Sunday, 9 October 2011

Maharashtra is a big brother to seven sisters

At a time when lack of education and opportunities, unchecked infiltration, negligence and discrimination is leading the youth of North-East astray, Maharashtra is doing its bit to give direction to the youngsters to bring a positive change in their lives.
About 200 students from the remote areas of north-eastern states are seeking education at various places in Maharashtra and the cost and responsibility is borne by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Jan Kalyan Samiti Purvanchal Vikas, the organisation which brings these students here. About 20 such students are studying in the city.
Sonam Lyngdoh and Moni Phawa, both studying in standard X in New English School, come from the hilly district of Jaintia in Meghalaya. “Access to good education is a problem in the North- East. Good schools and institutes are limited to big cities like Shillong while most of the region is deprived of basic facilities.We realise the difference after spending seven years in Pune,,” said Sonam. They were labelled as ‘foreigners’ in the school initially. “Now we feel at home. Living in the rest of India makes a difference,” said Moni. Both came to the city in 2003 through Jan Kalyan Samiti and are staying at the hostel run by the Samiti on Tilak Road.
A member of the local committee which looks after the students in Pune, Sunita Bapat says, “When you enter the remote areas of north-east, you will see children sitting in ‘open classrooms’. A shelter is put up and students of different standards sit together while two or three teachers are seen managing all the classes.”
Rikil Chyrmang, who completed his Masters in Economics from Goa University with the help of Jan Kalyan Samiti says, “Lack of proper education has serious social and economic implications, which have hampered our growth. There is a feeling of insecurity among the youth there. They don’t feel that they are a part of India. With no quality education, they have no access to proper livelihood and many of them fall prey to the separatists’ movement.”
Rikil is into research on effects of Bangladeshi infiltration on Assam’s economy at Centre for Development Studies in Trivandrum. He hopes to go back and work for the development of his region.
“Our aim is to help them develop a vision and go back to make a difference in the North-East,” says Poonam Mehta, incharge of Jan Kalyan Samiti in the city. She adds, “We are bringing students to the city for the last 16 years. We support them till they complete their HSC or graduation, depending on their progress. We run one hostel in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad each for girls and boys respectively. Many of our students are working in the North-East.”
“Aiomsciar Khongsdam did her MBBS in Kolhapur and is now serving at a rural hospital in Meghalaya. Her sister Shaiflin did nursing in the city and went back to serve in her home state. Another student Madras Dhakr is serving as a manager in Nabard at Imphal,” she says. “Delina Khongdup, who did her bachelor in law from the city is now coming back to do her masters after serving in Meghalaya for a few years,” adds Mehta.
About the initiative
Under Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) Jankalyan Samiti Purvanchal Vikas about 200 boys and girls are staying in 11 hostels at Pune, Chinchwad, Sangli, Dombiviali, Ratnagiri, Nashik, Latur, Parbhani, Sambhajinagar, Nanded and Ambejogai.
This project is in operation since 1993. The annual expenditure per student is Rs18,000. The annual expenditure of all hostels is Rs25 to 30 lakh. A three-day camp for the students from the hostels is held every year.
“Though we are a part of RSS, the work of educating children from the North-East is carried out without discrimination. The students have the freedom to follow their religious beliefs,” says Bapat. It was hard to convince the parents initially but now the people are eager to send their children and there is a big waiting list.

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