Thursday, December 13, 2007

Some prosperity

The coastal districts of Guntur and Krishna seem much more prosperous than in my childhood days. I have mainly visited relatives in villages and the towns of Guntur and Vijayawada and these are the impressions gathered from talks with some of the relatives. Relatives on my father's side were mostly small farmers and the next generation except for one moved to towns, new professions and trade. One was driver who became a APRTC driver later, another a APRTC mechanic. One became a Veterinary doctor, and there are enigineers doctors and teachers. One cousin became a widow early and with my mother's encouragement took up 100 rupees a month job with medical firm and raised her family. All seem to have focussed on the education of their children and most of the next generation are now professionals. Currently some are abroad, some in Vijayawada and most of them, including the cousin who was earning 100rupees a month, seem to be prosprous now. Many of them seem to have properties worth crores, good apartments and houses and comfortable living styles, all except the one who remained in agriculture. I do not know where the prosperity came from. For some, it seemed to be earnings from abroad, For some thrift and later contracts, and for some professions.
There seems to be a time gap in development between these families and families on my wife's side. Her brothers and sisters have started focussing on the education of children a bit later ( my father was the first graduate in our family and my wife the first in her family). Two are still in farming, one with a fair amount of land and another a tenant farmer. Both say that it is an uncertain profession and hard going. Generally, the transport and roads are better, all villages can be reached by buses or autos. Different villages seem to be at different levels of well being. Some have new buildings and a few have returned to them after retirement, in many others families have moved to towns for children's education and even though they still look attractive, they are somewhat deserted. Good old houses with some land seem to be available for about two lakh rupees.
Another village Thullur where my father used to work seems to be thriving. A kin Gadde Venkateswara Rao Says that he was instrumental in bringing Krishna water to the village through a pumping scheme near Raipudi and they charge only 300 rupees per acre as water charges. His sister told me that according to her brother I am the sixth greatest mathematician in the world and that they are very proud that a Gadde made his mark in the world.
P.S (23rd December)Due to the uncertainity of returns from rice farming, some farmers have shifted to other crops and even eucalyptus plantations on the land that they were using for rice farming. Some predict that there will be food crisis in the next five years.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A micro effort

Benjamin Kaila who has been organinizing Ambedkar fellowships has initiated a micro finance effort through his cousin, pastor P.Sunder. It seems that rural pastors of his denomination do not get salaries but get by with offerings from their congregations.
I visited Modukur (where Mr. P.sunder is currently pastor), Jamudupadu (where he was pastor for 5 years) on 7th. Dec. and Veluru (his native place)on 10th. Dec. I am giving below my impressions. These visits were done in between vists to relatives and may not be completely accurate in all details.
The Current programmes are in Jamudupadu (5) and Veluru (3). I spoke to seven of the beneficiaries. In all places, Mr. Sunder was received with regard and warmth. Most of the programmes involve grocery type activities,one on push cart (topudu bandi) and one just carrying idli and dosai and such during mornings and evenings on her head. All are about 2500 rupees each and all except one (which was given later than others) are repaid. Interest is one perecent and after the first month the interest is charged on what remained of the loan and so on.The recovered loans are recycled. I have seen the accounts. I understand that Spandana charges are much higher and practices of the village lenders can be worse.
The money is used to for groceries or eqippment (like stove,vessels when cooking is involved). These loans made it possible, according to their own accounts,of some desperate cases like widows , accident victims to make a living. To come to a stage where they can finance their purchases themselves. Continuation of loans for one or two more periods and in some cases some increase in the amounts may be necessary.
Jamudupadu has 70-80 dalit families and there are some more applications of different nature (one needs a bit more cash to buy a buffalo and there are some agricultural labourers who lease one to two acres and need investment for seeds and ferlizers). At the moment they pay exorbitant interests and can make money only if the weather is good and that mainly on a second crop of lentils.
The strength of Mr. Sunder in Jamudupadu seems to due to his work as a pastor and has moral authority and popularity to make beneficiaries repay.
Mr. Sunder's position is stronger in Veluru. It is his village, has a number of friends and relatives and one of his nephews seems to know the system of loans well. The village has about 500 Dalit familes living in approximately 300 houses. The only library in the village, named after Gurram Jashua is in the Dalit part. There is voluntary type (with some minimal payments when possible)tution by two Dalits who finished school. There is an agricultural labourer who helps students with tution and books when he can.I spent more time in Veluru and spoke to many who applied for loans. The applicants include a muslim, a vaisya, a chakali and kummari. The total amount needed for new applicants as well as continuation seems to be around 50 thousand rupees. The village has a leftist background and I was told that the caste relationships are good. So far Mr. Sunder refrained from giving loans in Modukur since he feels that at the place he is working, there may be unhappiness if does not suport all the urgent cases. I think that both Veluru and Jamudupadu projects are worth supporting.
P.S. (21st December). This has also been posted with an additional comment in