Had it not clashed with NSS time slot, I would have attended the morning function of the alumni meet on 7th Jan. (SAT). I had the responsibility of visiting three villages where three new program officers are taking charge of respective NSS units. I set off at 9:30 AM from home and could return only at 1:15 PM. In one of these villages, the poorest under Gopali Gram Panchayat, we had an interesting experience. We met a proud father who was not exactly complaining about her daughter. The daughter, Asha works as a house-maid in IIT Kharagpur campus. She spends whatever she can save over a period of time for the poorest of the poor in the village. Soon we met Asha who came back from campus to take lunch at village home. She shyly showed us one roofing she sponsored recently for one family which costs her Rs. 4000 (the mud wall was okay, the house is in the first picture with Asha, Program Officer and NSS students in front, beside the children jostling without going to schools - right to education??). She showed one more house in dilapidated condition which she is taking up now (the left one in second picture). These straw roofs lasts for a year or so. The asbestos roofing is more permanent but costs Rs. 15000 and is beyond her capacity or the time frame required is beyond the urgency of the situation.
Later in the day, as a part of Alumni Meet, I was revisiting what Asha is doing for her village. Somewhere, we can compare that with our alumni giving back to alma mater. One is higher in relative term and the other is higher in absolute term. Can there be a meeting point somewhere? Few weeks back, I was discussing something similar with the lead student volunteer of this alumni meet. He was an NSS volunteer and we often shared our dreams, visions. A small contribution from our alumni or CSR money of corporate sector can contribute in a big way in relative terms. Having educated by Asha, I myself wonder why I am not contributing Rs. 15,000 a year to have roof for one family in our neighbourhood. Asha says that the whole house including mud walls, bamboo etc. costs Rs. 30,000. NSS, IIT Kharagpur works in 15 villages within 5-6 KM radius of our campus. There are about 15 primary school or sarva shiksha kendra (SSK). Fifteen water filter, each costing Rs. 2000 (approx.) amounts to Rs. 30,000 and can be a big differentiator. The other project could be painting / whitewashing these schools or developing infrastructures so that children feel like coming to school and reduce the drop out rate. We now have a very good rapport with local administration - from SDO, Panchayet Pradhan to village youth and the ground for taking up such activity is prepared!