Madhya Pradesh: Voyage of a bonded labourer turns into voice for his people

Young Sahariya Adivasi Bharat Singh becomes crusader, stops migration from Nonera village in Guna District

SmitaUpdated: Thursday, December 09, 2021, 06:27 PM IST
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Bharat Singh Sahariya | FP photo

BHOPAL: Bharat Singh Sahariya, 27, is educated only up to class 5. He is a Sahariya Adivasi and a resident of a small, remote village called Nonera in the Bamori Tehsil of Guna district of the state. Nonera has a population of around 300.

Till a couple of years ago, Bharat was a bonded labourer. Now, he is a transformer. Thanks to his efforts, the people of his village no longer need to migrate to Rajasthan in search of work.

Bharat’s journey from a bonded labourer to a social activist was 12-year-long. His father owned 8 bighas of land and the entire family, comprising his mother and six siblings, were dependent on it. Their land was not irrigated and they could grow only one crop in a year.

His father took a small loan from the local moneylender-cum-musclemen. The loan amount grew at a fast pace. He and his father worked the land of the moneylender, hoping that their wages would help them lower their dues. But their loan amount still kept on mounting. One day, the moneylender told them that their total dues were more than Rs 90,000 and that they would have to hand over their land to him to pay a part of it. As for the remaining amount they would have to work as labourers in their own fields to repay it.

Then, he came in touch with a social organisation, which told him that he can always approach the authorities to complain against the high interest rate being charged from them. With their help, he approached the district administration. The administration got his land restored to him and also made the moneylender return the money unjustly charged from him.

Bharat then decided to do something to stop the migration from his village. He persuaded the villagers to perform ‘Shramdaan’ to rebuild a damaged dam near the village. The dam was repaired after 8 days of work. That provided irrigation to around 700 bighas of land owned by the around 54 families of his village.

The forest department allowed them to plant saplings of fruit-bearing trees in an area of 10 bighas around the dam. They planted 1,000 saplings of mango, pomegranate, jackfruit and lemon on the land. The trees grew well. They were then allotted 50 bighas of land. They have planted 5,000 saplings on the land this year.

Now, the villagers grow three crops every year instead of just one. Last year, they collectively sold 1,000 quintals of wheat. No one from the village now migrates to Rajasthan. Bharat has repaired his house. He now earns about Rs. 1.5 lakh by selling paddy and sesame grown on his land. ‘Achchhe din’ have arrived for him.

Bharat narrated his success story to Free Press at the Gandhi Bhawan on Wednesday. He was in the city to attend a two-day meet organised by the Ekta Parishad on forest rights.

Ghanshyam, 50, a farmer from the village says that earlier he had to go to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan to work. “But, now we do farming on our land,” he adds. He has also managed to build a house for himself.

Similarly, another villager and homemaker Ramakali Bai, 40, says that she got her children with the money she earned from farming. “Earlier, I had to go to another state to work because the land here was barren,” she adds.

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