They are trained to kill, and now, till. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel of 197 Battalion camping at Thalkobad village in West Singhbhum have begun vegetable cultivation in front of their camp to meet their daily food needs.
The camp was established in 2013 to fight Maoists and requires 20 kg to 30 kg of vegetables, 50 litres of milk and around 20 kg of chicken or mutton daily. Initially, they were hesitant to source vegetables from villagers out of fear, and travelling 15 km daily to Karampada or Kiriburu to buy vegetables became difficult.
So, they decided to make things happen. Under the guidelines of assistant commandant of the CRPF, Jitwahan Oraon, they began farming on 10 decimal area, which is roughly 4,350 sq ft.
They grow bottle gourd/calabash, ladies’ fingers, tomato, brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower, green chilli, papaya, spinach, spices and various other food items. Around 10 CRPF men take turn to work on farm.
With passage of time, they struck a chord with villagers and gained their confidence by providing them seeds for free and tipping them about modern techniques in cultivation.
Kishor Honhaga, a resident of Thalkobad, said: “Villagers are getting information on agriculture from CRPF for better production. We apply their methods at our fields that help us in getting more price at market.”
Oraon said: “We require 50 litres of milk and over 20 kg of chicken or mutton daily. Local unemployed youths may be trained for starting poultry farming, fishery and dairy farming. I have discussed with the officials of the forest department for providing loan to villagers to start these businesses. This will help CRPF in meeting daily food requirements and villagers’ lifestyle will improve.”
Divisional forest officer (DFO) of Saranda, KK Tiwari said: “The forest department is dedicated to improve the lifestyle of villagers. Under the Integrated Watershed Development Programme we will provide agriculture and horticulture-based training to youths, including those who reside near CRPF camps. Cowsheds have been constructed in various villages under the programme.”