Saturday, May 22, 2010

Youth Volunteers cycle 250 km across 40 villages to build community awareness

Ahmednagar 13 May 2010
40 youth volunteers participated in Sanvedana Jagruti Bicycle Yatra, a rally organized by a non profit organization, Snehalaya, that works towards creating safe and dignified spaces and providing overall rehabilitation for victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking and their children.
The rally was a awareness and sensitization activity lead by youth from different walks of life. The groups interacted with the locals in each region to understand and guide them on how to tackle concern areas.

Through the yatra, these volunteers visited 40 villages, 6 passionate Institutions interacted in slums, red light areas and met farmers in drought prone area and also Govt. officials from the respective regions.

The group performed street plays and dances with the support of drums, Harmonium and distributed 50,000 awareness pamphlets to the audiences all through the rally.

Having travelled 250kms across the district starting 8th may, the rally returned to Ahmednagar on 12th May.


Late Mahamanav Baba Amte had organized ‘Bharat Jodo’ Abhiyan 25 yrs ago & many youth from Ahmednagar district have since joined this Abhiyan. NGO’s feels that the present political and social situation is quite worrisome due to budding groupism in the society on the basis of caste, language, religion, vested interests of religious and political parties, etc.

Samvedana Jagruti yatra's motive has also been to create awareness and sensitivity towards child rights, human trafficking, the smuggling of the sand from the rivers that are a direct threat to environment, Agriculture, ground water level and the peace in the rural areas.
His efforts and guidance has been an inspiration to many volunteers and participants who choose  to work on some or all the issues raised by him.

Similarly, Vedpalsingh Tanwar (Age 52) is from Bhiwani, Haryana, presently working as a Manager in the multinational Company who wants to mobilize and work with youth on the social issues. Another young social activist is Shyam Asawa (Age 38) a well known lawyer by profession and also a trustee of Anna Hajare’s Trust.       

Like these young social activists, many  youth joined the rally from the neighboring districts like Jalna, Pune, Aurangabad & Beed. Some of them were also M.S.W students.

The rally was totally a volunteer run event where participants or the organizers did not have to contribute financially. This is very inspiring since such efforts even in today’s times, uphold certain human values such as commitment, involvement and teamwork.

Events from May 8th – 13th

May 8, 2010

Mr. Popat Pawar (The Youth Icon, the Architect of Ideal village Hiware Bazar and Chairman of Saint Gadge Maharaj Gram Swachata Abhiyan) flagged of the rally at Gandhi Maidan.

Brother Alex Gonsalvis (Founder of Bosco Gramin Vikas Kendra), Smt. Saudamini Katre, (Freedom Fighter), Mr. Rajiv Gujar (Hon. Director Balbhawan Project), Adv. Abhay Agarkar (Social activist & former President of Ahmednagar Municipality), were present on the occasion and accompanied the cycle rally till the end of nagar city.

Volunteers of the rally performed street plays at 9 different locations touching upon issues of drought affected farmers at villages namely, Shendi, Dhangarwadi, Pokhardi, and Pimpalgaon Malvi.

Interaction with Haribhakta Parayan jangle Maharaj, founder of Dnynesh ashram at Dongargan, gave an insight on how saints such as Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Ramdas, Kabir, Namdeo, Eknath & the warkari community had taken efforts to bring about social change. He appealed that the thoughts and approaches’ of these saints be put to use in today ‘s situations in bringing social changes in the society since they have been tried and tested over centuries and people have strong faith and belief in them.

In Wambori (Tehsil. Rahuri) a meeting was organized by Sarpanch Mr. Gorakshanath Wetal in which the present major issues influencing rural life were discussed. Mr. Wetal had earlier participated in both the Bharat Jodo Rallies with Baba Amte leaving his government job.

