The Tata Jagriti Yatra reached Deoria, the Headquarters of the Jagriti Sewa Sansthan, for the ‘Annual Festival’ and a warm welcome, planned for the 2010 Yatris. One could feel the energy of Deoria right from the minute the train touched the Gorakhpur station, as a handful of villagers had gathered outside the train with dholaks and nagadas, to welcome the yatris. What followed next was a set of elephants in a lively parade that led us into the heart of Deoria, and to the house of the founders of the Jagriti Sewa Sansthan. In the courtyards, 400 enthusiastic youngsters danced away to the beats of the dholak, mixing effortlessly with the rural communities.
The Yatris then moved towards the symbolic Banyan tree, which, for the Sansthan represents the Bodhi tree in Gaya, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. For the village of Deoria, the Banyan tree is doubly significant because it is where all the elders of the village meet and discuss key concerns facing the villagers. Clearly, the Jagriti Sewa Santhsan, with its logo as ‘the banyan tree’ signifies its vision in terms of creating opportunity for enterprise led development, through vocational training in about 45 courses, of which literacy is an integral part too. An important arm of the Sansthan’s work is the Tata Jagriti Yatra itself, the brainchild of Shashank Mani.
The day’s activities took off with the ‘Biz Gyan Tree Session’, an e-plan or an enterprise plan development contest in which special interest groups developed innovative, feasible and inclusive solutions for the village of Deoria. These groups classified the yatris on the basis of certain broad interest areas such as education, health, energy, tourism, manufacturing and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). From setting up biogas plants, training women in maternal healthcare to mobile education, plenty of new innovative ideas flowed in through this group exercise. The participants made interesting charts and presented their entire plans to the core team of the Jagriti Yatra, who judged the contest.
Further, the people of Deoria performed a cultural programme, with songs and plays, on the stage. As the yatris tapped their feet to the tune of Bhojpuri songs, one couldn’t help but notice the warmth of these villagers in the smallest of acts and performances. Mrs. Shashi Mani, the founder of the Jagriti Sewa Sansthan, spoke a few words and discussed the Sansthan’s work, “We started the Sansthan out of the need to nurture the spirit of enterprise. We noticed that youngsters in large numbers were vying for jobs and there was very little employment available. We decided to move them from job seekers to job creators by training them in vocational skills. Women have always been an important beneficiary group for us. Today, out of more than 12 000 of our trainees, more than 7 000 have started their own enterprises or have found jobs.” The story of Jagriti Sewa Sansthan is also a story of entrepreneurship in itself. In a matter of one decade, it has developed innovative approaches to sustainable livelihoods.
Post the cultural session, the results of the Biz-Gyan Tree contest were announced with the Tourism idea winning the highest points. Overall, about seven ideas were selected and the winning teams will come back to Deoria for two weeks in February to work out the plan in all its nitty-gritty’s. After such a long, eventful day the Yatris still seemed energetic. Many of them discovered the nuances of rural living by wandering in the fields, talking to the villagers and their children. The simple setting and simple lives of these rural inhabitants is what attracted the yatris the most!
- Unnati Narang