Vedanta weaving nest for migratory children in Nilgiri
In India, a large part of the contract or daily wage labour move from one state to another for want of work. The culture is such that husband and wife both migrate together with their children for work and settle down at the new location till they engaged. The concentration is more where the likelihood of employment is regular and extends for the entire season or for more days. Tea estates, large farms and large construction sites attract these labours most.
One such location is the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu – the heaven of tea plantation. Labour from Kerala, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam and even Nepal throng this place for want of work. In the past few years the flow of labours has also suddenly increased. Generally here also these labours come with their children.
Such labours are recognized as “Migratory Labours” and their children as “Migratory Children”.
These `Migratory Labours’ do get substantial work, but one big problem these labours have been facing relates to looking after their children. While they work their children are left un-attended. Their education, safety, health, everything is sensitive and requires attention. What to do? These children have been also prone to trafficking and exploitation. Another danger is the big wild forest of Nilgiri which is full of wild animals. They could neither leave their children at home nor carry them to the work.
These children have been wondering on the streets and roads like typical nomads. No one to care and no one seemed concerned.
But there was one man who was watching this quietly. Unable to bear this for long, he decided to do some thing for these children.
“It was a touching moment when I saw an eight year old child taking care of its 4 year old sister. His parents had gone for work and it was his duty to ensure not only the safety of his sibling but also that she gets food on time. The children of migrating parents either grow up too early or they never grow up. I was facing the first situation, said the man – Mr. N.K. Perumal, the Founder and Managing Trustee of Rural Development Organization, an NGO of Tamil Nadu, the man, who was no more silent.
“I immediately decided to adopt as many of these children and look after their education, health and nutrition. Some how I had to organize everything and make sure that I contribute in upbringing of these children and give my contribution to the society”, said Mr. Perumal.
But how his dream got fulfilled, was the question?
“It was 7th March 2011, when I saw an advertisement in newspaper by Vedanta Group, which said, “Together Towards A Better Future – Sustainable Development Proposals Invited From NGOs”, he said.
In the last 45 years of my experience in community service I have not seen any organization releasing a national public advertisement asking for NGOs to come forward with their proposal that helps community, and this company will finance them. I was so touched that tears rolled in my eyes. I could see that my dream for providing education-food-health and a sustainable future to these children was almost getting fulfilled. I approached the company and presented by dream project. You won’t believe it did not take them much time to decide. They not only approved my project but also ensured immediate release of 50% of the funds. What more can I say. God bless the company. The smile on the kids face says it all today..”
Mr. Peru (known popularly) is grateful to the company for coming forward from the front and giving a helping hand. His project got approved in September 2011. Since then, working relentlessly, today he has opened up 31 schools and more than 620 children are studying in these schools. Out of 31 schools, 2 are boarding schools and all of them are recognized by the government.
“Importantly, 50% of these children are girls and you can understand the risk if they are left alone”, said visible tense Mr. Perumal.
“I have 31 Teachers, 31 Assistant Teachers and one cook in each school, a total of 96 people. Being an NGO I may not be able to give them very high salaries, but they have never complained me,” he says.
All these children, most of them in the age group of 4-12 years, have been provided with notebooks, Hindi text books, story books, chalks, slates, pencils, bags, uniforms, to name a few. They get good hot meals every day. Mr. Peru says, “Our aim is to provide them education so that they can then promote to formal education. Ultimately they have to and need to come up for their sustainable livelihood.”
He remembers, “One day a child saw few youths doing jogging on the road. He loved the track-suit so much that I could see in his eyes a smile and also few tears. Probably he thought it is not meant for him. I am so attached to these children that I immediately decided to bring track suit for all my children. It costed me a good amount, but the happiness I saw on their faces was more valuable.”
Manoj, a beneficiary from Assam and studying in 3rd class mentioned that everyone is very supporting in terms of teaching and providing meal. He mentioned that meal that he gets in school is very tasty. His parents are working in Tea Estates and support him to study so that he would find a good Job in future. He is happy and would like to continue his studies in Future. Manoj can now read and write without any difficulties. Surprisingly he knows Tamil now besides Hindi, English.
But what about the children who have not studied at all and they approach RDO for help?
“For such students RDO conducts Bridge Classes. These are classes to bridge the gaps and make them at par with other students of their age group,” Mr. Perumal replied.
Rural Development Organization (RDO) is a much respected organization. Since its inception in 1980, it has been working closely with about 250,000 rural people living across the difficult terrains of the Nilgiri. For the last 20 years Aid-Et-Action, a renowned international voluntary organization has also been associated with RDO.
These 620 migrating children now no more wonder on the roads and no more suffer from lack of food, education and care.
Some day you begin and then you prosper, but the beginning is the time when you need support – emotional as well as financial, for such projects. Today when I feel contented after weaving nest for these migratory children, I wonder how would I be able to thank this company, I would only say, Vedanta Group has rescued these children.
Vedanta Group, one of the world largest growing resource company, supported Rural Development Organization, Nilgiri. Indeed it is the first company which released an open advertisement on March 7, 2011 to invite community service proposals for funding, with an ultimate objective to ensure the upliftment of rural poor of India.
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