ROOTS - 3
One day the Collector of Kaira received telegraphic instructions to send a non-official representative to attend an investiture ceremony of Krishi Pandits at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The date of the ceremony was four days ahead.
Rapidly, the Collector conferred with the Secretary and the Deputy Chairman of his district’s Rural Development Board. They agreed with him that it would be fitting to send a genuine farmer to represent the district. The Collector recalled talking to a sturdy agriculturist during a recent village inspection. He suggested that this farmer be sent to Delhi. Although, or perhaps because, the farmer was of a community generally disprized, the two politicos agreed.
Straightaway, the three drove to the village, persuaded the bewildered farmer to undertake the journey to distant Delhi – he who had never seen a habitation larger than the pilgrim centre of Dakor, some forty kilometres away – got an achkan stitched for him, and procured him footwear. In 48 hours he was put on the mail train to Delhi, accompanied by an Agricultural Officer instructed to escort him to Rashtrapati Bhavan, show him the sights of Delhi, and return him to his village. This speed-of-light activity was a fantastic adventure for all involved: the farmer, the villagers, the officials.
When the farmer came back, he was a changed man, no longer diffident. After seeing what importance was accorded to farming by the great Panditji himself, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had shaken him by the hand and inquired about his farm and his family, this farmer was more attached than ever to his occupation. [He grew a fragrant rice of which he sent a sack to the Collector.]
The story of the farmer’s adventure came to be told all over the district. It caused other members of his community to feel uplifted. It encouraged all agriculturists. And it earned the district administration goodwill.
These photographs are from the time when her father was Collector of Ahmedabad. In addition to handling the daily threats posed by the Mahagujarat agitation – which makes matter for a fine long tale of daring, Odyssean cunning, integrity and fortitude – he had his village inspections. There was the importance of cleanliness to be stressed; there was a water supply system to be set up so that women need no longer tramp to the well and bicker when there; there were villagers to be honoured for some distinction or other; and then he drove away, but not before accepting a bunch of greenery from a village child!