The Yatra received a warm welcome at Sonai (Tehsil Newase).
Mr. Sudhakar Gadhkh runs ‘Apulki’, an orphanage for about 70 boys since last 10 years. Sudhakar organized the street play at various locations in Sonai & Shani Shinganapur areas. The participants interacted with Sudhakar, who shared his experiences in starting the project which was an inspiration from the work of Snehalaya and that he is in the  process of creating an institution on similar lines as the organization. The participants have stayed and rested at Apulki, thus spending quality time with the children and staff of the centre.

May 9, 2010

Mr. Dada Patil Darandale, Chairman, Shanishinganapur Temple Trust  welcomed the rally at Shani Shinganapur. A huge crowed attended and participated in the street plays there.
Mr. Datta Sonawane, another active participant from the area who interacted with the participants shared that he had constructed a big Polly house and was producing flowers (Jarbera etc.) and exporting them. Mr. Datta  shared his inspiring success story and  explained to the group how one can create self help groups and run profitable enterprises.

More than 400 warkaries were present at  the special performance of street play within the campus of Dnyneshwari Temple (Newase). Mr. Baban Maharaj Walke, Chairman of Warkari Co-ordination Committee said that the Sanvedana Jagruti Yatra was a innovative and inspiring effort to spread  the great philosophy and messages of the saints. He also said that this was the very place where saint Dnyaneshwar wrote the book ‘Dnyneshwari’ (The first translation of Bhagwatgeeta in Marathi 750 years ago.)

The participants stayed in Nathbaba Temple in Newase on the bank of river Prawara. Mr. Anil Peche, Rajendra Chaudhari, activists from the region voiced their concern over the sand robbery taking place in the region thus turning all the irrigated land into a desert. They also shared that this was going on thanks to the nexus between political groups, local government officials , criminal gangs and sand robbers.
May 10, 2010

Visit to Ashankur Institute at Bhokar(Tehsil Shrirampur) run by Sister Dafny Sequera.
She inspired the group while sharing many success stories of self reliant girls and the rural women from the region.

Ashankur works towards encouraging and empowering self help groups and offers vocational training to needy rural girls and women. Sister shared that only this approach can prevent migration and trafficking of rural girls and women.

The rally reached Shrirampur and was welcomed by local Swagat Samiti near Mahatma Gandhi Statue. It was a unique experience to see victimized women in flesh trade, cheering the participants along with the Corporators, the social activists and others people from the society.

The group travelled through the slums of Subhedar Vasti (a Muslim dominated area), a Bagdad Madersa and finally reached the red light area of Shrirampur. All the victimized women in flesh trade  of the area had prepared food for the group. The group along with the community ladies had dinner together at the Snehalaya’s Parivartan Kedra.

The women of the area shared their problems and expectations from the civil society, government authorities and non profit organizations. Mrs. Sangeeta (who left the profession after 12 years) explained that prostitution should be the last option of every woman for survival. Most women are forced into prostitution at a very tender age. Sangeeta shared many true stories from the community and appealed to all to work as a team towards rescue and rehabilitation of the victims in the red light areas. Sangeeta and others also actively participated in the question answer session. Mr. Anjum Shaikh, a social worker explained to the group, the basic issues related with slums and Muslims.  

May 11, 2010

The group then on visited  Mr. Pappu Sapkal,who runs Gangadhar Baba ashram for about 100 boys in Guha village of Rahuri Tehsil. The unique thing about the ashram is that there is no employee in the institution. The children and Pappu stay like a family and work together in the ashram. The former high court judge B. G. Kolse is the chief trustee and Mr. P B Sawant, a former judge of Supreme Court is the president of the ashram.
Mr. Kolse Patil donated the land for the ashram. The group found that students of the ashram were doing all the work by themselves, like cooking, computer work, barbering, the electrical work and farming, which was quite amazing to watch.

Mr. Bhausaheb Waghchowre, member of parliament contacted the group and invited a discussion on the issues at Kolhar. He shared his concern over the increasing unrest among youth and the incompetence of the social system to control it. He felt that only a a strong non political youth movement in action can improve the situation in the region.

