By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net,
TCN series: Visit to Malda and Murshidabad: Concluding part.
Nasreen, 30, lives with her two-year-old baby in Dayarampur village in Jalangi block under Domkal subdivision in Murshidabad district. She is among thousands of erosion-affected people in Jalangi. With no work opportunity here, her husband works with a company in Surat, Gujarat. One day in March this year Nasreen heard about free vocational training centre in Uttar Ghoshpara village of the same block. She is now among 35 women and girls, mostly Muslims, who are learning tailoring in the second batch of the six-month trade at the center run by Delhi-based registered trust Charity Alliance.
The training centre was opened in March 2008. But Alliance had reached Jalangi three years earlier when the area was facing starvation.
Weekly food distribution program
In April 2005 when people were succumbing to hunger in erosion-affected Jalangi and adjoining areas the West Bengal government of the Left Front was looking the other way for political reason. As it did not want to lose the local body elections due in May that year, it did not highlight the starvation deaths that were occurring under its rule. This was the time when Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette, and director of the Charity Alliance, decided to help local people. He opened a branch of the Alliance in Uttar Ghoshpara and started weekly distribution of free food grains among 360 people. Four years on, the program has not stopped even for a week.
Uttar Ghoshpara resident Siddiq has got the food relief from Alliance for four years. Two kg rice is given to each of 360 registered people every week. People come from Uttar Ghoshpara and its surrounding villages including Raipara, Dayarampur, Parashpur, Taltoli, Sorropolli and Dakshin Ghoshpara. They come with their election I-card, stand in a queue, name is called and the person goes up, gives his/her thump impression (mostly illiterate) on the register and gets the ration.
“In both Ghoshpara there are 20 thousand people, of them 17 thousand are Muslims. And about 15 thousand of them are very poor. The area is neglected as the government is not brining any development program here,” says Uttar Ghoshpara resident Ghulam Kibriya, coordinator of the local branch of Charity Alliance.
Besides food relief, the Alliance has also provided medical help to about 300 people so far. It has also provided scholarships to 150 students in the last four years.
Vocational training centre
With an aim to provide local women and girls with skill training so that they could make their livelihood out of it, the Alliance launched Vocational Training Centre in March 2008 in Uttar Ghoshpara near its food distribution office. Announcement was made about the free training centre. Women and girls came up and got admission in six-month trade of tailoring. The first batch of 30 students has got training. The second batch of 35 students has also started. The centre has added the trade of zari this year. First batch of zari had 56 students. Four days are fixed for tailoring classes and three for zari.
Nasreen is learning tailoring. Ask how she is going to benefit from her training, she says: It is up to the organizers to decide how they are going to help us. They announced about the training and we have got admission here. However, on her own, she thinks to buy a machine and work at home.
Manwara Khatoon, 15, is Class VI pass-out. She is also learning tailoring for one month. Her father Muhammad Sheikh from Raipara makes brooms and mother works as a help in a hospital. “It is good to learn skills. Maybe this will help me in future,” says the girl. The centre has some non-Muslim students also.
Why did the Charity Alliance decide to run the vocational training centre? “We thought the training will help some families overcome their economic constraints. They can get job. This will bring economic development in the area. This is a Muslim dominated area. They have no work here,” says Ghulam Kibriya.
What is the response of the locals to the program? “They are happy and offer gratitude to our chairman Zafrul Islam Khan who has thought about the development of the area,” he says.
The overwhelming majority of those getting food relief or training at the vocational training centre are erosion-affected people. They are those whose family’s lands have been washed away by the Padma River.
The first batch of 30 students who have got training in tailoring will be awarded certificates in a program in May this year. The organizers plan to distribute 15 sewing machines among the needy of them.
About future programs, Alliance director Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, who is also president of All India Muslim Majlise Mushawarat, says: “We have purchased a piece of land in the area. We have a plan to build a school as well as a primary health centre there. We are also planning to run more vocational training courses.”
Charity Alliance has kindled a light. There is a need to keep it burning. Is anyone listening?
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