BICYCLE DONATION CAMPAIGN AND TRIP TO JAWHAR
Group for Rural Activities (GRA) conducted a bicycle donation campaign and subsequent field trip to some tribal villages in Jawhar (Thane district). This was similar to the one conducted previous year, when GRA donated 39 bicycles in Wada, Thane. The response this time was more encouraging, as we could collect 75 bicycles from across the institute. The smile on happy faces of benefitted children was definitely worth to watch.
In remote rural areas of India, we often see poor condition of roads. The reasons for this could be heavy rains and negligence by government on its part. The roads in the villages we visited were made around 15 years ago. The condition now is very poor, with a lot of ditches on some very narrow roads.
Children in such parts do not have any means of reaching school. The frequency of buses is low (1 per hour), and these students being economically backward cannot afford to go by bus every day. Therefore they have to walk a distance of 4 to 5 kms on average to reach school. This hampers their educational progress.
In IIT Bombay, passing out students who own bicycles generally do not take their bicycles with them. These bicycles remain in the hostel for a couple of years, until hostel administration decides to auction these bicycles. The motivation behind this bicycle campaign was to take these bicycles to needy students in villages. Most of the passing out students donated the bicycles happily, and students in villages will definitely benefit from the activity. GRA, thus, has worked as a bridge, a link between the two student groups.
Details of Bicycle Collection and Donation
Some of the GRA volunteers collected bicycles from various hostels in last semester. We collected 75 bicycles which could be donated. These bicycles needed repairing. Therefore, they were taken to Jawhar, and repairing work started in the same place. The funds required for the repairing of bicycles were collected from professors of many departments. The total estimated amount is up to Rs. 45000, out of which Rs. 25000 has been collected as donations. Please find the list of donors at the end of the report. Up till now, GRA has repaired and donated 45 out of total 75 bicycles. GRA received help from an NGO named “Pragati Pratishthan” in contacting the school teachers where the bicycles were donated.
FIELD TRIP TO JAWHAR
GRA organized a field trip to Jawhar in Thane district, partly for the purpose of Bicycle donation, and partly for studying the situation of tribals in the region. Most of the projects which we visited were also a part of Pragati Pratishthan’s work in and near Jawhar.
The field trip was organized on 8th and 9th October and 21 students attended the field trip (find the names of the students attached at the end.)
Bicycle donation in Dhengachimet:
On October 8th (Saturday), all participants of the field trip gathered in front of Hostel 8 at 7:30 in the morning. The bus was booked beforehand. We did not use public transport to avoid any delay. 21 of us then started off at 7:45 AM, shouting slogans “Bharat Mata ki Jay”, and “Vande Mataram” which marked a perfect start.
We reached Dhengachimet at 11:15 AM, and stepped in “Jayeshwar Vidya Mandir”, one of the only two schools in the locality. We were shocked by the well maintained campus of the school. It was small but beautiful, decorated with Jhendu, Sadafuli and Khurasani flower plants. The students and staff in the school arranged Pohe for our breakfast. Afterwards a programme was arranged so as to convey our message to students of the school. The programme started shortly with a well sung song by a group of girls studying in the school. GRA representatives were honoured by school on stage. The principal of the school, Prof. Marhad, welcomed us in Jayeshwar Vidya Mandir. He thanked GRA members for donating bicycles to the students. He mentioned that GRA identified and addressed the exact problem, and came to help when most required.
His speech was followed by a couple of talks by GRA representatives. We thanked school for giving us the opportunity to help them, and also talked to students, firstly explaining what IIT and engineering is, and later trying to motivate them to pursue higher studies. The programme ended with beautifully sung complete Vande Mataram by one of the faculty in school. It was a treat for the listeners.
Prof. Marhad talked with GRA members separately, and told us some information about school and nearby villages in general.
Jayeshwar Vidya Mandir started in 1996 with only 6 students. It grew only when Sarpanch of the village gave an empty room of his own house for school work. Today, 416 students are being benefitted by the education received in school. The school is for students from 5th standard to 10th standard. Another school of Jilha Parishad is present in Dhengachimet, which is for students from 1st standard to 7th standard. Looking at the needs for higher education, Jayeshwar Vidya Mandir was earlier started from 8th standard to 10th standard. But it was observed that students entering the school in 8th standard were weak in academics, and therefore Jayeshwar Vidya Mandir was extended till 5th standard.
The students in the school were clearly happy with their school. The teachers were devoted towards the school work. Some of the students mentioned that their school was better than the Jilha Parishad School. Activities in school included physical exercise with regular curriculum. Teachers knew progress of each student personally. Every year till 9th standard, the number of girl students remains fairly equal to the number of boys, but the ratio drops steeply in 10th standard. In the village, very few girls appear for board exam and go to District College for higher studies, as it is a tradition to arrange their marriage when they are about 15 years old. Till last year, only 2- 3 girls used to appear for the board exam. Other girls used to get committed. This year’s statistics however were encouraging, with 21 girls appearing for the board exam.
