Relief for Marathwada (And how you can help)



I will try to keep it brief.

Since Neeraj Ghaywan and I had decided to donate our National Awards prize money for drought relief in Maharashtra (INR 50K each), we started looking for worthy people & organizations that are doing long-term, sustainable, & scientific work in the affected regions.

Giving relief-money to individuals (esp. families of farmers who were forced to kill themselves or are displaced) is a very worthy cause too (and Makrand Anaspure/Nana Patekar’s NAAM is doing a great work in this area, among other things) but we wanted to support areas which go to the root of the problem. As P. Sainath has been saying for many years – this drought is a man-made one only. Effective watershed management can reduce (if not end) the drought to a great extent.

Through our own research & helpful contacts shared by journalists working on ground, we came across the works of Paani Foundation working in association with Dilasa Sanstha & WOTR. Paani is teaching 115 villages in 3 taalukas the nuts & bolts of watershed management. They emphasize on villagers taking full responsibility of building these resources. WOTR is their technical partner while Dilasa, the social activist partner, steps in for villages that are very poor & can’t raise funds on their own. (Other villages raise their own funds and workforce.)

Neeraj made a trip to Satara with Paani’s founder Satyajit Bhatkal and saw the enthusiasm & hard-work of the villagers himself.

Yesterday, I went to Satara along with Satyajit Bhatkal from Paani Foundation and Satyamave Jayate. I understand that some of you know him already. I went there to assess their Water Cup initiative and be part of shramdaan in a village.
It was deeply inspiring to see these villagers setting up a big target of creating structures to make rain water slow down and percolate down further into the soil. You can go through my series of tweets on my visit:
The village is part of the 116 villages competing for the water cup. Simply put, this award encourages villages to incorporate best practices of watershed management and water conservation. The village who does it best gets a 40 lakh cash prize (there are second and third prizes too). But even if they don’t win the cash prizes, every village is a winner. Because they all making themselves self reliant and making their villages drought free by conserving water.
That is the best part of this initiative that it makes NGOs, Government aid etc almost redundant. Paani, Watershed management and other organisations offer residential training to volunteers from each village. Usually five and they encourage (not enforce) women and young men being part of it. After the training these volunteers mobilize their respective villages to carry forward activities.
Since they are driven by the spirit of winning the cup, the villagers have forgotten their differences of caste, class, religion, geo-political boundaries etc to work for the betterment of their villages. I think that is the hallmark of this initiative. They started in Jan and till now they have 116 villages competing is an achievement. Contest is going to end on 5th June. Imagine, if all goes well, 116 villages will be self reliant and will be drought free in the next summer.
There is a requirement of earth moving machinery that is essential to make some structures. Now as per the government’s schemes of Jalyukt-Shivar and NREGA, all the equipment, paper work support ought to be done by the government. And it is happening in full swing. But in some villages, like in BEED, because of bureaucracy and corruption, work has come to a halt. These villages are competing for the cup but they are not getting any support on machinery which is making them recede behind. We could help in offering this machinery to them. It’s not about the cup but that time is running out for them to make these structures ahead of the monsoon. If they miss this monsoon, they will have to wait a year more.

Paani Foundation

It’s heartening (and so bloody good) to see that so many dedicated, self-motivated individuals are working on the ground & inspiring the villagers in these tough times. Also heartening is to get messages from so many people who said they also want to contribute. Like a young writer (who has not even started earning in this city) told me he wants to contribute whatever small amount he can manage. A young doctor who had just received his first ever salary as an intern said he wants to donate half of it for this cause.

At the same time, I came across the work being done by actor Rajshri Deshpande who felt  restless to see Marathwada, where she was born and grew up, struggling & many smaller villages getting neglected from government as well as NGO support, and hence took her own initiative.

She is working in Pandhari Village (near Beed) and helping clean the local river before the rains arrive.

