The First Trip to Porapara

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The midsems had just gone over and we were again geared up to get back to the work we had started. Our next step was to study the market from where the raw material would have to be procured for our new business. From the research we had done and the information provided by Mr. Bhattacharya we came to know that Kharagpur had got abundant source of sal-leave plates. The tribals (Mahato)residing in the remote villages of Kharagpur and adjoining Bankura are involved in this business. The nearest such village is Pora Para. This village is some 11 Kms from IIT campus.

It was the evening of 29th February when I got a call from Pranidhi (one of the contributors). She wanted to have an idea of the activities we had undertaken by visiting the sites personally. Since she has invested her money in the business it was her right to inquire about the ventures we were putting her money into (though she never intended to do this [:P]). On March 1st, she along with her friend Shruti came to IIT campus. We took them straight to Ravindra Palli where they analysed the prospects of our association with those 20 ladies. We utilized their presence for handing over the first profit earned by Jagruti group and both of them ,i must say, were really thrilled to be the ceremonial chief guests.

After the meeting was over we decided to visit Porapara village. We had two objectives behind this visit. The first was to distribute some clothing collected by us among the leprosy patients of one leprosy hospital run by Missionaries of Charity in the same village and second was to have a look on the availability and abundance of the raw material for our new business. I must thank Mr. K K Sharma, one of our well-wishers, who arranged a cab for the visit. His dedication towards social cause is really appreciable.

As mentioned earlier, this village was some 11 Km from our IIT campus. Pranidhi, Shruti, Indira, Vertika, Himanshu, Ujjwal, Sharma ji and myself reached the leprosy hospital around 3.30 PM. The serenity of the ambiance was peculiar in itself. We were greeted by an old man who surprised us with his fluent English. He then introduced us to the Brother who was the in-charge of the hospital. The kind of glow that appeared on the faces of the people residing in that hospital campus after seeing we people filled us with immense sense of accomplishing something great. After a brief introduction we went straight to meet the patients. Firstly, we met the female patients. The wards were neat and clean and every care was made to make those patients feel at home. We were astonished to know that those people had been abandoned by their family and to no one's surprise they were not willing to go back any more and wanted to stay there for ever. We then visited the prayer hall of the Hospital and subsequently the male ward. The duskiness prevailing in the ward at 4 in the afternoon was taking us by surprise. When we asked the Brother why he had not switch on the lights the reply was really appalling. He said that the hospital had got no electricity supply. They had been deprived of electricity supply since the hospital came into being. The reason as stated by the Brother was the hostile attitude of the neighboring villagers who did not let the WB State Electricity Board to install transformers on the land coming under their possession. The hospital had to install two 25KW generators to meet the power requirements which functioned only between 6 to 10 PM during the night. We were finding it really difficult to imagine a situation in which we had to spend the night in the hot and humid climate of Kharagpur without a fan running above our beds and mosquitoes entertaining us though out.
Anyways, we had now to come up with a solution. I am open to be criticised and advised. Please leave a comment if you have an idea how to solve this problem.

a) Try to persuade the villagers to give a piece of land along their campus boundaries. But I think that this may have been tried earlier as well. Shall we give it a try again?

b) File an RTI on the behalf of the hospital questioning WBSEB about the reasons why it has failed to supply electricity to the hospital when there is absolutely no problem regarding the penetration of it in the nearby villages.

c) Install a dual-mode gassifier which runs on bio-mass which is available in plenty in and around the hospital. This gassifier also has a provision of diesel run generator in case there is shortage of biomass.

It was 5.30 in the evening already and Pranidhi and Shruti had to catch a train back to Kolkata so we had to drop our plan of finding the sources of raw material for our business. While returning to the campus we stopped by the house of one of the PANCHAs to discuss the issue but unfortunately he was not there that time.

On the journey back to campus I was brooding over the very nature of problems existing in rural India. I had come to Pora Para with altogether different objective and while returning back I have added one more issue to be paid attention to immediately.

Posted by TS at 5:49 AM  
logicark said...

I would try with option B for now; and try to get endorsements from the hospital board/dean and a couple of profs from kgp (dunno if they can do it officially).

Also, this may be redundant, but did you check if there was space available in the hospital compound itself for the transformer? If they can let go of some space, which is being used for some other purpose and can be moved somewhere else, then that should be the easiest way out.

March 20, 2008 at 5:25 AM  
rick said...

@logicark ...thnx alot for going thru the post and coming up with a suggestion. actually the hospital is some 1000-1500 meters away from the nearest transformer of the area. so we need to have poles on a couple of locations between the hospital and the existing transformer. The villagers are not ready for raising a pole as well!!!

March 20, 2008 at 8:54 AM  

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