One of the worst problems that the country is facing right now is that of rural migration. Due to the uneven distribution of opportunities and avenues, people are forced to venture out of the villages to the cities. The living condition in cities is more often than not, abysmal. It also often strips them of their dignity as they are made to work for meagre compensation. Going back is often ruled out since people think that they would be made fun of or would be labelled as failures if they return to their village.
Reverse-migration is a concept being proposed and contemplated by many. However, what an NGO Swades Foundation is enabling is nothing less than a miracle. They are creating job opportunities in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, which is located 105 km from Mumbai so that the migrant workers return to their village. Vikas Nalawade, who went on to earning just Rs 3000 a month and living a cramped space in Mumbai to returning back to his village and living a dignified life. He narrated his story:
Born and brought up in Mariaaichiwadi, a small hamlet in Poladpur block of Raigad district in Maharashtra, I hadn’t seen any opportunity around me and saw most of villagers moving to Mumbai for jobs. My family, which consisted of me, my brother and my parents, sustained on a meagre income generated from working on a small plot of land. I completed my studies till 10th standard and not having means to compelete my education nor the interest, I decided to drop out to support my family.
For me like so many others, Mumbai was a city of dreams. It promised a better life. As a 23-year-old in the year 2008, I moved to Mumbai. There I worked at a small restrautant, cleaning tables and utensils. I was paid a paltry amount, which was just enough to survive myself. However, the quality of life there was dismal, to say the least. I lived with 10 other people in a 10×10 feet ‘Kholi’. Due to the constraint of space, we were forced to take turns to sleep. We had to use common toilet, which often had long queues. There was no dignity of life.
The restrautant I worked at took me 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach by the local train. I would travel, literally hanging on the train. By the time I reached my destination, I would be completely debilitated. Every day I would wake by 6 am and could not afford hitting the bed before 12 am. This was not the life I had expected for myself. I hung on nonetheless, hoping for things to get better.
This went on for a while and unable to take more, I started working at my Mama’s vada-pav stall as a helper. I used to earn Rs 100 per day on average. This was not any better than my previous job. I continued to struggle. Additionally, after sending a part of my earnings to my family back in the village, I would be left with almost nothing.
I worked there for one year. Finally in 2011, knowing that this city doesn’t have much to offer me, I came back to my village and started driving a auto taken on rent to earn a living, earning not more than Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000 a month. My condition was better than what was in Mumbai, however, it was not great.
Swades Foundation was once creating awareness on their dairy programme in my village in 2014. Their I got in touch with their representatives. I was educated of the several opportunities that lay ahead of me in dairy farming. I got very interested and decided to enrol.
With the help of the foundation, I acquired one cow initially and then another was given to me later. Each of these cows gave about six to eight litres of milk a day. The foundation not only provided me with the cattles and the means, but they provided me with the requisite training and support.
I persisted and with the help from the foundation, I progressed. Soon I was able to mobilize other dairy farmers and took charge of collecting milk from door to door and ensured his collection centre grew from strength to strength. I now control a milk collection centre and own 5 cattle. About 66 dairy farmers are benefitting from this, who owns a total of 110 cattle which produce 1,600 litres of milk in all.
In just 4 years, from a failed migrant worker now I am a succesful dairy farmer and collector. I am now a married man with two children. I have gone from earning just Rs 42,000 per annum to Rs 6 lakh per annum, enabling me to fulfil my longtime wish of owning a four-wheeler which I could have never been able to fulfill if I had stayed in Mumbai. Now I just have to work 4 hours a day in morning and evening as opposed to working over 16 hours in Mumbai. Many have got inspired from from me and are returning to start their own dairy business including my brother who has joined me. The life now I am living in my village has dignity and respect.
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