Javed Iqbal: interview transcript

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Javed Iqbal: interview transcript

Javed Iqbal lives in Akhoon Bandi village, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.  He was aged 25 when he was interviewed on 15 January 2010 for the Rural Poverty Report 2011. The interview was recorded in the language of Hindko and carried out by a staff member from the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation. The interviewer had an existing relationship with the community but was not a professional researcher.

Assalam-o-Alaikum (greeting)
Walaiko assalam (greeting)

My name is Riaz Khan and I am working with Omar Asghar Khan Foundation. Omar Asghar foundation is working on a poverty assessment survey in collaboration with United Nations which regularly publishes a report after every 10 years on rural poverty, containing causes and suggestions on reduction of poverty and development in rural areas. Presently this work is being underway in six countries, to compile this report, and Pakistan is one of them. Village Akhoon Bandi (your village) is one of the places (in Pakistan) which has been selected for this work. That is why we are here to talk to you about  poverty and to record your interview, if you agree and have no objection.
No, no objection.

And with it we will also record the interview.
Theek hay Jee (all right).

We do recording and also take your picture which will be published in this report. And will be used somewhere else. Do you have any objection? Can we take the picture?
Yes, you can take it.

Please, introduce yourself and also tell us about your family.
My name is Javed Iqbal, my father's name is Muhammad Iqbal. I live in Akhoon Bandi. I have three brothers and one sister. All three brothers are married and live separately. My sister is also married. My age is 25 years. I do farming and also work as a labourer. My father has passed away and…. Our father has passed away. It's 10 years since his death. And we have a sister who has been married in the village by us. Our father was a servant of the Railway. When I was young then… at that time I did not get education. I am illiterate. I was told by them to get education but I ran away from home for a job as a labourer. I was small, still young… at that time I used to do kachee (daily wage) labour.

Sometimes I would get work on daily wage and sometimes not… Then I came back. Back home and then started farming. Then in this way… My brother is working as a mason and one is in the army. Both are married. We have been living separately for the last five years…

Tell me more about the life of your father.
His life was that. He was alone. He had one sister… His mother passed away when he was young. And he also ran away. As we were told by him. He also ran away. When he returned then my grandfather helped him get a job with Pakistan Railway. He used to work for the Railway. He used to say that he was paid 100 rupees per month. When he died his salary was 2000 rupees. He used to bear the expense of running the household of four brothers and sisters. And then [he had] his own expenses too. So I could not get an education. And my other brothers got an education. I could not get an education and ran away for work…

Tell me about your other brothers, how much education did they get, and where?
First primary education they got from our own village. After primary, up to matric, they got their schooling in Perhi Bandi (name of the neighbouring village). They were educated to matric level. One is in the army and the other one is a mason.

Acha (well) tell me about your childhood.
In childhood I ran away from home and went to Pindi (Rawalpindi) and started working as a labourer there. I worked with masons. After that I came back from there and started a little bit of farming.  When there was no farming and the prices for the crops were also low I left  farming. Crops got diseases and I left and started labouring again. I did it for two or three months and I came back again. Then grew crops again and along with that did labour in someone else's field. After that I got married. My father got me married and then I went on a job. I did it for two or three months, then came back and did farming. If I got work I did it, if not then I passed the whole day freely at home.

Tell me more about your farming. What kind of farming did you used to do?
Farming – this [is what I did]… work in the field. Farming like sowing garlic, arum, vegetable, cauliflower etc. We sow ours… and along with it do daily labour for the people in the village. We did work for daily wages. If the price for the crop was good then we got some income. If the price was low then our own expenses were not covered. I have got a piece of land of 2 kanals on a shared basis… and we are passing our life this way.

