In the third part of this article let us go through the activities that Ashram is involved with a larger purpose of providing help at fundamental level.
Lake Renovation Program: As described at the start of this article, Ulundurpet and Thirunavalur Blocks are poorly rain-fed areas of the District. Even by drilling deeper for 500ft, water could not be obtained for farming. Though most of the villages in and around this area have lakes, they are neither de-silted nor renovated for several years. The water-table is continuously going down. Even if there is sufficient downpour of rain, the cultivation of land could be possible only for one crop and there is no chance of good yield because of lack of conservation of rain water. The Seva Prathishtan (a wing of Ashram) undertakes tank renovation programmes in villages for effective storage of rainwater for extensive cultivation. Some of the tank renovation activities were undertaken by the Ashram as part of “Food for work” scheme of Central Government. The Ashram had to convince the villagers to invest their efforts to benefit form this government scheme. The satisfying thing is that those villages where the tank and lake renovation activities were undertaken before 2005 monsoon, they were all filled with copious quantity of water during 2005 and 2006 monsoons. This helped many villagers to cultivate three times a year. The water levels in the wells and the ground ‘water table’ have increased. This improved the economic conditions of the villagers and prevented them from migrating to cities to work as cheap labourers. The emotional benefit is that this created self-confidence among the farmers to do their cultivation in full swing.
Inside the SRKV Campus, there is a government-sponsored ‘Exhibition Centre’ that highlights the importance of traditional water resources management. Students from many schools benefit from this Centre.
Organic Farming: Apart from water, the other most important thing for agriculture is fertile soil. Continuous use of chemical fertilizers for decades has depleted soil fertility and has posed challenge to farming across the country. The increased chemical fertilizer input does not have corresponding increase in output now-a-days. This is amply clear from the low agricultural growth rate albeit the growth rate in manufacturing and service industry is close to double digit for the last couple of years in succession. The Ashram’s conviction is that “A Second Look at Agriculture” is the need of the hour. The cost of fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds are shooting up every time however the selling price of agricultural product is very poor. Hence, the farmers are put into a pathetic plight to abandon farming and migrate to other towns and cities to earn their livelihood resulting in dense population ad overcrowded cities. IT WOULD BE A PITY IF INDIA HAS TO SPEND ITS PRECIOUS FOREIGN EXCHNAGE RESEVRE TO IMPORT FOOD ITEMS LIKE RICE, WHEAT, AND PULSES WHEN FOR YEARS TOGETHER WE HAVE BEEN PROCLAIMING OURSELVES TO BE AN AGRICULTURAL COUNTRY. Any right thinking citizen must realize the impending danger that this country faces due to falling agricultural growth rate in the backdrop of ever-increasing population growth rate. The propagation of indigenous organic farming among the farmers is very essential. On a pilot basis, with the support of Government of India, Ashram has selected small and medium farmers of Villupuram to disseminate various water conservation technologies and techniques of organic farming like bio compost, mulching, panchakavyam, bio pest controllers, vermi compost etc. It is to be understood that organic farming won’t be effective rather be at a disadvantage if it is practiced in small pockets of land whereas the surrounding land owners continue with the fertilizer- and pesticide-based farming.
Again, for the benefit of school and college students, the SRKV Campus houses practical land sets to demonstrate the principles and utility value of vermin compost and organic farming. The Ashram may do well to concentrate on encouraging and guiding horticulture, poultry, cattle rearing, producing vegetables, and growing plants that possess medicinal (e.g. neem) and fuel value (e.g. Jatropha).
Soil Testing: The other important things to better agriculture are the knowledge on soil and the seed. There is no centralized centre for soil and water testing in Villupuram District. So the marginal and small farmers are not aware of the need of soil and water testing. The do not go for soil and water test to other districts as it is too expensive. Ashram educates the farmers on the need for soil testing and help to get it done at low cost. If soil is tested and required quantity of organic manures, bio fertilizers, and other amendments are added at appropriate time, the soil health could be improved. Indiscriminate use of inorganic fertilizers could be minimized and fertility of soil could be saved. The problems related to soil and irrigation are identified and suitable suggestions are provided by Soil test lab. A kit is provided to the farmers in remote villages to help them in identifying the problems. Proper demonstration classes are conducted to the farmers to use a soil and water testing kit. The soil test lab also helps in developing data based on integrated management of soil, water, crop, and environment. Provides oil health cards, which will be more useful to the growers for their future references and suggests suitable crops and manures based on their soil and water problems.
Seed Bank: In the seed bank, indigenous varieties of seeds are stored, effectively preserved, and multiplied according to the traditional Indian system. Since the seeds are produced in organic farming, the germinating percentage of the seeds will be high. The farmers need not depend on any private seed companies or agro service Centres to buy seeds. Instead, they can get seeds locally from the seed bank. It is economically effective to farmers and the farmers will get quality seeds and return the same amount of seed after their harvest. Seed bank helps in disseminating the knowledge on seeds.
