OUTREACH PROGRAMME OF ST.ALPHONSA SCHOOL , KALAMJOTE IN SALBONI VILLAGE, RED BANK TEA GARDEN. On the 25th March 2014 the class X boys and girls of ST.ALPHONSA SCHOOL , KALAMJOTE with their Principal and Vice Principal Srs. Lissy and Roshini, with the help of Frs. Pascal & Stanley of HLDRC, Siliguri, had their one day outreach programme in Salboni Village, in Jalpaiguri district. The tea garden has been closed for the past 12 years.
After a fruitful interaction with the local students, St. Alphonsa students helped in distribution of relief items to the people in the village. They also had a one day programme with the Primary school children in that area.
The Students of St. Alphonsa school gave an orientation talk to the primary school children on various topics like Health, Hygiene and the Importance of Education etc. They also gave some gifts to all the 120 children of the primary school. The day came to an end with a sumptuous meal sponsored by the Alphonsa school to all the primary school children and teachers working there.
Fr. Stanley, on behalf of the HLDRC team thanked the Students & Sisters of St. Alphonsa school and the teachers of Primary Village school for making the day a successful one. Frs.Pascal & Stanley SJ
8th March 2014: Surrendra Nagar, the remotest village of Jalpaiguri District, W.Bengal, where the Tea Gardens were shut indefinitely for the past 6 months, Women were getting ready to celebrate the International Women’s day.
The Husbands beating their traditional Drums “Mandhars” and taking the women in procession to the venue. Crude made up structure was prepared by the men of the village to protect their wives being scorched from the heat of the sun.
The Programme began by welcoming the resource persons of the day, Sr.Anima MC, SR.Cecilia MSI, Ms. Gulabhi and Frs. Pascal & Stanley by the women.
The Resource Persons highlighted various aspects of importance of women like role of women in family and Society, Women and their rights under law, Health & Hygiene, alternative livelihood measures etc.
With the help of Missionaries of charity sisters and some local benefactors Frs. Pascal & Stanley of HLDRC (Human Life Dev.& Res Centre) Siliguri, distributed all the 400+ participants Saree, 2kgs of Soya chunks, Protein Biscuits and some Calcium tablets as part of health and hygiene for the women.
The children of the village honoured their mothers with a beautiful traditional dance playing to the beats of the drum.
The Men of the village came together and cooked a sumptuous meal for their women as a sign of gratitude for their ever dedicated service to the families and the village.
As all good things have an end the Programme too came to end with an agape meal, women enjoying the food prepared in their honour by their husbands.
All the 400 participants headed home with smile on their lips and hope in their hearts thanking God for all the good happened that day.
In loving tribute to all the women…..
Love & Prayers
Fr.Stanley Varghese SJ
Fr.Pascal Xalxo SJ
8th March 2014
A group of 18 students (7 boys and 11 girls) and 4 staff members (including me) from our college belonging to National Service Scheme camping at Kheripara from Oct 21 to 27. During that time, we had two medical camps, legal awareness and health awareness programs, survey of the village, coaching classes and some input sessions on personality development, etc.
The main medical help was given by a team of two doctors and nurses led by Fr Julius of Jesu Ashram.
The people enjoyed the entertainment program on Saturday… Many memorable moments were there and good food… Hope we made some difference to the people out there, especially the children whom we taught every morning…
It was a wonderful experience…!
God has blessed us!
We are glad to announce that about 30 NSS students of North Bengal St Xavier’s College, Rajganj, will be camping at Kheripara village, 6 km from the College, from Oct. 21 to 27, 2013. The students will get an exposure to the life in a tea garden situation as they live and interact with the tea workers. Coaching for the tea workers’ children, awareness programs for the villagers and games for the youth are lined up… Some experts with hands-on experience in various fields will also impart their knowledge and experience to the people during these days… Looking forward to the camp life…
Recently I was in Mogulkata tea garden and I was thrilled to be with the children, Fr Basil and some neighbours. I did some social awareness programs there sometime ago.
Yesterday (7th July 2012), a Workshop / Seminar on Students Scholarship was held at Loyola Pastoral Centre, Matigara, near Siliguri. About 65 people, mostly village animators, participated and got necessary info about the various government scholarships available. Mr Sunil Ekka, State Bank of India, Fr Sebastian Minj SJ and Fr Felix Pinto were the resource persons. This was organised by North Bengal FORUM (Forum of Religious for Peace and Justice). As the convenor Sr Leena SCN is being transferred to Patna, Fr Joe Victor SJ is the ad hoc convenor till the new one is elected.
As result of our rally and convention in March, there will be a joint inspection of Public Distribution System (PDS) here by the Supreme Court Commissioner and an official from Kolkata in May-June 2012.
