Dharamsala, Tong-Len And The Winds Of Change

Posted on June 9, 2011 in Society
[aside]Poor Dalits were thrashed by the government constantly and were living in extreme unhygienic conditions until Jamyang, a Tibetan refugee monk took the initiative to bring about a change in the lives of these slum dwellers. Read more about him.[/aside]

By Gautami Srivastava:

It’s a first experiment of its kind in Himachal Pradesh. A multi dimensional effort, with the blessings of The Dalai Lama, to protect the rights of poor dalit migrants from Maharashtra and Rajasthan is being made by a young Tibetan refugee monk in the dirty shanties of Charan Khadd near the beautiful hill town of Dharamsala. The migrants are mainly beggars, rag pickers and petty workers who have come here in search of livelihood and ventured to settle in the hills about two and a half decade ago.

More than 800 people live in a hell like conditions in the slums where safe water, sanitation, education and health facilities were a far dream till recent years. Their right to vote is still miles away from them. Almost all the males of the slums are alcoholic and many are drug addict. They spend their earnings in gambling also. But the energetic Monk is determined to transform their fate though his charitable trust called Tong- len. It seems a sort of miracle when one find that the children who earlier used to beg in the streets are securing top positions in their class and excel in other extra curricular activities. They are the proud inmates of Tong- len hostel.

These poor Dalits were thrashed by the government constantly and were living in extreme unhygienic conditions until Jamyang, a Tibetan refugee monk took the initiative to bring about a change in the lives of these slum dwellers. “I saw few little children eating from the dustbin and begging on the streets. From the very moment, I decided to as much as possible to break their vicious circle of poverty”, tells Jamyang, the founder Director of Tong-len. This young monk with an out of the box thinking and a vision in his mind, chocked out a very systematic and scientific plan to improve the living conditions of the slum community through providing them safe water, health facilities and good education to their children. He is popularly known as Guruji in the slum area.

Computer center at Tong-len

Tong-len started a hostel for 20 slum children in 2005 which now has 40 children who study in a public school named Dayanand Model School and are toppers of their class. Nisha Siryan who scored 93.5% in 9th standard tells, “Guruji transformed my life completely. Now I can fulfil my dream of becoming a doctor and can give my family a better life.”

“Yeh local log hume Indian bhi nahi maante hain” (these local people do not consider us as Indian), complains Rajuram, a rag picker from Maharashtra who lives in the slum from past 30 years. These communities face a very indifferent and hostile behaviour from the locals and the government as well. In such bad conditions, Jamyang not only protected the Right to Education of the children but also applied an extra force to break the vicious circle of poverty. Tuition tents have been setup in the slums so that the children who are very small or go out for begging and rag picking can be prepared to send to the public school. Mid day meal, which is sponsored by The Dalai Lama, is given to all the tuition tent students.

The Monk wants to bring a total revolution in the life of slum dwellers. Rinku, who secured 100 percent marks in class 5th said, “We go to our parents twice in month and make them understand the significance of education. We also campaign against the drugs and alcohol in the slum area. Now some positive results are visible.”

A clinic is regularly run for the slum people who take care of all the sick, particularly the children and women. Some nearby slum areas are covered by the mobile health unit of the Tong- len. Solar lights and water tanks have been set up by the Tong- len at Charan Khadd so as to safeguard their basic Human Rights. Jamyang says, “The results of our experiments are encouraging. Now we have planned to start a bigger hostel to accommodate about 100 children. Its my firm belief that if the health concerns of the slum people are solved and their children get good education, the slums will automatically vanish one day.”

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