MUMBAI — SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, a city college in Mumbai, adopted Kathewadi, a poverty-stricken village in India, in 2013, and since then has been transforming it with the aim of improving the living conditions of the villagers. Today, this village, which is located in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, India, sees new rays of hope as it has a functional school and improved sanitation facilities.
The college conducted a survey of every poverty-stricken village in India within a radius of 100 kilometers from Mumbai. The survey revealed the poor living conditions of many villages. Among them, Kathewadi was the worst affected by poverty. Kathewadi is a small village located about 85 kilometers from Mumbai with a population of about 600 people. Before adoption, the villagers faced several problems:
- No paved roads
- Poorly constructed mud houses
- No toilets
- Lack of drinking water
- Dependence on a single crop for agriculture
- Unhygienic living conditions
- Dilapidated school
The water supply to the fields was inadequate, which affected agriculture, as crops could only be cultivated for four months of each year. Also, electricity in the village lasted just four to five hours each day.
The different departments at SIES College started multiple initiatives to systematically transform the village. Solstice, the social responsibility cell of the college, visited at regular intervals and interacted with the residents. After gathering data, a plan to rebuild the village was laid out to address five critical areas.
The college constructed a school, a community hall and a temple, concretized around 60 houses and made drinking water available through a bore well facility. The institution also built a dam for storing water, constructed water pipelines, built roads and created provisions for rainwater harvesting.
The most recent development by SIES is the installation of solar panels to conserve energy and solve the problem of load shedding. Also, the college’s Past Students’ Association installed LED lights in the classrooms, the temple, the community hall and the toilet blocks.
Education Transforms a Poverty-Stricken Village in India
Prior to the college’s intervention, Kathewadi did not have a properly constructed school, just two classrooms in dilapidated conditions. The college took the initiative to renovate the school and provide it with state-of-the-art facilities. The school now has desks and benches; students no longer sit on the floor. It has computers to help students learn more effectively and a small playground inside a paved quadrangle.
During the early days of the transformation, the National Cadet Corps unit of the college initiated a project called “Tumi Aahe Deshacha Thinngya”, which in English means “you are the tiny young buds of the nation”. For about four weeks, 25 NCC cadets visited the village and conducted weekly camps for the children. The children learned about the importance of education and were introduced to some play learning methods.
Every year, the National Service Scheme (NSS) unit of SIES College conducts street plays on various social issues like gender inequality, AIDS awareness and illegal practices as a part of their consciousness-raising program.
Health, Sanitation and Hygiene
The village lacked toilet blocks and hygienic methods of waste disposal. The college created separate toilet blocks for men and women with proper septic tanks and made the villagers aware of various illnesses that can be spread by unhygienic practices.
The department of microbiology checked the village water for the presence of disease-causing fecal coliforms, fecal streptococci and protozoa like Entamoeba histolytica and Giarda lamblia. It also taught the villagers about the importance of clean drinking water and simple methods of water purification. The college conducts annual medical camps to help improve the health of the villagers.
The college started a tree planting drive and planted around 200 trees in two phases. The department of microbiology examined the soil for the presence of growth-promoting rhizobacteria and trained the farmers in the use of biofertilizers. The farmers were also taught different agricultural techniques to improve the production and maintenance of crops.
Since most of the villagers were uneducated, they were solely dependent on agriculture for their income. The NSS unit introduced the villagers to various entrepreneurial activities to improve their standard of living. They were taught various craft skills, stitching, basket weaving, pickle making, livestock maintenance and poultry and dairy farming.
SIES college management invested about ₹12.5 million in this venture. In addition to this, the SIES Past Students’ Association also made a generous contribution to help transform the village. The institution believes in the idea that if each college adopts a poverty-stricken village, it will go a long way in transforming the nation. Solstice, the social responsibility cell of the college, wishes to not only contribute to the development of the nation, but also to inculcate the values of social commitment in the students and staff. The institution plans to adopt more villages in the coming years.
Like Kathewadi in Maharashtra, there are many villages in India that yearn for a transformation in order to improve their living conditions. If the Tribal Commission of India encourages more such projects, eventually every poverty-stricken village in India will experience a huge change in the coming years.
– Shruthi Nair