K A Gupta-GUMLA: Till a few years ago, Sarita Devi, a tribal woman of Silam village in Gumla, had hardly any money to buy vegetables. Her labourer husband Kartik Oraon somehow managed to make the two ends meet for the family.
But now the lives of Sarita and her family members have undergone a sea change. This became possible after the woman along with eight others like Phulmani Devi, Gohma Devi, Pariba Devi, Bolo Devi founded the Gumla Gramin Poultry Cooperative Society in 2002. Sumati Devi, the present president, presided over the recent annual general meeting of the cooperative.
Sarita had remained the president of the state’s largest cooperative society with 729 women members for the past four years till 2011 – a unique case of empowerment of rural women under a cooperative which has been financially supported by the government since 2003.
“Now I feel economically comfortable. Whatever be the prices of vegetables these days, I buy them which I found to be very difficult in the past,” Sarita said. “We are constructing our house which will cost over Rs 6 lakh. We also have an LPG cylinder for cooking and have also bought a new bike and have invested in five life insurances and our children also study in private English medium schools.”
She has her own poultry farm from which she earns over Rs 4,000 per month in addition to the benefit she gets from the society’s annual profit as a shareholder. Her husband receives an average of Rs 84,000 as commission for supervising 45 poultry farms at the village.
Sarita is not alone who has benefited herself from the cooperative. The standard of living and lifestyle of most of the members of this cooperative has gone up. These rural women now use cellular phones, watch TV and are educating their children in English medium schools besides saving some money for future too.
Sitamuni Devi of Kondarkella village in Palkot block of the district, too, is now happy with her association with the cooperative. She said, “Eight years ago, I used to sell at a minimum price of Rs 20 – Rs 22 per bundle firewood after collecting them from the forest. Today I am the head of my house because I support it. I feel very happy that I am now able to educate my children in school and am leading a much better life than the miserable past,” she said.
This cooperative with 15 members has grown manifold with more women joining it even as and its production is also expanding.
The cooperative built its own feed production centre, water tanks and a godown when then DC Sunil Kumar provided Rs 25 lakh under Swarnajayanti Grameen Swarozgar Yojna (SGSY) in 2005.
But the cooperative got its first financial support worth Rs 12. 53 lakh for construction of poultry sheds and godown, training and working capital in 2003 and then Rs 10 lakh for erecting 100 poultry sheds in 2005. In 2007, the micro social and economic organization on behalf of the State Tribal Welfare Commission (TWC) provided it Rs 9.95 lakh as working capital for the cooperative. Same year, it received Rs 25 lakh for construction of 125 poultry sheds under the Special SGSY from the Centre and more than Rs 14 lakh and Rs 9 lakh from the TWC in 2008 and in 2010 as working capital. Also, its members were supported from the DRDA under the SGSY, said DDC Punai Oraon.