A farmer, a journalist and a conservationist: Meet Girindranath Jha who is Reinventing Rural Tourism in Bihar

When most people are moving out of villages to pursue their career and chase their dreams, there are few who are going back to the roots.  One such man, who has made the mission of empowering his ancestral village as his dream is Girindranath Jha, from Purnea, Bihar. He is changing the way we look at farmers, villages and the village life.

With the vision of making the idea of village tourism a viable proposition, he has set out to achieve it by keeping things simple and attractive at the same time. Chanka, his village, has now turned into a hotspot in eastern Bihar. He promotes rural tourism through Chanka Residency, a village guest house and he is also planning to set up a rural museum nearby.

While he is on his quest, PatnaBeats takes you through the journey of his career so far.

The Coming Back

Before coming back to his village, Mr. Girindranath Jha was working as a journalist for a leading newspaper in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Fanishwar Nath Renu, a renowned litterateur from Bihar and Kabir, a famous saint and poet of the 15th century has had a great influence in his life.  Talking about the reasons for his return to the village, the craving of working for the mother land gets the first position in his list. He says, “The soil of Bihar always calls you back. I have huge respect for Kabir and Renu. Both of them said that one should know about his motherland and keep on doing something for her betterment. That has always been my motto.”

The idea of working in the village was always there in mind. Even before starting his career, he had decided that he would return back to his village after five years. But things generally don’t go as you plan. His father was taken ill in 2012, and thus he came to take care of him and never went back. Girindranath Jha started his second innings as a farmer. He owns a plantation and practices dual cropping on his ancestral land. Apart from that he is also trying to reinvent the idea of rural tourism.

The Idea of Rural Tourism

Tourism as a whole has not been able to develop to its potential in Bihar. So when we talk of rural tourism, it becomes even more important to appreciate the efforts of Girindranath Jha. He has set up Chanka Residency in his village, where he invites people to stay and understand the rural life. The residency is fully equipped with modern facilities and can host 5-10 persons at a time. Till now 200-300 guests from India and around the world have visited his village residency. Apart from generating income, it has greatly influenced the development of his village and its surroundings. From having no roads at all to being electrified and furnished with an all weather metalled road, his village has made a great transition.

When people come to the residency, they don’t just see the village, they meet its soul. They get to see the regional art forms and listen to the regional music. It is financially motivating and makes the art sustain and grow at the same time. But the artists are not taken to other platforms. Mr. Girindranath Jha believes that, “Artists should not move out of the village to show their art in Melas and exhibitions, or to put that on showcase or stalls. If people are passionate enough about village life or their culture, they would come here.  Therefore everything that I am doing is being done in chanka only.

Views on Farming

Farming as an occupation and farmers as working class is hardly given space in the mainstream, but he is working hard to achieve that feat. He believes that farming should be considered as a day job like any other. The farmers should not always be “sad front page stories”; rather they should be happy and go to holidays as well. “For me going on the field is like going to the office. I go to the fields in the morning and then return back to my home in the city by evening”, says Mr. Girindranath Jha

While he himself practices organic farming, he is not in favour of large scale organic farming for small farmers as the costs involved are high and the yield drops as well. The buyers of organic farming are also limited. Mostly it’s the elite class. On the contrary corporate farming, he says, is a better bet for everybody. He is of the view that farming should be treated as business by farmers. Plantation of timber tress in that case becomes fixed deposit for the farmer, which he could cash in after 10-15 years.

Mr. Girindranath Jha explains his idea of corporate involvement in agriculture, saying that “Corporate farming should be implemented to make farmers more affluent and financially strong. For e.g. if Mahindra invests in one district and takes all the produce from the farmers at reasonable price, then that would not only solve the problem of financial independence of farmers but would also stop them from selling their lands for making concrete jungles.” 

Impact of Social Media

In today’s world, nobody could deny the importance Social media as a platform for promoting your work. Social media has played a crucial role in all the initiatives of Girindranath Jha. If his initiatives are an Olympic then social media can be considered as his torch bearer. He is not only reaching to other people with similar interest but is getting crowd funded as well. This diwali, he distributed solar lanterns to the children of villages with the help of social media crowd funding.

He has been organizing a social media workshop on agriculture and a paddy festival since three years. A children’s film festival was also organised under the aegis of UNICEF for the first time in his village. He continues the festival with his own resources now. He was able to free his village of the vice called liquor even before its complete ban in the state. He gives credit to the administration for that drive, especially to Purnea SP, Nishant Tiwary.

Underscoring the importance of social media, Mr Girindranath Jha says, “Social media has played a big part. Along with my efforts, I owe something to it as well. Be it crowd funding, attracting tourists or getting help from the administration, the social media has proved to be a prominent cog in the wheel.”

हमारे यहां बोरिँग मेँ इस्‍तेमाल होने वाला बांस का फिल्‍टर

Connection with Journalism

Once a Journalist, Always a Journalist.” This saying fits correctly in the life of Girindranath Jha. Although, journalism is not his main job, he is a regular writer. Anubhav, his blog has rightly been named so; he writes all his experiences in it. He also writes for Hindi newspapers on invitational basis.

While farming and rural tourism are his main concerns, he is a conservationist at heart. Within his blog you can find pain when rivers are encroached upon and farmers are not getting the real MSP on one hand, and on the other you will also find the joy of a farmer when he sees flowering of the plants in his paddy fields.

Showing his concern about the merciless exploitation of rivers in particular and nature in general, he says, “Line bazaar in Purnea, a medical hub has been built upon the river Saura itself. People are encroaching upon rivers and that’s why they face the wrath of the nature. I teach students in high school to learn about their rivers. Study the district gazetteers, and know about how rivers are diminishing. People are not talking about rivers. It’s all money that’s talking. This behaviour would lead to their downfall if not checked at the right time.

The Road Ahead

It is inevitable not to plan for future. However, Mr. Jha does not seem in a hurry. For him, everything has a time and would take place accordingly. The first thing on his mind is the rural museum in his village. He plans to inaugurate it by the end of 2018. The museum would include all the traditional tools of farming, model of traditional kutcha houses and means of transport such as bullock cart. On being asked about funds for the museum, he says, “Although I am saving for it, but you never know, I might get a CSR in my favour. Social media has great potentials.

सोलर लालटेन की रौशनी में पढ़ते बच्चे। यही है अपनी दीपावली!

He is working upon a musical group of the village. This he says would go a long way in promoting folk music especially among the youth who come to visit his residency. He believes, “Students of premier institutions should come to villages at least once for a week. Only then they would understand the problems, get connected to roots and work for its betterment.

Girindranath Jha also wishes to publish a novel very soon. Its theme would be rural life. On being asked whether all this that he is doing, is pure nostalgia? He denies it straight away. It’s not a revolution or social work. I want to be the guide for people in getting desired revenue and upgrading their living standards.”

Girindranath is adamant at changing both; the way people look at rural life and the way villagers look at themselves. He wants to promote farming, village art, music and its culture as a whole. It is clearly visible when he says, “The art is not only for elite or to be represented in Delhi Haat. Villagers can have rich art back ground and they do. They need to believe in that and take it as profession. Rather than just being associated with a brand it’s good to create your own brand.

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Quote of the day:Opportunities don't happen. You create them."

Chris Grosser