Rajasthanis remain the poorest of poor despite mineral riches

As higher-ups struggle to meet broad environmental and poverty challenges in Rajasthan, Ranjeet Mehta, 38, a manual labourer we met at the workers’ chowk in Jodhpur, sees “little” change in the livelihood of inhabitants of this state.

The implementation of the decisions taken by the state government for welfare of more than 66 million people of this state, generally believe d to be one of the richest states in terms of natural resources, is the only way to overcome these challenges, he said.

“Our feet are in precious mines but we have least cash to feed our children ”, said Singh another worker replied with a gloomy face to a question posed by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) team. The CSE team met both during its visit to Rajasthan to look at the livelihood issues face by the inhabitants in the state. “My children could not go to school. They are only bound to work for the mine owners ”.

The mine owners, generally considered the ‘godfathers’ for the labourers never paid an adequate sum of money for the improvement of their lives, many locals we met said.

“The poor people are bound to work for mine owners because; due to severe drought the agricultural productivity is not good. Although a small number of growers are using modern technolog ies for watering their fields, yet it’s difficult for the poor to depend on agriculture only ”, said Dr JR Sharma, General Manager at Regional Remote Sensing Centre in Jodhpur.

In addition m ine owners never gave mine labourers their due rights , said Mrs. Shashi Tyagi, Secretary of Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) , a non-governmental organization working for the welfare of poor people in Gagadi village in Jodhpur. “It will be a litmus test for the chief minister of Rajasthan to compel the mine owners who refused to issue registration cards to poor workers under labour laws ”.

W ater is a rare commodity in Rajastan and perhaps one of major hurdles for sustainable agriculture according to Dr Satish Lodha, Principal Scientist (Plant Pathology).

“Over 6 million drought resistant trees have been planted to minimise the soil erosion in Rajasthan ”, he said. He also claimed that around 81 engineers are working in this area to protect the environment.

Talking to the writer Prof S.M Mohnot of The School of Desert Science for about ter resources, agreed with Lodha regarding the biggest hurdle in way of people to head towards better .  “Local management is struggling for the conservation of water resources and efforts are yet to overtcome the harsh conditions in the form of the arid desert .”

These conditions are best seen at the Thar desert, the most densely populated desert in the world , The existing approach for improving livelihood of inhabitants of rural areas in Rajasthan   is insufficient. Professor  Mohnot said , “Life in rural areas and the encapsulating environment has not changed since years”.

A villager, Mohat Ram said that some people have also migrated to Delhi or other rich states of India for better future . Some of them have permanently migrated but majority of them go for specific time period for good earnings. Legal complications impede the lives of poor mine workers and labourers who work in fields of Rajasthan. “ It consists of an array of social legislation ”, said a well-known advocate of Supreme Court of India Ritwick Dutta. “ However they only protects rights of the land mine owners as well as to promote their interests.” 

Around 930 cases of labourers are pending with various courts in Jodhpur alone, said Dr Radheshyam of Gravis Hospital in village of Tinwari in Jodhpur. “Rajasthan’s government only paid hundred thousand Indian rupees to 22 labourers who lost their lives in line of duty ”.

Droughts have potentially important implications for government policies, first and foremost, via a decline in income, employment and exports, said Dr Natish who is associated with an organization working for the rights of poor labourers.

The people of the areas also told CSE that the livestock based “l ivelihoods” were facing threats in Southern Rajasthan. In this region, according to a villager named Sansthan most of the poor families would not dare to rear animals due to poor productivity of pastures and small land holdings. To combat this s ocial workers and government officials with cooperation of the local people started community initiative programmes for the protection of livestock.

Different organizations like ISRO and GRAVIS  also identified some problems like lack of awareness, health facilities and technology as root causes which were creating problems for the poor. “To follow integrated approach, we have taken up the issue of soil erosion and illegal tree felling,” Sansthan said.

However with all these difficulties , the inhabitants of Rajasthan are very optimistic about the future. However, they posed the question on the authorities concerned to give loans to the people to afford modern technologies for growing crops in the areas. They also requested the government to arrange more water through canals to overcome the drought to make the area more fertile.

Finally, the role of non-governmental organizations is also very important to change the life style of people of this state. These organizations are focusing on provision of water through old as well as modern system. These welfare organizations have installed various tube-wells in various villages. These tube-wells have brought a visible change in life of people who are now cultivating wheat, pulses and vegetables of all kinds in areas where there were no such crops years back said JR Sharma who works for the Department of Space, Government of India. He said.

The government has also done a great job by introducing the Below Poverty Line cards for the poor people and hundreds and thousands of people are living in Jodhpur also getting benefits from these cards. Through this card the government of India is providing net amount to the families to meet their needs. However, there is a lot of work to be done by the government to overcome the hardships in the state of Rajasthan. Ends…