ARWS (Anirban Rural Welfare Society) is an organization working tirelessly for the well being of the rural poor. With an extremely munificent line-up of projects, assignments and achievements, ARWS is one NGO to look up to. Youth Ki Awaaz correspondent Abhirup Bhunia interviewed none other than the honorary director of the NGO, Geeta Venkadakrishnan.
Abhirup Bhunia: What is the long term target of ARWS?
Geeta Venkadakrishnan: Ten years back ARWS commenced with the committed aim of taking education to the doorsteps of children. Initially we received no support from government or international NGO’s. After completing a journey of 10 years we are able to facilitate education to children by sponsoring books, bags, pen and pencil along with providing free quality coaching to children to help them grasp their subjects well. As a long term target we want to start residential life skill centre for disabled children and an English medium school from (LKG to XII) for the below poverty line people. Besides, we want to strengthen community health centre and Community Information Centre where local residents can get information about their constitutional rights, health, education, consumer and other legal rights. We also seek to empower women through livelihood programmes and legal rights conveyance.
AB: Now that RTE (Right to education) is in place, will you consider having other issues as your priority putting education little lower on the agenda?
GV: RTE has been launched by the Government of India, but in reality its people like you and me who has to take it to the masses. So we will forever continue to work on the education project so as to try and educate people, among other things.
AB: Why the rural poor only? Why not the urban poor?
GV: Very appropriate question. Since urban poor lives in the city, their plight is visible to the government and NGO’s and they get the required help. But rural poor is far from the city and receives little media attention. But someone has to come forward and avail them of opportunities for their betterment. So we decided on this. After all they are the citizens of India and our brothers and sisters. We are trying to pass the facilities provided by the government and to inform them.
AB: You have taken up a noble cause of empowering women and children. Are you happy with the women empowerment bill and do you think it would mean empowerment?
GV: Women empowerment has given a legal right to the women to take part in the running of the government. Now it is up to them to make use of it. We at ARWS try to reach out to women through our Community Information Centre to create awareness and help them for business development plans to set up their own businesses. India being a democratic country, our lives are guided by the constitution rights which we cannot defer from. So let us come forward and educate women on the rights bestowed on them.
AB: Do you believe the state govt. has done enough to secure basic social rights of children in West Bengal?
GV: No, they have not done enough. No proper toilets and drinking water are available in schools. Classrooms are overcrowded. Though Sarva Shikha was introduced, it was mere tokenism and intended at producing figures. Most of the staff remains busy filling MIS instead of providing quality service to children. Free book distribution up to Class V is unavailable. Student teacher ratio is improper. While in cities quality education is a reality, the rural areas are deprived of it.
AB: Where do you see ARWS ten years down the line?
GV: Apart from establishing an English medium school, a strong community health centre and information centre which would enable the village population to know their rights.
AB: Do you seek to join forces with national and intercontinental NGO’s?
GV: Yes. We would definitely like to team-up with national and international NGO’s.
AB: Lastly, what is the scheme that you are presently working on and how to do you wish to carry out the plan?
GV: The following are being undertaken
1. Holistic Education Program, including crÃ¨che for the working mothers in agriculture, labor sector from Monday to Saturday.
2. Remedial coaching centre till Class X on all days except Sunday.
3. Life skill education center on alternate weekdays.
4. Primary Health Care Program = Clinics, Immunization, Awareness on health care, HIV/AIDS education and prevention program, networking with Government agencies on all days except Sunday.
5. Empowering women through SHG business development plan (Monday to Saturday) through meeting, linkage with banks and securing orders from the markets
6. Awareness on consumer issues, legal rights through Community Information Center once monthly.
Youth Ki Awaaz wishes Ms Geeta and ARWS all the best.
Visit them online @ www.anirban.org.in
Or stop by their office at
M/E-4, Niva Park Ph-2, Brahmapur,
Kolkata-96, West Bengal, India