Rally for Rivers Commences in Maharashtra: Updates from Yavatmal
Making a river flow again will begin with moving many small gears that little by little will help move the whole machinery. One such gear is building the relationship between the Rally for Rivers movement and the villagers in the region where action has to take place. At this stage in the process in Yavatmal, the Nadi Veeras are spending their time getting to know the nearby community and to acquaint themselves with the social infrastructure so that everyone can come together to mobilize a change in mindset that is needed to turn the gears.
Once the movement really gets going, the participation of the community will not only be welcomed, but will be an absolute necessity. As we look towards the implementation of the project on the ground, the involvement of the community and the bonds built with them will grow stronger with time. After all, Rally for Rivers is a people’s movement.
In this update, the volunteers, in their collective voice, share their initial forays in Yavatmal, of orienting and getting oriented. Please read on to visit their experiences, in text and photos, of several community engagements, such as conducting surveys, hosting an Inner Engineering session, basking in a greatly-relieving rain shower, sharing in a delicious and comforting dinner, offering a session of yoga, and joining in informational and educational meetings, large and small, all of which activities were interspersed with games, celebration, and discovery.
The first ever Inner Engineering program in Yavatmal, Maharashtra was announced on December 12th in 2018, and it was conducted in Hindi. The Nadi Veera team in Maharashtra was excited to be a part of offering the program since this was the first time the Yavatmal people would have a taste of Isha. Prior to this news, the 24 Nadi Veeras had been working on a soil and water conservation survey, which they completed on December 5th. Since then, every group has been busy in compiling the data from the surveys.
While we were out in the field doing this survey work, we were happily surprised to see Sadhguru’s image in some of the locations displayed on banners advertising the Inner Engineering program. It was a great pleasure to see the efforts being made by Isha to reach out to the people in Yavatmal. There were two batches of IE: one in the morning from 6:00 am to 9:00 am and another in the evening from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Every one of us was eager to volunteer for the program. We were given a chance to volunteer for the morning batch. Sunday was the initiation day, and the participants from both of the batches gathered in the hall that morning at 6:30 am!
Dindayal Prabodhini, Godhani was the venue of the Inner Engineering program, and had a beautiful view of the backwaters of Nilona Dam. The place was a breath-taking abode of nature, home to only the sounds of squirrels and twittering birds. All the Nadi Veeras reached the venue on time, and each one was already assigned to a specific activity such as organizing games, attending to the offering counter, providing kitchen support, or assisting with hall setup.
We offered ourselves that day in any way possible so as to help ensure that the participants would receive the ancient yogic practice of Shambhavi Mahamudra in an exuberant and committed atmosphere. The volunteer experience was full of joy. As the sessions went on, it created a certain calmness within that continued as a natural stillness throughout the week. It was a very intense experience.
The temperature in Yavatmal crosses 45 degrees. When the first rains came, we couldn't control our joy and started dancing and playing games in the downpour.
Being in Yavatmal is testing us on all levels. Shortage of water, no proper internet connection, the extreme heat, and a lot more. But being in these harsh conditions is bringing out qualities that we ourselves didn’t know existed. The level of responsibility everyone is taking up is inspiring and overwhelming.
After the rains, we went to visit the Waghadi river. As we witnessed the poor condition of the river, we were reminded of the urgency of our project and how significant and vital is this need to revitalize Waghadi.
At night, we went to a nearby temple, where some people were celebrating a temple ceremony. They invited us for dinner, which was our second dinner. Just as we were about to leave, some women who were celebrating a regional festival expressed their happiness that we were able to be a part of their gathering.
International Day of Yoga
On the occasion of International Day of Yoga, we conducted an Upa-yoga session for the NGO, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), who helped us while we conducted our soil and water conservation surveys and will further help us in upcoming activities.
Around 20 people participated in this yoga session. In the beginning of the session, we faced some technical difficulties, but despite these small obstacles, everyone remained totally involved throughout the session. At the end of the class, one of the FES leaders stood up and started speaking about Nadi Veeras, about who we are and why we are here. He announced that we are creating a positive environment through yoga. Most of the participants shared their appreciation for the ambience of the class and the way it was conducted. After the class was over, a few of them expressed interest in going even further and signing up for Inner Engineering.
