Art of Living rescues Vidarbha Farmers!

There were no surprises out here. Not for me at least. Last year when the Chief Minister of Maharashtra asked Sri Sri RaviShankar to help stop the suicides in Vidarbha region, the reactions from Media (both Print and TV) and bloggers were one of skepticism, derision and cynicism.

Today’s DNA – a Mumbai based newspaper – carries an article titled “Art of Living rescues Vidarbha farmers”:

The distressed Vidarbha cotton farmers are now getting help. No, it is neither the state government nor the Centre with yet another relief package, but the Art of Living (AOL) volunteers. Over 1,086 trained young men and women are taking charge of several villages in the drought-prone district to encourage the farmers to roll back their lives.

Though started eight months ago, the ‘Project Vidarbha — Swavalamban programme’ has shown significant results. Under this programme youngsters in the village are identified and trained as youth leaders, who then take charge of the entire village. So far, the young leaders have reached out to 151 villages in Amravati, in which 55 leaders are reaching out to 90,000 lives.

The programme works at various levels — AOL part one course teaches breathing techniques to boost the farmer’s morale, Samagra Arogya Shibirs along with other relevant projects like organic farming, zero-budget farming, rainwater harvesting, hygiene, construction of toilets, etc.

With alarming statistics of one farmer ending his life every eight hours, Project Coordinator Jayant Bhole claims that not a single suicide was reported in the 151 villages they have worked in so far. “There are about 1,000 villages in the Amravati region. The current suicides are happening outside this region. We are training more youth leaders to reach out to all the villages.”

A search on google led me to this article from Tehelka.

Led by Bhole, a civil engineer with a deep laugh and huge reserves of energy, Art of Living volunteers arrived here in August with a government brief to teach the village to meditate. They were promised assistance, but no money. “It seemed tough in the beginning, but our processes had to be smooth,” Bhole said. “If people saw us struggling, they wouldn’t be receptive. But they accepted us in just two months.” The biggest challenge, said volunteer Somnath, was “convincing people that you were really here to help”.

Some day in the near future, I do want to visit these villages for myself, but for now I have to make do with newspaper reports. And what warmed my heart was to read the statement from Somnath. If I am not mistaken, Somnath is the same guy who did his Teachers Training course with me at the Ashram. A real dynamite of guy, always willing to step up and take charge of the situation.

More details about the service projects can be had from Art Of Living’ website

The learning for me is that one can chose to mock, complain, criticize or chose to take responsibility. The choice is always ours.


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