Some of the students were staying in the hostel. The hostel was far from the school, about 4-5 kms. One of the students who got bicycle from donated ones said that earlier he used to walk 50-60 minutes to for school, now the bicycle would save more than half an hour for him every day.
About village Dhengachimet
Principal Marhad also talked to us about the situation of villagers in Dhengachimet. Almost 100% of the village population comes under Scheduled Castes. The economic condition of the villagers is not great, however social conditions are peaceful. There are no political strains, nor do any great quarrels take place between villagers, thanks to ‘Tanta Mukti Abhiyan’. Almost all population is dependent on agriculture, and their average annual income is close to ₨ 30,000. 75% of the population is below poverty line, and possess BPL cards. There are no hospitals or PHC’s in the village. Villagers have to visit Jawhar to avail any form of medical care. Usual festivals like Dushehra, Nagpanchami, Pola and Diwali are celebrated in the village.
Informal interaction with students
After the programme arranged by school, the bicycles were donated to selected students, with strict warning that those should be used only for school purposes. Later, students returned to their respective classes, and GRA members got a chance to have some informal interaction with them.
It was nice talking with the students about their village. The contrast between their life and our life was very evident. Most of the students were very shy, but while singing and playing games, we mixed with the students so well that we did not notice how an hour passed by. We left at 2PM for Pragati Pratishthan, Jawhar.
Solar lights project in Nava Pada
After having lunch in Pragati Pratishthan, we went to Nava Pada with Kiran ji Malave, one of the members of Pragati Pratishthan. Pragati Pratishthan has set up solar lights in many villages near Jawhar, and we witnessed it in one of those villages.
In Nava Pada, Pragati Pratishthan has provided solar lights to 35 homes in the pada (hamlet). Each home has received one or two solar lights. The price of each solar module was Rs. 4500. Pragati Pratishthan collected Rs. 500 deposit per module from the owners of the house where the lights were set up. The rest was borne by Pragati Pratishthan with the help of some donations, mainly from Mahindra Company. The module constitutes of a small solar panel on roof of size around 20 X 25 cm, and an LED light inside the house. The module was in general capable of providing light for 4 hours per day. One year warranty was provided for each module. The lights work well, except in rainy seasons, when enough sunlight is not available. Most of the houses have shifted from conventional rockel lights to solar lights.
While returning to Jawhar, we halted at Shirasa Mal to see a historical monument, erected to commemorate meeting of Shivaji Maharaj and Vijayshah (ruler in the area), when Shivaji Maharaj was going for invading Surat. It was a wonderful place with pleasant atmosphere. We shared some of our experiences in the field trip there. Then we again headed for Pragati Pratishthan, Jawhar.
After dinner, we had a long discussion with the treasurer of Pragati Pratishthan, Mrs. Sunanda Patwardhan. Sundanda tai (age 74) is a very enthusiastic person. She is working as treasurer of Pragati Pratishthan for last 32 years.
The work of Pragati Pratishthan started with medical care in the area nearby Jawhar. Till 1978, there was only one Primary health centre in Jawhar. In the early days of Pragati Pratishthan, the work was carried out by husband of Sunanda tai and an MBBS student of Dhiraj medical college. She mentioned that the student donated 7 years of his career for this work. He used to receive stipend from Pragati Pratishthan. After a decade, the situation in medical sector changed. Now there are 8 PHCs and one district health sub centre in Jawhar. The medical aid by Pragati Pratishthan was slowly reduced, and now they are no more involved in medical aid. Trained health workers in villages are doing fine job.
Currently Pragati Pratishthan is focusing on three issues: Water conservation, solar energy and malnutrition. Other than these, Pragati Pratishthan has also helped villagers in the field of agriculture.
Pragati Pratishthan has worked in collaboration with Syngenta, an agri-business foundation which provides technical guidance. In villages, the area of land possessed by each farmer is quite small. Because of this reason, farmers look at agriculture as a mean of getting enough food for their own family, and not as a profit making business. Pragati Pratishthan and Syngenta have been guiding farmers for better agriculture and profit making, since it will benefit them economically. For the guidance work, funds are obtained from Syngenta. Diploma doctors work in this programme, and 9 clusters of 18 such doctors have been formed. 4 or 5 villages are taken care of by each cluster. Till date, Pragati Pratishthan in collaboration with Syngenta has worked with more than 3000 farmers. They have mainly focused on chilli and ladyfinger crops. They have also motivated farmers to take Sarsoo crops after rice crops in rainy season. Sarsoo, being oil seeds have largely benefited farmers, and have produced almost equal income for them as compared to rice. The work is not only restricted to marginal farmers in small villages, but also extends to larger farmers situated in Palghar for instance.