Tell me more about your childhood. In childhood, when you were young, or the things which come to your mind. How did you pass your life?
Our childhood we spent in extreme poverty. We were so young when we were sent to school. I could not go to school and ran away. Other brothers got education; I ran away. Then I came back and did farming. My father used to work for the Railway. When it was the time to do sowing in the field he used to sow the seeds. If he did not come in time then neighbours used to scatter the seed in the field [for him]. At that time there was no tractor, only oxen. We used to plough with oxen. We used to ask the villagers to sow the seed and when there was time, to water the field. We were so young, and at that time we were not able to do any work. We asked some uncles to help us. When it was the time to put fertilizers in the field my father used to come back, on leave, to do the watering and put in the fertilizer. We passed our time in this way, then and now…

What kind of crops did you used to sow in your field. Tell me more about it. What did you used to do with that crop? Did you consume it at home or sell it in the market?
The wheat we used to bring home. Then we took it to the watermill and ate it after grinding it. And some other crops… the maize crop. We were not cultivating vegetables at that time. Father was alone and was on duty. We were young and we could not manage the crop. We also used to bring the maize crop home. That we ate after grinding it. The system was like that…

Acha Javed bhai (brother), you said there was extreme poverty. What do you mean by poverty?  What sort of poverty was it, what do you think poverty was at that time?
There was poverty. Money was scarce. Father's salary was low. Poverty was what we experienced. When we were young, if someone has money… then, you know… one eats and spends khula (lavishly) – everything – wears good clothes.  There was poverty, little money. Whatever we had, we used to consume, and the expenses were hardly met. Then we… I could not get any schooling because of this. Father was the only earner for the family and if we all started studying then we would have to spend a lot on getting education too. The expense then… I saw that because my other brothers were studying, I should go somewhere for work. I stopped studying, left school, did labour, got a daily wage. My daily wage was 100 rupees at that time. What can one do with 100 rupees? Do you know?

Tell me more about your life.
About my life is this…that I… My other brother used to work in the field and I went outside to do work. When I came back I was married by my father. I was almost, at that time, my age was about 18 years. After that my father died. After one year of my marriage, on 18 June 1999, he died. After that my younger brother got married. After three years he also established a separate house. After that, I also separated and my elder brother too. And nowadays I work as labourer. I have five children. I do, after this… [I grow] my own crops. There is no rain nowadays and the water from the stream has decreased. I have 2 kanals of land I use to sow wheat. At the time of garlic and cauliflower, I sow cauliflower. I spend my time like this. Along with it, I work for daily wages, if there is work every day; and also if there is rain, our villagers sow more crops. Then there is good labouring and I get work daily. Now it's the second or third season, two or three years have passed since there has been no rain and we have not got work daily. I sowed wheat in my 2 kanals of fields and I get work for eight or 10 days a month. And 15 or 20 days pass without any work. Nowadays there is no day labour work.

I am illiterate, having had no education. And in this respect… due to this we are in poverty… I have small children. They are studying in school. My three children go to school. To the government school. I don't have enough income. If I had a good income then I would put my children in a private school. And I would say which school they should go to, [but] I know nothing [about education]. They return and I send them for tuition. I have no fee for tuition. I am hardly getting a daily wage to meet the daily expenses. When I was young, people used to plough with oxen, nowadays there are tractors. The owners of the tractors are taking 800 rupees per hour, for ploughing – 800 rupees per hour. And it is only if you have money in your pocket that they plough your field. If there is no money they won't plough the field udhara (on credit). This is a problem, there is poverty. Now I do a bit of farming of my own and do daily wage labour in other people's fields. I have five children, three sons and two daughters. My older son is about eight years old. He studies in fourth class, here in our own village in Akhoon Bandi. After him I have a daughter of six years. She is also studying here in a government school. She studies in class three. After her I have a son of four years. He goes to nursery, here in our own village. Then I have a daughter of two years. Then I have a son of six months. Like this, I am running the affairs through daily wage labour and also do my own farming. My wife works in the house. We also keep two goats and its young. When the goat's offspring get a bit older I get money by selling them. We use the milk of our own goats in the home.

