मिट्टी से सोना उपजता, कहलाता वो अन्नदाता,
(One who grows gold from soil and is our food provider)
धूप, ठंड, या हो चाहे बारिश, इसे कोई न रोक पाता ।
(Be there heat, cold or rain, no one can stop him)
Yes he is our farmer who even in the days of struggle is always hopeful. He always believes that tomorrow will be greener than today and that the fertility of soil will bear his fruits. I do believe every farmer is more like a mother to all of us.
But wait a minute, doesn’t it sound weird to call a man who farms, as our mother, a title given to women. Whenever we picture a farmer we only see a man. Why can’t we see a woman farming and earning from it. After all it is a woman who bears us for 9 months and feeds us till we are in her womb. And it is she who suffers from the pain of it and then brings us this world. You know why it is difficult for us to picture a farmer as a woman. It is because of the patriarchal attitude that is ingrained in us. We cannot see someone who herself is a symbol of fertility doing a work which is about fertility. But one such woman who decided to break that barrier and started farming and thus started a revolution is Rajkumari Devi.
Born in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, Rajkumari Devi is known all over Bihar as Kisan Chachi, a nick name in which she finds appreciation from others. Her dad who himself is a school teacher taught Rajkumari Devi till standard 7th and later married her to Abdesh Kumar Chaudhary. Rajkumari Devi who went to her in-laws house with hopes in her eyes had to face various hardships. A year before her and Abdesh’s marriage, her father-in-law had married for the second time. Her father-in-law had 2 sons while Rajkumari Devi didn’t have any child. As Rajkumari says, “Woman from Bihar or from any part of the world has to face a lot of hardships if she is not having a child; she is looked down with disrespect by others”. So was Rajkumari Devi. It took 12 years for the birth of her first daughter. In between she cleared her Matric exam. She was blessed with a son and again with a daughter. Having 2 daughters, the bitterness of her family towards her increased and she along with her husband were forced to leave the house by her in-laws. Abdesh and Rajkumari were given a piece of land when they left.
Their days of survival with small piece of land and traditional farming technique were becoming more and more difficult. Abdesh even started drinking. Finally, it was Rajkumari Devi who decided to change their situation. “It is in difficulties, one decides to do something out of the box,” says Rajkumari Devi.
In an area where only tobacco farming was done, Rajkumari Devi studied the soil and realized that many more crops can be cultivated in this land. But the issue was that she was not allowed to farm. Neither her husband nor her father (who is a teacher) agreed to let her do farming. But Rajkumari Devi’s resilience won over them and she was unwillingly allowed to do farming. People from Muzaffarpur used to watch her working in farm with anger. So Rajkumari Devi started farming in evening. Then also she had to face opposition from the society. Finally she decided to do what she wanted to do and she started farming. Initially ridiculed later her work brought her a lot of appreciation and women around Muzaffarpur started farming too. She became an example in her community. Slowly, people started taking advices from her about the quality of soil and the methods with which more nutrient value of soil could be enhanced. Her words became more important to those people who initially opposed her for setting foot in farm. In fact, she was called to inspect the quality of soil of their farms. As she was famous in Muzaffarpur area as Chachi, she was called as Kisan Chachi.
Later under government scheme she started SHG – Self Help Groups which consisted of 10 women actively participating in businesses related with farming. As of now there are 36 groups guided by Kisan Chachi. These women are taught not only about the nuances of farming but are also taught of creating businesses out of it. From potato to chips and from fruits to their jams and pickles and from cow dung to fertilizer, Kisan Chachi taught how to use farming to earn livelihood easily. Even through SHG’s Kisan Chachi decided to break another barrier of caste by keeping women from various castes in same group. As usual she faced opposition, but later she was able to convince these women to bring a change in their society. And they followed her.
For guiding women, Kisan Chachi learned bicycle. Abdesh stopped her from learning cycle and that too gent’s bicycle because people scolding him which made him more uncomfortable. The scolding went to such a length that people started maintaining distance with him. But somehow Kisan Chachi convinced him to let her work and help others and ride bicycle. She convinced Abdesh by saying that, “Now these people may say some or the other thing, but later they will be the one who will appreciate us.” And they did. With her passion, she again earned a new nick name of Cycle Chachi for riding bicycle and guiding women about farming.
For her contribution in the field of farming, Rajkumari Devi aka Kisan Chachi aka Cycle Chachi was conferred with Padma Shri in 2019.
On asking her what is her biggest achievement, Kisan Chachi got emotional and told DD National show “Stree Shakti” about a story from her early days of struggle. In her early days when Kisan Chachi used to go for selling pickles made from fruits cultivated in her farm, her son Amrendra used to tell Abdesh to stop her from selling pickles as it made him feel embarrassed. Kisan Chachi did not listen to anybody. She used to cry while selling pickles thinking about the shame her family has to go through because of her. But now their life is changed.
Abdesh says that their life is good because of his wife and we all owe a lot to her. “She came as a Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity in our house”, adds Abdesh. Amrendra Kumar, her son says, “Every child should have a mother like her. I am proud of my mother.” These words turned her emotion into tears and she cried.
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