Story of Dongripada: A little drop of love that flooded the lives of an isolated hamlet with joy

NewsBharati    20-Jul-2021   
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I visited Dongripada, a remote hamlet just 80 km from the buzzing financial capital of India, Mumbai on 15th July, 2021. Dongripada means the hamlet on a hill. This hamlet has 33 families with a population of 157. Till recently the people of this village had to climb down and trek up about 300 feet to fetch water from a well on a steep rocky path. It had connectivity with the plains below through a poor quality pathway. Because of lack of water only 7 farmers used to plough their fields down in the plains, others would just sit at home and while away their time. Income was hardly 20000 rupees per month for those who ploughed their fields. Boys and girls did not study beyond 8th or 9th standard as the school was far away. Electricity was not available till recently. To point out the irony, it is just 9-10 kilometres away from the tehsil town of Wada.
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Three year back some young girls and boys who had done three year Diploma in Agriculture from Keshav Srushti, Bhayandar came together with the trustees of their alma mater. They wished to do something for their villages in Palghar area. It was decided to undertake an ambitious project rural development in different dimensions depending on the requirements of a village, not the outsiders. A target of lifting up the life of 75 villages was set in line with 75 years of Swaraj.
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 The cheerful changemakers - L-R Dilip, Bhagwan, Harshada, Sachin
What did Dongripada need before 75 years of India’s independence was celebrated? Just water in an area that gets abundant rainfall! Ironically, for a visitor, Palghar belt looks heavenly in monsoons. A team of young Mumbai professionals too joined the project, inspired by a senior RSS karyakarta, Bimal Kedia. Gram Oorja from Pune, set up a solar pump to lift up the water to the top of the small hill. A young corporate leader financed it. That was all that women and families wished for and waited for seven decades! The pump is used to pump water only for two hours a day into a water tank at the highest spot in the village.
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Next, someone thought of providing water for irrigation so farmers could carry on with their agricultural activities. A good samaritan provided one solar pump. Later, one provided an electricity pump for rainy season from a river flowing at the base of the hill. These two pumps are used for different sections of the field now. An innovative farmer, Bhagwan, led the change in sowing patterns. Now, instead of only seven, twenty seven farmers do farming round the year with rice plantation and vegetable and fruit plantations. Their average income has reached one lakh rupees per annum.
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Computer training 
Dongirpada was chosen to be an ‘Adarsh gram’ or ‘Model village’ and more activities were added. Keshav Srushti got some large hearted urban friends to help set up a ‘samaaj mandir’ (community hall) with astro-turfed play area. This one hall has activities like tailoring classes, a very small library, two computers out of 60 donated by a bank, weekly bhajans and village meetings. Balance computers were given to 29 other villages in this region. A young lady, Harshada, takes studies of all the 22 children and also inculcates good habits in them. She has even prepared a handwritten booklet profiling her village. Such profiles have been prepared for all the 75 villages adopted by Keshav Srushti.
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The once desolate village has become a cheerful group of people who support each other, sit together to decide what they wish to do for the village. Sachin, a young graduate supports the village as part of his overall responsibility of looking at the entire belt. He has friends like Dilip and Chandrakant who are from the village and work under his guidance. All these men and women are local tribal youth. Future beckons them.

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When my wife asked them if they needed anything else, they said, “No, we are happy. We now just wish to build a good temple of our ‘Gaondevi’ (Goddess of the village – a form of Durga)”. Simple and confident, that’s Dongripada now.
It is so easy to provide wings to our brethren; it is so easy to bring smiles and laughter in their lives! Just a little bit of push and they can fly! One solar pump, that’s all it required to trigger their urge to rise in life. It is not politics and government alone that can bring in the change. It is people like you and me. Otherwise it would not take a village just 80 km from Mumbai 72 years to stop the tiring routine for women, including pregnant sisters, to trudge down and trek up 300 feet for their daily need of water. Are we ready? Are we willing?