June 5, 2014

Dear Sir,

Yusuf Meherally Centre sends out a brief letter every year highlighting problems and achievements during the previous financial year to its friends and donors. This letter is in that tradition.

The year 2013-14 started with a spate of problems. In October 2012, we lost our project director Ramesh Murdeshwar and a lot of time was spent in making alternate administrative arrangements, getting the hang of several problems, including a large debt, delays in continuing with the work of building the hospital at Anjanvel in Guhaghar taluka, Ratnagiri district, possible considerable loss of land at Tara in the hospital complex and the Sankul due to road widening (Mumbai-Goa highway is being widened), rising anger in Tara village because of a spate of accidents on the Mumbai-Goa highway which resulted in eight deaths in more or less a couple of years and such other matters. However, by March end, we can say with some satisfaction that our new Hon. Director, Mateen Diwan who had announced earlier that he would devote full time to the Centre post retirement, and a team of local workers aided by the office bearers have succeeded in sorting out most of the problems.

The debt is much less, thanks to the improved administration, better husbanding of resources, revised service fees, generous donations and increased income due to the number of visitors to the Sankul going up, more operations in the Sunday clinic and more users of camping facilities.

While the proposed road widening had more or less forced us just to continue with existing medical activities, the information that the widening may take place in phases, made us decide to change our policy and a full-fledged pathology laboratory giving 24 hours service was launched and two mobile units were started with the help of J. V. Gokal Charitable Trust and Krishna Foundation. This has meant more services to the local population and an end to stagnation of medical services. Thanks to those trusts, our medical staff has increased and our medical services bettered and there is increase in the number of patients who take advantage.

And thanks to an arrangement with a teaching institution, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the range of medical services has further increased and we restarted organizing health checkups in villages and schools. Our monthly diabetic and TB camps have become more popular (we give free medicines) and in addition to the Sunday clinic where on an average ten eye operations and four surgical operations are performed, we have one more day in the week when eye operations are performed by the MGM team.

Education

As far as our educational activities are concerned, thanks to the land donated by villagers we started constructing a building for our Urdu Medium High School at Apta and it is near completion. Local people donated money generously and also gave time and some labour, And in Shirki high school, thanks to the funds of an MP, we built two class rooms. The Tara high school is continuing its services as in past. And the Adivasi girls hostel in the compound of the Bhanuben Pravin Shah high school is as popular as ever. More girls want admission but we have to limit the number for want of accommodation. There are a hundred and one girls in the hostel. The hall in the school hums with activities.

While once our non-formal vocational centre for Adivasi was a popular activity, of late it had stopped attracting Adivasi youngsters and we were worried about what to do. But thanks to Kherwadi Welfare Association on one hand, and the generous support extended by some Irish donors, thanks to Shri Shirsat, a life member of the Centre, on the other, we got new ideas and a decision was taken to organize training classes in villages and that has succeeded and our vocational centre has got a new lease of life. We should add that our enthusiasm has grown because a letter from a trainee whom we had trained under a CAPART scheme says that thanks to the training given by us, he was earning Rs. 20,000/-, per month in his village and after migrating to a city, he was earning Rs. 35,000/-. Enquiries made by us revealed that the CAPART trainees were earning Rs. 10,000/-, per month in the village itself.

Widening of Mumbai-Goa highway

Incensed by an accident on the highway in which a person from Tara died, the Centre decided to popularize the idea that wherever a highway passes through a village, there should be a flyover and the activities to promote this idea led us to a discover that there were many villagers who had not got justice from the highway authorities. Hence, we organized a fact finding tour of Raigad and visited all the villages on the highway and heard the grievances of the villagers who were losing land and building in road-widening. We took up these grievances with the collector as well as the highway authority and, thanks to the support of the local people and the vigilant press, we succeeded in getting justice done to many families and the work is still continuing.

Anjanvel Hospital

Persistent efforts of the committee members and the in-charge of the project helped us to solve many of the problems that the project faced. The building is now 90% complete and we have got almost all the necessary permissions. However, because of delays in buying land, getting various government permissions and the ban on sand and laterite mining, the cost has got escalated and there is a financial crunch. We will have to raise a crore to complete the building, build a fence, furnish, equip and recruit the staff. This will impose a huge financial burden in the current financial year.

States branches

Our activities in different states continue, but are not growing, partly at least, because we have neglected them. In Kutch, we educate migrant children in a big way, thanks largely to the initiative of the local branch. In Nagapattinam, where our activities have been scaled down, we continue to supply oil, oil ghanis, phenyl etc. In Orissa, our activities are stagnating as we have not been able to raise money that is required to upscale, the same with Bihar and J&K. However, we are growing in Uttarakhand and after the elections we will be able to give a big push to activities there. We are likely to take up water shed development project in UP if our application is accepted by NABARD. Our decision to go to NE is still on paper. We have contacts but no plans to open an office and our Yusuf Meherally Yuva Biradari is marking time. The Biradari has good workers, but no worthwhile plan of action. And as far as our objective of promoting common school system is concerned, we just play a supportive role to an institution with which we are connected but are not as active as we were three years ago.

Kuti Parisar

On May 1, 2013, we inaugurated a replica of Ba Kuti. With this, now, we have replicas of Bapu Kuti and Ba Kuti and if we can build a replica of Adi Nivas in this financial year, our project will get completed. Most visitors make it a point to visit the Parisar and we get a chance to talk to them about the eco-friendly nature of the structures, the values of the freedom movement and global warming.

Khadi Gramodyog Andolan

This is one of the major activities of the Centre since 2002. The Centre believes strongly that khadi and gramodyogs can generate rural employment and hence it appeals to those who visit Tara - we get more than 50,000 of them - or to whom we write letters, to buy some khadi every year, prefer gramodyog products etc. and we meet on October 2, and January 30, to review our work. We have exhibition-cum-sales in government offices, public spaces and railway stations and the response is very good.

Funds

We should add our donors have been very generous in this year as in the past. We could raise Rs. 1,97,28,088/-, between April 13, 2013, and March 31, 2014 through small and big donations. This amount excludes project grants or even such amounts that go directly to the branch, as also FCRA amount.

In short, though we have done a lot and are doing a lot, we need to do much more, especially for our branches. We owe it to our commitment to our ideas of mainstreaming rural development, making employment generation a people's movement and making common person a 'karta' of wealth creation that we grow, become more effective and learn to propagate our views.

Clubs

From time to time one or the other Lions Club and Rotary Club or Rotary Innerwheel, helps us, but one club stands out because last year the Lions Club of Mumbai Carter Road visited the Centre for the 25th time, on October 2, not only to sponsor an eye camp, but also to help us in several other ways. There is also another club, Lions Club of Dhobi Talao, which is with us for nearly a decade. In fact, it has created a corpus so that it can sponsor an eye camp every year.

Yours sincerely,



(Gaurang Puthli)