not want their children to prosper? There are no answers to these questions. And that is why, it is very necessary that while looking at the educational woes of adivasi children, the society and the government agency must analyse their socio-economic and geographic background, their mindset and their material situation. Once they start reaping the benefits of education, the task will become much easier. Until then, we must not lose hope.


Shortcomings of schemes and their implementation


The Right to Education proved to be a major step in the educational development of downtrodden communities. However, such schemes and laws are not implemented with the required sensitivity and passion. The reason for this is also hidden in our social inequalities. The govenment has entrusted authorised school management committees and local governance bodies with the implemantation of these schemes.

However, we are all well aware of the efficiency with which these institutions function. These institutions do not seem to be taking any efficient measures to empower these committees. They think their duty is over once they take one or two routine training sessions every year. The organisations working for the education of the marginalised communities are often obstructed by keeping them running in a loop of seeking permissions. The government agencies would not do anything new, neither would they let someone else experiment.
Until the government officials/employees and people’s representatives do not let go of their arrogance and greed, the laws/schemes for the marginalised will remain merely on paper. The funds that are allotted for the same will keep getting swallowed, but the adivasis will stay as they are. There is a need to fundamentally change the way the society and government agency looks at the educational issues of the downtrodden.


The obstacles in education


The reasons mentioned in the article earlier about why adivasis are not getting educated are also the obstacles that they face. But apart from these, the lack of social, political and administrative will to get adivasi children to the school is also a major obstacle.
Other major hindrances also include the negative approach of the primary teachers and government officials towards the education of the marginalised, apathy towards the community, the shortcomings and flaws in the implementation of various schemes, etc.

Solutions


It is essential that we get rid of these obstacles in order to ensure that education truly reaches the marginalised communities. It is important to explain the importance of education and its benefits to this community and to create an atmosphere of trust and necessary facilities for the same.
At the adminstrative level, there is a need to shift the perspective of the government officials-employees so that they perform their duties with passion and honesty that emanate from a sense of social responsibility. Making learning a fun activity will help prevent children from dropping out of Zilla Parishad Schools. Teachers must be given as little non-academic work as possible. The government must seek assistance of the organisations that can help implement different schemes efficiently. Gram Panchayats must take up the responsibity to ensure that no child in their village stays out of school. Eduation should be a permanent subject of the Gram Sabha agenda.
Understanding that afterall adivasis are also an integral part of the nation and to give them education or do everthing necessary to make it available is a moral responsibility of each citizen as their development is integral to national development. When everyone starts working together with this understanding, only then will the marginalised obtain access to education.

Written by,
Pradeep Khairkar, AROEHAN.



Mata Melava: Meeting Of Mothers

In the month of November, AROEHAN launched a new initiative called Mata Melava in the hamlets of Mokhada and Jawhar. This event intends to give a refreshing break to the mothers outside their homes and taking care of their daily chores. Here we also take the opportunity to honour mothers and pregnant women following our guidance and counselling about taking care of themselves and their children. The event took place in Pimpalshet, Nandgaon, Aaina, and Sarsun Gram Panchayats in Jawhar. The mothers whose children are in good health and gaining appropriate weight were awarded. They set an example for other mothers about nourishment and motivated them to take care of children, thus avoiding malnutrition among children. The pregnant women were also awarded for registering themselves at the Primary Health Centres (PHCs), going for sonography check-ups, and taking necessary measures for their health. These women were felicitated with gifts like tiffin boxes, cooking utensils, and lunch kits containing groundnuts, sugar, broken pulses, etc.


