Daltonganj: The world may have become a global village; India too may have reached the Mars,but the lifestyle of Kharwars, the tribal people living in difficult terrains of Palamau forest who like to boast of being the kin of famous duo Nilambar-Pitambar has crawled just by an inch—they have taken to farming.This too, for the last two years.
While by nature the Kharwars are fighter tribes and not adapt to cultivation, poor rainfall in the drought-hit Palamau district—barely between 500-600 mm per annum, that left their lands mostly perched, corroborated this habit of this tribe. Just like other royals, they liked to raise ponies; but would hardly have enough to feed their beloved animals. While most men liked roaming about in hills, a few went to nearby towns to earn their wages.
However, a new idea that has been converted into reality by setting up a series of reservoirs below hills is slowly changing their lifestyle.
‘As the water after rainfall—which in any case was poor, rushed off the hills, even during monsoon our lands did not have enough water for cultivation. Two years back, men from a local NGO Sampurn Gram Vikas Kendra, supported by a Germany-based organization Welthungerhilfe, motivated us to construct reservoirs below the hills. Villagers worked days after days and the region now has more than a dozen reservoirs which block the gushing rain water and bring moisture to our perched lands. We have started growing paddy and vegetables,’ said Santosh Singh, a Kharwar youth of Ulman village in Chainpur block of Palamau district.
Before the British, Palamauregion was being ruled by tribal groups like the Cheros and the Kharwars. Chainpur area of Palamau was under the rule of the Kharwars and even today glimpse of kinglike attitude can be seen in the Kharwars, though they have hardly enough to eat.
During 1857 Movement, Nilambar-PitambarKharwar brothers fought the British and perished. What they did, however, was to earn a place in history and their stories continue, fanning the Kharwar pride ever since.
‘We never knew what vegetable cultivation was, because we hardly had water in the area. Now, after we constructed the reservoirs, we have started cultivating vegetables in our fields. Paddy during monsoon also is growing well for the last two years,’ said Kameshwar Singh, another Kharwar of Ulman village.
The villagers have come up with reservoirs like KerwaAhar (ahar meaning reservoir), BalhaAhar, ChhitraBeyarAhar, BhuiniAhar, ChamabothwaAhar, KusumNalaAhar, DewkudwaAhar, BansdihAhar, AragarhaAhar, Luciana Ahar, BakreliAhar et al. Welthungerhilfe gave them some financial support while most of the work was done through shramdan of the villagers.
‘If the area gets good rainfall this year, the villagers’ farming activity is sure to increase. The biggest thing that has come to the villagers is the feeling that they can write their own destiny and they should not wait for the government to come to their aid,’ said Anil Kumar, a social activist of SGVK who worked with them.
– Santosh K. Kiro