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This Dalit NGO Is An Unknown Light In The Dark For Many!

Nazareth Association for Social Awareness (NASA) is a non-government organization working among the poor Dalits and tribal communities in the East Godavari and Visakhapatnam of Andhra Pradesh. Its head office is located in the Tuni. NASA. It was established in the year 1980 by a group of people from the Dalit communities who are strongly committed to the upliftment of the downtrodden sections of the society. According to NASA, currently, they operate in 500 villages, serving  Dalits, Adivasis (Tribals) and other less privileged people. Unlike any other NGO, NASA activities are not limited to a particular issue, their works and activities are designed in a way for the overall economic and social development of the SC-ST who have been denied of basic human rights for centuries.

Photo: NASA/Facebook

In this country generally, when we hear any news about Dalits, it’s mostly how they were beaten up, abused and killed. It is followed with a huge protest and a media telecast with breaking news and after a few days, everything calms down. No one cares for the survivors. But there are also struggles and movements which are successful. NASA is different from all other organisations, it has a vision that looks at struggles and development combined as having the potential to empower weaker sections.

NASA has different wings Dalitha pragathi ikya sangaham, MACS (Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies)  group, Community Based Organisations, they run schools for orphan children with hostel facilities, work among the leprosy patients, they conduct medical camps in the villages. Through DPIS, they unite the Dalits in the village bringing awareness among the people about the various acts and laws which guarantee rights to the Dalits.

Women come together save some small amounts of money and distribute among the group members in the form of a loan with incentives added by NASA. When I interviewed around 90 individuals, between the age group of 25 to 70 who have been beneficiaries or are working with NASA in Shankavarm, tuni payakaraopeta, rajavomangi, gokavaram mandals, they had a lot to talk about the organization, particularly in the first 3 mandals.

A Dalit woman at the age of 63, recollects her memory about NASA narrating how she couldn’t study due to their family conditions. Her parents were illiterates who worked as daily wage labourers. She was married at the age of 14 and sent to her husband’s house. She describes that their “vaada” was a hub for alcohol drinkers, playing cards and prostitution, the people living in the vaada mainly constituted daily wage labourers and illiterates.

Whatever daily wage they get was spent on alcohol and the drunk male used to abuse family members, those days conditions were really bad. When NASA started its activities in that village, the conditions gradually changed. They conducted awareness camps, organised a number of meetings and untied the Dalits and taught them about the importance of education conducting night schools for the elders in the vaada.

People used to go to these schools after their work and learnt many things. NASA along with the people occupied the barren land and developed it for community cultivation. Now almost every Dalit who was landless, has at least 1 or 2 acres of “kondapodu” (land in the hill area) land where they cultivate cashews. Their economic conditions have improved and they have understood the importance of savings and they have educated their children. The 63-year-old is happy with their living condition today too and gives all the credits to NASA.

Photo: NASA/Facebook

This is a story of a woman coming from an OBC community who is the leader of the MACS group. She was also married at a very young age; her husband is an auto driver. She studied till intermediate, and after marriage, she became a housewife. She doesn’t have children and because of that, she used to feel all alone sitting idle at home. Through her neighbours, she came to know of the MACS group and started working with them.

She became super active in the activities and reached a stage where she became a leader of one of the groups. She regularly participates in every program of NASA and speaks on public platforms. She says that she feels as if she has been able to relieve herself from all her problems and is able to help her husband economically. A person named Surya Rao, 65 years of age, is very active and young at his heart.

Being the leader of the DPIS, he always wanted to work for the community. Throughout his life, he has seen many incidents of atrocities on Dalits. He says his blood boils even at this age when he hears these kinds of attacks on Dalits. According to him, the reason for attacks on Dalits is that they are socially and economically weak. Most of the Dalits do not have land. They work as labourers in the fields of upper-caste landlords.

So, they are always treated as lower-caste and face discrimination. Access to land and education can stop these kinds of attacks. Although there are laws and acts to prevent these atrocities, the state machinery police laws all take the side of upper caste people. So, the slogan of Ambedkar’s” Educate, Organize, Agitate”, is the only way to fight these atrocities. Above all, he is a cultural activist and through his songs, until the last breath, he wants to bring awareness among people. There are many inspiring stories from these people.

Many have benefited from the NASA activities. One was able to educate her daughter, she is an engineer now; few were able to have their own land and able to cultivate it, especially women running their own small scale business because of the MACS group and helping their families. A lot many’s dreams of having their own house have come true. They celebrate their leader Dr B.R Ambedkar’s birthday as a festival. For all these, they give credits to the NASA organization.

Some well-wishers of the organization and its members feel that the organization activities have reduced after the demise of its founder. They hope that the new leadership of the organization will work actively and bring back the good old times of the organization and help the people. Overall, NASA is an organization working particularly among the SC-ST communities for the past 40 years. It has bought a significant change and worked for the overall development of the people. The living standards of Dalits and Adivasi in this particular area have considerably increased. NASA’s achievements are remarkable and in the future, there are miles to achieve.

Credits: I am thankful to @thesis.Foundation for giving me an opportunity to work with them. 

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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