THE RISHIYUR EXPLORATORY TRIP AND THE CURSORY FINDINGS I HAVE MADE DURING THE STAY THERE, LASTING ABOUT
30 HOURS ON 20TH& 21st JUNE 2003.
On a warm Friday 20th june morning, I was picked up by Arjuns of Rishiyur House at nandambakkam, at
about 0800 hrs, and we started our trip down south in his Tata Indica. We were cruising along the
recently laid east coast road for about 35 mts, when we were reminded by the mobile call from Arjun’s
nephew that the all important baggage of clothes for change over was not in the car, we had retraced our
way to be back on the road again by about 0900 hrs. The journey was smooth on the toll collected road,
and reached a spot near cuddalore at about 1300 hrs, when we decided to have our lunch brought along,
amidst a pastoral surroundings, that would have inspired a Thomas Arnold or John Keats to compose a
poem. The Idlies anointed with the tasty and spicy chily powder were very nice to taste. All compliments
to Mrs.Radha Arjun for the supply of soft iddlies with curd to mix-up, as she was the chef responsible
for the preparation. After a wonderful drive on the silken smooth road up to pondy, we had to cross a
stretch of about 75 kms. of not that good a road, to be followed by a stretch of road from kudanthai to
mannargudy of about 40 kms, enough to make a strange foreigner imagine that he was traveling on a
earth-quake attacked road. Mind you this stretch from kumbakonam runs along the banks of the now parched
and bone dry, and waiting for the mercies of rain Gods, River Cauvery and its tributaries. This used to
be reverberating with activities during the golden period of later cholzhas between 9th and 11th
centuries. Please don’t take me to be digressing, as I have a point to connect during the later part of
this epistle meant to convey about my observations.
We finally reached our destination Rishiyur by about 1640 hrs, to meet children numbering about 125, and
few staff plus a fairly large congregation of village folks the fragile gender being present in larger
numbers, at the Rishiyur school. When Mr.Arjun handed over the 2 balls that could be substituted for
volley-ball, as well as basket ball as well as foot ball, the children who received the same went into
ecstasies, the staff assisting the youth to fix the mobile basket, to facilitate children have a hand in
basketing the ball, and since there was only a couple of balls to be shared by the 100 odd childrern
basically from the BC and SC and St communities, they automatically fell in line to have a go at the
basket. The longing look before the ball fell into their hands, and the glint in their eyes, after
possessing the ball, resembled the characters or rather the children in the orphanage, where Oliver
Twist found abode, in the evergreen immortal classic of the same name by the great Charles Dickens, who
if he were to be alive would have been the worthy Asha Volunteer, as his stories basically dwelt on the
lives of poverty ridden children of lesser Gods. Thus ASHA made its presence, by this token initial
donation, with more to follow in the coming months.
After a few while, all of us went into the school premises, to have an initial feel of the wider
discussions and deliberations to follow on the following day. This lasted for an hour and half. By about
1930 Hrs., we took leave of all concerned requesting the male and female folks to join for a discussion
on all subjects, mainly concentrating on the income earning potential of the village. In the mean while,
Mr.Arjun gave instructions to the teachers to get ready the sample pieces of boys and girls dresses, of
various ages and sizes for stitching uniforms for the school kids.(courtesy Asha, for its dream
project). Also the undersigned made a visit to the balwadi in the proximity, taking also photographs, of
both the schools and balwadi, for the purpose of Asha records.
We then returned to Mannargudy to stay in a lodge.
The saturday following dawned. After ablutions, the undersigned visited the ancient and famous
Rajagopalaswamy temple along with Mrs.Arjun to pay obeisance to the Almighty, to seek His blessings for
reaching the desired objective of our nay my mission.
