Integrating the village and the city

By TheHindu on 12 May 2017 | read

How many people do we come across in this country who strive and work towards village re-construction?

Prasanna, the theatre artiste who originally built Samudaya, has worked towards maintaining the progress of village economy. He has been working tirelessly to promote rural produce and products through urban co-operatives.

One of the success stories of his efforts saw Charaka, the co-operative develop into a huge weaving initiative roping in nearly thousand weavers in Karnataka and the neighbouring states.

He is presently working on a weekly rural cultural complex, Ragi Kana. “There is a weekly sante at Sri Ramakrishna Samagra Shikshana Kendra, off Bannerghatta Road, Gottigere from May 12 to 15 at a 20-acre chickoo and coconut plantation belonging to Narendra of the Hulkul Trust. Prasanna spoke about Ragi Kana and his interests in promoting village produce that strengthens and balances out the economic strength of the country in natural ways.

Excerpts from the interview :

* Has the success of the Charaka cooperative through Desi helped you come up with Ragi Kana?

More than three decades ago when I came from Delhi to Heggodu in Malnad, I was appalled to notice the stressed agri-soil imbalance that the farmers were pushed into. I discovered that they were over dependant on agriculture and were cultivating in places close to forests and water bodies that made no soil-sense.

I wanted to gradually wean them away from over dependence on agriculture. I could do this only by making them aware of a host of dying crafts.

It was a slow process that brought in hundreds of cotton weavers into the chain, while we acclimatised them to organic methods, including the natural dyes. Today the Charaka movement has 30,000 metres of handlooms produced every month. If this can be made sustainable, why not all the village resources?

Is Ragi Kana another opportunity for a wwvillage-city connect?

The Ragi Kana Santhe will provide a weekly market for rural produce. It is being organised jointly by Gramma Seva Sangha and Sri Ramakrishna Samagra Shikshana Kendra, the host organization, which is a charitable trust.

Are you trying to bring back the Grama Sante idea, a fair with cultural events and produce?

The sante is being developed as an activity centre as well. Discussions, film shows, folk performances will also be held. It will also have demonstrations of spinning, weaving, rain water harvesting, composting, cattle breeding.

Ragi Kana is intended to be a bridge between the village and the city. It shall bridge the gap that exists between the two, through constructive programs. It will provide support to various organizations working towards rural reconstruction, village industry and amongst farmers. Grama Seva Sangha will replicate the model in other cities in India.

Why do you think such initiatives that are bridging the farmer-city dweller gap, important to a commercialised society today? What are the steps taken to make this sustain itself?

The authenticity of products being sold at the sante will be maintained through random sample testing, as also through encouraging reputed village organisations to participate in the event. The idea is to create a place close to Bengaluru where people experience traditional village practices in one place. The vision is in creating a space where also demonstrations for traditional practices like weaving, spinning, pottery, basket weaving will be interspersed with stalls selling products. People can come and see this, try their hand at some of the workshops and experience the rural set up. There will be cultural events and film screenings in the areas of sustainability and equity.

The Ragi Kana Santhe will provide a weekly market for rural produce.