Why I chose Pandhari ?
Aurangabad is my birth place. I know almost whole of Marathwada as I spent my childhood. I have seen this situation since my childhood but kahte hai na u have to start from starting somewhere .. That’s what happened with me .. Last  April i visited Latur , Nanded and beed district spoke to the officials and visited the areas to understand the draught ..How many villages NGOs are handling and how many govt. Is supporting. No doubt they are doing good work. But according to my survey there are lot of small villages are unfortunately getting neglected..What will happen to them ??

Pandhari is one of them.. I felt I should take initiative to handle atleast one village. Marathwada is fairly a well to do place means they will never die by hunger ..But yes water is always a problem. So we need to work in root level.
Real Farmers will always prefer working only in their farm. But when there is no water there is hardly any work for them ..some find labourers job and some just wait. Take loans and loans but very few try and find solutions.
That’s why the major frustration and leads to Suicide. Motivation is the most important thing in Marathwada.
They need support so they can push themselves more n more .. Govt. Unfortunately is slow as usual .. Not new for anyone ..
So that’s the reason I thought why not pick up a small village and start working towards the betterment .. Create a model ..

I started consulting experts to understand what best we all can do for this .. Because I wanted to join best dots so I avoided big expences… Fortunately Makrand Anaspure from NAAM came forward to help for machine. He said I will give you machine rest u please manage .. Means my expenses will be diesel , tractors, manpower, equipment and whatever small little problems on field .. I accepted it because I want the work to finish before rain.

We appointed a agricultural expert Dr. Gokhale who has vast experience in rain harvesting. We made a plan as per his guidance.

We have decided to clean the river and make 3 pits of dimension 250X8X7 feet, which will store more than 4 crore litres of water which will benefit for almost 3 villages which is next to Pandhari Pimpalgaon in next season. So to complete this work in next (apporx)15-20 days NAAM ( An Organization Run by Makrand Anaspure )  have deployed Pokland machine and Villagers have deployed 12 tractors And approximately 50 people  working on the site. ( as you know we already started our work from 14th may)

As I said diesel expenses , manpower and tractors are the issue .. I am trying to manage few things from the farmers itself because I want them to be involved , take ownership and to understand the situation. But to fasten the work we all should support … I am managing few things but as an individual it becomes difficult .. That’s why I am looking for help ..

According to the work we all have estimated approx 3,50,000 for the expenses towards Diesel, labour and miscellaneous work. Planting trees and Sanitation will be my next step

Apart from being in the film industry as an actor i worked for lot of causes as a volunteer .. I worked in Nepal for a month with an NGO after the earthquake. I am part of a rescue foundation who rescued almost 300 girls from brothels and working for dharavi kids and special children in a regular basis. I am part of a beach cleaning group where every sunday we clean versova and juhu beach .
So this is my regular madness which I love it …

Her FB post has some pictures too:

So all of us, who came forward to extend support (AIB, OML, Gaurav Kapur, Sona Mohapatra and Ram Sampath, Anurag Gupta, Ghanta Awards, and a few friends who wish to remain anonymous), are dividing our funds between these two initiatives.

If you’d also like to contribute – the details are here:

Option 1 – Dilasa Sanstha (to aid the watershed management work being done by Paani Foundation)

Dilasa Sanstha will dispense the money to the accounts of the machine owners after they raise  a bill of work carried out in a seven day cycle period. Dilasa Sanstha also has an 80G certificate which can be used by the contributors to avail of tax benefits. The money has to be sent ideally by online bank to bank transfer to the following:

Name of  Accounts      : DILASA SANSTHA [Caring Friends]
Address of Bank Axis Bank Nagar Parishad Hall, Near Azad Maidan, Yavatmal-445001 (MS) India.
Accounts Number 911010049903357
IFSC  Bank Code UTIB0000488

Option 2 – Rajshri Deshpande’s work in Pandhari

She needs a total of INR 3.5 lakhs for this work. If she manages to raise more, she will start the same work in another village she has identified.

Rajashri Balwant Deshpande

Account Type : Savings

Account Number : 3110537709
Branch Code : 01294


IFSC Code: CBIN0281294 (used for RTGS, IMPS and NEFT transactions)
MICR Code: 400016056