Dark days no more for Kolab settlers Statesman - Kolkata, India
Statesman News Service KORAPUT, April 27:
“When we were disconnected from the mainland for the construction of the water reservoir on Kolab river, we had thought we were losing much from our lives. But things have changed over the last four to five years,” Balaram Muduli, the boatman in the water reservoir near Koraput, said. Many villages were submerged forcing a greater part of the population to migrate. While people who accepted the rehabilitation packages offered by the government and settled near Kotpad had their woes and challenges, it was worse for those who had to settle in the villages which were disconnected from the mainland of Koraput, he added.
Scores of villages including Kechla had to begin a new life with the support of a few country boats to meet their basic needs. These villages had to live without electricity despite the fact that the very hydroelectric project on Kolab river was set up at the cost of the harmonious life of the people of the region. Kechla, however, had got the attention of the district administration a few years back as a tourist spot for being a rich storehouse of Jain monuments and for the scenic beauty of the mountains beneath the reservoir waters. The SHG of Kechla was given two motor boats and the tourist department had introduced a weekly package for the tourists to visit the place from Koraput. People started enjoying the 30 minutes journey in the reservoir and a different life began to bloom for the villagers.
However, the real change in the lives of the villagers of Kechla came in 2005 when Auro Mira Service Society, with the support of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, New Delhi was set up at Kechla. While the society went ahead in establishing a learning centre, spread over nearly 30 acres of land, the community had a breath of fresh air with avenues of development reaching their doorstep. Now the centre is imparting education to the tribal children using the most advanced mode of teaching-learning process in its upcoming huge education complex.
While the construction of the building offered opportunities for skilled labour, like making cement bricks, many have become trained masons with the support of the society. “We have also been trained to manage our own boats by the society and also get support to run them without interruption,” added Balaram.
The first experiment of using solar energy in the learning centre of the society gave a new hope to see light for each of the villagers. Now each of 100 odd families in the village has one solar lamp each in their houses, being supplied by the Society, K Sukant, a member of the learning centre, said. The centre, over the years, apart from creating a special place in the hearts of people has offered direct work opportunities for at least 17 persons in its fruit orchard.
The centre has planted fruit trees from varieties of mangoes to lemon, watermelon and many more fruits apart from medicinal plants using the latest technique in agriculture. "This unique combination of creating opportunities for the simultaneous growth of the community and institution together would go a long way in establishing harmony in the disturbed lives of people suffering from the miseries of detachment from the main land,” said Sujay Pradhan, a leading coffee planter and social worker.