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Who will reform the Bhanwra Jogis of India?

By Virma Ram | Last Updated: Thursday, August 19, 2010 - 00:49
 
Virma Ram
A voice of Thar
 

In recent days, our country has once again turned attention towards population growth and family planning programmes. For the first time in 33 years, there has been a debate in Parliament on the issue. A lot of hue and cry was raised in Parliament as well as throughout the country by policy makers (politicians - bureaucrats) and intellectuals. Concerns were raised, suggestions were given, and discussions were held on the growing population of our country. Amidst all this, media too played a significant role.

India was one of the first countries to initiate family planning and population control methods. The plan was prepared way back in 1952 but the implementation was not proper. The 70s saw some positive steps being taken in this direction and the ‘red triangle’ (symbol of family planning programme) was popularized by the Indira Gandhi government. Soon, there was an aggressive and full-fledged awareness campaign on population control notwithstanding the controversies surrounding it.

From 70s till the present day, the government has spent huge amounts of money on birth control programmes. Official figures indicate that the index of people adopting family planning measures has increased by more than three times. For example, it has risen from 13% in 1966 to almost 48% in 2009. But most of the people adopting contraception are from urban background and upper class and evidently, this programme has not done too well with the poor people of rural India – considered to be real India or Bharat. Even now, the success of this programme in the villages seems to be a distant dream.

The story of ‘Bhanwra Jogi’ and his family is the perfect example to underline the closed mentality of some of the rural folk, when it comes to family planning. Bhanwra is the resident of a village, which is close to my hometown Barmer, Rajasthan. He belongs to the ‘Jogi’ caste, which is considered very backward in the area. He and his family make a living through their traditional practice i.e. begging.

But the most startling thing is that Bhanwra, who is in his late thirties, has already fathered 13 children. His ten children are surviving, while 3 have died due to various reasons. When pressurized by the villagers to ask his wife to get sterilization surgery done, he blatantly refused. The villager, who can be termed as the ‘poorest of the poor’, is a staunch opponent of family planning measures. He considers children as gifts of God and has reportedly told the villagers that he would rather leave the village, than adopt family planning measures.

The dejected villagers have decided to leave him on his own. Nowadays poor Bhanwra makes a living by making bamboo products. And shockingly, his wife is pregnant again and she has no option but to beg along with her daughters for sustenance.

Bhanwra is not the only one who has refrained from taking up family planning measures. There are countless others like Bhanwras across rural India. From Anganwadi activists to leaders of our country, no one can help people like Bhanwra. It’s a pity that even after 58 years, nothing phenomenal could be done to impose the ‘red triangle’ on illiterate people of a stubborn mind-set. All ways and means including forceful implementation of family planning methods to cash incentives have failed miserably.

I think education is the most suitable way out. I still remember that when Bhanwra was in school, the teacher of a ‘so called high caste’ used to rebuke him by saying, “You are of the Jogi caste, what will you do by studying!” But perhaps the teacher forgot that such people are the backbone of India and it is more than essential to educate them. Or else, we will have a crippled society suffering from population explosion and other maladies of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty.

First Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010 - 00:49

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