AROEHAN aims to improve the attitude of people around mother and child healthcare. There is a lack of scientific temperament among a large population of India regarding the upbringing of infants. It leads to several superstitious practices still being followed in these households. Hence, we make sure that mothers and caretakers are educated well during our health-related interventions including counselling, during community-based events, and individual care through home visits.
In the same spirit, we conducted a trivia segment as well during the Mata Melava. The participants were asked questions regarding vaccines for children, PHC registration, checking Haemoglobin levels, etc. This was not only to test their knowledge but also to remind everyone about the different nourishment requirements. Participants who answered the given questions correctly were given prizes. At the end of the event, we played games of musical chairs and spoon with lemon race with all the mothers. It was a refreshing day for all the women and they had a good time. The total participation in all four Gram Panchayats was 264 and 156 awards and prizes were distributed on the occasion.

Barbarity behind a “marriage”

Marriage is said to be one of the happiest moments in a person’s life. Some call it a sacred bond. But this true story of a marriage is shocking showing the blackening of humanity. It mirrors the perverse mentality of exploiting and oppressing girls and women (especially tribals) in society by taking advantage of their poverty and helplessness.

This is the story of a 17-year-old minor girl from Katkari Wadi of Mokhada, a tribal-dominated taluka of Palghar district. 5 to 6 Kms from the Taluka location lies a village called Poshera. To the east of this village is Katkari Wadi with a population of around 600-700. It was reported that a minor girl named Abla (the name is changed) was being forced to marry in exchange for money and the girl was being pressured for it. A social worker from AROEHAN came to know about the situation. Realizing the seriousness of the incident, the activists of the organisation reached the village immediately. They met with the minor and her family. The reality of the situation was shocking.

AROEHAN ACTIVISTS INQUIRE THE SITUATION IN KATKARI WADI

It was reported that an unknown person from Chalisgaon-Nagar Deola in Jalgaon district has a connection with a middleman in the tribal community to take the advantage of the poverty and helplessness of tribes. The minor’s aunt revealed that the suspect gave the father Rs. 15,000 in exchange for marrying the girl to him and would give Rs. 50,000 more after the marriage. The father signed the affidavit for it. (This affidavit is available but we do not have a copy with us). The minor’s mother passed when she was young and was looked after by her aunt. The father’s financial condition is poor and is an alcoholic. He does not pay attention to the girl and agreed with the marriage proposal in exchange for money. None of the rites of pre-wedding took place, the girl did not even see the person once. To impress the daughter and the father, the person used to send photos of expensive clothes and sarees and pressured her to get married to him as soon as possible. The girl talked with the boy a couple of times on the phone. As the situation looked suspicious, the relatives told the mediator to make proper arrangements to see the boy. The broker instead told the father to go to the boy’s house and do the “Kumkum ceremony”. The father said they cannot have a such ceremony without the daughter. Upon insistence, both father and girl went to boy’s house but there were no people responsible for the ceremony present. The aunt became suspicious about the situation and asked the girl’s father to take a hard look at the situation. He thought about it and decided not to marry the girl.

After the rejection, the broker pressured the family to return the Rs. 15,000. The father and the daughter were shocked. They could not return the money as it was already spent. They reached out to AROEHAN and we gave them support. We asked them not to give him any money. The broker came to the village and AROEHAN’s activists had a conversation with him. The broker was warned not to pester the family anymore or there will be legal action against him. He publicly agreed to not ask for money again. Though the issue was resolved it brought attention to a bigger issue here. There’s a suspicion there is criminal activity possibly backed by a gang or individual to sell/traffick tribal girls in the name of marriage going on. Because we came to know from many people about the occurrence of such incidents in the area. 

According to them, every year in Jawhar and Mokhada many tribal girls go missing. A muffled discussion could be heard about it now and then. These incidents do not come forward due to the dire economic condition of the tribes, lack of awareness among people, and also issues like alcoholism play a role in it. It is said that parents of girls fall prey to the lure of a small amount of money and engage their daughters. Even if there is any sort of opposition, the parents sometimes take the culprit’s side as they have taken the money. They also get afraid of the brokers and the other party thinking they might harm the family or even murder them, and they don’t come forward with the issue. What’s more numbing is that the brokers who arrange such marriages to take advantage of poor people and minor girls are often from their own community and locality. Due to sheer unawareness and fragile conditions, sometimes parents don’t even realise their daughters are been taken advantage of and there is no question of anyone complaining. This terrible reality is not publicly read or recorded anywhere. Even after 75 years of independence tribals are making such bargains for their daughters and their wings are cut before they even get a chance to fly. What kind of freedom do we live in? It’s high time we look at such situations carefully and act now.

