The man who has 10,000 ducks : Langei- Empowering a community
Its about a 7 kilometre drive from Khurai Lamlong bazar towards the Tinsid road, you cross Mega Manipur School and head up a small hillock, as you drive down, a signboard will greet you saying that the entire village of Nongpok Sanjenbam is under CCTv coverage. A series of colourful bamboo poles will guide you to Langei farm.
What strikes one first is the number of poultry kept at the farm, at least 10,000 ducks and 5000 chickens are reared free range. One duck cost Rs 600 and the choicest rooster will cost Rs 900. As per feedback received from Langei customers, the taste of the meat is different as the birds are reared in a natural environment and their diet is supplemented with organic feed. One can also buy fresh eggs as the Langei farm produces around 2000 eggs on a daily basis and the price is cheaper than the market rate.
Langei International, a co-operative society has more surprises under its belt. It runs a loin loom project which employs around 150 women. A mineral water unit which distributes drinking water free of cost to the villagers, a sports academy for children of the village having 5 disciplines, 300 LED bulbs installed within the village and operated by Langei, 32 cameras are put up in the village, a public address system is kept and announcements reach every corner of the village. A sanitation campaign is conducted every Sunday and the children are taught to keep the environment clean and plastic free. Routine health checks are conducted free of cost for the Langei employees.
“We have 13 projects in mind,” said Telem Arunkumar, the man behind the Langei project. He is the fifth sibling among eight born to Telem Tombi and Pramoda. With a B.Com degree from DM college, Arunkumar at 44 now employs 200 people, he started the project in January 2 this year. The farm encompasses a total of 5 hectares of land which is owned by the community of Nongpok Sanjembam at Imphal East.
“With my business, I was self-sufficient. However, the villagers mostly have no land and their lifestyle didn’t change for the last many decades. Poverty and unemployment loomed large,” he said adding that he had several consultations with some of the villagers before actual implementation started in Langei, the objective of which was to eradicate poverty from Sanjenbam village. “Now there are lesser lumpen elements as men who were unemployed work as farmhands,” he said and added that some families who used to brew and sell liquor have joined the Langei work force as a couple and can earn a better salary and an honest living working at the farm. Incidence of crime has also come down drastically after the implementation of the project and its accumulative results.
Success did not come easy as Arunkumar had a tough time trying to unite the villagers. At first, he talked to a small group of women and eventually the crowd became larger with time. “ I told them that I would put my money in this project. My idea and proposal were construed negatively as they thought that I was after their land. It was tough at first trying to convince people,” he added, “ a small drop of water is insignificant, but if the droplets are collected, they can quench the thirst of people, we began with this philosophy.”
He said further that he and the villagers do not need any help from the government and nor have they asked for anything either. “We don’t need any support from the government, we are now self- reliant. Our organization is still not registered yet, we just believe in work, we at Langei are not interested in politics also,” Arun said. His workers ranging from octogenarian women to teenage men earn from Rs 5000 to RS 10,000 per month. The farm sells poultry products and the women doles out three phaneks (wraparound) every day, each selling at Rs 3000. In Arunkumar’s (Langei /Treasure trove), he has shown how the collective can usher in positive change to the village community.
One is reminded of Charles Metcalfe, a British administrator and his view of the Indian village communities in the 1830s, and reproduce a quote from him, “The village communities are little republics, having nearly everything that they want within themselves, and almost independent of any foreign relations. They seem to last where nothing else lasts. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds to revolution; Hindoo, Pathan, Moghul, Mahratta, Sikh, English, are all masters in turn, but the village communities remain the same.” In a growing dependent society, Arunkumar’s Langei may perhaps be a miniature model on community sustenance and the key to a more resilient community with better inputs and ideas for a self sustaining community.
Putting on some music from the radio through the speakers to the women working the loin looms, Arunkumar asked over the microphone softly, “How is everyone?” Instantly echoed the collective reply, “We are good!”
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