Small Steps Big Leaps

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THE LIVING GANDHI

Inspired by Gandhian ideals, a man in his 80s has for over 40 years given hinterlands in India many reasons to smile. 1Arun Chavan, founder and honorary secretary of Verala Development Society (VDS) has been a major force in transforming underdeveloped villages into developed ones. Chavan quit his job as a professor of English in Kolhapur to invest all his efforts in the endeavour. Through its community-based initiatives, vds has managed to build irrigation wells, primary and high schools and has been successful in providing electricity to several villages. Based in Sangli and Kolhapur districts in Maharashtra, vds has also successfully made an impact through adult education programs and afforestation. vds also aims to educate women and train them in other employment skills.

2A PATH OF THEIR OWN

Troubled by the frequent occurrence of accidents and a number of applications left pending by the government, the people of Panihari village in Haryana’s Sirsa district took up matters, which the PWD should have resolved, into their own hands. The Ghaggar river was a major hurdle in the day-to-day work-life of the people from several nearby villages until they volunteered to come together to complete a half-constructed bridge over the river. What had started as a temporary construction with wooden planks, soon received ample funding and support from the villagers and in no time a well-constructed bridge came into being. The villagers also volunteered as labourers and offered materials and resources to speed up the construction. A 25-member committee (Panihari Pul Committee) with representatives from 11 villages was formed to manage the process of construction. The villagers plan to name the bridge Janata Ka Pul (People’s bridge).

3ONE FOR THE DIFFERENTLY ABLED

Travelling to places with harsh weather conditions and underdeveloped infrastructure can either be a scary task or an adventure; even more so for an individual who relies on wheelchairs to carry out day-to-day tasks. In order to make it easier and enjoyable for the differently-abled to travel and explore the Himalayas, PAGIR (People’s Action Group for Inclusion and Rights), in collaboration with a tourism initiative, have launched a wheelchair-friendly circuit called Himalayas on Wheels in Ladakh. PAGIR, one of the major contributors to the idea, is an NGO founded and run by Mohammed Iqbal (circled) who himself is differently- abled and trains people with special needs to make products from recycled materials to earn a livelihood. The project was the brainchild of social worker Vidya Khalyani.

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FROM BRICKS TO BOOKS

A woman forced by circumstances to work as domestic help as a child, Anuradha Bhosale decided to defy fate and give a happy turn to the future of thousands of children like her by starting Avani — an NGO that works for the rescue and betterment of children forced into labour. The NGO has rescued nearly 5,700 child labourers in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur since 1995 and has been successfully working to prevent child trafficking and female infanticide. Some of the rescued kids are provided education in schools run by Avani or the brickyard schools, as they call them. The institute also provides them housing facilities. Anuradha has further initiated the Women’s and Child Rights Campaign (WCRC) in order to educate and empower disadvantaged women. Avani has helped many women to be aware of their legal rights and benefits. In 2010 nearly 3,741 women received government entitlements due to Avani.

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