-Pradeep Khairkar
AROEHAN

                                                                                                                

एका लग्नामागचे क्रौर्य …  !

खरं तर लग्न हा मनुष्याच्या  आयुष्यातील एक आनंददायी ठेवा म्हटला जातो. काही जण त्याला पवित्र बंधन असेही म्हणतात. पण मी आज ज्या लग्नाची सत्यकथा  सांगणार आहे ती संवेदनशील माणसाची मती गुंग करणारी  आहे, माणुसकीला काळिमा फासणारी आहे. आणि समाजातील मुली-महिलांच्या (विशेषत: आदिवासी) गरिबी व असाहाय्यतेचा फायदा घेऊन त्यांचे  शोषण आणि दमन करण्याच्या विकृत मानसिकतेचा आरसा दाखवणारी आहे.

ही गोष्ट आहे पालघर जिल्ह्यातील मोखाडा या आदिवासीबहुल तालुक्याच्या कातकरी वाडीतील एका १७ वर्षीय अल्पवयीन मुलीची. तालुक्याच्या ठिकाणापासून ५ ते ६ कि.मी. अंतरावर पोशेरा हे गाव वसलेले आहे. या गावाच्या पूर्वेला साधारण ६००-७०० लोकसंख्या असणारी कातकरी वाडी आहे. या ठिकाणी  अबला नावाच्या (नाव काल्पनिक आहे) एका अल्पवयीन मुलीचे पैशाच्या मोबदल्यात जबरदस्तीने लग्न लावण्याचा घाट घातला असून त्यासाठी मुलीवर दबाव टाकला जात असल्याची  माहिती ‘आरोहन’ या सामाजिक संस्थेच्या कार्यकर्तीला मिळाली. तिने संस्थेच्या वरिष्ठांना येऊन ही माहिती सांगितली. घटनेचे गांभीर्य ओळखून  संस्थेच्या कार्यकर्त्यांनी ताबडतोब  ते गाव गाठले. आणि पीडित मुलीच्या वडिलांची, काकीची व मुलीची भेट घेऊन सत्य परिस्थिती जाणून घेण्याचा प्रयत्न केला. माहिती घेत असताना जे वास्तव समोर आले ते अंगावर काटा आणणारे होते.

