Everything has a solution
At the age of 12, Rajkumari Devi became a bride and set foot into a farming family in a small village in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where tobacco was predominantly grown and sold, reports The Hindu Business Line. Troubles soon ensued for her in the family, as she failed to bear any children. Years later, when she became the mother of two girls and a boy, it led to the division of property by her father-in-law for whom Rajkumari’s daughters were an undesirable burden.
With some land in hand and three kids to feed and tend to, Rajkumari Devi jumped in to assist her husband in the tobacco farm. She toiled hard on the farm while her husband was away to sell tobacco. This exposure helped her learn the nitty-gritty of farming. As a mother, she donned the role of a farmer to provide a better future for her kids against all opposition from her in-laws and husband. They dissuaded her as they were concerned about the societal restraints, as no woman before had ever become a farmer in their village. Rajkumari found a solution for herself. She decided to work after sunset when no one can see her, states Business Standard.
There is no end to learning
Even with familiar problems after her marriage, a determined Rajkumari Devi strived to complete her schooling. Through education, she realised the harmful effects of cultivating and using tobacco. She was successful in persuading her husband to allow her to grow fruits and vegetables in their land. The first crop of potatoes turned a disaster due to annual flooding which made her learn to grow different plants in low-lying areas. This marked the beginning of her successful farming career which inspired many, including her husband who thereafter encouraged her in every step.
Efforts to do good
Seeing the way farming had changed her own life, Rajkumari Devi was keen to share her knowledge and experience with other women, urging them to come out and help their families to be financially well. However, working on the farm and managing household chores left Rajkumari little time to do so. This is when she learnt to ride a bicycle to travel from village to village, convincing the womenfolk to join her in farming. The practice earned her the name ‘Cycle Chachi’. She was forty years old at that time.
Though she initially faced disapproval from the community, her zeal persisted, and her success silenced all criticism. Soon, she came to be hailed as everyone’s beloved ‘Kisan Chachi’.
Her efforts have been instrumental in forming Self Help Groups (SHGs) and empowering women to be independent through farming. She was conferred Kisan Shri Award by Bihar government, was lauded personally by the Chief Ministers of Bihar and Gujarat.
Decisions determine destiny
Learning that farmers earn less on their raw produce, Kisan Chachi has turned entrepreneur. She deduced that by selling a kilogram of potatoes, farmers earn only 10 rupees whereas a packet of potato chips would fetch them 20-30 rupees. A businessperson would make at least 40-50 rupees on the same. She thus decided to procure the raw material from the women farmers of the SHGs and employed other women to assist her in converting the produce to jams, pickles and processed foods. Her indigenous products became widely known in the metropolitan cities for their quality, thus putting the small town of Muzaffarpur on the national map. She is now an advocate for farming and women empowerment.
Kisan Chachi is an exemplary personality who showed how grit and sincere work can change the destiny of a person and the people around. Her Padma Shri award does justice to her incredible contribution and achievements. She continues to empower individuals and the society proving why simplicity, yearning, learning and hard work are the keys to success.
Written by: Janusha Pulla (Intern)