Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
Wed, 19 Feb 97 21:43:27 EST


Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) was established in 1952. It is an
RSS affiliated organisation working for emancipation of forest
dwellers, who are invariably very poor, and have received very
little attention from the society. The activity centres of VKA
are located all over India particularly in the forest arrears of
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Gujarat and
Maharashtra. In the year 1978 the VKA started to undertake
massive development projects like health facilities, sports,
hostels, schools for Vanvasi children etc. In 1982, a ten day
camp of 350 hostel students of VKA (Maharashtra) was organised in
Mumbai. In this camp various programmes like sports, city tour,
lectures, etc. were organised.

In February 1997, a two day camp was held in Mumbai. Some of the
youth who had participated in the 1982 camp were also present.
Apart from the students, there were some full time workers and
former associates of VKA. We reproduce here the views of 6
students who were part of the 1982 camp and have done
exceptionally well in their careers.

Name : Ishwar Ballu.

He was in the VKA hostel of Vikramgarh (near Mumbai in Thane
district), he completed his schooling and then went on to do a
Diploma in Education, which entitled him to get a job in a
school. Simultaneously he continued his further education and
obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree. He then appeared for the
competitive examination of Maharashtra Public Service Commission.
Although he was not successful at the first attempt, he did not
lose courage and reappeared for the test and stood 24th amongst
59 successful candidates. He was entrusted by the Maharashtra
Government to look after 50 schools falling the Vanvasi areas of
North Western Maharashtra (Thane). His designation is Education
Executive Officer.

He has adopted the change in the role from a student to teacher
and subsequently as a responsible officer of the government.
This is particularly outstanding, since this is one of the few
cases of a Vanvasi youth who has risen to such a respectable and
influential position from a very humble beginning. Balu has
attributed his success to VKA, which brought about the major
change in his attitude. The VKA school developed in him better
appreciation of the problems of the non Vanvasi children and
enabled him to develop a feeling of brotherhood.

The traits imbibed in the VKA schools were also very helpful to
Balu. The teachers were very friendly and went out of their way
to help the students. The community dwelling, alongwith personality
development, were the key to his success.

"I was determined to become a teacher" he replied to a question.
"It was the result of the impact of my teachers on me. They
moulded our lives in a positive manner. Since I know the
predicament of the Vanvasi children in getting education, as an
officer in the education department I concentrate on the
infrastructural development. In the 50 schools under my
supervision, I have to evaluate the performance of nearly 160
teachers. I have requested the Education Department to recruit
30-40 more teachers".

To another question, how he can achieve literacy among Vanvasi
children, he replied that a number of his classmates are today
active workers of VKA. Although they belong to non government
organisations, the ultimate objective is the same as the
government. He said that in his school the VKA associated
children are increasing and he is very optimistic for the future.


After completing his education, Sudam joined a bank in Panvel as a
clerk. He belongs to the Katkari tribe. He is also involved
with the various activities of VKA. He mentioned that one of the
problems in this area were the conversion activities of the
Christian missionaries. To counteract this activity, every night
he would hold satsang and kirtan in as many villages as possible.
These are organised by the Vanvasi youth themselves, and they are
getting very good response from the villagers. In February 1996,
he conducted a meeting of nearly 4,000 Katkari people in the Pen
Taluka. After he made his speech, some missionaries can to me
and asked me who had written his speech. He replied, "This is
samskaras imbibed in me by VKA. What I have delivered in my
speech is nothing but my reflection of the samskaras. Those who
undergo this course, do not require to imitate or read speeches".

He said that the satsungs contain basically three points -
eliminating of superstitions, giving up liquor and preventing
religious conversions. He further pointed out that the main
reason behind evangelization is economic backwardness. He
narrated a story about conversion methods in his nearby village :
"Once a man got severe headaches and went to village healer but
in vain. He was persuaded by Missionaries to try their medicine.
First he was given a tablet under the condition that it shall be
consumed by offering pooja to Ganapati. He observed the route
but the pain continued. Following day he went to Church and
expressed his anguish. Now a new tabblet was given to him under
instruction that it shall be consumed by offering worship to
Christ. When he pointed out that he did not possess any photo of
Christ, he was provided with one. He followed the route and the
very next morning he was free of pain. Thus he was brain-washed
that his Gods could not save him but their God did it. Thus he
got converted to Christianity." He said that I can cite numerous
accounts of conversions in such ways. But the activities of VKA
are bearing fruits, and the Missionaries are disheartened.


