The civilian awards in India, called the Padma Awards, were given by the government of India on the Indian Republic Day on 26th January. These awards seek to recognize distinguished service and achievements in all fields that involve public service. Several inspirational and eminent luminaries across fields such as art, social work, sports, trade and industry, and civil service were recognized.
One such inspirational award winner is Rajkumari Devi, also called ‘Kisan Chachi,’ translated as ‘Farmer Aunty’ in English. And the name has been given to her for her astute sense of farming, crop assessment, and crop quality.
Over 65 years old, Devi started off her work in agriculture over four decades back in the small village of Anandpur in Saraiya, Muzaffarpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Married off at an early age, she was then only a demure daughter-in-law whose tasks and life remained confined to domestic chores. Like all other farmers in that area, her husband started off by growing tobacco in one acre of land that he had inherited. However, Devi’s dream of making a better life for her family made her pick up farming herself.
Now, a woman working in the fields was an idea that was absolutely unheard of in her remote village that was bound by societal constraints. However, the spirited Devi was not one to give in to such norms. When her husband would travel to other villages to sell the tobacco crop, she would single-handedly manage the field. Enterprising as she was, she gradually divided the land into multiple portions and began growing fruits and paddy too. And this optimization of land gave her great results as the produce began to thrive. Also, with the effort that she put into farming, she also began gaining much expertise into understanding the nuances of agriculture such as soil quality and the cropping cycle.
Always wanting to enlighten and empower others, Devi spoke to the other women in the neighbourhood and inspired them to begin working too. She not only motivated them but also started several Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in her locality with the intention of making women independent. This was the beginning of a new movement at grass root level for women to gain more independence.
With the produce of fruits flourishing, she moved to another innovative idea of making jams, jellies, and pickles with the fruits because this was one that could start off with little investment. She roped in other women in her village and trained them to join the business. The hard work paid off as the orders increased and the profits began to grow. Today, her pickles and jams are sold across the length and breadth of India. She also has an online website through which the sumptuous products can be ordered.
She has served as a huge inspiration and has touched thousands of lives, helping empower rural women in finding their voice, freedom, and autonomy. Devi has also received multiple awards at state and national levels for the work that she has undertaken to propel the women to independence.
Isn’t this a great example of how nothing is impossible if you are resolute and determined?
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