Sundanda tai also commented on methodology of Syngenta. Although Syngenta has largely helped in development of agriculture in the area, their approach is limited to technological help. Pragati Pratishthan on the other hand believes in holistic development. We cannot separate problems of agriculture from the problems of individual farmers, since they are interdependent. For instance, a suggestion regarding crops has to be compatible with economic condition of farmers.
For tackling malnutrition, Pragati Pratishthan has started several child care homes. Each child care home is run by 2 or 3 women from the same village. The main activity of such child care homes is to provide nutritious diet to malnourished children below 6 years of age, and to pregnant women. A few years ago, due to lack of nutritious diet, new born babies used to weigh 2-2.5 kg, almost 0.5-1 kg less than ideal weight. Thanks to serviced provided by child care homes, now their average weight is above 3kgs. Further, after 6 years, these children have smoothly mixed into mainstream. This is a spectacular achievement.
3. Solar Energy
In Jawhar, according to Gram-panchayat system, many villages come under a single Gram -panchayat, which is the smallest administrative unit of government. In main villages which come under Gram-panchayat, electricity is now available. But in many other villages, due to negligence and some other reasons, electricity is still not available. One of the reasons is that these villages are on the other side of forest area, which is under control of forest department. Forest department does not allow passing the electricity lines through that area. Even though the demand for electricity by villagers is very low, lights for 4 to 5 hours in the evening is needed. This situation drove Pragati Pratishthan to start work in solar energy technology.
In this project, Pragati Pratishthan received a great help from students of HR College of commerce. It was a part of their curriculum to do one project which would help improve social conditions. Students contributed by setting up solar modules in many Padas, and also by collecting funds. Today, Pragati Pratishthan has provided solar lights to 1500 homes in 138 Padas. What a grand work!
4. Water conservation
Pragati Pratishthan has also helped in water conservation for these villages. Jawhar area is not a rain shadow area. It receives annual rainfall of around 300ml. The problem is that the rain water is not properly stored and harvested. Most of the parts are hilly, and rain water just flows down these slopes, without increasing ground water level, and villagers strive for drinking water in last two months of every summer.
To improve the situation, Pragati Pratishthan has helped in building check dams. For example in Shirasgaon, they have built a Permanent Check Dam (PDC) to stop the overflow water of Dharni dam. Permanent check Dams are made up of cement, rocks and sand. Temporary check dams can also be built, which sustain for only a year. These dams are made up of rocks and sand only. PDC in Shirasgaon has immensely helped the locals. One indirect and greatest benefit is rise in ground water level. We saw some vegetable crops in adjoining fields. The dam water is also used for cleaning purposes and drinking. Some efforts of fishing were also made.
Such a solution is not possible in all parts. In many cases, the hilly areas from where rain water runs off are under the control of forest department. Forest officers do not allow building check dams in such areas, their primary concern being for the natural resources in the area. This is a difficult problem to solve, but with time, more and more villages are receiving water, either from main dam, or from some other sources.
5. Deaf school
Pragati Pratishthan also runs a school for deaf children in Jawhar. The school started in 1985, 3 years after a Pune based group Suhrud Mandal helped Pragati Pratishthan start the school. In addition to imparting confidence in deaf children for mixing in main stream, the school also focuses on practical training which helps children in getting employment. In school, they also give special importance to cleanliness, health of children and formal education. Some advanced services like speech room, community hearing system, induction loop system, computer room are present in the school premises. Last year, Pragati Pratishthan celebrated silver jubilee of deaf school.
Other than the activities mentioned in this report, Pragati Pratishthan is involved in a number of other activities. Due to lack of time, we could not visit all activity centres.
We stayed at a centre of Pragati Pratishthan near Jawhar on Saturday night. In the morning, we started for child care home in Kawalale at 8:15 AM.
Child Care Centre: Kawale
The child care centre in Kawalale is run by 3 women in the village: Rashila Nikule (education- 7th std), Kusum Miraka (education- 9th std) and Shakuntala Sutade (education- 7th std). The three women were passionately taking care of malnourished children. Their usual work involves bathing children, providing them finger millet syrup twice a day, feeding multivitamin drops, teaching them songs, and some elementary things(like names of animals etc.). The children are in the age group of 6 months to 6 years. Besides, child care homes also take care of pregnant women, mostly by providing them nutritious diet.
According to Rashila tai, one child behind every 2 or 3 in the area is malnourished. Around 10 new children come in the child care home every year. The funds to manage the work, as well as medicines are provided by a private company. Since last couple of years, the child care home has been running very smoothly.