She did her matriculation in Karjat center of VKA and then
completed her 12th (Higher Secondary) with the help from VKA.
Presently she is doing her final year of graduation.

Has she faced any problem being a girl ? "Yes, primarily from
our household," she replied. "During my matriculation nearly all
tribal girls were married. I was under stress. After passing my
matriculation I wasted my one year sitting idle due to my family
tension perhaps this matter only. Then Smt. Ranjanatai
Karandikar of VKA came to my help. She not only persuaded my
parents but also arranged things for my further education.

She has an aptitude for sports. A question was asked bout her
sporting career and the helping hand extended by VKA. She
answered, "I attribute my success to VKA. The training for
wrestling, mallkhambh and kabbadi were given even to girls in
schools of VKA. There was no discrimination in hostels as well
as schools." She was selected for All India Vanvasi Games and
from there she was picked up by the Sports Director of Central
Government to represent Maharashtra state. She was very fortunate
because only 30 candidates were selected from all over
Maharashtra. On 14th November 1989 in New Delhi she participated in
Bharatiyam where Rajiv Gandhi the then Prime Minister of India was
chief guest.


After completing his degree he joined the Thane Janata Sahakari
Bank as a clerk. He resides in Thane a district near to Mumbai.

He is not a full time worker but very popular among his Vanvasi
brothers. A question was posed to him, how he maintains his twin
roles as worker and as a clerk. He, like others, owes his
success to VKA. By his own efforts, he has established relations
with 500 worker daily. At the age of 18 he started traveling all
over Maharashtra and established a good rapport with all centres
of VKA. He said that the Vanvasis previously remained as a
separate group from the society. But he now enjoys responsible
positions due to the work done by the VKA, which is a boon to the
Vanvasis. The VKA has given a new direction to the life of
Vanvasis. The due positions of society which were earlier denied
are now secured by them with co-operation of VKA. Particularly,
when the Vanvasis were entrusted with duties they come in contact
with rest of the world. Thus they have opportunity to get
acquainted with the rest of the world.


After completing his matriculation he joined VKA as a full time
worker of VKA. Now his center of activity is Ratnagiri district
of Western Maharashtra.

Like Vishnu, he also found the VKA as parents of Vanvasi youth.
Since his young age he was an active worker of VKA center based
at Vikramgarh. His parents were staying at the top of Satpuda
mountain and the tribals like him remained aloof from the regular
life of the rest of the society. They could not dream of the
existence of a bicycle, let alone a bus. In his schooling days,
once he was given an important task to go to the local town by
bus. He could not be persuaded take this means of transport.
Again for a Taluka meeting which was 30 km. distance, he missed
his bus and started running at 6 p.m. and so reached his
destination. "Such zeal could exist only in company of VKA," was
his remark.


After doing his matriculation he completed his Diploma in
Education and joined a school as a teacher. He also is a good
wrestler and kabaddi player.

When asked, how he came in contact with VKA, he replied, "Upto 2nd
Std., I was in my native village which is on the top of
Satpuda. My father was regularly coming down for marketing. The
distance used to take 6 to 7 hours to cover each way. Once my
father narrated his distress to Vasant Karandikar of VKA about
tribal children's education as well as their poor economic
condition. Karandikar urged him to send their children to the
VKA school. I alongwith few others thus joined the school at
Vaijnatha. Initially, we were afraid about the sudden contact
with rest of the society. Once I escaped from school but my
father forcibly fetched me back. I discovered that school
guardians were very loving. My whole educational years were
spent in the VKA hostel. According to Maharashtra Education
Report my school rated one of the best school's in the state."
He is now employed as the superintendent in the school which is
situated in a Vanvasi area.

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