Reaching the underserved in Purulia, West Bengal, Ladakh ( Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh) and Jhalawar, Rajasthan
Literacy India’s Tribal Empowerment programme started in the Purulia district of West Bengal more than a decade ago. Since then, the programme has taken small but steady steps to make people living in some of the most backward areas self-sufficient.Ladakh: Using our educational software ‘Gyantantra Udbhav’, we have reached schools in Ladakh. The software-based educational programme has been running successfully in government primary schools in Ladakh from 2018. In January 2018, the concerned authorities reached an agreement with us to initiate the GDD programme in Government High School Basgo, Government High School Likir and Government Middle School Tunglung Basgo of Leh. Our efforts to reach Ladakh faced various challenges. Setting up computer labs in schools was the foremost hurdle. In association with Dell India, the GDD programme has been running successfully across the three schools. The programme focuses on improving the grasp of students in subjects like English, Math, Hindi and general studies. A co-ordinator closely supervises the progress at every school. The local authorities and school principals have observed a significant improvement in the performance of beneficiaries.
Purulia: The deeply rural parts of the district such as Lowakui, Charida, Suisa and Munnibera villages are remote, densely covered by forests and infested with the terror of Maoists. The villages which are known for the ethnic art of making masks for and performing the Chhou folk dance form have been suffering on account of lack of connectivity and absence of a market. Our need assessment studies in the region pinpointed to the need for a sustainable livelihood. In 2009, we initiated our work in the region. We acted as a mediator between the Forest Department and the locals and sought permission to collect Shaal leaves from the forests without any legal interventions. Although the women had the skill of making plates (Pattal) and bowls from the Shaal leaves, extensive production and market access were challenges. In association with IIT Kharagpur we installed Pattal making machines and trained the women in the complete design-to-marketing process. They are now catering to the demands from Purulia town.
The team’s effort to curb migration and unemployment through the organic kitchen gardening and SRI (System of Rice Intensification) paddy production techniques training has benefitted a significant number of villagers. The women have received hands-on-training to produce vegetables such as green chilies, gourd, bitter gourd, cucumber, and pumpkin. The women’s sowing and weeding skills were polished, focussed, and intensified through the contemporary agricultural practices training. They now sell the home-grown vegetables in the local haats.
Several other programmes running simultaneously in the villages include ICT-based education for children and adults, CCA course for youth, tailoring & embroidery for girls and women, training for farmers on vermicompost and manure preparation.