The camel was dead, apparently it slipped off a narrow muddy path and went sliding down into a large ditch. As the rains pounded Surajgarh, the ditch got filled with water and the camel unable to drag itself out, drowned in this ditch. Dalu Gameti had allowed his camel to go up in the hills for grazing as he had done many times before. As sundown beckoned, he frantically searched for his camel, the rain impeded his search and he was only able to spot his camel when the sky cleared up, three days later.
Surajgarh is a heavily forested area with dense hills. It also has a fort which existed since pre-British times and now lies in a dilapidated condition. This place is also known for wildlife especially frequent sightings of the panther. It’s quite difficult for vehicles to reach houses here. People living around these areas need to lug bundles of hay-stack, wood, mud and stones. Whenever a family needs hay for their cattle urgently and or has run out of firewood, Dalu and his camel pitch in. Not only Surajgarh but also other places, in and around Gogunda block, with a similar hilly terrain request Nana for his services. On an average, he earns anywhere between Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 per day for his transportation services, making life comfortable for his family of six, four of whom are children.
Dalu Partha Gameti, 38, is heavily dependent on his camel for his livelihood. During other times, he works as a mason but his income from the camel is almost equivalent to that of his other source. He was under enormous pressure now, monsoon meant that construction work had slowed down to a trickle and now he was solely dependent on his camel for feeding his entire family. Facing a shortage of construction work alongside the death of his camel dealt him a double blow and he had no source of livelihood left. Also, his cousin’s camel, now alone, was not as effective. Camels, like us human beings, love to work in groups. A camel’s efficiency is reduced when it does not have the company of other camels. There wasn’t one but two families who were affected here.
Here’s where Shram Sarathi stepped in, Nana was already a Shram Sarathi client and was now eligible for a loan of Rs. 15,000. A new healthy camel roughly costs between Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000. Nana obtained a new camel for a lesser amount and put in Rs. 10,000 from his own savings alongside help from friends and family. Shram Sarathi disbursed the loan amount within three days of his application and Nana was able to restart his source of livelihood within a week of losing his camel.
Apart from providing micro-loans, Shram Sarathi also delivers other services like savings, insurance and pension. The writer never once imagined that he will get to know the cost of buying a camel and never thought that a camel is as useful in hilly areas as it is in the deserts of Rajasthan.
*Names changed for confidentiality