Welcoming a hero

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Who embraced common sense and cut agricultural costs

MEDIA outfits, like other kinds of institutions, have their ways of identifying themselves with a better world. This is when magazines and newspaper move beyond what they can show through reportage. They launch into a campaign, push into the reader's face editorialized content, run a series on a chosen subject, launch a relief fund for victims of a disaster, or invite a guest editor. Some of these go down well, others do not.

These are glimpses into the character of a publication. Readers get to ascribe some features to the invisible hands clicking away at keyboards or on the shutter release of a camera. There are publications that feel the need to appeal to the moral side of their readers, (What a bad idea, Sirji!) some media houses run campaigns to bring justice to victims of a particular crime, and TV channels trying to make citizen journalists out of viewers.

At Down To Earth, we look for stories of examples to learn from. A village that has turned around its fortune through sensible management of its ecology, a scientist whose research serves the public good, a government official with a difference, a non-profit touching the lives of a vulnerable group of people. In these times when agrarian distress is too ubiquitous a story, it is not often that one finds a farmer who has innovated to bring down his cost of cultivation. (Not ready for rabi)

Shyam Mohan Tyagi has done exactly that. But there is a bigger reason we have carried a full page picture of his. He has reduced his costs by using organic manure from human excreta collected in a community toilet. This also means his soil is healthier. Such examples tell us the nature of ecological democracy. Several people in the village have a toilet that affords them more dignity than defecating in the open--of course, they do find it uncomfortable, which has more to do with cultural conditioning than toilet design. As the soil has better texture, the crop requires fewer rounds of irrigation. This is why people like Tyagi get top billing in our magazine because they go against existing mindsets to follow common sense.

Urban areas need such ideas for a different reason. Indian cities have turned rivers into sewers by releasing untreated sewage. Ecosan toilets would ensure than nutrients go to the soil and don't pollute our rivers. Few ideas for a better India have such power.

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