Tuesday 19 March 2013

Samartha Bharat Parva : True Reformers

If you wish to be a true reformer, three things are necessary.
First: Feel from the heart.
Second: You must know the remedy.
Third: Your motives should be pure and your will indomitable.
                                                                                                                                                                                           Says Swami Vivekananda

Here's an example of how the meek might inherit India. Here too, is an insight into what really makes India tick, keeping hope alive amidst unrelieved chaos and selfishness. A small bunch of office clerks, typists and receptionists in Mumbai have found themselves a mission. During working hours they were viewed as rulers of ossified interiors of government offices. After work, they seemed to have no relevance. 

A chance offered itself 15 years ago to shrug off their ghost like existence in the big city. They grabbed it to become people who matter, instead of people seen —if at all— as hurdles. Every year they visit the Konkan coast bearing goods and support for hundreds of schools. The rest of the year, they work to plan for that visit. 

They are babus transformed into guardian angels of Ratnagiri's poor school-children. They run the Lanja Rajapur Sanghameshwar Taluka Utkarsha Mandal - 'Association for Uplift of Lanja, Rajapur and Sangameshwar Counties'.
The Mandal's two main activities are to provide materials and supplies to schools and children, and to find sponsors willing to adopt promising children's continued education. The exercise begins a couple of months before every monsoon. In March-April headmasters respond to the Mandal's advertisements in their local dailies and send in their requisitions- mostly stationery, basic furniture, clothing, shoes, school bags etc. Unspeakably, saddeningly, trivially priced for most of us, but unaffordable for thousands of rural children.

After sifting through hundreds of responses, members prepare a master shopping list. It's a rule they have that only the best will do; no cheap goods just because the children are poor and in the countryside. They shop for best value deals.

The Mandal began its adoption programme in 1996. Under it, promising students are selected based on their needs, diligence and potential to benefit from the programme. Teachers and headmasters endorse applicants and during annual visits, Mandal members personally interview short listed candidates. Detailed files are prepared on each and sent to donors.
Mandal's criteria for selection and terms of offer, are noteworthy. The application form asks for no details of caste or religion. What they ask in return for support, is that the student maintains a minimum of 90% attendance and passes all exams every term; there is no pressure to top the class or score high.

If these two requirements are not met, the Mandal withdraws all support to the school. These conditions motivate teachers, headmaster and the whole village community to monitor and support the child, lest the whole school should forfeit assistance. The support funds are deposited in a local bank account jointly operated by the headmaster and the student.

In recent years, the Mandal has also taken to honouring local leaders of note; like Vijay Narkar, a social activist and rain water harvesting evangelist; Tambe, an ex Mumbai-banker turned organic farmer; a lady who nabbed thieves; a child who won a National Bravery Award- all those small Indians we are too busy to notice. They await too.

The Mandal van slugs from village to village on rain soaked roads. Often narrow roads turn into streams and streams become impassable bodies of water. Getting to some schools means parking their vehicle up to 3 kms away, trekking up hills and wading through knee-deep water.

What pushes them along are memories of earlier meetings where eager faces awaited them; of successes they have wrought. In 15 years they have touched and assisted 650 schools; helped create 27 graduates, including an engineer. Many more under support, are still young but will one day realise their potential.
These little known clerks know ways to make some rural dreams come true. So they keep their dates. They arrive regular as the monsoons. They have done so, for fifteen years, now. Even as you read this, they are getting ready for this year's tryst.

Lanja Rajapur Sanghameshwar Taluka Utkarsha Mandal
9/5, Arya Nagar
Tardeo, Mumbai- 400034
Phones: 022-24964032;24940287;
Gen. Secretary: Madhukar K Pawar [Mobile:0-98694 28469]
for full story : http://www.goodnewsindia.com/index.php/Magazine/story/100/

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