A delegation of seven members from NBRTF campaign led by Fr Victor had a fruitful meeting with the Principal Secretary and another official in the Food and Supplies Department, Kolkata, on May 3. The following issues were discussed: Census 2011 and BPL families, De-linking tea management from Tea PDS, implementation of Justice Wadhwa Committee report, etc. We asked for some mechanism to check the running of tea PDS. They asked for specific details regarding BPL benefits not reaching the beneficiaries and promised to look into them. They also asked for specific proposal for starting ration sub-centres in far flung areas of the hills. They promised that verification of ration cards will be continued in the hills. They said that closed tea gardens will henceforth get immediate relief from the central schemes. A memo containing our demands was also submitted to the Principal Secretary.
Digitalisation of ration cards has started. Although procurement of grains has increased the disbursement has decreased. To highlight this demonstrations are being organised in different parts of south Bengal till June 1. Signature campaigns have started in South Bengal against the major provisions in the forthcoming National Food Security Act. We demand that every citizen of the country should be covered by PDS so that no one goes to bed hungry or malnourished. The campaign in North Bengal is just starting.
As a follow up action, the members were encouraged to find out how much a garden is allotted as ration and how much is actually disbursed. We also need to see that quality control is functioning in each district. We can also collect the sealed sample for verification. Due to the impending transfer of Fr Victor, Sr Subeshna Thapa SJC has taken charge as Convenor of the NBRTF campaign.
Spoken English Classes for Class 10, 11 and 12 will be held at Loyola Niwas, Uttar Salbari, from April 9, 2012 till 15 May 2012.
Time: From 3.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. on all week days.
For details Contact: Fr Joe Victor SJ (9775401525)
Coaching classes are being offered now for those who are going to appear for National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) secondary examinations in April 2012.
Classes are held at Loyola Niwas, Uttar Salbari, from 3.00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. every day during the week, till April 4.
Interested students may contact Fr Victor (9775401525).
Background: As per the directions of the Supreme Court of India since 2001, the Indian government has initiated several food-related schemes for the welfare of the poor, especially through the Public Distribution System (PDS). However, due to the prevailing criteria of classifying the people into Above the Poverty Line (APL) and Below the Poverty Line (BPL) categories, a vast majority of the poor and deserving tea workers of North Bengal in the state ofWest Bengal are included under APL, thus depriving them of much of the benefits. This is in spite of the fact that they are paid daily wages of 85-90 rupees (less than US$ 2) much below the existing minimum wage and that too only for six days a week. Those residing in the tea gardens but not working in the tea garden are excluded from the tea garden ration.
The criteria used in the recent Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 do not enable the poor tea workers qualify under priority category, again depriving them of the special entitlements.
Thus most of the benefits of the central and state governments do not reach the really poor population in the tea gardens. As a result, malnutrition, health issues, unemployment, unrest, forced migration and human trafficking are on the rise in the tea gardens ofNorth Bengal.
In the villages of Darjeelinghills too the welfare schemes of the federal government for the impoverished hill people have not been implemented although the beneficiaries under such schemes were identified in 1997.
Aim of the Rally and Convention: To highlight the plight of the tea workers and villagers of North Bengal because of the serious drawbacks in the existing PDS as well as the current Census 2011, a rally was organised in Siliguri on 11th March under the banner of North Bengal Right To Food Campaign. Over 2500 people fromDarjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts took part in the rally and the convention that followed. About 20 Non Government Organisations (NGOs) including several religious, and trade unions were part of the campaign. Handbills were distributed in Bengali, English, Hindi and Nepali highlighting the above issues.
In the convention representatives from different tea gardens and villages spoke on the various issues faced by the tea workers and villagers. Mr Chitta De, General Secretary of Coordination Committee of trade unions, Mr Amol Roy, Working President of West Bengal Cha Bagan Sramik Union, Mr Vaskar Nandy, Secretary of Cha Bagan Sramik Union, Mr I.B. Rai, President of Farmers Federation, Mr Subash Chettri, President of Muskan Himalayan Youth Federation, also put forward the problems of the tea workers and villagers. Fr Victor dwelt on the contentious issues of tea garden ration as per the West Bengal Government Order of 2006, while Fr. Pascal highlighted the pertinent points on Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011.
A memorandum read out in Nepali and Hindi was unanimously passed. It was submitted to the WB Chief Minister with copies to the concerned Ministers and officials.
Basically the Campaign demanded (i) repeal of the state government order of 2006 (ii) inclusion of all tea workers in BPL category (iii) allotment of ration to those identified under BPL survey of 1997 in the hills.
A press meet was organised on 10 March in Siliguri to release a press statement on the Campaign. Many correspondents turned up. Several newspapers and television channels reported the press meet, the rally and the Convention favourably. Frs Shiju Mathew, Pascal Xalxo and Joe Victor have been working very hard for the success of this campaign as treasurer, resource person and convenor respectively. It is interesting to network with so many secular NGOs, trade union leaders and some committed religious in advocating right to food, guided by Mrs Anuradha Talwar, State Advisor to the Supreme Court on PDS.
Earlier a workshop on PDS was organised at Siliguri on 25 Jan. mainly for 60 animators.
Follow-up activities are under way as the federal government is bringing a National Food Security Bill about which there are a lot of concerns.
It is only the beginning. We have a long way to go. With God’s blessings and people’s support we can make a difference in the lives of the struggling people.