A silent white revolution

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sakariyapura , a sleepy little village some distance from the chemical township of Nandesari, about 23 kilometres from Vadodara in Gujarat, is experiencing a revolution of sorts. At the outset it looks no different from any other village, but the local women are intensely involved in earning their livelihood in a somewhat unconventional manner.

Waking up at the crack of dawn to milk their cows and buffaloes, the women are busy till milk-collecting vans roll in from Vadodara. Initially, one wonders what makes these women different from the millions of others who perform this simple task everyday. What sets them apart is they manage the dairy entirely on their own. Further, they are making 100 per cent profits. This routine task is performed twice a day and after retaining some milk for their own consumption, they deposit the rest with the dairy owners.

An interesting fact is that, a couple of years ago, the dairy was managed by the menfolk and was running at a loss. Besides, there were complaints of adulteration from the dairy owners. That is when a local non-governmental organisation ( ngo ), Deepak Charitable Trust ( dct ), intervened and suggested that the women take up the task. Thus, the dairy that had been almost defunct for nearly eight years was reactivated. The profit made by the Sakariyapura dairy for the financial year April 1998 to March 1999 was an astounding Rs 5,33,341.67.
Power to the women Empowerment, more rights to the people, especially women, are words that have almost become synonymous with high-flying seminars or lopsided government programmes. This, however, does not hold true for pockets of Gujarat. Owing to relentless work being done by a few individuals and ngo s, a brighter future awaits the beneficiaries. dct, for one , has been working in Nandesari to better the lives of people of this otherwise backward area since the last 10 years. Its efforts to spread awareness, primarily regarding health and hygiene, among the men and women living in the area seem to be paying off finally. Apart from this, it is also closely involved in making the women economically independent and involves them in decision-making processes.

In Sakariyapura, their experiment with reviving the defunct dairy by involving women is now paying rich dividends.

Says Lalitaben Hatisinh, president of the dairy committee: "I did not even know how to count money properly but now I maintain an account book, which is later checked by the field workers at the dct .' Another woman proudly adds: "It certainly is a nice feeling being able to earn our own living. The fact that we now do not have to be miserly or dependent wholly on men makes things a lot better for us.'

Asked what they do with the extra money they now earn, most of them say they can now buy some basic amenities of life