Interacting with the tribals in 39 villages of Gadchiroli district for mutual benefit: Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health – Maharashtra

TOI Social Impact Awards 2015: ‘Search’ light shines on tribal lives | To read the full article, click here >>

In 1986, when Dr Abhay and Dr Rani Bang decided to adopt Gadchiroli as their home and workplace, the district was infamous for Naxalism, abject poverty, poor infrastructure and abysmal health services. Today, nearly 30 years after the couple started the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (Search), Gadchiroli—just 200 km from Nagpur, the state’s winter capital—continues to lack many facilities. […]

In the 39 villages they adopted, the change is vast and progressive. The Bangs’ model of home-based newborn and child care is now being practised across India and even in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and African nations such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Madagascar. By taking neo-natal care to the doorstep of the poor, they have managed to control infant mortality in the 39 villages where they work. […]

For Rani, who comes from a very affluent Andhra family in Chandrapur, the work was an eye-opener. “You can hardly call this a sacrifice. In fact, both of us have gained much more by interacting with the tribals,” says the gynaecologist. Abhay’s father Thakurdas was a Gandhian and he himself grew up at Bapu’s Sevagram ashram. The school where he studied was started by Gandhi and his mother was its principal. In the ‘nai talim’ method, there were no books or classrooms. Abhay was drawn towards social reformers and activists, first Vinoba Bhave and later, Jai Prakash Narayan. Inspired by their philosophies, there was only one place he could have chosen to work — in a village. […]

Tackling illiteracy in this tribal belt took a lot of work. But the Bangs got the tribals to participate in their awareness drives. They recruited men who were good at singing and acting, and scripted thematic songs and plays to entertain as well as educate.

Rampant alcoholism and tobacco addiction were ruining the lives of people across age groups and wrecking homes in the area. So, a de-addiction programme was started some years ago for alcohol and later, tobacco too. […]

Both Gadchiroli and Chandrapur have been declared liquor-free districts.

Looking back, Abhay has two major regrets. “I feel that we should have started 25 years ago and worked closely with ashram shalas (schools). We would have been able to shape a new generation of tribal children. The second is that I have not been able to mobilize enough talented people to come to Gadchiroli and undertake research work with the communities,” he says. […]

Source: “Search light shines on tribal lives – TOI Social Impact Awards 2015” by Sunil Warrier (Times of India, 9 March 2015)
Date Visited: Sat Oct 17 2015 11:58:01 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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