Rashmin Sanghvi & Associates
109, Arun Chambers, Tardeo Road,
Mumbai - 400 034, India.
(91 22) 2493 72 76 | 2494 88 78 | 2495 36 94
Cell Phone : Rashmin - 98201 94491
Naresh - 98202 67982
Fax : 2493 72 75
Date : 21st Dec., 2002.
Friends of Dharampur,
Dear Sirs / Madam,
I am sharing with you a beautiful thought on Dharampur.
1. Many of us have visited Dharampur during the month of November, 2002. We have met the teachers, the volunteers & the students of the tribal schools in the forests run by Shri Bhikhubhai & Smt. Kokilabahen. When we see these poor tribal children, our mind is disturbed, & our sensitivities are seriously shocked. They are deprived of so many things, which our children take for granted. Some of the tribal children do not even have slippers.
Half the children do not have sweaters. Dharampur is a hill station like Matheran. During winter, by our standards, there is severe cold. During the last visit, I got up at 5.30 a.m. and went out. All the children had woken up. After the normal morning rituals, at 6.00 a.m., they had gathered in the ground and were doing morning exercises. It was still dark. It was cold. Half the children were coughing.
Our children wear under clothing, then shirt & trousers and if necessary, a jacket or sweater. (In Mumbai, sweater is not required. However, in a hill station we would always provide our children with such clothes.) Some of these children had no sweaters. All children did not have banyan etc. - under clothing. Naturally, at 6.00 a.m. in the morning they were coughing.
2. In the evening, at 5.00 p.m., I was talking to a student. He must be about 8 years old. When I started talking, two or three other children also joined.
I was looking at the hostel time table written on the wall. “ 5.30 a.m., get up from the bed. 6.00 a.m., physical exercise. 10.30 a.m., lunch. 6.00 p.m. dinner.....” and so on. There was no time for break fast. There were no afternoon snacks. I was wondering, our children take breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, and dinner. In between, they will have chocolates, fruits and snacks whenever they want. Growing children need a lot of food, a lot of nutrition. Here are the children having just two meals a day.
I asked the children: "Do you feel hungry?"
They were all reluctant to talk. After much persuasion, it was clear that all of them were going hungry for several hours during the day. Shri Sunilbhai Dalal has of course, observed that all these school children are mal-nourished.
I felt depressed.
I discussed with one of the friends- donors who had come from Mumbai. He said that for a village students' hostel having two simple meals a day is okay. I was not convinced. I was not happy. And the issue was bothering me for several days.
Similarly, Shri Yeshwantbhai Sampat, Smt. Geetabahen and others were also disturbed. We all wanted to do something for the children.
3. After about fifteen days, I discussed with Shri Bhikhubhai on the phone. His response is the most beautiful thought I want to convey to you. More or less in his own words :
4. "In Dharampur, we want to train the children to be good farmers. We are not training them to be employed in offices anywhere. Most of the tribal children will leave education after seventh standard. Some may leave even earlier. Urban offices and even Government's rural offices will not employ a tribal child even if he has studied upto tenth standard. There is no question of employing somebody who has just studied upto seventh standard.
So I cannot train them for being an office clerk or peon. They have to go back to their villages, carry on their agricultural activities and the tribal life.
If I give them too many comforts in my hostels (Chhatra Shalas), they will start considering themselves to be superior to other children in the forest who are not getting the opportunity of even this education in the tribal schools. Once they get this ego, they will be failure in their life. They will be misfits in the forest. They will get no jobs in the market. And they will not be able to do labour work.
Please do not spoil my children and make their future miserable."
5. I agree with Shri Bhikhubhai. The kind of deep thinking, which the Vyas couple does for the tribals, we cannot do. They are doing it for last fifty years. They know their job best.
I myself, and Shri Indubhai (who has given Rs. 17,50,000 for Shri Bhikhubhai's activities) have simply decided to give the donation to Shri Bhikhubhai and then leave it to him to take further decisions. Sometimes, we may give a broad preference - like use the money for water management or for school. More than this, we have never given them any advise.
Real help is to work for improving their incomes. Not giving them donations. If their incomes will increase, they will be able to pay the school fees & share the costs of schooling, better & better schooling. And this, we are doing by water management, by more check dams. We have seen during our last visit that the work done during last two years has already increased their incomes. In the next ten years, Dharampur people will be earning enough to take up the costs of their schools.
Our normal schools produce students who can be fit to go to colleges, become graduates and then become clerks. Our education is no good for a farmer or a labourer.
This is just to share with you my discussions with Pujya Shri Bhikhubhai.