Winds of change

DEVELOPMENT


Path to progress: Nooronduswami Malai is a hamlet of sixty families, and today has a self-imposed alcohol and smoking ban.

This is a village on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. Nooronduswami Malai is officially in Tamil Nadu’s Denkinikote taluk, but its residents are predominantly Kannada-speaking. There are as many as 60 families in the village. There were no basic amenities here including bus transport or hospitals.

One had to walk at least ten kilometres from the Kottaiyur-Kanakapura Cross to reach this hamlet. Like any other village, alcoholism was rampant.

But, what sets this village apart today is the fact that drinking and smoking are prohibited here. It was declared a village free of such evils by the Krishnagiri district’s collector in the year 2007.

Namanam’s contribution

A major part of the credit in wiping out alcoholism from the hamlet should go to a Karnataka-based NGO called Namanam Trust. A centuries-old Math called the Noorondu Swami Math stood by the NGO in its objective. The 12th pontiff of the Math Channabasava Rajendra swami was at the forefront of the reformation.

It took a five-year-long journey to rid the village of its evils. The villagers were introduced to prayers, meditation and bhajan singing in order for them to give up drinking and smoking.

The initial objective was to rid them of these habits for at least twice a week. Slowly, the targets were extended to greater periods. NIMHANS doctor Vasanth Rao and Tamil Nadu’s government physician Dr Kailash also counselled those who were attempting to quit their vices, and helped them in the de-addiction process.

Explains Namanam’s Nagabhushan, “We ensured that people were offered vocational training such as tailoring and carpentry, and also made sure that cigarettes and beedis were banned from being sold in the village.” 

When beedi and cigarette vendor Shivanna not only quit smoking himself, but also shut shop, the transformation was complete.

Once prohibition was imposed on the village, the Namanam Trust took up its next project.
 That of getting the road here asphalted (at a cost of Rs 1.2 lakh), after meeting up with the Deputy Commissioner and officials of the forest department.  The other amenities that were sought for the village included a three-phase electricity connection, a water tank and a school.

Those residents who have undergone de-addiction have now formed self-help groups. The Trust has provided Rs 5,000 as initial funds to each of these SHGs. The members also collect Rs 10 per week. The members of these SHGs perform shramadan, or social work in the village one day of the week.

Also, it is ensured that none of the members relapse into drinking or smoking.If they do, the threat of being debarred looms.

Namanam is also working towards offering micro loans with the help of banks to members of SHGs. The Trust has tied up with Myrada to provide agriculture related training to villagers.

No Kannada school

The village with at least 70 per cent Kannadigas has a Tamil school till Standard VI. There is a Kannada school in Tali village, at least 40 kilometres away. Most of the students here study at the Kanakapura temple and Marale Math. It is a huge achievement if girls from the village even reach the high school level, according to Channabasava swamiji. “The Kannadigas here keep their association with Kanakapura intact. It is important that the Karnataka government provides bus facilities from Kanakapura to the village. Also, the Tamil Nadu government should be asked to set up a Kannada school here,” the seer explains.

The most important thing though, is that a hospital should be constructed here, to ensure that women in labour are taken there at the right time. There are several cases, where the women have died because of inaccessibility of hospitals, the seer points out.  K Nagabhushan, who runs Namanam Trust, also ensures that educated youth from cities are brought to Noorondumalai, to train the villagers.

“The villages on the borders of neighbouring states are invariably orphaned.

“While they retain an emotional link with Karnataka, they are not sought after by both states. Such villages are often bereft of even basic amenities. It is important that such villages are developed, which is why I chose Noorondumalai,” he explains.

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