By Prakash Waghmare
‘Ekal is pulling all stops on village development in India and adopting ground-breaking methodology in the way it operates in rural-tribal areas’ … That’s the profound message that came out of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation’s (EVF) recently concluded “International Conference” in Orangeburg, N.Y. This 3-day conference, meant for national committees of USA, India, Canada and other countries, was convened not only for brain-storming sessions to critically assess the progress made so far, but also to charter EVF’s course for 2017.
Until now, ‘Ekal’ (as it is popularly known), had targeted 100,000 villages as its ‘goal’ for integrated development. Now, Ekal wants to reach out to all 600,000-plus rural/tribal areas in India. Considering it is already in 62,000 villages, this was inevitable. Another reason for this ambitious undertaking is that it has picked up tremendous momentum in recent years in terms of enterprising entrepreneurs joining its fold everywhere with innovative ideas and actively pursuing various rural projects. At the conference, Himanshu Shah, CEO of ‘Shah Capital’ and ‘Mohan Wanchoo’, CEO of ‘EC Info systems’ each pledged $100,000 to $200,000 per year, for the next several years to uplifting rural lives.
Inspired by PM Modi’s ‘Swachchh Bharat’ initiative, Ekal’s ‘clean environment’ pilot project is already making its mark in some rural and tribal areas. Moreover, water conservation, organic farming, cottage industries that could empower young girls and women-folks are in full swing in most of the villages. There are 53,000 Ekal schools in operation throughout rural India that benefit 1.5 million children – half of which are girls. Lalan Sharmaji, Village Development Field Director for “Ekal-India”, presented numerous examples of Ekal Alumnus, with full details, who have distinguished themselves by obtaining prestigious district and state-level jobs, after graduating from Ekal schools.
There are plans under way to carry out impact-studies by collecting and analyzing data on all Ekal alumni. It is widely known that Ekal renders all assistance without any credence to caste, creed and religion and its overhead is just 10%. What is more! When Ekal-Team met PM Modi this year, he not only applauded Ekal Vidyalaya’s efforts all across rural India, but also, termed it as an extension of ‘Skill India’ campaign.
Bajarang Bagraji, CEO of ‘Ekal Abhiyan’ (umbrella Orgz of ‘Ekal’) unveiled an ambitious plan of multifaceted development of villages for 2017 at this Conference. According to him,’ Ekal will add 5,000 new schools specifically in conflict-zones and enhance the quality of training by resorting to digital technology. For youths, 5 more ‘Ekal-on-Wheels’ digital training-vans are being added, bringing the total of such facility to 9.
Each of these ‘modern-technology’ labs have capacity to train 5,000 youths each year. He further added that ‘Anemia’, which is so prevalent among rural women-folks, would be expressly addressed in 300 villages and soon a pilot project of ‘tele-medicine’ would be started in West Bengal. As for agro-projects, 15,000 nutritional gardens and 25,000 acres of organic farming are being added next year. Currently, a ‘Gramotthan Resource Center’ (GRC) at ‘Karanjho’, Jharkhand is the only encyclopedic information ’citadel’ for villagers to learn modern techniques. It caters to 100 surrounding villages, directly benefitting 100,000 rural folks, and indirectly, affecting almost one million people. Bagraji elaborated that 11 such ‘GRC’s are under way for next year.
The Event-Committee, headed by Dilip Kothekar and Prajna Khisti, is taking a departure from engaging Bollywood ‘Song & Dance Troupe’ for annual ‘Fund-raising Concerts’. For the first time, an innovative group of a dozen talented Artistes from Ekal-villages will be presented in most amazing one-of-a-kind entertainment program consisting of regional folk-songs & dances of India, skits from Ramayan-Mahabharat, folklore episodes etc. Curretly, they are all being guided and trained by the best professionals in stage performances.
Ekal believes this pioneering effort to bring ordinary but talented, village-folks to the forefront of this continent in 60-plus Ekal events will promote their ethnic artistry and will give them consistent patronage at national and international level. Starting with this conference, Ekal-USA is entering into ‘Social-Media’ arena with vengeance. The technology-savvy team, headed by Akshay Joshi includes Avinash Agarwal, Vinita Dogra, Arti Aggarwal and Sheetal Gupta. It will be guided by Prashant Shah, a new member of Ekal-USA ‘Board of Directors’ and shall be advised by Prakash Waghmare and Ranjani Saigal, as necessary. In short, there is new dawn at ‘Ekal Vidyalaya’ on every level.