We departed again after a minor lunch for Rishiyur, reaching the village by about noon. The arjuns were
busy collecting details about the tailoring profession they have initiated, in the village. This is part
of helping the village ladies to attain the required and requisite talent, in the profession. We have
plans to offer training to few girls at Madras, with a view to getting the professional status. Then the
undersigned went on bicycle along with youth wing boys, to make a detour of all the corners of the
village and to make a study of the village life, the conditions that are prevailing, the characteristics
of the people, the facilities that can be made use of etc, etc, This went on for about 2 hours. Quite a
bit of information of considerable information was garnered. Mr.Kadirvelu Sundaram’s web links given to
us earlier were very useful in this regard, especially the water scheme. I spent time in 3 colonies, 2
of backward communities, and one of SC division, literally mingling with them, to get to know about
their fate, as to how they are able to make a living ( I am sorry it is not living, they are existing)
resigning themselves to the inevitable. Well I have furnished below my observations, for the knowledge
and information of our esteemed volunteers.
The Arjuns and myself presented our selves at the school to get the details from various village folks,
about their requirements, about the feasibility of helping them, exactly at around 1445 hrs, as
scheduled on the previous evening; we were dismayed by the thin attendance, on account of people eking
out employment from out of the food for employment scheme. However we were pleasantly surprised to see
the people assembling and leaving in batches, and this made our task easier. We dwelt on the following
points for discussions, in order to arrive at some conclusions with regard to improving the lot of the
Rishiyur Village folks, by making a plan for their income, and consequently improve their lot.
The Following are the points with regard to the conditions obtaining in the village:
01. There are about 1500 people in the villages.
02. There are 2 schools in the village; one a balwadi, and another one catering upto the 6th std.
03. The children who complete their 6th std., go to the school, at a village called Perambur about 5
kms. from this village.
04. The balwadi caters to about 25 children.
05. Of course with regard to the teachers & staff etc., it has been given in the dream project
proposal by Rajaram.
06. There is no medical shop, nor a medical center like primary health center; there is no Doctor
available in the village.
The rate of people falling sick is about 3 per day on average. The severity of sickness
would be in the order of 10
per month. The villagers have to spend their own money to reach the private and in
unavoidable cases the govt.
Medical centers/hospitals at Needamangalam, about 8 kms., away. Either they hitch hike or travel by
buses, and the frequency of bus transport, is about one in 2 hours. On an average the villagers shell
out about Rs.30 per patient,
to a doctor. There is no gynecologist, in the public hospital. Only midwifing nurses and the medics who
Finished their internship. In the private sector, one can guess the usurious tendencies prevailing. What
took the cake
was the report that the municipal hospital charging Rs.300 for the delivery of a male child and
Rs.300 for the female child When this subject was
debated, there was virtual pandemonium, as some persons with party, came forward to set right this
anomaly. The death rate is about 3 per month on average, and the birth about 2 per month. All these
statistics were doled out by the villagers publicly. They may not be far removed from the truth or
07. There are about 30 TV owning houses, but most of them are black and white. The cable TV operator
Rs.100 for showing only about 30 channels; but his associates say that he would not be able
to collect rental charges
Regularly. Nor would he be in a position to exert pressure on the defaulters. And so any difficulty in
Would be checked up at whims of the operator.
08. There are about 7 numbers of women’s self employments scheme (magalir suya velai vaayppu
ththittam) group, and
these groups were started under the patronage of the government, and with some 10% investment
from the members
they got loan from the scheduled banks, with some grant/subsidy by the government. This so
called gratis would be and
had been used for greasing the palms of the so called political brokers and their associates in
the banks. However
inspite of these shylockian approach by the sharks, the women were able to concentrate on the
purpose, by investing the
amounts on lands. They got the lands leased out to them, for a minimum period of about 3 to 4
years. Except for the 1st
year of operations, in 2001, they started sucking their thumbs, owing to drought conditions, and
water being not available
And so they are back to square number one, with the additional burden of having to repay the
tenancy charges, besides the
Commitment of having to return the bank loan periodically. And only few women in each group
consisting of 10
members each, know any trade other than agriculture. The penury continues, with women who have
taken the risks face
the prospect of being driven to extreme steps of doing anything without rhyme or reason.
