I’m making the most of the opportunities."
LATTUR – EMPOWERING LIVES
Situated in Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu, Lattur Panchayat is known more for its proximity to its famous neighbour — Kalpakkam, a town situated about 15-20 km from Lattur. Kalpakkam is home to India’s second largest establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy — the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research IGCAR and has an atomic power station as well.
Amul believes in making most of the opportunities that comes one’s way. She belongs to the Vinayaka SHG. Like other women in the village, the access to credit made her join our SHG. Her husband is an electrician who can earn up to INR 600 a day. There are days when her husband has no work and the family has to make do with the little savings. It is to cater to such days that Amul decided to start something on her own.
Through our VUP she first obtained a loan of INR 15,000. Next, she leased about 3 acres. The loan was used to buy 60 kg of groundnut seeds which were cultivated on 2 acres; the remaining one acre was used for paddy cultivation. The money was also used to pay the labourers who were employed to plough the land. About 15-20 people are needed for the manual labour in per acre; each labourer is paid about INR 130. From the recent harvest, Amul got 60 sacks of groundnut out of which about 10 sacks were given to the landlord. Each sack of groundnut is sold for INR 1,900. Similarly, from the paddy that was cultivated, she obtained 13 sacks, each of which was sold for INR 950. Amul and her family are delighted over the success from this effort. “We are so grateful to the people who have supported the VUP. One person’s help has made so much of a difference in so many lives,” says Amul.
TRAINED TO SUCCEED – Skill Training Programme
Through the VUP we have also initiated a skill training programme where women from Lattur have been trained on sewing. Villagers are used to doing unskilled manual labour and hence are unable to explore other livelihood options. By training them on a specialised skill like sewing, women can start their own enterprises, undertake bulk orders from local companies, SHGs can start a group enterprise, so on and so forth…the opportunities are aplenty.
In its efforts to make the anganwadi (Government-run day-care centre) a more welcoming place for the infants, we have repainted the walls of the anganwadi. The brightly-coloured walls have given a fresh breath of life to the once dull walls. The centre has been provided with mats, buckets and a shoe rack. However, the most valuable contribution to the anganwadi has been that of a water filter. Children no longer have to drink from pots and have access to safe drinking water. Avenue trees too have been provided to the anganwadi.
A six-module health training is provided to the SHG women to sensitise them on personal hygiene and health practices.
Women are urged to follow simple practices like washing hands, wearing footwear, clipping nails, to name a few; they are also made aware of the importance of a healthy diet to prevent anaemia and menstrual hygiene. Thirty-year-old Mallika says the training was an eye-opener. “While we knew a few practices advocated through the training we ignored to follow it. When we realised how adhering to simple practices can help prevent infections and diseases people became more cautious,” says Mallika.
EDUCATING THE UNDERPRIVILEGED
We have started a Children’s Learning Centre for a group of students belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), the disadvantaged section of the community. Education has never been the forte among this community and parents have never really encouraged their children to pursue it. The dropout rate too is high among students from this community. Their parents have never attended school and the inclination to study too has been poor among the students. Or VUP team in its efforts to help students from this community started a CLC exclusively for students from this community.
WEB OF OPPORTUNITIES
To promote e-literacy among the villagers, we introduced a Citizens’ Centre in Lattur. Apart from e-learning and ICT classes, the CC is thronged by children in the evening. It’s the only computer centre in the village. More than 100 students have benefitted from the e-learning classes. Attending a private computer centre would cost a person about INR 2,000, which is beyond the reach of most villagers. Through the CC, we have also spread awareness of the importance of Grama Sabha.
The Grama Sabha is the grass root level democratic institution in each Village Panchayat. A vibrant Grama Sabha is essential for the effective functioning of Village Panchayats by promoting transparency and accountability in administration, enhancing public participation in the planning and implementation of schemes and in the choice of beneficiaries, and paving the way for social audit.
To ensure a clean and green village, the environment initiative has taken a few small steps. Dustbins have been distributed in the village. This has ensured that waste is not strewn on the roads. Through sensitisation programmes, awareness has been created to reduce the use of plastics. Horticulture plants have been distributed in the households. This has been very well-received by villagers. Coconut, sapodilla, guava are some of the plants distributed. Apart from the nutrient content of the fruits, residents also see it as an income-generating activity with some of them eagerly waiting to sell their first produce of coconuts.
TAKING THE VUP INITATIVES FORWARD
To encourage the role of the community in the progress of the village, a Village Development Committee (VDC) has formed under the VUP in Lattur. 15 members from the community form the VDC; the members include the Panchayat President, ward members, Headmistress of the panchayat’s government middle school, young villagers and SHG women. They meet once a month to discuss issues pertaining to the panchayat. They are instrumental in taking the VUP initiatives forward.
Despite the barriers of caste that are deeply entrenched among rural communities, it is noteworthy to mention that the VDC mooted the idea for a potable water pump for the hamlet where the SC and ST communities reside. The SC & ST community for long did not have enough access to water. They had to visit the other areas in the village to get water. On a request from the VDC, we provided a potable water pump in the hamlet which has ensured that residents have access to water and don’t have to go in search of water.