As her parents are gearing up to migrate to Western Maharashtra for sugarcane-cutting season, young Vishranti Maind from Maindwadi village in Beed district of Maharashtra is focused on another task. This tenth-standard student is preparing for her exams and wants to pursue her higher education with one target in her mind – to change the identity of Beed district that is known as the district of sugarcane cutters.
As Vishranti chokes recalling the hardship of her parents, her friends in Sane Guruji Residential School for children of sugarcane cutters at Keij come to rescue her.
Ruplai Ashok Maind, another student explains why all of them want to earn a new identity for their district. “Where ever we go we are recognized as (people from) the district of sugarcane cutters. We are treated as worthless and people despise us. Our district is economically backward. The land is not productive as there is no water. All people go for sugarcane cutting. The situation is not good and hence, students don’t get education opportunities”.
Sapna Wadne from the tenth standard says that, because they are children of sugarcane cutters, there are very few opportunities to complete their education. “If we have to improve the economic condition, we must have the education. Education will also make us aware of our own rights” she says. Sapna dreams of living a “good” life.
In search of livelihood
Sugarcane harvesters from other States to cut Maharashtra cane90 lakh tonnes of sugarcane still standing in the fields
According to the State Government, about 9-10 lakh sugarcane cutters migrate from 13 districts to other districts, mainly to Western Maharashtra for the sugarcane cutting season.
“Majority of parents take their girls with them for sugarcane cutting as they are worried about their safety. Despite Government’s announcements for many years, there are not enough measures taken to ensure continuity of education of girls” says Asha Bahirawal, a sugarcane cutter from Pimpalwadi.
“Parents think that the safest option is to marry their young girls before migrating for sugarcane cutting. The number of child marriages is high in the region and we are putting all efforts to stop child marriages and encourage parents to educate girls” says Ashok Tangade, President of the Child Welfare Committee in Beed.
Rutuja Choure, Jivachiwadi says, she wants to become a police officer in the future. “We will have to get rid of this tag of the district of sugarcane cutters. Those who call us cane cutters must understand our situation,” she says. When she was in the eighth standard, she accompanied her parents for cane cutting and was shaken inside.
“I cried that day witnessing the hardship in cane cutting. I told my father that he should not do this work. He said it was his helplessness,” says Rutuja, who decided to continue her education to change this helplessness.
What politicians in the district couldn’t do for decades, these young girls are determined to do it. Change the identity of Beed from ‘district of sugarcane cutters’ to ‘district of change makers’.