Page 47 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
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Several schools were established in the region through Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. For children who could not travel back- and-forth from schools, hostels were built. Along with schools, Sunanda tai did an exceptional work in establish- ing schools for the hearing and speech impaired children. These schools also have hostel facilities. Initially, the chil- dren were sent to an institution run by a German company in Bengaluru. Now, the people from NGO have been trained to help these children.
Sunanda tai has been instrumental in encouraging parents to send their chil- dren to school and in making children independent through education.
In 1992-93, Sunanda tai noticed that deaths due to malnutrition had in- creased. She strove to bring down the number to zero. With the help of Pragati Pratishthan, a health scheme for preg- nant women and children up to six years was introduced. It helped thousands of children and pregnant women and saved many lives. Medical centres were opened in the area and medical kits were provid- ed to expectant women. They would also arrange ambulance in case of emergency. She also trained people in upbringing children cautiously. With her efforts she gained their trust and became an integral part of their families.
Twenty years ago, when Sunanda tai thought of helping the tribal people, she didn’t know how and from where to
Various works being undertaken by members of Pragati Pratishthan in Jawhar and Mokhada
start. Electricity was the biggest obstruc- tion. Someone from her NGO told her about a German company which used to manufacture solar pumps. But money was still the issue because each pump would cost around Rs 1 lakh and each repair would cost around Rs 25,000. But they crossed all these hurdles and arranged solar pumps for around 110 villages. These pumps work for around 10-12 years and one pump serves at least one village. Villagers have been trained to use pumps and to do minor repairs.
While striving for the development of tribal area, Sunanda tai focused on training hearing and speech impaired youth in solar unit installation and main- tenance. Every hut was allocated with a solar unit named Saur Asha, which consisted of one lantern and three LED tubes. Almost 6,000 families benefitted from this project. She also helped farm- ers in installing solar power grids. This solar power project uplifted the farmers of Jawhar and Mokhada.
With integrated efforts by forming groups of farmers, they were helped to move from one paddy crop cycle to two groundnut crop cycles. Farmers were introduced to intercropping and multi- cropping. For example, 1,250 farmers cultivated keshar variety of mango with scientific perspective. Mulberry tree plantation project has also been initiated by Sunanda tai in the past few years. The sericulture project is blossoming with efforts of farmers and able guidance of Sunanda tai.
With advanced techniques such as drip irrigation, focus was brought on agri- cultural development. The available information states: ‘Now 57-60 acres of land is irrigated across 10 farmer groups. Over 400 households have been benefitted from this project in Jawhar and Mokhanda alone.”
With submersible pumps, water could reach a height of 62 ft where it was used to cultivate crops on barren land. Last year, drip irrigation and other modern techniques were taught and 110 farmers were upskilled with the same.
The problem of lack of potable water was also solved with the help of technol- ogy. Sunanda tai organised finances and planned the solution. With these efforts, almost 18 tribal areas were benefitted with water supply at their door steps.
Various modern agricultural tech- niques changed the lives of farmers mag- ically. With new projects in hand like fishery, Sunanda tai will surely leave no stone unturned in bringing development to these villages.
Sunanda tai has been honoured with many awards. We, the members of Shakti Sharda visited the tribal areas of Jawhar and Mokhada in 2018. In the same year, Sunanda tai was honoured with the prestigious ‘Shakti Prerana’ award for exceptional work in science and technology.
* The writer is the National Secretary of Sharada Shakti, an India-wide movement for women working for their empowerment through science and technology.
        Images Courtesy: Sharada Shakti

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