“Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF)” hosted its annual ‘International Conference’ in virtual mode with 600 registrants from USA, Canada, India and Australia. The multiple agenda-packed gathering, not only saw and discussed the presentations on what had been achieved to date, but also, the futuristic goals for the holistic development in 102,000 villages where it has intrinsic presence. As the youths are the future of any organization, ‘Ekal’, as EVF is popularly known, also involved youths in this conference at every level, under ‘Youth Leadership’ program.
The seeds of this ‘youth element’ were sowed, in fact, in a grand scale event called “Parivartan Kumbh” (Transformation Convention) in Lucknow, India in February this year, which was convened specifically to assess overall changes brought upon by EVF to rural India. Although rooted in education, Ekal in recent years has blossomed into healthcare, integrated village development, digitization, farming research and socio-economic empowerment. From this perspective, the conference was a total game-changer.
This year’s Covid-19 clampdown had posed an unprecedented challenge to Ekal for fund-raising which had been an essential part of this largest grass-root movement. Ekal overcame this hurdle by motivating its loyal donor-base in series of concerts and successfully raised almost 80% of the funds through them. Until now, Ekal had been tenaciously eradicating illiteracy by imparting functional literacy to 2.8 million youngsters each year through one-teacher schools, computer-equipped vans, – called ‘Ekal-on-Wheels’- use of ‘tablets’ where possible and empowering rural folks by adult-education & skill-training. Starting 2021, having fulfilled the noble assignment given by the Hon. PM Modi to establish 100,000 schools in villages, two years in advance, Ekal set up a new trailblazing agenda for the next 5 years.
In essence, Bajarang Bagra, CEO of ‘Ekal Abhiyan’ (umbrella organization of all ‘Ekal’ satellite-divisions) proposed to keep 102,000 school tallies ‘as is’ and embark on a transformative ‘roadmap’ that would revolutionize rural life in all its aspects. Among the primary goals adopted by the delegates were to increase – ‘Ekal On Wheels’ vans from current 25 to 85; ‘Integrated Village Clusters’ (30 villages each) from current 12 to 51; ‘Skill Development Ctrs’ from current 33 to 100; ‘Gramotthan Resource Ctrs’ (GRC) from current 16 to 27; ‘Telemedicine’ from current 120 villages to 6,000 villages and ‘Intensive Health Care’ from current 1,200 villages to 6,000 villages.
In addition, the most ambitious project that Ekal wants to push forward is that of ‘E-Shiksha’ or digital education. It wants to spread it from current 1,200 villages to 100,000 villages by Yr. 2025. A new initiative, called ‘GRANE’ (Gramotthan Atma-Nirbharata for Ekal), was also introduces to bring E-commerce activity to the villages so as to avail villagers with new economic opportunities. There is a plan to accomplish this by rewarding farmers, empowering village women and providing necessary tools to the ground team. The conference also resolved to plant 10 Million trees in next 5 years. There were some break-out parallel discussions too. Youths from schools and colleges had brain-storming sessions of their own under the auspices of ‘Ekal Youth Leaders’ to formulate their own initiatives. The initiatives include getting connected to youths in schools & colleges, visiting Ekal villages, starting activities in slum-areas, raising funds every which way possible, promoting ecological aspect and healthy lifestyle.
This year, youths connected to Ekal-USA played an important role during the corona pandemic. They, not only, kept the home-bound school children engaged through their DIY (Do-It-Yourself) educational campaign, but also, raised donation through this effort. In last few years, ‘Arogya (Health) Foundation of India’ had been a force to reckon with in rural healthcare.
Their Medical-camps, initiatives for Anemia control, child & women health-practices and Herbal-medicine & ‘Telemedicine’ have found wide spread acceptance. Now, for ophthalmic care, there are plans to deploy numerous mobile-clinic vans, called ‘Eye-Van’. Hon. PM Modi has said that, “no education in the world can succeed by giving up its culture and values”. Therefore, to prepare self-reliant and value-based rural India, Ekal has floated a fleet of ‘Kathakars’ (storytellers of India’s cultural identity and heritage) to reach out to the lowest strata of the society.
From current strength of 1000 such ‘Kathakars’, the plans are under way to double that number by 2025. The price-tag for this 5-year wish-list is estimated to be $80 Million and Ekal-USA has been challenged to bear at least 1/3 of that amount. Touching on this ambitious budget Suresh Iyer, President of Ekal-USA and his ‘Board’ resolved to master ‘grant- writing’ efforts to court philanthropic ‘Foundations’ & ‘Corporate-Wings’ for specific ventures. As a successful technocrat, he wants to introduce ‘Technology’ at every possible level to streamline accountability and progress of all projects. While doing this phenomenal work, the importance of public-relation, its exposure in the Media and the ‘reach-out’ aspect within the Indian diaspora, wasn’t lost on the participants. The conference applauded all the efforts of the ‘Media Teams’. This conference was a splendid example of the ‘multi-model connectivity’ that Hon. PM Modi floated in his Aug.15, 2020 address to the nation. More information is available on www.ekal.org