It all started last year at Dasnagar village in the Charilam Assembly segment of the district.
The Tripura government provided biogas plants, solar-powered pumps and other devices, biofertilisers and the likes to the 64 families in the village and trained them in their use and maintenance.
“We provided technical expertise on sustainable practices to the villagers. They were provided training on maintaining the biogas plants. Our directorate of biotechnology coordinated all efforts,” state Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Deb Burman told Swarajya over phone from state capital Agartala.
Early last month, Dasnagar earned the unique distinction of becoming the first ‘modified bio-village’ in the country. Four more villages in the district have, since then, been declared as such.
Deb Burman, who is also the Charilam MLA, said that the whole idea was to transform and improve not only the economic plight, but also the lifestyle of the villagers.
“The objective is to make the lifestyle and livelihood activities of the people completely environment-friendly and make the villages just not carbon neutral but carbon negative,” said the Deputy Chief Minister.
What The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government Did
Provided equipment for setting up small biogas plants for a cluster of four to five households. These plants now power biomass cookers in every kitchen, and villagers have completely stopped using firewood and kerosene for cooking.
Provided solar-power equipment to every household to meet their power needs. All electrical fixtures in all the households of the five villages now run on solar power.
Subsidised purchase of power-saving devices by the villagers. Also provided solar-powered water pumps for irrigating farmlands.
Identified and then provided training to a couple of unemployed young men for maintaining and repairing the biogas plants, solar-power generating units and related devices in the five villages. This has provided them a steady livelihood opportunity.
Joined hands with public-sector financial institutions to help villagers purchase solar-powered and battery-operated agricultural equipment like tillers. The state government provided subsidies and also acted as the guarantor to villagers taking loans for purchase of such equipment.
Provided biofertilisers and biopesticides to the farmers. State government departments also provided intensive training to the farmers in use of these biofertilisers and biopesticides and adoption of environment-friendly and climate-friendly agricultural practices.
Provided high-yielding seeds for cultivating paddy, vegetables and cash crops.
Micro-irrigation projects like constructing small check-dams, digging wells and constructing canals were undertaken. Rainwater harvesting projects were introduced and villagers were trained in their use.
State veterinary department provided improved breeds of pigs, cattle and poultry to the villagers. The villagers were also trained in mushroom cultivation and bee-keeping.
Villagers have also been trained in pisciculture and a number of types of fish which fetch good prices have been introduced.
Incomes of the villagers have increased substantially. Household incomes have increased by a minimum of Rs 5,500 a month, and some enterprising families have reported an increase in household monthly incomes by over Rs 15,000.
A Few Examples Amply Illustrate This
— Sunita Deb Burman, resident of Borkubari — the first tribal village in India to have transformed itself into a biovillage — earned Rs 20,000 last month by selling four piglets in the local market.
Hampshire breed pigs were provided to the tribal households by the state government a few months ago.
Sunita, 40, also sells ducklings of the Khaki Campbell breed (provided to her by the veterinary department), and that fetches her about Rs 6,000 a month.
Consequently, the lifestyle of the Deb Burman family has changed dramatically and Sunita and her husband now dream of sending their two sons and daughter to college and then for professional courses.
— Pradip Deb Barman, a farmer in Borkubari, was trained in sustainable agricultural practices, provided biofertilisers and biopesticides and provided help in purchasing a mini tiller.
He was also given high-yielding varieties of seeds for cultivating paddy and other cash crops. His income for agriculture has gone up by about Rs 6,000 a month.
— Kunti Deb Barman, 65, faced a bleak future after her husband passed away two years ago. With her only son working as a construction labourer in western India, she had little to sustain herself with.
Earlier this year, she was taught bee-keeping and mushroom cultivation. The state government provided all materials and know-how and hand-held her, like it did to all other beneficiaries of various schemes in the five villages.
Kunti now earns enough — over Rs 7,000 a month on an average — to sustain herself and even save a bit.
The BJP government in Tripura is now extending this project to 100 more villages in a phased manner.
“By mid-2023, we aim to modify more than a hundred villages in our state into bio-villages,” said the Deputy Chief Minister.
The Deputy Chief Minister, who holds the power, finance, science and technology, environment and panchayat and rural development portfolios, has been instrumental in planning and implementing this initiative.
“Another critical component of the entire project is to bring about holistic socio-economic development of rural communities in the state. Adoption of climate and environment-friendly practices and lifestyles will also improve the health of the villagers and that will trigger a number of incremental benefits,” explained Jishnu Deb Barman.
While enhancing household incomes and making villages carbon-negative, the state government is also targeting social evils like alcohol- and substance-abuse.
Also, providing easier access to healthcare facilities and education, especially for girls, have been dovetailed into the project.
“The broader objective is to make our villagers completely environment-friendly and models in use of green technologies as well as sustainable livelihoods, root out all social evils, and have healthy, prosperous and well-educated villagers. Our ultimate aim is to position Tripura, especially its villages, very high on the national happiness index,” said the Deputy Chief Minister.
Tripura, said state BJP president Rajiv Bhattacharjee, is walking down the path of development since the saffron party formed the government in the state in 2018.
“Decades of misrule by the Left and the Congress had pauperised the state and its people and Tripura was one of the worst-performing states in many indices. But that has been changing and this project to transform our villages into bio-villages will go down as a major initiative in rural development that will be emulated all across the country,” he said.
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