On the 13th of December, PAKT made a visit to Chargheri for the purpose of distributing blankets to families in the 5 villages namely Chargheri, Santigachhi, Parasmani, Bidhan Colony and Lahiripur.
Over the past visits to Chargheri area and especially during the brief surveys that we carried out over various visits during food distribution phase till trip#8, a large number of people had mentioned loss / extensive damage of their domestic belongings including mattresses, quilts, and blankets during the Aila fury. They had responded positively to queries from us (PAKT) on the utility of blankets being distributed to them at the onset of winter. That is how this activity took shape.
Criteria for distribution:
As suggested in an earlier post, PAKT chose to set a criteria for distribution of blankets.
Considering the recent history of activities carried out by PAKT (distribution of food followed by training for backyard farming / seed distribution), the basis of blanket distribution needed some sorting out and agreement. In the end we decided to provide a blanket for each of the families who are
(i) EITHER Card-holders from the food distribution phase (selected based on low family income),
(ii) OR non-card holding direct recipient of agricultural training for saline conditions arranged by PAKT who subsequently used seeds provided by PAKT to grow vegetables,
(iii) OR non-card holding indirect recipient of agricultural training (via other trained villagers) who subsequently used seeds provided by PAKT to grow vegetables,
(iv) OR some others who took an initiative after becoming aware of the training from word-of-mouth, collected seeds from PAKT and made an effort to grow vegetables with the seeds.
Evidently this led to significantly increased numbers. PAKT resources were stretched to provide blankets for all of these families. However assistance from well wishers of PAKT could enable us fulfil the aim of providing a blanket to each of these families.
The distribution process:
We reached the location early as communicated to the recipients through the agricultural community of 5 villages which was recently formed in the area as per insistence of PAKT. Dipankar's men helped with unloading of the stuff as usual. The blanket distribution was started after a declaration to the waiting masses on
(a) the distribution detail (one per family), and
(b) uniformity of quality of blankets being distributed.
Kaustuv and Sandeepan went a step ahead and made a demonstration of a sample blanket to avoid having people whispering their way into "his blanket is better" debates later on.
The distribution was done in 2 queues. As expected the queue for card holders, although longer, was cleared off very soon. The other queue was distributing blankets to people belonging to Cat-(ii) to Cat-(iv) of above types of people, based on lists created by the agricultural trainers Narain Bachar and Anjana Mandal over a number of their trips. It took a whole previous night's homework on these lists by Sandeepan followed by his on-site Herculean effort with the support of the local Agri-cooperative members. All of this simply to untie the mysteries in those sheets containing names of over 500 families who collected seeds from PAKT, and complete the distribution to the satisfaction of (almost) all who expected to benefit as per the criteria set by us.
This one-off effort on assembling the customised lists prepared by non-PAKT people once again highlighted the benefit of implementing the card system during the food distribution phase, particularly the trouble that it saved us over the period besides facilitating equitable distribution. Kaustuv can take due credit for prevailing on the rest of us and insisting on going ahead with an idea that seemed 'too ambitious' to the others.
This visit was also utilised by some in the group to carry out further survey of backyard garden vegetable growth in Chargheri. This area remained under-surveyed in the 10th visit when PAKT took a status report of growth of various vegetables in these 5 villages. Chargheri was one of the villages where the tidal waters kept rising and ebbing in the lands for months till the dyke was repaired.....hence the result was not expected to be exceptional. The results of some individuals like Bimal Gayen was encouraging for us and - more importantly - for the locals.
Bimal did an excellent job of raising vegetables in his garden as also his brother's garden, while also finding time to help some others to make best use of their pieces of land. In between the numerous stories of failed attempts in Chargheri, there were stories of some like Bimal who persisted even after failure and tried the trainer-taught techniques with their own innovations to conquer the circumstances.
A further round of survey on the fruitfulness of seeds distributed by PAKT was conducted at the queue for blankets. The general feedback from people of various villages supported the reports from previous week's detailed survey at all villages: many people were able to raise and harvest vegetables with most of the seeds distributed by PAKT by employing the anti-saline techniques, the same techniques that were emphasised in the training programs arranged by PAKT and conducted by trainers from Swanirvar. Some of the seeds did not produce results consistently across the areas and the lack of results was fed back to Swanirvar. They agreed to have further discussion on these failed seeds with PAKT.
HERE and HERE. In addition to the usual suspects, we had two new friends Arup and Apurba-da visiting with us on 11th trip. We also had a number of friends from Khelaghar making the trip for the first time to support the blanket distribution by PAKT. PAKT benefitted during the distribution as well as continued agri-survey due to their enthusiasm and their active participation.