BARIPADA: Jemamani Naik, an average rural woman, meets her children’s education expenditure and is able to save some for the family too. She manages to earn around `1,000 a month by lending her labour to making sal leaf plates and bowls.
A school dropout, Kuni Naik too has found a means to keep herself engaged which also provides her income. Happy that she is not a burden to her family, Kuni proudly says, “I can earn
` 1,000 to ` 1,500 a month from making sal leaf items.”
Many others of her ilk in Betnoti of Mayurbhanj district are self-reliant today and are all praise for Kishorelal Khandelwal. The 90-year-old has been imparting training to them in making leaf utensils for several years.
“He came visiting our village and insisted we start making sal leaf items to live with dignity. We learnt the trade from him and it has become our profession,” said Kuni.
In fact, Kishorelal has infused a sense of self-reliance among the tribals, particularly Bhatudi community by helping them stand on their feet.
A messiah of the poor tribals, Kishorelal devotes eight hours a day to his passion and pedals from village to village to train many more.
It started six decades back when he came all the way from Tabhadu village in Gurgaon district in Haryana to Betnoti to work in the farm of his brother-in-law Bhawarilal Khandelwal. His heart longed to do something for the betterment of the poor. He started a sal leaf plate and bowl making unit at Pathuri village as the leaves were available in plenty then and employed only tribals.
“Initially, I engaged only 25 villagers but as the word spread more joined in and now hundreds of them, mostly women, have learnt the art,” said Kishorelal.