Bonding grew stronger. The Sarvodaya Maha Sangha, their federation, had by now an anthem for a robust sing along. Sneha Jatre, 'Fraternity Picnics' became an annual event. People come from all villages with cooked food and spent a whole day interacting and sharing each other's travails, dreams and food. They went out on excursions as well, with some amusing spin-offs.
From Anna Hazare's Ralegan Siddhi they brought back a 'mocking pole' and set it up in the middle of a troublesome village. Drunken wife-beaters were left tied to the pole for a whole night, to be mocked by children and passers by. "The pole soon became redundant," they laugh. Drunkenness is rare. Usury is dead.
Burgeoning savings with the Sanghas have seeded many small businesses. Close to 800 toilets have come up and most have linked them to their bio gas plants—a taboo just over decade ago. Awareness of hygiene, nutrition, education and family planning has increased.
B G Linganna Gowda has a nice business [-about Rs.20,000/month], buying surplus vermicompost with farmers and selling it elsewhere. He's a finicky buyer but also a good teacher. So, knowledge, quality and volumes have risen.
Villagers have become experts in water use and waste management. Mulching and in situ composting are routine. Over 600 families have kitchen gardens and 560 have smokeless stoves.—these numbers are growing. Silk worm farming is a new business. Villages in all, have 17,000 feet of lined waste water drainage.
Pakkeerappa had branded himself the village dhobi, keeping a low profile in the village. He had convinced himself that his 3 acre plot was useless. A pond changed all that. He lives on the land now and raises jowar, lentils and fruits. His vermicompost is premium grade, says Linganna.
Basappa was going to sell his 7.75 acres and move to the city as a labourer. He listened to BAIF and took to growing fruit trees. "I used to head to the city looking for jobs," he says. "I now employ people to work for me. After feeding my family well, I have a Rs.10,000 surplus every year."