Name : Land lease groups
NARSAMMA, SUSHEELAMMA, CHANDRAMMA, EELLAMMA, EETTAMMA, BALAMMA, AAKKAMMA, SHANKARAMMA, NARSAMMA RAIPALLY, LASMAMMA, AADIVAMMA, PEERAMMA.
Our Sangham is 14 years old. Seven years ago, it set up the landlease programme, and since then our hands have been full with work. After the project began, the first time we took 5 acres of land on lease for 5 years; the second time, 2.5 acres for 2 years; and the third time, 3 acres for 5 years. The soil of our lands is 'Nalla Regadi' (Black soil), and we have been cultivating traditional and diverse crops such as: pachajonna (Sorghum, Yellow Variety), pesarlu (Greengram), minulmulu (Blackgram), thogarlu (Redgram), theega pesarlu (Greengram variety), bebbarlu (Cowpea), janumu (Sunhemp), pundlu (Hibiscus), anumulu (Field bean), sajjalu (Pearl millet), aargulu (Kodo millet), kodi sama (Proso millet), thaida (Fnger millet), shenigalu (Chickpea)
Before the Sangham came into our life, we used to work on daily wages during the weeding and harvesting time. The wages were very, very low, while the working hours were painfully long. Those were hard times. But the Sangham has brought much cheer. It has stirred the whole village community. Now, we grow our own food, and can afford to share the produce. We are very happy now doing the work, which we have always loved, doing: helping our land to bless us with crops. The project has improved our financial situation; our children eat better food; and they are going to school.. We are learning to stand on our own feet now, thus freeing our men folk to go out and find more work. We just cannot tell you how strong we feel now. There was a time when we were afraid even to speak, but now, with much help from the Sangham, we are discovering our own strengths, and also our own voice. We feel strong enough to handle any challenge.
Name : Mandapuram Rajamma
& M. Rangamma
The Sangham was born 15 years ago in our village Metalkunta. In the beginning, we had 25 members. And we began our work taking up a number of projects like savings, roadside tree plantation, balwadi, wasteland development and land lease.
Ten years ago, we had the first taste of problems in a land lease case. We had taken lease of 3 acres of land for 8000/- rupees from a person belonging to the Banjolla caste on terms that we and the landholder would split the profit equally. The soil was 'Nalla Ragadi' (Black soil), and the land had borewell facility. Two acres of land were under sugarcane cultivation, and one under jowar (Sorghum). We worked very hard on the land, and happily shared the profits on a 50-50 basis. We used a part of the produce as seed for another piece of land that we bought the next year from a person from the 'Komati' caste. It was a four-acre piece, all 'erra bhoomi' (Red soil), and with borewell water facility. We cultivated sugarcane on two acres, jowar (Sorghum) on one, and mixed crops on the other one. Well, we were happy with ourselves. Then, we ran into a problem. The second year, the first landholder started acting up. Like the previous year, we had worked hard the second year too, and raised a good crop. We transported the produce to the landholder's house, and went to him the next day for our part of the share. He wasn't at home. In fact, we couldn't find him for almost a week. And then finally when we found him, he refused to part with our share. He said that he would give us the money if we wanted, but would never give us the food grains. This came as a shock to us. We told him that he was going against the terms of agreement. But he wouldn't listen to us. So, the next day we took our bullock cart, and right under the nose of his son, carried away the bore motor with us. The son, as expected, reported the matter to his father, who huffed and puffed, and called us thieves. He threatened that he would complain to the Village Panchayat.
So, the Panchayat met to discuss the issue. Jayappa, Jagannath Reddy
and Balaiah, sirs from the DDS office came to attend the meeting. We
told the Panchayat that the rich and upper caste people can get away
with anything, and if we stood our ground against blatant injustice,
we would be punished. This is wrong, we said, and if the social system
does not change its unfair practices, then we would be forced to take
up cudgels against it. Our patience is not endless; the sooner the evil
traditions ended, the better it would be for everybody. The Panchayat
passed its verdict. It told the cussed landholder that he should immediately
hand over the share that was due to us, and that we in return should
give back the motor to him. Faisla hogaya! Our fight for justice ended
triumphantly for us. The so called weak women showed their brave spirit
on the strength of the unity they had achieved as members of the Sangham.
The village 'worthies' would occasionally threaten that they would beat
us up, and that they wouldn't even spare our Balaiah sir. We told them
if they came any where near us, or did harm to Balaiah sir, then we
would not keep quiet. We would make them rue their fate! The Sangham
has truly transformed our lives. It has tempered the winds for us. We
are no more like helpless straw! We are made aware that our unity is