09. There are about 4 telephone connections in the village including a public one run by the Govt.
controlled unit. The
The nearest regular postal service is available at about a distance of 6 Kms. in the Needamangalam
10. There is no computer available, in the entire village, even though the village can boast of atleast
6 persons with IT
11. There are at present 13 numbers of graduates, including 3 PGs. None of them is employed. However
thanks to Asha one
would be employed.
12. There are about 15 to 20 bore wells dug, and only those with about 200 ft depth, are yielding
water with jet pump-sets,
And there are only 4 at present, and they are serviced by the respective owners, for themselves, and
as per them there is no extra spare water for sharing even for COST. And so the non utilized dried
borewells would perhaps be useful, if
THERE is a bountiful rains. And there is also a possibility that some of the wells might be so dry,
that the prospect of
Rehabilitating them is very remote in the sense, that the eye-lets springing water, might have rigid
blind. One has to reboar them at a cost!
13. For commercial activities, there are about several tea-shops, and a few small time provision
shops; how can one expect to thrive, when there is no money circulation. Fortunately no liquor shop.
Perhaps there may be some illicit ones, which we can not say for certain.
14. There are about 4 numbers of tanks, 2 attached to temples, and rest common. Only one has some
water, and the other 3 are dry. TN Govt. has now started a scheme on the lines of Anthyodya, where food
is supplied for work carried out. On this programme, there is work going on in a tank, like de silting
and dredging, to enable monsoon fill them with water.
15. For entertainment, the villagers, if at all, would trek to or reach Needamangalm, for seeing
16. There is no LIBRARY of any sorts. There is no news paper available, except in few houses, where
they procure vernacular ones.
17. Only one temple of repute, and another recently established one are there for people of Hindu
origin, to pay homage, to
any GOD, and it is apparent, THE ALMIGHTY has forsaken them, at least for the moment.
18. Only a handful of people are employed else where, on a regular organized sector, leave alone the
school staff, among whom even the Head master comes from elsewhere.
19. There is no toilet in the entire village, for excretion, save in a few private houses. And the
government sponsored programme of building or constructing toilets with septic tank, went hay ware as
the villagers have shunned them!!! A general awareness is the need of the hour. The women folks are the
worst hit in the absence of decent toilets.
20. There is One big Water tank with a capacity of about 10000 litres, which services the entire
village , for their water needs. And a few bore pumps are dug out at a few places. There is no open well
again, except for a few houses and they are dry too.
21. The only redeeming factor is that majority of people are willing to work and take risk, to
enhance their life status, and they would willingly grab any opportunity provided to them, for a
profitable and beneficial way of life. They are concerned about their children. They can attend to the
needs of their children, when they themselves are finding their life secure. And for the moment,
majority of the village folks, have resigned to their fate, thanks to the afore-mentioned
The Following Factors Are Basically Needed To Improve Their Standard Of Living
A. A decent employment or profession, with security, in any field.
B. A good hospital and or a health center, with facilities for child birth.
C. The schools that are there to be up-graded gradually to higher Secondary level.
D. A good public transport, with convenient frequency.
E. A communication center with postal facilities.
F. A drug store or a pharmacy, that can be attached to a shop on the lines of a mini departmental
G. A community hall for any gathering among the villagers.
A general summary of the observations, vis-à-vis the income generation programme:
After deliberations with the villagers, Arjun and myself have found out the following areas for
There is a considerable scope for running a dairy farm to cater to the needs of the village and the
surrounding villages and the
Central area of Needamangalam initially. It was decided to try and obtain bank loan for about 10+
numbers of villagers, for purchase of cows. And for this purpose, an initial amount was collected from
them to open a bank account, to facilitate loan procedures. Even assuming an yield of about 6 litres of
milk per day per cow, a total out-put of about 150 litres for marketing would put the scheme on a good
start. Consolidating this after a review or gestation period, by more attempts on professional attempts,
would fetch us the desired result considerably.