कातकरी येथील परिस्थितीची तपासणी करताना आरोहण

जळगाव जिल्ह्यातील चाळीसगाव-नगर देवळा येथील एका अनोळखी व्यक्तीने आदिवासी समाजातीलच एका मध्यस्थ दलालाला  हाताशी धरून मुलीच्या व तिच्या वडिलांच्या गरिबीचा, अज्ञानाचा व असाहाय्यतेचा फायदा घेऊन मुलीस १५ हजार रुपये  देऊन व वडिलांस ५० हजार रुपये देण्याचे आमिष दाखवून तिच्याबरोबर जबरदस्तीने लग्न करण्याबाबत प्रतिज्ञापत्र लिहून घेतले असल्याची माहिती मुलीच्या  काकीने दिली. (हे प्रतिज्ञापत्र उपलब्ध होऊ शकले नाही, त्याची प्रत मुलीच्या नातेवाईकांकडे देण्यात आली नाही.) मुलीच्या आईचे  मुलगी लहान असतानाच निधन झाले असल्याने लहानपणापासून काकीनेच तिचा सांभाळ केला. वडिलांची आर्थिक परिस्थिती अतिशय हलाखीची असल्याने व व्यसन असल्याने मुलीकडे त्याचे लक्ष नव्हते. ५० हजाराच्या आमिषाने सुरुवातीला त्यानेही या लग्नास संमती दिली होती.  परंतु लग्नासाठी आवश्यक असणारे कोणतेही रीतीरिवाज पाळले गेले नव्हते. मुलीला पाहण्याचा कार्यक्रम झाला नव्हता. मुलीला व वडिलांना प्रभावित करण्यासाठी, नवरा मुलगा या मुलीच्या फोनवर बस्ता बांधल्याचे फोटो (भारी कपडे व साड्या, इ.) पाठवून लवकरात लवकर लग्न करण्याबाबत दबाव वाढवत होता. एक दोन वेळा मुलाशी फोनवरून संभाषणही करण्यात आले. हे प्रकरण संशयास्पद वाटल्याने  मुलीच्या पाहण्याचा रीतसर कार्यक्रम करावा असे नातेवाईकांनी मध्यस्थाला सांगितले. परंतु  मध्यस्थाने फक्त वडिलांना ‘मुलाच्या घरी जाऊन कुंकू लावण्याचा कार्यक्रम करू’ असे सांगितले. वडिलांनी मुलीशिवाय असा कार्यक्रम कसा करता येईल? असा प्रश्न उपस्थित केला. अखेर वडिलांच्या आग्रहाखातर, हो -ना करत मुलगी व वडील मुलाच्या घरी कुंकू लावण्याच्या कार्यक्रमासाठी गेले. तेथेही कार्यक्रमासाठी  कोणी जबाबदार माणसे नव्हती. या सगळ्या गडबडीमुळे मुलीच्या काकीला संशय आला. तिने तिच्या वडिलांच्याही निदर्शनास ही बाब आणून दिली. अखेर विचारांती त्यांनी हे लग्न करण्यास नकार दिला.  

 हा नकार मिळाल्यानंतर मध्यस्थ दलालाने मुलीकडे १५ हजार रुपये परत करण्याचा तगादा लावला. तिच्यावर दबाव टाकू लागला. त्यामुळे मुलगी, तिचे वडील व काकी हवालदिल झाले होते. कारण पैसे तर खर्च झाले होते. आता पैसे आणायचे कुठून? या विवंचनेत ते पडले होते. अशा परिस्थितीत अडकलेल्या या कुटुंबाला ‘आरोहन’ने मानसिक धीर दिला. पैसे परत करण्याची काही गरज नाही असे सांगून ‘आरोहन’ तुमच्या पाठीशी असल्याचा विश्वास दिला. दरम्यानच्या काळात तो मध्यस्थही तेथे आला. त्याच्यावर आरोहनच्या कार्यकर्त्यांनी प्रश्नांची सरबती करून तो करीत असलेले काम किती समाजविघातक व बेकायदेशीर आहे, याची कडक समज दिली व यापुढे मुलीकडे किंवा तिच्या नातेवाईकांकडे परत पैशांची मागणी केल्यास कायदेशीर कारवाई करण्याचा इशारा दिला. मध्यस्थाने पुन्हा पैसे मागणार नसल्याचे सर्वांसमोर मान्य केले. येथे एका अल्पवयीन मुलीचे जबरदस्तीने लग्न लावून देण्याचा कट उधळला गेला. तात्पुरता हा प्रश्न मिटल्याचे समाधान वाटले. परंतु वरवर दिसणारी लग्नाची ही घटना फक्त लाग्नापुरती मर्यादित नसून यामागे लग्नाच्या नावाखाली आदिवासी मुलींची विक्री / तस्करी करणारी टोळी किंवा व्यक्ती कार्यरत असावी असा संशय येण्यास पुरेसा वाव असल्याचे लक्षात आले. कारण अशाप्रकारच्या अनेक घटना या भागात घडल्या असल्याचे विविध लोकांकडून कळले.   