Self Help Group Meetings
Our Yavatmal District collector, Shri Ajay Gulhane, suggested that the Nadi Veeras should meet with the Women's Self Help Groups in the villages of Yavatmal district. On May 26, we started the meetings and in a matter of just fifteen days, our 37 Nadi Veeras connected with more than 1500 SHG women and villagers in 37 villages. During these meetings, women came forward to share with us the typical problems and challenges of life in the village, and we gave them a brief introduction of Rally for Rivers, describing it as a comprehensive solution, and also explaining the association between their problems and river revitalization. We are making it a priority to understand the present realities of the villagers and farmers in their everyday life situations. As per our discussions with villagers, we are creating data reports and plans so that as we tackle these issues, the inputs from the farmers are integrated. From this introductory meeting, we have now been able to start spending more time in the villages, getting to know the community issues with more familiarity and begin finding customized solutions for their needs. We were very happy to find that the villagers are eager to support us to whatever extent possible. We, Nadi Veeras, had been eagerly waiting to work on the ground with farmers once the project officially kicked off. Now that the project is in motion, all of us are simply excited about everything. The head of our project has guided us to build a relationship with the village and villagers so that we develop a feeling of ownership for whatever we do. With high hopes and Sadhguru's blessing, we are moving ahead intensely with the desire to make the Waghadi River flow again with all its might.
In the course of getting to know Yavatmal better, we are conducting informational meetings with village Self Help Groups.
June 12th, Waghadi Nadi Punarjeevan Prakalp (RfR Maharashtra) Kick- off Meeting at Collector’s Office, Yavatmal
List of Dignitaries:
- Shri S B Mahindrakar, Additional Collector
- Shri N. M. Kolapkar, Superintendent Agriculture Officer
- Shri B N Pingale, Deputy Conservator of Forests
- Shri Yadgilwar, Agricultural Scientist, Agricultural College Yavatmal
- Shri Kishor Damah, Executive Engineer, Irrigation Dept
- Shri Shailesh Kale, Tahsildar Yavatmal
- Sau. Puja Matode, Tahsildar Ghatanji
On June 12, the first official meeting for the project began with government dignitaries, Nadi Veeras, and others in attendance. Agricultural Scientist, Dr. Yadgilwar started addressing the meeting by sharing the profound importance of the water element on the planet. He added that although this call to action is late in the day, at least Sadhguru gave the vision for this noble work and started RfR. As well, he stressed the economic benefits of planting trees such as bamboo, etc. and gave a brief introduction to the concept of agroforestry. He requested forest officials to work hard, as he made note that 1/4th of land along the river is forest land.
He also requested the audience to plant a minimum of two trees per family, even ten if possible. Later he explained the importance of growing fruit trees on the farm lands. He said, it’s like a fixed deposit investment in the bank if you have a fruit forest on your agricultural land. He further added that through tree plantation, a phenomenon like el-Niño, which causes disasters on the planet, can be avoided. Then, he spoke about the importance of the traditional cropping pattern timeline, and how it’s been disturbed due to climate change. He continued that farmlands must be managed by all farmers, universities, government departments, and volunteers. He said the highlight of the project so far has been the combination of all interventions, with the yoga programs and games, which he believes will gradually raise the consciousness of the rural population. As a yoga teacher, himself, he requested that Isha Foundation provide Inner Engineering courses for the government departments, also.
In his speech, Deputy Conservator of Forests, B N Pingale said that the rivers are like the veins of earth. He never imagined that we would buy water in bottles as we are doing today. He praised Rally for Rivers as a platform given to us by Sadhguru and made clear that it’s up to us how we make use of it. He added that “the volunteers here may not be having deep technical knowledge, but the commitment and mindset they have brought here to work is more important.” He also gave assurance that the forest department is ready to provide technical expertise. He stressed on how to handle wildlife problems, also. Finally, he said that there are enough government schemes, so we can think about taking it to people on the ground immediately, even before the Special Purpose Vehicle is established to supervise the project.
Superintendent Agriculture Officer, N M Kolapkar closed the session on a high note by appreciating Isha Foundation, as it is working for the environment and society.
June 5, World Environment Day
This #WorldEnvironmentDay marks the launch of Waghadi River revitalization project in Yavatmal in collaboration with Govt of Maharashtra. We express our gratitude to all who made this landmark initiative a reality. -Sadhguru
What Will the Nadi Veeras Be Up To Now?
From June 19th, Nadi Veeras have begun sitting down with sarpanches and lead influencers, and they are gathering information for key entry point activities that will help build rapport with the villages. As a part of this endeavor, they are developing their understanding of all of the farmers’ needs and circumstances that are relevant to the project. These include the enhancement of the water supply, storage structures for water, wildlife attacks, access to the government schemes, and tree plantations utilized to address the nutritional needs of the community, and taking the help of the local government to get these issues addressed. Meanwhile, they continue to conduct yoga and games as activities to mobilize the community.
Editor’s Note: We are looking forward to a major scaling up in on-ground action in 2019. Join us and become a part of the driving force. Register to volunteer full-time at RallyforRivers.org.