Rajasthan covers more than 10% of area on the map of INDIA. Rajasthan, well known for its recurring droughts, belongs to an arid (60%) and semi-arid (40%) region having only about 1% of the total surface water resources of the country to quench its thirst.
Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) works in around 1000 villages of the semi-arid region of Rajasthan. The area lies along the foothills and main ranges of the Aravalis, and includes the Sariska National Park. This is a harsh and semi-arid land with temperatures fluctuating from 0 degrees Celsius in winters to 49 degrees Celsius in summers. The average rainfall when the monsoon is kind is around 620 mm. Ninety percent of the rainfall occurs during the monsoon months (July to September).
Topographically, the tract may be divided into two zones: the hilly area, and the plains. Demographically, the area has two major communities; the Meenas, making 60% of the population and are primarily subsistence farmers in the plains area, and the Gujjars comprising 25% of the population who live in the hill areas and are engaged in animal husbandry.
Forests here are deciduous in nature, typical of desert vegetation. The bio-diversity of this region is one of the most significant in the country and about 12000 wild species of flora and over 5000 wild species are found in this area. Most of the ethnic groups and subgroups of the Indo-gangetic plains are found this district.
In the thirties, the district of Alwar in the green valleys of the Aravalli hills was a prosperous land. But a prince, with an eye cocked on a free India that would take away his primacy, sold off the rights to the timber on the hills. In ten swift years, contractors laid the land low.
Before 1930s, people of this region had a symbiotic relationship with the existing natural resource base. Besides, subsistence agriculture, the forests, grasslands and animals make up the food security system of the area. These are considered as common property resources and were traditionally managed by a set of strict rules, which ensured optimum utilisation, preservation of biodiversity and regeneration.
After fifties, government came into picture. Over the years, the remaining sustainable means of livelihood have been systematically destroyed in the various developmental initiatives. Industrial processes initiated by the state and the central government led to excessive mining and the consequent large-scale deforestation for timber resulting in severe land degradation, which increased the frequency of flash floods and unnatural droughts.
Over a period of time, as control over community water resources passed on to the Government, these community structures were also degraded.
- Villagers lost motivation to manage the traditional water system
- The helm of eco-degeneration started revolving
- An enormous hardship for the community, particularly women amplified
- Land owners joined landless labourers on a trek to Delhi and Agra to toil for small sums to send home. Families broke up
For fifty years, a whole new generation did not know that there had been hope and fertility once around them.