Monday, 15 October 2012

Akshaya Patra | Mid Day Meal Program in the Mining District

Ramesh and Anjali have been studying using a mobile torch. They have just two zero voltage bulbs in the house, but that too is rendered useless because of the frequent power cuts. Ramesh is studying in grade 10 and Anjali is studying in grade 8. They both are toppers in their school; what makes their achievement laudable is the fact that they are financially disadvantaged. The fifteen year old works as a cleaner during the holidays so that he can fund the stationary and other expenses that is incurred at the school.

The seven-member family which includes Ramesh, Anjali and their three younger siblings live in a small shed-like structure. A few years ago Ramesh’s father worked in the nearby mines and the housing facility was provided by the mining giant. But now, with the mines being closed, the family has been told to evacuate. Since they have no where to go, they continue to live in a shed like structure.  The children explain that they have to walk a few kilometers to be able to even get access to drinking water.  The family stays along with 30 other families in the area. With hardly any amenities or infrastructure all the families have the same tell-tales to present.

The Bellary district is a mining hub in the state of Karnataka. The major occupation of the district was agriculture till a decade ago. The mining industry boom saw many people abandoning agriculture and seeking employment in the mines. However, in 2011 the Supreme Court of India ordered a ban on mining in Bellary due to allegations of rampant corruption and illegal mining. This affected thousands of families whose livelihood depended on the mining industry.  Ramesh and Anjali’s father who worked in the mines had to look out for other means of livelihood.

Today the children’s father is a quarry worker. He is the only earning member in the family and his earnings vary from Rs. 30 to Rs. 200 per day. His father leaves home at 5:00 AM since the quarry is about 17 kms away from their house.  Ramesh shares, “The months which see good rainfall is tough for the family. Though it benefits the region, it proves fatal for those of us whose livelihood depends on the quarry. The rocks refuse to crack in those months and hence we have very limited earnings.” It is in this context that the mid day meal programme has proved to be a blessing for the family.

The teachers at the Rural High School P K Halli, say, “Though most of the children come from low economic groups, it has proved extremely beneficial for children like Ramesh and Anjali. It is during the growing years that children need good nutrition. If the children are hungry, how can they concentrate on the studies?”

The siblings love the mid day meal. In unison they say, “We are able to concentrate better after we have the Akshaya Patra lunch.” Ramesh is not only the school pupil leader but also is the captain of the Kabbadi team.  Ramesh recently led the school Kabbadi team reach the finals of the taluk-level sports meet. Ramesh wants to become a police officer and Anjali wants to become an engineer. The teachers are confident that they will achieve their dreams. The teachers are hopeful that Ramesh will top the school in the 10th grade public examination this academic year.

Every afternoon as Ramesh and Anjali enjoy the mid day meal along with their friends, a commitment for a brighter tomorrow is getting stronger, a dream for a better future is slowly turning into reality!!

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