A small farmer has land, manpower, and monetary support too from bank loan. Yet he could not be a successful farmer. The reason is that he lacks relevant skills in practicing profitable agriculture according to the changing trends. Rural people have indigenous talents, instincts, and potential. With the right kind of support, Ashram believes that their potentiality could be brought out with ‘scientific touch’. The Rural Training Centre emphasis the practical and scientific approaches to the development of self-reliant cultivation programme. The training is offered to all categories of farmers by this Centre on organic farming, preparation of vermi compost, bio-pesticides and bio-compost, mulching, floriculture and horticulture, mushroom cultivation, azolla cultivation, grafting and sapling, hollow-block manufacturing and micro-credit programmes.
Ashram equally believes in providing medical aid to the needy apart from providing education and improving their economic status. In rural areas the villagers are not aware of their ill health until it becomes serious. Going to hospital to cure their ill health also means loosing one day earning. There is no access to first aid and preventive check-up. Ashram has started Sri Sarada Free Dispensary for the benefit of surrounding villages. Through its mobile dispensary wing, it takes care of health and hygiene of the sick, living in extreme penury, in the interior villages. Medicines are given at free of cost and chronic patients are referred to specialists. Ashram runs a free clinical laboratory with modern equipments and regular medical camps for all kinds of diseases are conduced from time to time.
Garba Samrakshana Kendra focuses its service activities towards improving physical and psychological well-being of pregnant women. The frequent child birth and improper food intake make the rural mothers very weak. The unhygienic habitats and loborious physical work further weakens their health and also results in the birth of physically and mentally week children. This Kendra provides nutritious supplementary food at free of cost to pregnant women, creates awareness about post-natal care, tries to avoid complications during child birth, and above all provides emotional stability through psychological techniques and by providing spiritual inputs & values through cassettes, bajans, mantra chanting, yogasanas etc.
Ashram may do well in spreading good hygiene practices, awareness on killer diseases like AIDS / Hepatitis, role of nutritious food and clean drinking water in keeping good health, and help encourage immunization programmes beyond polio drops.
Poor village people working as labourers find it difficult to fill their own stomach and their younger ones. In such circumstances, providing good food and proper medical aid to the aged ones in the poverty sticken families is ignored. Ashram takes up the responsibility of providing a better life for old mothers, helps to ease their minds from mental agony, and provides proper medical care through Sri Sarada Vruddha Mahila Kendra, an old age home for rural women. On the same lines, Sri Annapurani Day Care Centre for old citizens in villages is run by Ashram. Starvation for many days creates many problems during the old age. To avoid this situation, good lunch is provided every day to poor elderly men in villages. This ‘one meal at a day scheme is a supportive plan for the aged who are still helping family in one way or the other. This creates CONFIDENCE among the aged who are otherwise considered as a spent force in families and provides peace of mind to those elderly citizens.
(to be continued)
Help requested in all dedicated forms such as:-
(i) Adopt/sponsor a program and offer monetary support. Ashram & this author would ensure transparency in spending towards that particular program/service activity and progress would be shared with the sponsorer(s)
(Monetary donations are tax exempted under section 80G)
(ii) Human Resource (Physical) help by actively participating in some of the Ashram activities may be for a specified duration ranging from a month to 6 months / one year
(iii) Medical help in terms of providing medicines, accessories etc. Doctors may help with their professional services once in a quarter / six months; Vetinary doctors could provide service to the cattle and animals in the Ashram and in the near-by villages
(iv) Other Professionals like software engineers, Agricultural scientists may help by taking classes in the Ashram-run computer training courses and interactive sessions organised for village men practicing agriculture
(v) Those how could impart vocational skills can offer their service by being tutors in Vocational Training Centre run by the Ashram (to make home made food items such as pickles, cakes, sweets, pappad, decorative items, wire bags, candle, agarbatis, tailoring, repair of electronic equipments and home appliances etc)
(vi) Text Books for formal education and also other books to gain knowledge and good morals can be donated to the Library run by the Ashram
(vii) Experts in sports coaching could train the boys and girls studying in Ashram run formal and informal schools
(viii) Thought Leadership exp. in rural development technologies such as organic farming, low cost housing, drinking water, de-silting ponds, sanitation etc
(ix) Any other help that could enhance the living standards of people in our society
Phone: +91 (0) 4149 -220432, +91
(0) 94432 20362
Postal address: Sri Ramakrishna
Vidhyalaya Gurukulam, Vivekananda Nagar,
New Edaikkal, Ulundurpet, Tamilnadu,
India, PIN: 606 107
Acknowledgement: My sincere
namaskars to sanyasin sisters Seva Prana
Sahaja Prana who introduced me to the
Ashram more than two decades ago.