We love the time we spend at the computer centre."
UDAYALIPATTI – TO RISE AND SHINE
Five hamlets make up Udayalipatti, a panchayat in the historical block of Kundrandarkoil in Pudukkottai District. Like the ancient temple which stands on a rocky hillock right at the entrance to the panchayat, the land too looks ravaged by prolonged dry weather and inadequate monsoons. Agriculture has long since ceased to be the main occupation and a sustainable means of livelihood. Many have sought greener pastures outside their lands.
A SECOND CHANCE
Fifteen-year-old Sasikumar had to drop out of school three months before the tenth grade board examination to look after his mother who was hospitalised. He regretted missing the board examination. Shortly, he heard of the Transit School from a VUP staff. He lost no time in getting enrolled there. “Had it not been for the Transit School, it would have been very difficult for me. I might even have given up studying. I would like to clear my examination and take up a diploma course in Information Technology.
The course that I am keen to pursue will provide me the option to work and study at the same time. I know some of my friends who have done this and are successfully placed in companies all over India,” says Sasikumar.
Shakila Banu’s Story
Shakila Banu and her husband had been managing their household by running a small provision shop in their village. Due to a general dip in the economy in the agrarian community, people had lesser money to spend. This affected their sales. They couple felt it would be better to run a tea and snack stall instead. This new venture started earning them around INR 100 per day.
In 2013, misfortune struck the family when Shakila Banu’s husband met with an accident. To help her run the family, the eldest son, Rahmathullah, dropped out of school and went to Chennai to work in a restaurant.
“It was getting tougher paying off some debts which had very high interest rates. We hardly had any money to run the stall,” recalls Shakila Banu. To her great relief, she learnt of the microfinance options available for her under our VUP. As a member of the Allippoo SHG, she availed of a loan of INR 15,000 with which she purchased some provisions for her stall. She kept some money aside for the next few months.“It is such a relief to have such opportunities available to manage our livelihood. Now I have told my eldest son to pursue his studies which he has promised to do. My husband feels relieved and happy too,” says Shakila Banu.
BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
In the panchayat building at Udayalipatti we operate a Citizens’ Centre (CC). Janani and Vijayalakshmi are all eager learners at the CC for the past one year. “We have learnt Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Paint so far,” says Janani. “I like to try out letters and key in poems. Sometimes I use the PowerPoint to present poems. We find it a great medium to learn English. If we make a spelling mistake, we can correct it. They have also installed a software by which the English words are transliterated to Tamil. We then relate to the English words better, they are not so intimidating!” says Vijayalakshmi.
For these children, the CC has bridged the digital gap. The only other way they could have learnt so much about the computers would have been to pay around INR 4,000 at a Centre at Keeranur, a few kilometres from the panchayat.
Seventy-year-old Pattu lives alone with her eighty-year-old husband. Both their children are married and live separately. The elderly couple make a living as daily-wage labourers. Pattu gathers neem fruits and sells them to vendors at the rate of INR 10 per kilogram. Sometimes, she has to go to Keeranur to sell the fruits at a higher price.
A year ago, Pattu began experiencing hazy vision in the right eye. Gradually, it became worse and she started getting scared to step out. There was nobody to accompany her to the hospital for a check-up. Our VUP mobiliser approached her and told her about a free eye camp being organised under the VUP. She was taken to the camp from where she was referred to a tertiary hospital for a free of charge cataract surgery that was performed on her.
Having gained her vision, Pattu is back at work, standing firmly again on her two feet.
HOW GREEN IS MY BACKYARD?
Kannammal and Selvi were among 20 others who set-up a kitchen garden in their respective houses with the seedlings supplied to them under the VUP. Their garden has been richer with greens, okras, beans, drumstick, bittergourd, among many other plants. “We planted the seeds about a month ago. We have been enjoying the yield ever since,” says Kannammal.
TAKING THE VUP INITATIVES FORWARD
Fifteen members constitute the Village Development Committee (VDC) at Udayalipatti, comprising of ward members, SHG women, youth and the village health nurse. They meet every month. The only source of drinking water at Udayalipatti is a pond which is drying up fast. This was brought to our notice. The pond will soon be de-silted and deepened. This will help the entire village.
Ranganayaki, an SHG member says, “Previously our awareness levels on many issues were also dismally low. Now, thanks to the responsibility we have taken up as VDC members, we feel more confident about discussing issues of the panchayat.”
With a strong VDC determined to take the villagers forward from darkness to light, the Udayalipatti folk are rising, ready to shine.