Our Response to COVID-19

Field Report! Chris from Ransai Maharashtra

Ransai Village, Maharashtra

Feb 11-16

From Ahmedabad, we made our way to Mumbai on an early train, reaching the Navi Mumbai ashram in time for tea. The local devotee who has been working the most with the Ransai Village people met us in the evening, after haven taken a group of nearly 100 to the local bank earlier to set up accounts for everyone. Over 85% of the people there did not have a bank account and were being left out of a number of government services because of it. At the same
time, the group of Ransai women who have been making crafts and stitching clothes formally registered their SHG and started the process to open an account. It had taken the local devotee four months of pleading with these people to make the trip, as many did not trust the bank or anything to do with the government. It seems much of the initiatives started by the Mumbai ashram in service to this village have progressed in a similar way: very slow and painful at first, but then with a final success. Last year, a health camp for all 200 villagers was arranged in response to an outbreak of malaria and fever. Only 20 people came; the rest gave some excuse or another and stayed home. For some months now, a community hall building proposal has been discussed with some initial support and then much apathy. Only now that bank accounts have been opened and the promise of more ashram services, provided an adequate meeting hall is constructed, have the villagers come together to sign the necessary petition to the Gram Panchayat for building permissions. A similar course is unfolding for the toilet building.My colleague and I spent 2 days in Ransai Village, promoting the course, answering questions, and gathering information on local conditions. The women we spoke to are very eager to have a toilet, and seem ready to learn how to do it. They were especially moved to hear that Amma has taken a special interest in the measurements of the toilet. Before leaving Amritapuri, Amma told Bhavani chechi that the toilet dimensions should be just like Amma’s private toilet, plus 2ft all around. When the Ransai women heard this, they smiled brightly, and said how kind Amma is to consider their needs and provide them with a good size toilet.After the second day, some issues began arising. This is the beginning of the hot, dry season for the area. Normally by March their local well has dried up, and they all migrate 10km away to the nearby dam for water and slightly cooler climate. If the proposed start of the toilet course is

April, this will be the hottest and driest month before the May rains come. They all said there would not be enough water even to mix the cement for construction. In conversation with Avyayamrita Swamiji and Makhijaniji (local sevite), we may consider renting a water tanker for this purpose. Still, the heat may prove to be daunting. The other alternative is to wait until after the rains finish in September.

Thankfully, procuring tools and materials will not be a problem at all. The Mumbai ashram has recently finished a renovation project and has developed strong relationships with local shops. On the 3rd day of our time in Mumbai, we visited one of these suppliers and got from him a piece-wise estimate of almost all of the materials and tools we would need. This man also happens to be a Rajasthani, and was excited to hear that I will soon be going there for the same project. He promised to help me source local materials there as well. The shop requires only 2-3 days advanced notice to get all of the bulk materials together and he is ready to go whenever we are.

The local ashram is helping with a number of other services in the village: A recent meeting with the MLA and the local Panchayat heads successfully got a proposal to construct a drinking water pipeline to the village, with the promise that within 6-8months each house would have a water tap. Solar lights are being researched, to be eventually installed in the houses. Tuition classes for the children are held once per week. Several busses will be arranged to bring these people to Amma’s program in March. Local college-age devotees are proposing water harvesting techniques to help trap water and recharge the wells.