These words are by “The First American” , Benjamin Franklin, and perfectly exemplify the philosophy of Vigyan Ashram, Rang De’s field partner in Maharashtra.
Rang De’s Pune team started the month of November by a field visit to Vigyan Ashram in Pabal , followed by a visit to the engineering and fabrication workshop of Ganesh Pawar, a borrower located in the town of Pargaon.
Vigyan Ashram is a center of Indian Institute Of Education (IIE) Pune, established in 1983 by scientist and educationalist , Late Dr. Kalbag, that caters to the skill development and training needs of the rural youth.Developing entrepreneurial skills is an important part of this educational system. VA focuses on experiential learning as opposed to traditional academic learning, with a motto of ‘Learning while doing’.
VA and Rang De — The ideal complementary partnership
Training and skill development at Vigyan Ashram goes a long way in equipping the rural youth to combat unemployment. However, most aspiring rural entrepreneurs fall short of the needed capital in order to start their ventures. Lack of finance options is one of the biggest problems which rural entrepreneurs are bearing. The dependency, in most cases is on small money lenders who charge discriminating interest rates.
Government has various institutions for this purpose but the results are not up to the level expected.This is where Rang De comes in. Rural entrepreneurs in want of money for starting or sustaining their businesses get their funding through lenders who make their contribution to the Rang De cause at the Rang De portal.
The Day at VA ..
The VA is a simple yet well maintained facility located some 70 kms outside of Pune.The day began with light breakfast in the Vigyan Ashram canteen along with VA students and the amiable Mr. Pawan Soni from VA, who was going to be our host and guide for the day.
The first thing we noticed about the place were the works of VA students, almost in every building and compound of the premises — right from art forms made out of discarded vehicle parts, to dome shaped cottages , the place gives a feel of the creativity of the industrious resident scholars.
Vigyan Ashram has different divisions that cater to different skill building activities — Cattle Rearing and Goat farming unit, Polyhouse farming unit, Workshop / Finishing school, Food lab etc.We got a chance to interact with one of the students at VA, alongside Mr. Pawan from Vigyan Ashram. Jayesh wants to become a successful farmer by applying the hi-tech farming techniques and skills acquired at Vigyan Ashram.He also shed some light on the financial challenges that he is faced with, in starting his venture.
In most villages these days, the youth consider farming and rural enterprise as a risky profession and most of them migrate to cities in pursuit of small jobs that they consider hassle free and more secure.He, on the other hand, aspires to carve a niche in the farming sector using innovative farming methods and his entrepreneurial bent of mind.
The unwavering passion and positive energy in Rang De borrower’s upbeat tone made all of us reflect on the immense untapped potential that rural India has.
The reality is that not all such aspiring rural young men/women find avenues to get trained or get capital in order to start their ventures. The onus, therefore, is on the educated and able citizens of the country to do as much as they can in order to actively contribute towards bringing back the focus onto the neglected rural heartlands of the nation which harbour entrepreneurial potential like Ganesh’s.
Giving back to the society by the privileged class needs to go beyond charity. We need to be more involved. Finding pragmatic solutions to rural problems is the only way to bridge the gap between our villages and cities and bring about social transformation.
As the tiring one day trip was concluding, all of us suddenly felt rejuvenated by the refreshing interaction with Ganesh , as we could witness our purpose with Rang De re-affirmed in the success story of yet another borrower….
As Mohammed Yunus, the pioneer in microcredit said :-
“Most often we use charity to avoid recognizing the problem and finding the solution for it. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor. Charity appeases our consciences.”
Rang De Pune Chapter