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  • Soumil Panwar

Shodhyatra

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

As the name sounds, this was a padyatra in the interior villages of the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. Every year social enthusiasts with Prof. Anil Gupta go for such Shodhyatras in parts of the country with an intent to find local talents and inventions that have come out of the grassroots to fulfill their most basic needs of food and shelter.

Culture

The Gond tribes living in this area were lingual of Gondi and had a very different and diverse way of life contrasting to what I have seen in the past with other village communities. They mentioned to have a different community level education, martial, economical systems and an anti patriarchal society.

Their education system in the history was based on 5 domains comprising of ____, ____, ____, Medicine and warfare. The students made a choice of these based on what the community had to offer and could marry the bride of their choice which was not in the hands of their parents. Parents had a limited role of bringing the child to the world, all other responsibilities of the child were on the head of their community. Such a beautiful example of how a self sustaining model of education can run with rich moral values and justice at such a small level considering that the adivasis are not trained in formal modern day education at the time this existed.

The adivasis here believe in their Devi and worship them with alcohol made from the mahua fruit that is widely found in the forests. They take only the necessary articles form the forest and do not exploit any resources for their benefit. The concept of earning money in exchange of articles, etc was never a concern for the tribals. The forest was made for the fauna in the jungles and livestock was always present to coexist. The have no interests in rearing cattle, goat, chicken and have a notion that their milk, etc are for their young ones. They DO not use cow milk for their households.

Water is found at a depth of 20–30 ft in the wells of this area. The water is a natural resource and is not exploited for agriculture in the area. They only use it for their personal usage inspite of availability of handpumps and wells everywhere set up by the government.

The world has grown in to a male dominant patriarchy wherein the male gender is considered to be the one responsible to provide and safeguard their family, manage finances, etc. A very interesting observation made was that the adivasis call themselves as a society driven by the mother. The mother has been given a lot of importance and is empowered to take all the decisions of the house. This is nothing but an example of a very ideal thought that we as an urban population have aspirations to establish but is nothing more than a vague idea in the clouds.

Agriculture

The region of the tribes is lucky to receive an abundant amount of water during the rainy seasons and grow paddy the most. As we went further than the mail city, the usage of chemical fertilisers was found to reduce and we came across villages where they use only natural ways to cultivate and grow paddy. This village was found to show a larger variety of rice and a significant increase in the knowledge of usage of natural methods to protect their crop.

“When expectation increases, variety decreases”.

This gave me a perspective of how selflessness works in societies.

Education

Education was pushed in the rural India greatly as parts of the agendas of the indian government.

As a consequence, a lot of the youth in villages started to get into diploma and graduate courses in engineering, medical healthcare, ITI, etc. But the market suggests that employability of these students is very low. The temperaments of these students have been made by denying their parental occupations and practices. This clearly has resulted in a hopeless generation which is sure that theirchildren would not follow them in their work and their knowledge is dying.

I Feel theres is a huge need in redefining the scope of education for india wherein the students can have a way to get back to their traditional knowledge and a way to grow/ cultivate that knowledge in a more acceptable, willing way. How can this be a part of the education system and how can the infrastural development, etc follow this. QUestening the sustainability of education system in India.

Forest Harvesting

As a concequence of the Panchayat Raj norms, the rights to cultivate and extract forest produce is given entirely to these communities. The adivasis presently are benifitting from the sale of Tendu Patta and Bamboo which is later auctioned for around 7 Crores every year.

This right to extract forest produce can open great avenues for business in the community and sale of other widely available articles like baheda, nimboli, Chironji, etc.

Socio Cultural Status of Women

The women are the ones with more say in the society and were found to have a temperament with readiness for growth. They could be further empowered with possibilities for new businesses and income sources for the tribes so that their socio- economic status improves. This could into truly sustainable business models wherein the bottom proportion of economic trangles could redefine their mode of income by choice and grow wholistically.

Craft

Traditional bamboo, woodcarving and waste saree craft were found in the region which were done as a part of time utilization activities and as a fun activity. This skill should merge with modern day design to give better opportunities to the communities in the region.

Traditions

Healthcare

Knowledge of plants and herbs has been reciding in the tribes for ages and is gradually dying. Sristi is attempting to develop medicines from the same after scientific testing to help these communities to earn better.

Development:

Opposite of Envelope. The growth of sorts that emenates from inside and moves outwards.

Analogy: A tree grows as a consevience of gaining energy from the inside of the planet and grows itself in order to give out gratitude and energy to the world.

Design has to facilitate this inner intent of energy transfer to solve problems of the world.

1. How can the knowledge mobilise across communities from the world so that it can benefit them however:

a. Knowledge of Agriculture: traditional practices should be shared around communities to possible help them gain more knowledge of solving their issues with agriculture with local and possibly tested soutiong.

b. Preservation of local variety: The plants have developed over time and are found to have a greater variety at certain places of the region. These seeds and plants can be sown around the rest of the regions in the connunity to help the variety to survive better. This would lead to their growth in slightly different conditions and provide for multiple test scenarios. The best one would have to be identified and their growth be promoted in the region.

c. Craft: The local craft making skills exist in the hands of a lot of people. They could be given a marketspace with an advance order- payment model of business. The products could be sold and this would increase the work culture amongst the male population of the region.

2. Design thinking equips us with tools and ways of approaching problems and solutions to encorporate larger problems and user needs.

Traditional solutions of well designed functional products were found in the region which have been derived out of the issues that they face on daily basis. They were found to lack features and were very specific for their needs but the question here is that how can a designer innovate in order to derive such solutions. Features and multi functional concepts are anot always a way to make desirable products for a community like this. (someone who are struggling for their daily life needs)

3. Since this region contributes to a lot of unemployable youth trained in an amateur and mediocre way. Can this workforce be put to translate excess and low valuable resources from the urban areas to the rural areas in a more useful way. Example: Can the electric waste from the cities be used to create electrical devices that could be used by the rural communities for communication, load carrying, better food processing, lighting, SOS, etc. This youth can be locally trained and such devices be developed by the community at large for themselves and others like them.

4. The people here have a feeling of contentment with what they have and the intent of earning money was never a concept that they focused upon. Now they are buying products from outside, may it be toothpaste or tractors. This has to be complimented in increase in the productivity and business out of the region. The communities have just enough money from the sale of tendu patta, etc that they do not focus on profit making through sellinf agricultural produce, etc. This has resulted in a lot of alcoholism and redundance in the intent of working hard. They show a lack of passion and are satisfied with their lifestyle.

There is a need I feel in development of a passion in the perspective of growth of thaught with an intent to find a better lifestyle. This would drive students and childrent to learn more of their traditional skill/ knowledge and save their heritage.

Some savings are never BAD!

5. Termite houses were prevalent in the jungles of this area. Termites have proven to build houses with a natural tendency to cool and are known as excellent scavengers and waste processors. Could termites be fused with houses in an isolated way to provide cooling and manage waste at the source?

6. Food Processing at community levels: Their heritage in terms of forest produce has to be added value at the source. This would give them an upper hand in the marketplace and money in the community that is earned with the efforts of the people would always be put to constructive use.

Shidhyatra team

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Mr. Soumil Singh Panwar.