GADAG: Not many in the remotest villages of Karnataka’s Gadag district could have thought that their thirst would be quenched by clean drinking water, or they would have a shelf-full of books to read from or even an ambulance which could readily ferry their loved ones to quick medical care.
But within a span of one year, the library building in Pethalur, a village in Mundargi taluk, has received a new coat of paint, apart from seeing a new set of books. Other villages of the taluk -- Basapur, Harogere, Kelur and Tamragundi -- too have seen favourable development through the previous year, all shunning their backwardness and transforming into model villages.
Thanks to the efforts of the SBI Foundation (Mumbai), which adopted backward villages across India under the Gram Seva Project, these five villages in Gadag were selected and received a facelift.
The foundation, in association with an NGO -- Sankalpa Rural Development Society, fostered many changes in these villages.
All their libraries have been digitised, dilapidated government school buildings now house smart classrooms, and clean water drinking plants have been set up, along with well-maintained community toilets, bus stops, and an open gym, while overall cleanliness has also been improved. The Gram Seva project also aims to bring improvements in primary health services in backward villages. Earlier, there were no hospitals or ambulances, but now there are ambulances on standby. The project commenced at the end of 2020. As a part of it, officials also met farmers and advised them on new techniques of agriculture and provided saplings. The NGO staff visit the farmers periodically, guiding them with the harvest.
Jyotiprakash Guru, Programme Manager of SBI Foundation, said, “SBI Gram Seva is one of the flagship programmes of SBI Foundation for rural development. Gram Seva emphasises holistic development of villages and strategically covers all important areas of rural development, like education, healthcare, women empowerment, livelihood generation, digitalisation, and infrastructure development.”
Preparing for the new age
The Sankalpa Rural Development Society staff are now educating villagers to embrace digitisation and to understand government schemes available to them. A 25-member team is working to ensure that all their programmes are running without interruption. The foundation staff have also rendered skill-based training to hundreds of youngsters, while women empowerment programmes are being held. Through these efforts, several villagers have gainfully engaged in self-employment, with many women learning the art of tailoring and other vocations to become economically independent.
The integrated learning programme has been successful with 180 students in all five villages attending it. Each student is charged a nominal Rs 25. “My children used to say no to studies after the lockdown as schools were shut. But the Gram Seva programme’s smart-class coaching helped them learn again and they were amused by the projector- and TV-based learning,” said a parent from Harogeri village.
Sikandar Meeranayak, who heads the SBI Foundation’s project through his Sankalpa Rural Development Society, said, “We are aiming to overhaul of education, and village students should get all the facilities, with good English exposure. We also aim to improve the quality of life in these pockets, while changing attitudes in the realm of development. There should be community participation in every project to achieve complete success. We are lucky that many farmers, and gram and zilla panchayat staff helped us.”
A will to enhance the quality of their life, while placing their villages on the road to development, has truly set the residents of Pethalur, Basapur, Harogere, Kelur, and Tamragundi towards a brighter, digitised future.
Project during Pandemic
During the pandemic, students were out of school and faced difficulty in learning. The Gram Seva programme provided a platform for them to learn English, with reading and writing skills, and general knowledge improvement sessions were also conducted to utilise the time lost to the pandemic.
Women earn smart income
Women who learned tailoring earned a good amount of money during the pandemic. Each woman made thousands of masks and sold them to shops through the Sankalpa Rural Development Society. While many people were worried about income during the pandemic and lockdown, women of these rural areas were able to earn a living.