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Two years a sardar

Solomoni Biumaiono
Thursday, November 22, 2012

SHEIK Rashid is a sardar in what is probably the biggest cane farming sector in the country, the Drasa sector in the Fiji Sugar Corporation's Lautoka mill district.

The area starts from the outskirts of Lautoka City and ends at Karavi which is just about the halfway point between Town and Lautoka.

Even though he is now 59, Rashid has only been a sardar for the last two years, he is knowledgeable about what is required of the position and values the effort he has to put in.

"I just replaced my father who was a sardar for a long time and this job needs someone who can take care of the writing and also going around all the fields," Rashid says.

He was in a group of men in front of a shop at Karavi enjoying a basin of yaqona. I was later told all four were like him, a sardar, and had been up early that morning doing their field rounds giving cane cutting gangs their quotas.

Rashid treats this job pinned as an almost sacred ritual and reverently upholds all the rules and routines required of an incumbent.

Rashid does have a good command of English and when explaining his work, he does so right down to the minute detail showing the kind of man he is.

"I have to prepare the ticket books for the fields and also the lorry quotas and I have to do this every day. I have to prepare all this and have it ready for the field officer to come around from the mill and get all these things written down and to be in the records," he says.

"It is a tough job and you have to keep proper records and the sardar has to be accurate all the time."

Sardar, by definition is a Hindi word which denotes nobility and later military leaders. However, in our cane fields this means the sardar is the leader of the men who work the fields and these are mainly canecutters and lorry drivers.

"And being a sardar in the Drasa sector, you're in the biggest cane sector in Fiji and also the one that produces the largest amount of tonnage in one season so you have your job to do and do it well."

Before he replaced his father, Rashid was always passionate about farming, specifically sugarcane farming, something he has never tired of.

"I have always enjoyed farming and went straight into this after I left school. It is really because no one to bosses you around and you can do whatever it is that you want to do," he says.

He left high school in 1975 as an 18-year-old and started working at his family farm and through the years he has raised his family with two sons and a daughter, all of whom, have gone on to do their own thing in life.

"Through the years I have become a tractor trailer driver and then I started driving until I replaced my father," he says.

Apart from this, Rashid is also a community leader at his settlement in Karavi where he is the president of the police post committee as well as the general secretary for the Karavi Public School committee.

"I went to that school and back at the time we were taught in a bure, there were no wooden or concrete classrooms back then," he says.

On the day we interviewed Rashid, the canecutting gang was just loading the cane belonging to the school and he says the income earned from this complements the school's fundraising activities.

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