SRIJAN has its projects in 15 districts in 5 states, namely, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan, and each project location has its own unique identity in terms of language, weather, food, clothes, cultural beliefs etc. While it is not possible to generalize what an Indian village is like, below is a description of a typical village and its inhabitants that we work with in SRIJAN:
A typical village selected by SRIJAN is usually in the poorest areas of the state, with little or no Government interventions and a high concentration of SC/ST/OBC/Dalit communities riddled with casteism and patriarchy. The village typically has around 100 households and 1000 inhabitants. The most common income sources are agriculture and livestock. Given the lack of adequate electricity and irrigation facilities, farmers depend highly on monsoons which are usually too light and infrequent to cater to their needs. Low agricultural yield also takes toll on the cattle that depends on it, and hence milk productivity is also low. Villagers have limited other sources of income, like beedi making, sewing, etc. which give very meagre returns. Village road connectivity is basic, with many paths within the village unreachable by four-wheelers. Most people still practice open bathing and defecation. There are limited education and medical options within the village and inhabitants have to visit nearby big towns for higher education or serious illnesses.
A typical family in the village is a big household with grandparents, parents, children, uncles/aunts etc. They live in kuchcha houses and don’t have access to regular electricity or running water. Women perform the lion’ share of work in the household. They wake up early morning and fetch water, then cook for the family, clean the house and complete all chores, feed the livestock and tend to the farms. They support men in equal measure during sowing and harvesting but rarely have a say in household or monetary decisions. The village people do not have the luxury of convenient schedules of town people, nor do they get leaves from work or any privileges or benefits. They live in the most difficult circumstances and perform the most strenuous tasks on a daily basis. They face impossible challenges and yet have simple aspirations.
SRIJAN professionals and the villagers have a very close relationship. Professionals wake up early and often make morning visits to the villages. They walk in the farms in the sun with them, eat the local food together, get their hands dirty by doing the tasks themselves which are prescribed for farmers, such as weeding, making vermin-compost, testing milk quality, and so on. Many a times they live in the villages and experience life without toilets and electricity. They work as per the schedule of the villagers, paying no heed to night or day, sun or rain, summer or winter. There are no working hours or days. Without this kind of ownership, empathizing with the villages, understanding their needs/challenges/aspirations and working together with them to improve their life condition is not possible, and this is what we are proud of at SRIJAN.