Tell us more about the livestock.
Livestock – we have two goats. Their kids… If a goat gives birth to a female goat then we keep it because it will benefit us later. Now I have two goats, with them a kid. By selling these, we run the household and we have two hens also. They also give eggs. The children go to school early in the cold. We give them boiled eggs because of the early morning cold and they go to school. Like this we are running the affairs of the household.

In farming, do you get help from some other members of your household, especially women etc.?
No, women don't go. The brothers, we live separately. We do farming on our own. Nowadays, we sow the wheat. There is no rain. The water has also dried up, so we have to water the crop. If I get daily wage work to do godi (weeding) in someone's field, we do it. If there is no work in the field we go with masons to work on a daily wage. We hardly get 15 days of work in a month. And the remaining 15 days we go without work. We have no work in those 15 days.

Tell us, how you would compare your childhood with your children's childhood. Which one is better? Your childhood or theirs?
In my view, our childhood and nowadays are almost the same, because there was poverty at that time and we are poor today, the same experience. We have kacha (mud) houses, which were built by our father. When we divided the houses between the brothers, each of us got one room. I built a kitchen along with it. There is only one house but it is kacha. The situation is almost the same, my childhood and my children's.

What do you think about the future of your children?
For the future, I am thinking about having some small business, some money, about opening a shop etc or growing on a larger scale. If there is water, the crops can be grown on a larger scale. And giving good education to my children, by enrolling them in a private school, so they can get good jobs. So they spend their time in a better way.

How are you running the business of your household?
The household is running in such a way… with the wheat which we grow in 2 kanals of land. The household is hardly running. Too much poverty. This way we are running the household… We have 2 kanals of land. Wheat… If there is rain there are chances of more wheat. If no rain, then there is less crop. We eat that after grinding it. The work which I do on a daily wage pays 300 rupees per day. We spend that money in my house.

You said that you have 2 kanals of land, and you grow crops on it. How much produce do you get from your land?
When there is rain or when there is water in the stream – if it flowed continuously  and watered our crops from it, then we could get approximately 320 kilograms of wheat from 2 kanals of land in six months.

But, there has hardly been any rain for the last two or three years. The stream has  also dried up and there is no mechanism  giving water now. Otherwise we used to water [from that] or dug a well. We don't have enough money to use a generator for the purpose of getting water. If there is rain then there will be water in the stream. If there is no rain then there is no crop. No wheat. All finished. Too many expenses involved in it. The cost of the tractor is 800 rupees per hour. We put the fertilizer over the soil, desi fertilizer (organic manure), which we also purchase and then use. Now we have only loss. Covering all the expenses is dependent on a daily wage.  I get a daily wage 15 days out of 30 days. In this way our system is not running well… My monthly income is 4000 to 5000 rupees. If I get a daily wage for 17 or 18 days I have money. With this money I meet the expenses. If a child gets ill, I take him to the hospital. There is no health facility here; we have to take them to Havelianor Haripur. We can't hire a vehicle to take them to the hospital because we have no money. [It costs] 4000 or 5000… if someone is ill or in emergency cases, we have to manage everything out of [my small income]. If someone dies we have to go there too. We have to do everything out of it). We are hardly meeting our expenses and running the household. My income is 4000 or 5000 rupees, which I spend on [treating] children's illnesses and also on meeting the daily household expenses. What's more… I have to pay back a 5000 rupees loan. When the expense rose I took a loan from the neighbours. If some money gets saved I will repay it.  If by the grace of Allah I could get more labouring work I would be able to pay the loan back. Now the loan which I have to repay, I will pay it by selling the goat's kids.

