Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme

Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme – a unique voluntary experiment in conservation and development at a historical fort

Rajmachi- Udhewadi
Rajmachi is a historical fort situated on the top of the Western Ghats, at a distance of about 15 kilometres in the North West of Lonavla. The Fort has a rich treasure of historical monuments like ramparts, gateways, water reservoirs, idols of deities and temples.

Udhewadi, a hamlet of 20 houses, is situated at the foot of Manoranjan, on the plateau of the fort Rajmachi. As there is no pucca approach road to Rajmachi, one has to trek on foot the distance of 15 km. from Lonavla, to reach Rajmachi-Udhewadi. During the dry season after monsoon, one can take a jeep upto Rajmachi. However, the road is rough and the journey is not comfortable.

All inhabitants of Udhewadi belong to Mahadev Koli community, which is a Scheduled Tribe. During the rainy season they grow Nagli (a coarse millet). They also rear cattle and goat, keep poultry, collect timber from the forest and make bamboo baskets to supplement their incomes.

Like Rajmachi, most of the historical forts in the Sahyadri are situated in difficult terrain. The people who live in the terrain are mostly poor and backward. There are no approach roads to their habitats. They have no medical facility nor education for their children. The main source of livelihood is cultivation of coarse millets on not so fertile hilly land. Consequently, their economic condition is poor. Their ancestors in the 17 the century ( the then Mavle) fought battles against tyrant Muslim rulers and established Swarajya, under the able leadership of Shivaji Maharaj. Despite their glorious past in the history, the Mavle ( Koli, Thakur, Katkari, Kunbi, etc. communities) are living a poor, backward and neglected life at present. It is our duty to extend a helping hand to them for improving their life style.

The various historical forts are the monuments of the great achievements of our ancestors. We should conserve them like valuable treasures.

With a view to bringing about development of Rajmachi Udhewadi, Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme [a non profit, Non Governmental Organization (NGO)], commenced in the year 1976, a voluntary development project at Rajmachi.

The work done by Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme for the benefit of the inhabitants of Udhewadi is narrated in the following paragraphs.

Drinking Water
Adequate clean drinking water was not available for the inhabitants of Udhewadi. With a view to meeting this basic need, Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programe implemented a scheme to bring down through a pipeline, water from a few historical water reservoirs on the top of the Fort Manoranjan. With the completion of the scheme in the year 1980, and also with the cleaning of some more historical water ponds on the Fort, adequate clean water is available at Udhewadi, for drinking and other domestic use.

Medical Aid
Any one who falls ill at Udhewadi requring medical treatment, has to be taken to Lonavla, at a distance of 15 km. The inhabitants of Udhewadi did not afford the expenditure for treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme, therefore, commenced medical assistance, free of cost, for the benefit of Udhewadikars. Qualified doctors associated with the voluntary organization visited the hamlet at regular intervals for giving treatment to the sick. The patients who required further investigations and special treatment were brought to city hospitals. The medical aid scheme started by Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme benefited a number of persons from Udhewadi who were suffering from serious ailments.

Taking into consideration the present conditions at Udhewadi, the organization has discontinued the medical aid scheme. However, if any villager requests for assistance for medical treatment, we help him.

A primary school at Udhewadi was sanctioned by Pune Zilla Parishad. However, the school did not have a building and classes were not conducted regularly. The illiterate villagers were not aware of the importance of education. Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme encouraged education at Udhewadi. In June 1980, a school building was built. All students in the school were given text books, note books, school uniforms, foot wear, etc. free of cost, for many years. Volunteers of the Programme conducted tutorial classes for the students at week-ends. Attendance in the school improved and it provided education up to 5th class. The Programme also encouraged the village children to continue further education. We made arrangements for their stay in certain middle class families in cities and extended to them the necessary assistance for their education. Consequently, some children of Udhewadi could get high school level education.

With our continuous efforts for many years the educational environment at Udhewadi has improved. All children in the village attend the school up to 4th class. No child remains illiterate. Some parents send their children to their relatives and friends in the nearby villages or towns for further education.

Economic Development
With a view to facilitating improvement in their economic conditions, we helped the inhabitants of Udhewadi to obtain bank loans and subsidy under the Government’s poverty alleviation programme for the rural poor. We arranged training in carpentry for a couple of youth, who in turn have trained a few others in the village and they undertake house building jobs in nearby villages. In the various schemes undertaken by the Programme, such as tree plantation, land development, clearing of the historical monuments and water resevoirs on the fort, etc., some of the villagers were employed on wages.

We organized at Rajmachi Shramdan Camps and training programmes in various out door activities, in which urban youth and school students participated. Services of some of the villagers were engaged for making catering arrangements for such camps, which provided an additional income opportunity for them. The villagers have now learnt to provide catering and other facilities for recreational camps organized by other organizations also. Some families at Udhewadi also provide food and shelter to a large number of adventure tourists who visit Rajmachi.

All these efforts have contributed in bringing about improvement in the economic conditions of the inhabitants at Rajmachi.

Other activities
Most of the houses at Udhewadi were thatched huts. Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme helped some of the villagers to construct better houses with a roof of asbestos cement sheets. We distributed to them second hand clothes, which we collected from urban families. We made sincere efforts to wean them away from addiction to alcohol. Initially, the result was encouraging. However, now we find that even the young men whom we helped in education, drink.

The continuous voluntary work done since the year 1976 has brought about good results and changed the appearance of Udhewadi. Adequate clean drinking water is available and health conditions have improved. All children are enrolled in the school and no one remains illiterate. Superstitions are reduced. Dwellings are improved. With planned layout of pathways and plantation of trees, the environment at Udhewadi has improved significantly. With the availability of supplementary incomes the economic conditions have also improved considerably.

Future activities
We worked for about 19 years to bring about all round development of Udhewadi. Taking into consideration the results achieved and the changed attitudes, particularly of the young generation, we have made a change in the priorities in our activities. Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme has acquired, with the necessary permission of the State Government, a piece of land measuring about 4 hacters. We are now concentrating our efforts on development of this land. We are developing a botanical park on this plot of land. We are also making efforts to improve the facilities available for the adventure tourists who visit Rajmachi in a large number.

We have a camping site on the land owned by us. Camping facility is offered to trerkkers who visit Rajmachi. The Camping site is also available for holding training programmes in various nature related hobbies, adventure sports and outdoor management training programmes. We are making continuous efforts to improve the facilities on tha Camping siteWe intend to develop Rajmachi as an adventure tourism centre. We hope that these activities will provide more employment to the local people, increase the flow of adventure tourists and give a push for further development of Udhewadi and Rajmachi.

We will continue to extend to the inhabitants of Udhewadi need-based assistance for education and medical aid, as and when a request is received for such help.

We will also continue our efforts to preserve and maintain the rich treasure of historical monuments on the Fort.
The Organisation
Rajmachi Rural Aid and Development Programme is registered as a Charitable Society and also as a Public Trust. The funds required for our activities are collected by way of donations from well wishers and sympathizers. Members of the Organization pay mebership fees and they render honorary work, without any remuneration.

Your participation
We appeal for your participation in this unique project at a remote hamlet. You may like to contribute generously by donating funds regularly at monthly or annual intervals. You may like to give us used clothes in good condition. You may like to collect funds from your friends and relations to support our activities.

We request you to visit Rajmachi, with your friends and relatives to see personally the voluntary work done by us so far and solicit your valuable support in this project to develop and further beautify Rajmachi, which has a historical heritage.

Mukund Gondhalekar
Panvel 410 206
Tel. No.  (91) 92235 79685 / (91) 81088 54866
E-mail :