During my recent visit to Jawhar, while talking with Milind about Vayam and the areas that is being focused by Vayam, I instinctively asked him about the ‘forces’ that drove him to Jawhar and made him initiate this activity. He said that the people living in these small villages are our people and we take efforts for our people, don’t we? (ती आपली माणसं आहेत आणि आपल्या माणसांसाठी आपण काम करतोच….)
I was stuck at Milind’s answer.
I started thinking about ‘our people’.
Have I seen ‘our people’? Do I know where they are? Do I know how do they look? What do they think? Why do they think what they think? Have I been able to come out of my own intelligent design of rational human behaviour and look at it as something that stems from factors like culture and environment and even government?
‘Our people’ could be different from us. But the fact, very subtly, remains that they are our people. A fact that we, the urban mortals, have probably forgotten.
I was listening to the newly elected Grampanchayat members reading out various operational instructions for conducting the Grampanchayat meeting. They all were quite young, lean, energetic and with those extremely curious eyes. (Listening them read Marathi – that too शासकीय मराठी – very slowly, giving emphasis on each word made me smile. Not because there were errors (in fact there was no error at all), but it made me think about my own habit of unnecessarily wanting to finish everything fast!) They were reading slowly and there was discussion at certain points that they did not understand. Milind would explain things and at some places, he would just ask them to find the answer on their own. As a witness to this process, I felt a sense of tranquillity within. It was little strange, but I did feel it. Probably it was the happy feeling that ‘my people were learning something new’. Something that will help them enrich their lives.
However philosophical it may sound, the truth cannot be denied. Truth that says that ultimately we all are connected. ती आपली माणसं आहेत. And they definitely do not deserve just compassion and tears. They deserve to be capable. Sometimes I hate the word ‘social service’ when it comes to working for weaker sections of society. What is needed is methodological approach towards solving their problems.
Vayam is doing that. By teaching our people to use one of the most effective yet not utilised (even by urban people) weapons – law. Believe me, when I went through those operational instructions, I was glad to note that government has actually prescribed many things in detail. The only problem is with the implementation. It could create wonders if Grampanchayat members understand the nitty-gritty of the law and run the show accordingly.
It is time we realise how important it is to make people aware of their rights. The whole social imbalance emerges from ignorance. (At least it is responsible for a large part of it!) And that is why what Vayam is eyeing is important. Vayam is not just a sympathetic movement for adivasis, it does not look at ‘providing service’ – it looks at ‘providing wisdom’.
Let us also look at the same direction. Collective vision, like collective work – is always powerful.
– Utpal Chandawar
(The writer is a columnist and media professional based in Pune.)