A few hire cycle shop, with about 10 cycles in the beginning, in the absence of a pucca transport
facility, would enable employment, besides saving time for villagers on urgent needs.
A small dispensary cum health center can be installed, and any doctor serving there would easily earn a
sum of about Rs.5000 per month. Attempts by the Arjuns, some time back, even after pumping Rs.50,000
failed owing to various reasons, and now with Asha support, a good scheme can be evolved.
For business activities on commercial and professional lines, the women’s self employment group, can be
utilized to start, coir
Manufacture from out of waste coconut shells can be started , on the lines of ottakkadai, near Madurai,
where coir for ships, boats, construction work, and various other miscellaneous field, can be surely
For small time ventures, loans can be arranged after proper security, for tyred 4 wheel trucks drawn by
bullocks purchase. Enough money can be generated, if the villagers are asked to pool in their efforts on
a co-operative basis.
The village tanks can be desilted and dredged, and when water is stored, agriculture activities, on
commercial lines, like growing herbal plants. In this instance, the service of certain organizations
like CPR Environmental service would be quite useful. Orissa center can be contacted for assisting for
sustainable utilisation of the natural plant resources and introduction of industrially important
aromatic, medicinal and other economic plants and development of agrotechnology for their commercial
cultivation, in this region
IT center and related activities, when initiated, would fetch enormous amount of finance generation
A professional garments stitching center, with a small main branch in the nearby town, would help in
getting orders for bulk stitching to be carried out in Rishiyur, besides carrying out jobs at the
centers would provide employment for quite a few.
Arjuns have already charted out a programme of training a few candidates in Madras in the coming months
to implement this scheme.
Schemes to harvest rainwater, thereby storing the much needed water, for harnessing and rehabilitating
the derailed agricultural operations on sound professional lines, would enthuse the basically forming
oriented community, thereby removing the lull prevailing in this sector, and thus regenerate the life
style of the village folks. In this regard, several organizations can be approached for assistance.
Development of technologies and device appropriate for rural industrialization, employment generation,
energy conservation and conversion of agricultural produce to value added products and improvement in
quality of life of rural people. As the rural sector holds vast potential for setting up an array of
cottage and tiny scale industries for processing of natural resources into value added products, the
Department has developed several low cost and appropriate technologies in the areas of domestic and
industrial energy, agricultural implements, post harvest technology, food processing equipments, safe
drinking water, pottery, metal works, handicrafts and rural industrialization.
Courtesy: Buvaneswar based rural development organization, with all facilities.
Within the area of Livelihood, America India Foundation is currently focusing on supporting microcredit
activities throughout India. Microcredit is a poverty alleviation tool that has been developed more
recently. It rests on the principal that one of the primary causes of rural poverty is villagers’ lack
of access to credit at reasonable terms and provides loans to poor people – especially women – to
conduct village level business activities such as animal husbandry, and the manufacture and distribution
of crafts. Microcredit programs throughout the world have resulted in tremendous improvements in a
number of social and economic indicators, including family income, family planning, nutrition, and
school enrollment. Clients of successful microcredit programs in India have generally been able to pull
their families out of poverty in less than five years, a tremendous achievement by any measure.
AIF’s Microcredit Initiative will support a variety of methodologies and practitioners, both established
and new, in all regions of India.
This is only a case study report, and not a project proposal. Members all over are requested to send in
their comments suggestions etc., for further attention, and or clarification. Education per se is not
going to the ultimate remedy for all ills, if there is abject poverty surrounding the villagers with
lands available, and remaining fallow, no hope for tomorrow staring at them starkly, stodgy life style
of the villagers in general, and a stolidity towards the happenings in any field of activities elsewhere
in the world.
Hence we can not afford to remain stoic. Hence lets start with Rishiyur first. Wait for our project
proposal, at the earliest.
Thank You for going through this report. And I beg your pardon for the delayed report, as I aws busily
Ananth E S.