Balegowdanahalli: A brave new world?

After losing our way repeatedly we once more find our way back to the marriage festivities at Balegowdanahalli where after a family photo with the two pairs of newlyweds we are dragged off for lunch. Nobody looks like they have lost any sleep at all! When we catch Jagdish in a quieter moment we take him aside to talk to him and his nephew, Subhash.

He is obviously a seasoned politician who has represented his people well in the local bodies having been both in the Gram Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat. He is also one of the most seasoned agriculturists we have seen. Between him and his brothers, they own perhaps more than 20 acres of land on which they are successfully cultivating ragi, maize and tomato.

He tells us that much has changed since 1972 when this settlement came about. This was when 200 acres were granted of which 3 acres were given to each of the families. However finally only some actually got the land while others went away. Most carried on with their traditional businesses and did not take to agriculture. Jagdish was one of the few who held on and became a successful farmer.

He is firmly committed to identifying Hakki Pikki settlements all over and helping each one get their due rights promised to them by the Government which includes basic education. He is very happy with the Morarji Desai special schools where almost 30 students from the settlement are studying in the 10th standard. He has got 40 borewells sanctioned for two settlements that Balegowdanahalli comprises off.

Subhash, who has done his MCom from Manasa Gangotri and is now working for a BPO on the outskirts of Bangalore comes from Rayalpad in Srinivaspura. While most of them have houses nobody there has any title deeds and they cultivate whatever they can. Insightfully he says that in each place the community has adapted to the local surroundings. Those settlements that are located near Kerala have developed deep knowledge about Ayurveda and have used this knowledge to go abroad and do successful business. In his own village in Rayalpadh we are still very poor he says and most still live by hunting since they cannot cultivate. Here in Gouribidnur and Sidlagatta many have better access to land and resources and living among successful farmers has ensured that they have taken well to agriculture that has become their primary occupation.

Intrigued by an idealistic young man, at home in the new world and the old, we head back towards Bangalore.

It will take a while for the incredible dancing spirits of last night to be exorcised from our senses!

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