Shishir Kumar Choudhary from Betul district of Madhya Pradesh worked for Help Age India as he always wanted to help people. However, one accident brought him to an important realization: more than help, people with disabilities require resources suitable to their need. Today, Shishir’s NGO Naman Seva Samiti has provided such resources, helping 17,000 people with disability in 1,500 villages across four states become independent. Of the 17,000 people, 5,000 are in the farming sector.
On April 4, 1999, Shishir Kumar Choudhary met with an accident that left him with 56% disability. He lost the ligaments of his right leg and had to undergo a bone replacement operation. Shishir was on bed rest for almost nine months after this fateful incident.
“It was then I realised how difficult it would be for disabled people. In those nine months I learnt to do everything on my own right from cooking to changing a cylinder even though I had to use a caliper. I had resources that helped but I would keep thinking about the disabled people who lived in villages and were uneducated,” says Shishir.
After this, Shishir had a strong desire to do something for the people with disability living in remote villages. Once he discussed the idea with a few friends, they joined him in his mission. And Naman Seva Samiti was formed in 1999.
What followed was no less than a miracle. After years of hard work and persistence by the team, they are effectively working on the following sectors in over 1,500 villages of 9 districts of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.
They have changed the lives of over 17,000 disabled people by working on issues like
Health and sanitation– The NGO has built more than 2,000 toilets and is bringing about behavioral changes in the villagers to avoid diseases causing disability.
Education – Mainstreaming children with disabilities into formal education by building capacity of teachers, parents and caregivers, developing training modules, teaching and learning material, and concurrent advocacy with formal education systems.
Social Protection – Strengthening Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) by training 1,000 DPO leaders. Bharatiya Viklang Jan Forum formed by Naman Seva Samiti, which is leading a DPO movement under the banner of Bhartiya Jan Viklang Forum, had brought organizations from across India together in Madhya Pradesh last year. This dialogue initiated a joint advocacy effort for issues that affect persons with disabilities across the nation.
Livelihood – By giving skill development training to villagers without land and giving training and resources for farmers with land.
The livelihood programme is divided into two categories –
Non farming – This includes 15 initiatives like mobile repairing, embroidery, small shops, vegetable trading, etc.
Farming– The differently-abled land owners are first informed about organic farming methods and technology used. They are then trained to do vegetable production, milk production, horticulture and bee keeping.
Sheep and wool development programme for income generation among 2,000 families has also been done.
Today, there are more than 600 farmers who have developed a Farmer Federation, which is registered as Tapti Organics Producer Company Ltd. It further works with 5,000 farmers.
Some Success Stories –
Name: Gulab Singh Gotam
Disability: Physical Impairment (right leg) 60%
Education: Class 8 (Primary)
Age: 39 years
Dist. Khandwa (M.P.)
Having keen interest in farming, Gulab Singh was not satisfied with his agriculture practices in his ancestral 2 acres of land. He was investing up to Rs. 8,000 per year for maize crop to get maximum 12 quintal production paying back about Rs.15,000 at market rate. He and his wife, a person with hearing impairment, had to rely on wages from labor work and little income from tailoring to make ends meet for the family of five.On the top of that, a loan amount of nearly Rs. 10,000 would remain on him every year.
Gulab Singh was selected as ‘Naman-Prerak’ (Person with Disability to motivate organic farming-based green livelihood in village) by the villagers. He got training and exposure to organic farming practices and applied the training in his own farm. This reduced cultivation cost of Rs.2,000 and an increased production of 18 quintals to get returns of Rs. 24,000 at market rate.
In a recent pest attack on the crop, many farmers used the pest-controller prepared by him and got good results. This increased the farmers’ faith in organic farming. Gulab Singh motivated these farmers to form Disability Inclusive Farmer’s Interest Group (self-help group for organic farming activities) and joined them in a newly formed cooperative society and farmers’ producer company in the block.
This year,Gulab Singh has not purchased any item for agriculture like seeds, chemical fertilizer, chemical pesticide, etc. from the market and hence does not have the burden of loan to be repaid.
His Farmer’s Interest Group is planning to increase organic production in the area and developing value addition and assured marketing linkage with the help of farmer’s producer company.
Name: Gangadhar Dawande
Disability: 90%, hearing impairment with speech-impairment(Congenital)
Age: 38 years
Education: Class 5 (primary school)
Village: Thani, Tq. Athner, Dist. Betul (M.P.)
Gangadhar first replicates the action of milking a cow, by which he means ‘cow,’ and then he sits down pretending to collect something, to denote ‘cow dung’. After being picked by Naman, this is, for the most part, the way he’s trained 35 farmers on organic farming till now.
When we ask him how he learned this,he answers swiftly by pointing his fingers to his eyes and head.
Gangadhar practices organic farming in 11 acres of land and takes care of all the expenses of his family.
Name: Vinayak Parte
Disability: 60%, Locomotor
(Acquired – stretched left leg)
Age: 40 years
Education: Class 5 (Primary School)
Village: Naktidhana, Tq. Bhainsdehi, Dist. Betul (M.P.)
Vinayak gives us the gist of his life in just one line – “Poverty forces you out of school and this pushes you towards disability. Disability and illiteracy forces you into more poverty.”
Born to a family of landless laborers, Vinayak was forced to leave school after primary school. To support his family, he started cutting and selling firewood from a nearby forest. At a very young age, Vinayak suffered a severe injury and fracture to his hip bone and legs by falling from a tree while cutting wood. His poor economic condition restricted him from taking proper medical treatment and he was subjected to permanent deformity of the hip bone, which led to locomotor disability.
In 2014, Vinayak got a disability certificate through the intervention of Naman Seva Samiti and became a member of Disabled People’s Organization in his village. He was supported by the NGO to get the benefit of a number of government schemes — disability pension, ration, etc. Although landless, he would show keen interest in organic farming. Hence it was suggested that he starts an organic vegetable cultivation in his home yard through financial support from the cooperative society. They helped him get a loan of Rs.10,000 and an intensive organic farming training in Dehradun. In a short span, Vinayak successfully established his brand in a local market for good quality and delicious vegetables, and started earning up to Rs 1,500 per week. He also started goat rearing and is expecting good profit this year.
Vinayak has confidently enrolled his elder daughter in college for a graduate course in a science subject and has assured full financial support for her higher education.
“Mehnat aur margdarshan sahi mil jaye to na garibi rehti hai, na viklangta (There will be neither poverty nor disability if hard work and appropriate guidance come together),”he smiles.