This is what it takes to pull rural India out of poverty
A recharge bore, a grain bank and a solar-lantern charging station is what made me drive for over 8 hours, over 2 days, through Uttar Pradesh’s terrible, terrible roads. All of the above are deliverables of projects undertaken by the Kanpur-based Shramik Bharti; targeted at bettering the lives of the people in the villages that they work in.
Founded in X, Shramik Bharti works for the empowerment of the poor and underprivileged, with a special focus on women and children. Their approach is to assist them in developing their own capacities so they have better control over their own lives. They therefore consider themselves a way of seeing and respecting people. Over the course of the 2 days I spent, I witnessed for myself how they were helping people to help themselves.
A 25+ year old organisation is bound to have a rich history and in Shramik Bharti’s case, this has been pieced together after my chat with 2 of its 7 founders – Ganesh Pandey and Usha Varkey. The other founders are X. As I learnt, it was their association with trade unions and working for labourers that brought all of them together. This was in the early 1980s – at a time when Kanpur was a hub of mills (Swadeshi, Lal Imli etc.). Known as the “Manchester of the East,” 10-12 of the city’s famous mills employed close to a lac workers at that time.
In 1986, recession forced many of these mills to scale down or shut down operations completely. Losing their jobs overnight hit the workers badly. They weren’t educated enough to find an alternative source of living overnight; and they had mouths to feed at home. This resulted in the inevitable – suicides.
Shramik Bharti prefers long term volunteers – those who can spend a minimum of 3 months in Kanpur. Your time and skills would help them across the board – from documentation, to office administration, to preparing feedbacks for donors, to logistics of items to be taken to the fields etc.