After child care home, we visited Permanent check dam in Shirasgaon, the details of which have been covered in Pragati Pratishthan’s description.
Bio-Gas Plant: Pragati Pratisthan
We then came back to in Pragati Pratishthan’s centre in Jawhar. There we first saw a biogas plant. Santosh Gondhalekar, an entrepreneur in Pune helped and funded Pragati Pratishthan for setting up biogas plants. They have set up 3 floating dome type biogas plants. 2 of the plants have 6 m3 volume, and one has 3 m3 volume. When the plants were set up, they used to use oil extracted from some crushed non edible seeds for filling in the plant. Later the price of thee seeds increased, and they had to search for other options. Fortunately, they could find an alternative soon. A Cadbury company in Thane agreed to send their biodegradable waste for this purpose. In this way, the company could sell their waste product, and Pragati Pratishthan got biodegradable material for biogas plants. With this material, gobar slurry is mixed. Each day, 6kg biodegradable material has to be fed into each plant. The gas generated is used for mainly 2 purposes- in kitchen for cooking food, and in bathrooms for heating water. The gas generated is also stored in balloons, which can then be used on time of emergency in generators. By using biogas plant, Pragati Pratishthan is saving around Rs. 35000 each year, which is 60% of their earlier cost for LPG cylinders. The cost of setting up a plant of 6 m3 volume is Rs. 55000. Thus the cost price is recovered in less than two years.
After biogas plant, we saw a small honey bee project in the same campus. The project involves creating a honey bee colony inside a wooden box, from which honey can be removed from time to time. This could be an effective way to provide employment to those who are not skillful at any other activities due to physical impairment. The method of taking care of honey bee colonies, and of extracting honey etc was very interesting.
We also visited the deaf school, the details of which have been written in Pragati Pratishthan’s description.
While on the way back to IIT, we also visited ‘Nirmalgram’ Chowk. The village won Nirmalgram award in 2009-10. Bheemaji Walawe, one of the members of the Grampanchayat explained to us how the transformation could happen in the village.
A decade ago, the village was not as clean as we saw it in our trip. The main problem was unavailability of toilets, which also resulted in diseases mainly in rainy seasons. One of the senior villagers got an idea for building cheap toilets. He dug a 1 m3 ditch behind his house, plastered the walls with stones and sand, covered it with wood, and sand from above. In such a way, he could build his own toilet, and the cost was less than Rs. 700. Other villagers took his effort seriously, and they also built toilets in their own houses. In this way, the problem of toilets was solved. Later the villagers decided to make the village ‘Nirmal’, meaning totally clean. In steps that followed, they also took guidance from outside villages where such steps had been taken. With combined efforts of community, the village is now totally clean. In fact, we could see that surroundings of every house were cleaned by the families. Bheemaji told us that this now is a habit of all families.
Other than cleanliness, the village has focused on many other issues such as ‘Tantamukti’, ‘Darubandi’, ‘Kurhadbandi’ etc. For taking important decisions, people gather at some place on every Monday. Alcohol is banned in the village (darubandi). They have also implemented the rule that the whole village will celebrate Ganeshotsav together in a common place. Tantamukti Abhiyan in 2010 has helped resolve quarrels, and more importantly has helped in saving money and energy which otherwise is wasted in court cases and police cases. Grampanchayat has tried ‘Kurhadbandi’ in village, but it has not been very successful. (Kurhadbandi means regulation on tree cutting). But they have implemented a rule according to which plantation is done by all families and families with more members plant more number of trees. Some of the villagers have been benefited by Indira Avas Yojana, which is a government scheme which provides houses for families below poverty line. The village has more or less tackled most of its problems. A couple of problems which are still there are about water scarcity and heavy load shedding.
We also visited an organic farming centre in Chowk. In the centre, experiments on indigenous varieties of rice and finger millets are being conducted. We saw more than 30 varieties of both the crops in the centre under surveillance. The crops were grown without using any inorganic fertilizer and insecticide. We also saw different products related to vermin culture.
From Chowk, we left for IIT at around 5 PM. We stopped only once for some tea and sharing of experiences in the field trip. We reached IIT at 9:45 PM on Sunday night. The field trip overall was a great learning opportunity.
List of students:
1. Abhijit Alase
2. Alap Kshirsagar
3. Ananya Arya
4. Anil Kumar
6. Bhanu Garg
7. Chaitali Joshi
8. Deepak Marla
9. Deepshikha Verma
10. Gurunath Kulkarni
11. Kunal Bhagat
12. Pradeep Gatkine
13. Prateek Gahlot
14. Praveen Kumar
15. Ravindra Pal Singh
16. Saurabh Sant
17. Sneha Jain
18. Surendra Meena
19. Vinod Talapa
21. Vishnu Vardhan Vinjam