This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by India Fellow Social Leadership Program. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Movie ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ Is A Tragic Reality In This Udaipur Village

More from India Fellow Social Leadership Program

India fellow logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of a campaign by The India Fellow program on Youth Ki Awaaz. India Fellows spend 13 months working at the grassroots level to bring about real on-ground change. They are also mentored to be socially conscious leaders and contribute to the development of the country. Apply here to be a part of the change.

“… Jisse ghar mein paans paans basse hain, ussa do bigha zameen mein syaa hoga? (What will someone who has five children at home do with two acres of land?)” posed *Jaspal Singh as he closed his response.

His response was to a question asked by me about land ownership in his village, Palesar. And what was I doing asking questions to Jaspal Singh in Palesar, you ask? See, I was there for the rural immersion program as part of the induction training of India Fellow.

Notwithstanding the fact that the good people of Palesar replaced the /k/ and the /chh/ sounds with the /s/ sound in their pronunciation, something that I’d come to realize later, the rhetorical question put across by Jaspal Singh still left me pondering for the rest of my day.

Earlier in the day, I had reached Kotda along with my other group mates after a gruelling travel of two bus rides for 120 kms over three and a half hours from Udaipur city. It was raining cats and dogs when we reached there, and as I got down from the bus, I landed in ankle-deep slurry. In my attempt to be aptly prepared for the rural excursion, I had put on Hawai chappals which proved to be a huge mistake, for it turned out to be quite a task for me as I fretted and trudged in that sludge, my slippers coming undone many times. It was quite a spectacle for the onlookers over there and they couldn’t help but laugh at my predicament to which I could only grin sheepishly. I had already started my excursion on a wrong footing.

This anxiety borne out of personal discomfort stayed with me all the way until Palesar. Just as we disembarked from the jeep near the school village, we were greeted by curious eyes. We decided to take a stroll in the village. We walked until we reached the outskirts of the village where the road led to a broken bridge with a river gushing beneath it. We took off from the road, walked over the stony banks and took an eyeful of the river and the beautiful green hills lining it.

The last of the rain clouds drifted by, hiding the sun, while a sweet after-rains breeze embalmed us. I finally felt at peace there and reconciled to the fact that this wasn’t as horrible as it seemed. We soaked in our surroundings for some time and then decided to go back and interact with the villagers. We had just walked a little bit from where we had come until we encountered Jaspal Singh, chopping fodder from a tree for his livestock. He got talking and told us a lot about the village and its issues, chief being the problem of smaller land holdings – as less as ‘do bigha zamin’. But Jaspal Singh’s life was sorted. He had a family of five kids and he had a land of five bighas.

Ironically, the movie buff that I am, upon hearing the phrase ‘do bigha zamin’, I instantly thought about one of my all-time favourite movies, made by Bimal Roy in 1953. This movie was about the plight of a farmer who is threatened of the selling of his land by the vile landlord from whom he has borrowed money. It leads to the desperate measure of migration from his village to the city to earn money. The living is harsh as he tries hard to make money by working odd jobs including working as a rickshaw-puller. <SPOILER-ALERT> After facing a barrage of exploitation in the city, he returns back to his village only to end up losing his land </SPOILER-ALERT>.

After we parted from Jaspal Singh, we chanced upon *Bhakt Singh, a little further down the village road. Mending the tiles of the roof and relaying them so as to prevent the leak which had been invading the privacy of his small hovel which sheltered a large family of 15 members, he spoke of his difficulty at times trying to earn and fend for his family. When I asked the same question to him, about how much land he owned, he replied with a look of self-pity on his face, ‘do bigha zamin’. It was also evident that he meant it in a way which expressed and directed the pity towards his progeny who would have to live off from even smaller patches of land inherited by them.

What further worried me was the realization that not only were there going to be meagre patches of lands for livelihood in the future, but also that there would be a paucity of space for construction of new houses and expansion of the village as its population grew.

For all of the two days that I spent in Palesar meeting the villagers, almost all of them rued about their smaller land holdings and the impending distress from it; as if problems like uncertain monsoons and financial troubles weren’t already enough. I also got to know that many villagers worked as small-time wage labourers in the off-season for extra income, as there wasn’t much yield from their farming. Whatever exceeded their own consumption could barely be sold.

By the end of my rural immersion, I left Palesar as worried as I had come there. Albeit this time, it wasn’t because of personal discomfort but because of the concern over the terrible state of affairs there. The scenic beauty of the village seemed like a cruel joke in the purview of the imminent tragedy. Unlike the movie, “Do Bigha Zamin”, there is no evil landlord in Palesar, but a precarious future itself which threatens to take the land away from its villagers.

*Names changed to protect identity

Prateek Dwivedi is a 2017 cohort India Fellow, working with Centre For Social Action in Raigad, Maharashtra to support farmers get better value for their produce through community collectives.

You must be to comment.

More from India Fellow Social Leadership Program

Similar Posts

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

By Gaayan

By Ritwik Trivedi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below