You have livestock like goats, hens etc. Tell me if you have something else apart from these animals.
I have nothing except these. Nowadays cattle are very expensive, we can't purchase them. One can only purchase with money. I have no money, because the money that I get from daily wage, I am hardly running the household with it. How much can be done with 300? If I had money I would buy a buffalo. I would sell milk to run the household, and sell ghee etc. We can get our own bhoosa (fodder) from the 2 kanals ofland. If I had money I could buy buffalo. If one has a buffalo he can run the household affairs satisfactorily. The money from the daily wage can be saved. If thehousehold affairs are run by selling milk, saving is possible. Now I don't have any economic stability. There's no money, when you run the household on daily wage work.

You talked about how having a buffalo allows you to save money to run the household. But if you do daily wage labour in other people's fields, who will look after the cattle, buffalo etc.?
That bhoosa of ours, we store it in our house. My wife will look after the buffalo along with other household chores. I will do the milking in the morning, and also after coming back from daily labour, I will also look after it in the evening. During the day my wife will look after it and in the evening I will do milking.

Tell me about your future. How will you reduce the poverty, what is your idea?
I am thinking that if I have money, I will buy a buffalo; I will run the household by selling its milk. The money which I will get from daily wage labour, I will spend it on the education of my children. I will enrol my children in some good school; the saving will be from daily wage labour or from selling the kid of a goat. And that money, I will also utilise for the education of my children. I will enrol the children in some private school for better education, so they can get good jobs. Still, I don't have money to buy the buffalo; if I cannot buy the buffalo then I will try to have some job along with farming. I may get a monthly wage on a regular basis. I may be able to join a committee (traditional way of saving). The money comes from the committee (collective money) and is used it for getting land on theka (contract). I might get some money through this or get some salary, so in this way I am thinking about my future, that my earning may increase.

You are thinking about how to increase your income.  If Allah may do this: establish a committee, get land on contract. Who will look after the land? Will you leave the job?
No. I will not leave the job. I will do it at weekends and I want a job like a watchman in some school in a nearby village. In this way I will be able to grow wheat in the land which I'll get on theka. I will work during the day in the job and in the evening come back home. The harvested wheat will be utilised as flour, so we will no longer purchase flour from the shop. I will also get a wage; the household expenses like flour will be met at home. The remaining expense of the household will be covered. Then we would have savings. The crop that will be harvested will be sold and the money saved will be used in future.

You have shared your plans for the future. If this cannot be achieved, what will be the situation then?
The situation will be poor. Poverty will increase; my land is also only 2 kanals: 1 kanal of land came in the road survey, and 1 kanal left. I will get a loan, if there is too big a loan then the remaining 1 kanal of land will have to be sold. I will have to pay, then I will do daily wage work.

The road that has been surveyed, tell me more about it.
I have the information that this road will be constructed by the government from Burhan interchange to China. No one informed us. A survey team visited twice and did a survey. Now they have installed whitewashed pegs for demarcation. My land is also in it. No one has informed me about compensation. A 120-foot wide road will be constructed; they have demarcated the site.

What do you think; is having one's own land, ownership of land, necessary? Tell me more about this and why it is important.
Yes. We don't have to pay theka money for our own land. We grow crops on it, and that crop will be the saving. If the land is on theka then one has to pay the money for the theka. That is why the land and ownership [of the land] are necessary.

Acha tell me. How do you water the land?
We water in this way: when there is water [in the stream], we make a channel of water from the stream to the field; through this we give water to our field. If there is water, then we can water our fields for 24 hours. Nowadays water level in the stream is very low, nowadays no one can use its water, there is no water. If there is water then we can use it.

Acha Mr Javed tell me, the story which you have told, the interview which you gave, this should be published in report or not?
Jee. Why not?

Well this report is of IFAD for 2010. This is the rural poverty report. This will be written in it. Do you have any objection to it?
No I have no objection to it. It can be published.

Well, the conversation during the interview, is there anything that you think should not be included in the report? Can everything be published in the report?
The whole discussion should go in the report.

Mr Javed Iqbal thank you very much for giving time for the interview, thanks.
Thank you very much sir, you have heard our difficulties. Thanks a lot.