Obviously four families cannot survive on so little land. So this couple was part of a movement of tribal farmers which not only demanded more land from the government but also that it should promote organic farming with subsidies and stop giving these subsidies to chemical farming as it is doing. Unfortunately this movement was crushed ruthlessly by the government and Rukhria had to spend many months in jail and also run to the courts loaded under by false criminal cases.
Now they have had to reconcile themselves to making do as best they can. One son and his wife now works as a farm hand on an experimental organic farm owned by a rich city based businessman. Aladibai is an active member of a micro-credit group which not only tries to make the best of their meagre savings but also has the responsibility of providing the mid-day meal to the children studying in the government primary school.
They have some irrigation in the plot near their house on which they are standing above from a tank nearby. The government sanctioned a grant for the digging of a well in this plot despite this area having a poor shallow aquifer. The well does have some water but not enough for irrigating the field once the water from the tank dries up. The biggest economic risk they took was to try and sink a deep tubewell in the other plot of land in 2010. The first try did not yield any water. Then they tried again and got some water at a 100 meter depth. Later they rebored this hole to a further 20 meters depth and only then they had sufficient water for the plot of about half a hectare. They ran up a huge debt by their standards of one hundred and fifty thousand rupees. The son and daughter-in-law who are farm hands are now bearing the main burden of the repayment of the loan. Their children are looked after by Aladi and Rukhria while they get their cereals from their land. They give most of the money they earn for the repayment of the loan. But given the small holding even with irrigation it will never be able to support four families. Rukhria who is about sixty years old has been suffering from stress related physical breakdown for some time now.
Smallholder agriculture is the most productive in this country because the farmers put in a lot of hard work on their farms but it lacks any support from the government and so the farmers do not earn a decent livelihood despite producing most of the food of the nation. In fact even to build this simple house below Aladi and Rukhria have had to pay a hefty bribe to the forest department officials. The wood for the house was collected in the heyday of their rebellious organisation. But after it was crushed they could not build the house. Finally they had to pay the bribe. Life at the margin is really tough and there seems to be no way in sight to make things easier for people like these.
Long years of grassroots mobilisation in the western Madhya Pradesh region have not been able to change things for the better despite huge sacrifices in terms of repression borne by those who have fought for their rights.