“The future of India lies in its villages,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Today, in our atrophic cities, as we seem to be caught in a morass of agony and despair, Gandhi’s prophecy resonates more than ever before.
The protagonist of The Organic Seed (Naati Beeja) – G.H. Kashinath takes you closer to the thought. Approximately 250 kms away from the Silicon Valley of India is Giriyapura village in Chikmagalur, and it is here that G.H. Kashinath, an ordinary man who has done extraordinary deeds lives. Bengaluru-based young filmmaker Adithyaa Sadashiv builds a fetching portrait of the farmer Giriyapura Halappa Kashinath in his one and a half-hour long documentary, The Organic Seed. The film is presented by Vinyasa Studios, production house founded by the 24-year-old Adithyaa’s father, M.S. Murthy, in the late 80s.
Kashinath spent a comfortable childhood in an agricultural family. He was a bright student too, but chose not to pursue higher studies, instead decided to learn through lived experiences. Kashinath travelled across several villages in Karnataka to understand the challenges of the farmers.
These learnings, coupled with his zeal to reform, led him on a singular path of development. Adithyaa’s film captures Kashinath’s resolute pursuit to change agricultural and social practices in his village. The film builds the narrative through expansive shots of the fields, intimate views of Kashinath’s house and interviews with family members, villagers, and IAS officers whom he came in contact with.
Adithyaa hadn’t heard about Kashinath until his friend approached him to make a film. “There has been no media coverage of Kashinath. I didn’t know about him nor was I really clued into agriculture. When I started talking to Kashinath I realised that farmers can do so much themselves, like he has done,” says Adithyaa.
The farmers in the village were growing traditional crops like ragi and maize that required high investment but gave low returns. He introduced eight varieties of Indof ragi crop and prodded farmers to grow chilli, different varieties of corn and sunflower. Kashinath also persuaded the farmers to plant onion seeds rather than onion sprouts to get a bountiful harvest.
GMN Swamy, retired librarian of Sri Gurukrupa High School, recalls in the film. “Nobody had seen onion seeds in the village before that. First he experimented with it and when he felt satisfied, he asked other farmers to do it. It yielded such high returns and led to so much improvement in our lives. Today every household in the village has an educated person because of Kashinath.”
Kashinath was averse to chemical fertilisers, so he would drive to the neighbouring town of Ajjampura on his tractor to get organic manure. The municipality of Ajjampura would store organic waste made of dry leaves, human and animal excreta, dead animals in that place and auction it every few months. “It would be stored in a pit which was 6 feet by 24 feet and a depth of 4 feet. The farmers didn’t want to buy it as it was decomposed material, but I had no problem. It was cheap too. The cost of a pit of organic compost was just Rs. 30 and yielded a better crop. The other manure was expensive,” states the octogenarian in a matter-of-fact tone.
Kashinath was a fiercely independent and self-reliant person who tried to steer clear of politicians and government support. His cousin T. Srikantaiah remembers how Kashinath would go to Ajjampura at 4.30 a.m. and load the compost by himself in the tractor. “He brought loads of compost to the village this way. He made good use of organic compost which resulted in 10-12 quintals of chillies,” reveals Kashinath’s nephew, G.M. Umamaheshwarappa.
It was Kashinath who introduced Amruth Mahal cows in the village,
yet another significant contribution of Kashinath. He also saw extravagant weddings as wasteful expenditure and organised the first ever community wedding in the village. All pairs including Kashinath and his bride, wore inexpensive clothes. The community believes that people followed Kashinath because he walked the talk. Simplicity, honesty and determination set him apart from the rest. In addition to that Kashinath also had a sound knowledge of design and engineering. These were applied to the designing of an open well in Bagavalli and girls hostel in Sri Gurukrupa High School in Giriyapura.
There are some evocative shots of Kashinath near the open well which remains intact even after 80 years and in Sri Gurukrupa High School. He studied in the same school and years later worked to make it world-class. The co-educational institution is well-equipped with modern facilities, hostels for boys and girls. It’s kitchen runs on biogas bringing down electricity consumption. The institute isn’t dependent on any government funds.
The school didn’t have a girls hostel to begin with, nor was Kashinath interested in it because of safety concerns regarding girls. “Many parents used to tell me, “Don’t you have daughters? Don’t you want them to study? I would tell them it’s not easy. Once when I was hospitalised, I was surprised by the number of women nurses and doctors around me.” That’s when Kashinath decided to have a girls hostel.
There were many that Kashinath impacted with his work. Many children from North Karnataka join his school and inadvertently get influenced by his philosophy. “There are many who have become IAS officers. His progressive approach to farming and his work in all aspects of life is still discussed and revered by the surrounding villages,” states Adithyaa. Creation of cooperative society, improvement of village roads, convincing banks to give crop loans to farmers, promulgating the use of drip and sprinkler farming were some other works led by Kashinath.
Former top bureaucrat K. Ratna Prabha was also one of those who felt inspired by Kashinath. In the film she shares a lovely story about her first meeting with Kashinath, when she was posted as District Commissioner, Chikmagalur. “I didn’t know him. He said, ‘I am an ordinary man and don’t have the qualifications to guide officers like you, but I would like to say that I have seen many women officers but they themselves don’t work for the empowerment of women. You have been appointed here. Please take initiatives in this regard.’ That statement left a deep impact on me. Irrespective of the place and post, I have continued to work for women.”
In the film, Kashinath also acknowledges the unconditional rock solid support of his wife in his journey. The couple have sons and daughters who are well-settled in different parts of Karnataka. “But Kashinath and his wife choose to stay independently in the village. He has 7-8 acres of land and they are busy managing that. He is happy with the film…” says Adithyaa.
According to Adithyaa, he has also withdrawn from the day-to-day affairs of the community and leads a quiet life. The village continues to reap the benefits of his vision, but is also waiting for someone to take off from where he left.