The rally reached to Rahuri factory at night.  

May 12, 2010

At Rahuri factory, the participants met with Dr. Dattatraya Wane, well known scientist and ‘Krushibhushan’ with vast knowledge and experience on economics of agriculture.

He explained to the group, how even a small piece of farm can give extra ordinary out puts of agricultural product and prevent migration from rural to urban lands, which is one of the major urban population issue facing the country today.
He invited the group to his farm at Manori to see the actual results of scientific & beneficial agriculture. 

The group performed the street play at Sahani Mandir square where Dr. Usha Tanpure, President of Rahuri Municipal Corporation was present. 
The participants also visited and held discussions with Mr. Bhausaheb Yeole, founder of De addiction center and Ramesh Sasane, an active participant of Bharat Jodo.

At the concluding ceremony of the yatra, many important persons of the city like Mrs. Jyotipriya Sing, honest trainee I.P.S officer and Mr. Yugalsharnji Maharaj were present to cheer and support the participants.mrs.Sing appealed the youths not to think but act boldly if they find any injustice .the styagrih on social issue and the constructive work are the two sides of the coin of social change, she added. 

Learning and findings of the Yatra

The Yatra has not only inspired the youth but also provided an insight on how to practice Satyagraha in one’s daily life.
Adv. Shyam Asawa shared that Satyagraha was very relevant even today if the technique are put to use in the right manner.

At Bhokar, Songaon, Satrad, Kharwandi, the group visited the local talathi. In Shrirampur they visited local tehasildar and Sub divisional offices and found them all closed on a working day.

The group raised questions on issues like why the boards of the information officers and appealing authorities not displayed in the premises and also why the supply department was not exhibiting the stocks of the food grains. They also wanted to know why government rations shops were selling the kerosene, sugar and other food grains in the black market.  
To all these questions, the authorities only apologized without giving any clear answers.

The group opposed robbery of land and invited the local tehasildar to come to the spot at Soangaon to see for himself.

In Kharwandi, a liquor shop was not closed even though the gramsabha and more than 50% women have appealed for cancellation of the license. People approached the yatra group with complaints. Adv. Asawa taught them how to write a proper complaint and to pressurize revenue and police administration to take action against the issue.
By these experiences, the participants have learnt the ways and the means to solve their  issues within the legal framework.
At the end, the organizers appealed to all participants that they should start some meaningful community based work with available resources in the area and report the progress to the conveyor of  youth activities, on a regular basis

Issue in focus

The ‘Sand Looting’ from rivers like Godawari-Pravara & Mula has become a socio-economic and environmental issue in the region. This well irrigated area will soon convert into a desert. The reason being downing level of ground water due to unlimited, uncontrolled sand looting. The bigwigs in politics, bureaucracy & organized criminal gangs have the nexus in the sand deals. Several murders have also taken place in last 2 months in related issues. Rural-poor villagers are quite frightened of this nexus.

The rally organized by Snahelaya and the Gramsabhas has boosted the morale of the villagers in 6 places. The various activities such as street plays, groups songs on awareness about human trafficking, Child rights, right to information were an attempt at making people feel empowered and awake so they can take responsibility to correct the wrongs in their regions.
The volunteers who participated in Snehalaya’s Shram Sanskar Chawani were responsible for all the arrangements at the local level. It was a conscious decision of the organizers of the rally not to take support from any local politicians or the co-operative institutions run by the same people.

Mr.Ramesh Kacholiya-Mr.Nimesh Shah and all members of Caring Friends, ‘Padmabhushan Anna Hajare’, Dr. Rajanikant Arole (Raman Megasis Awardee), Popatrao Pawar (Chairman of Gadge Maharaj Gram Swachata Abhiyan,M.S), Bharat Sevak Dr. S. N. Subbarao allies Bhaiji, have given active support to the rally. Anna & Popatrao joined the group at some places and participated in public meetings.

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