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Ushering in a revolution

At first glance you are bound to be disappointed by chaukas. A rather plain looking field is hardly an innovation likely to capture imagination, but it is ushering a sea change in Rajasthan as villages are clamouring to have them in their pasturelands. And, the person most sought after and feted is the innovator of the technique, Laxman Singh of Laporia. A look at the reasons behind the popularity of chaukas and the man behind them.

india Updated: May 24, 2003 19:03 IST

Nothing speaks as eloquently as success. This dictum has found ample proof in the person of Laxman 'chauka' Singh.

Singh's innovation, the chauka, is a system of retaining water to recharge the groundwater.

A living, or rather flourishing testimony to the success of his idea is his village Laporia, about a 100 kilometres from Rajasthan's state capital, Jaipur. Even at the height of an unprecedented drought, there are fields that are lush green and the people are still earning from them.

However, it was not always this away. When Laxman Singh, now 47-year old, was born the village was rather desolate and barren. Though the son of the village chief, it was a rather impoverished childhood as successive years of dependence on rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism had worked positively for the village's economies.

Beginnings: Singh studied in the village's primary school, which had classes up to class five. After that, he enrolled in Jaipur's Poddar School. However, right from his late teens, the poor condition of his village had disturbed him and engaged his attention.

Once, home during holidays from school, Singh was more than usually perturbed by the conditions in his village. It was not just the pathetic economic condition that disturbed him, it was the extremely backward and inward looking social practices that he found unnerving. The name of the village comes from the local word for mad, lapod, he explains. He was determined that some day Laporia would be known for more worthy reasons.

He decided to stay back and start working on his father's fields. His father had about 900 bighas of land, of which he started work on 20. It was not easy, he recollects - from sleeping just for two to three hours a day, and that too on bullock carts, to ensuring the animals did not eat up his plants - life was not easy.

First Published: May 24, 2003 19:03 IST