अधिक माहिती घेतली असता दरवर्षी जव्हार-मोखाडा या भागातील अनेक आदिवासी मुली बेपत्ता  झाल्याची दबक्या आवाजातील चर्चा ऐकावयास मिळाली. या घटना पुढे येत नाहीत कारण या भागातील आदिवासींची अतिशय दारुण आर्थिक परिस्थिती, अज्ञान व व्यसनाधीनता असल्याने मुलींचे पालक थोड्या पैशाच्या अमिषाला  बळी पडून अशा प्रकारचे व्यवहार करीत असल्याचे बोलले जाते. प्रकरण उघडकीस आले किंवा कोणी विरोध केला तर पालक  संबंधित गुन्हेगाराच्या बाजूने उभे राहतात. याहूनही सुन्न करणारी  बाब म्हणजे, अशाप्रकारच्या असाहाय्य व गरीब मुलींना शोधून त्यांच्या लग्नाचे सौदे करणारे मध्यस्थ दलाल हे इथल्याच समाजातील व परिसरातील आहेत. अर्थात त्यांचीही गरिबीची परिस्थिती असल्याने त्यांचाही अशा कामासाठी वापर करून घेतला जातो हे त्यांच्याही लक्षात येत नाही. त्यामुळे कोणी तक्रार करण्याचा प्रश्न उद्भवत नाही. परिणामी या भयाण वास्तवाची जाहीर वाच्यता किंवा नोंद कुठेही होत नाही. स्वातंत्र्याच्या ७५ वर्षानंतरही आदिवासींना केवळ आर्थिक परिस्थितीमुळे आपल्या मुलींचे असे सौदे करावे लागत असतील आणि उमलण्याआधीच अशा कळ्या कुस्करल्या जात असतील तर आपण कोणत्या स्वातंत्र्यात राहतो ? याचा अंतर्मुख होवून विचार करण्याची व  शीघ्र कृती करण्याची वेळ आली आहे असे प्रकर्षाने वाटते.    

-प्रदीप खैरकर
आरोहन

Agribusiness and Fish Farming Training

In the quest to increase livelihood and income opportunities for farmers, AROEHAN organises trainings for farmers every month. Various initiatives like orchard farming, social forestry, pieces of training, and workshops for farmers.

This month we conducted training sessions on Agribusiness and Fish Farming. The Agribusiness sessions were held in association with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kosbad Hill at Gomghar and Koshimshet on September 16 and 20. Over 120 farmers attended these sessions on orchards and rice plantations. Facilitators Bharat Kushare and Uttam Sahane educated farmers on fertilizer methods and management, pest control, and orchard cultivation, and gave guidance on flora management, organic fertilisers, and water a primary source of income for flower farming, and multi-cropping planning. Rice plantation is
most farmers. The trainers guided them on identifying pests and diseases affecting rice yield and how to control it. Trainers gave extensive guidance on how to increase production at a lower cost and discussed effective planting technologies. Farmers were provided with information booklets and pheromone traps for pest control at the end of the session. For people interested in fish farming, a separate three-day training was held from September 21 to 23. The training was facilitated by experts from Taraporwala
Research Centre, Dr. Shardul Gangad, Pravin Sapkale and Ravindra Bondre. The trainers gave extensive guidance on methods and opportunities in fish farming. The participants were educated about different fish breeds, the usage of fish seeds, the types of fish farming and the challenges that came with it. The trainers helped them to chalk out how to get started with fish farming. From site selection to breeding and markets and sales, the attendees were given detailed guidance. The 25 participants were honoured with information booklets, pest traps, fish seeds, and certificates on the last training day. AROEHAN plans to utilise fish farming as a sustainable source of livelihood and income for marginalised and landless farmers and other less privileged populations. Local fish breeding, containing and food processing, storage, networking, and sales will be the main focus of this initiative in the near future. Upon giving the vote of thanks to Taraporwala
Research Centre, AROEHAN’s CEO Amit Narkar urged them to extend their support to fish farming as we embark on this initiative. Dr. Shardul Gandad seconded it and said they will make all the possible
efforts to help expand this initiative in the future.