D. Bala Prasad, a Hyderabad IT guy from a village called Domakonda of Kamareddy district, Telangana has decided few years back to save the lives of his villagers from the beedi industry, especially village women who compromises their lives to earn a meager income by rolling beedis day and night.
Beedi industry, one of the unorganized agro-industries of rural India continues to engage village people, especially generations of women who has been toiled their lives by rolling tobacco. The small income they earn were unable to fulfill their daily needs and in fact, most of them used to suffer from the serious side effects of tobacco.
Bala Prasead, once a beedi worker himself bitten by this industry. Though he recovered soon from the vicious effects of this, he realized to do something to stop the circle when he saw his mother suffering from cancer caused by it.
“My own mother fell prey to cancer, spending most of her life making beedis. Girls as young as class 6 are pushed into doing the same because an extra pair of hands means more productivity. But by the time they reach adulthood, their health is already dilapidated”, he explains.
Prasad observed that young men and women in his village are entering into the beedi industry as there were no guidance available to them, especially when they failed in studies. So earlier he decided to give educational supports to them but soon he realized that it isn’t enough to make a change.
“I’d been initially providing the school students in our village with educational support a few years back. At some point, I’d realized that the impact isn’t penetrative enough. Most of the youngsters in our region took to beedi making upon being met with failure in studies. Plus, there seemed to be no other alternative too,” says Prasad.
So, he started doing everything possible to provide better avenues of livelihood to his villagers. For this purpose he started “Live In For Everyone or LIFE“. It is a non-profit organization founded by Prasad last year that has been actively initiating various skill-based empowering programmes in Domakonda.
Also, one of the major concerns that was clouding the lives of people in Domakonda was the failing health of women workers who were spending close to 15-16 hours every day rolling the beedis.
Because the task of beedi making is entrusted to women, they end up being exposed to dangerously high levels of carcinogens present in tobacco, which enter their bloodstream through their skin or inhaled as dust.
All these factors led the man to work out a comprehensive plan that would finally help the people in Domakunda break free from the entrapment of the beedi industry.
“I’d decided to categorize the people in the village according to their age and their social binding. While youngsters were willing to relocate to cities in search of employment, the middle-aged women didn’t want to step out of their village,” Prasad says.
And thus came about LIFE’s various empowerment programmes – catering to different strata in the village.
“For young girls who did not pass their school or degree exams, we got in touch with Apollo Hospitals who were ready to provide skill-based training for the women. Close to 15 women have found jobs as lab technicians in nearby cities where the pay is almost triple the meager amount that they were given for making beedis,” he proudly mentions.
Similarly, Prasad reached out to GMR Skills Development Institute in Hyderabad for the men empowerment programme.
“The first batch of 30 young men have not only successfully completed their training but have also found jobs in the city. The second batch has already begun its training last week. This time, we have people from neighbouring villages as well,” Prasad says.
To help the middle aged women, Prasad contacted a local NGO, Nirmaan and approached the women to take up locally based entrepreneurial initiatives.
“The NGO trained about ten women in skills like making compounds like detergents, phenyl, hand wash and candles. But it wasn’t all that easy. A lot of hard work went behind the process of convincing the rural women—a task that was voluntarily taken up by many women employees at my workplace,” he mentions.
The organisation is also making the lives of farmers in the region better by introducing natural farming.
“We had selected ten farmers who were pretty downtrodden financially. Collaborating with Goshala Federation and the agriculture department, the farmers have been provided with two cows each and are being trained by others farmers who have been successfully practising natural farming,” he adds.
Not leaving behind school children, Prasad motivated the little ones by offering scholarships for those who excel in their academics.
In fact, Prasad has been supporting four government schools in the region along with some of his colleagues in Hyderabad.
“My driving force behind undertaking each of these initiatives is to make our village and the people independent. These may be small changes for an outsider, but for these people, it is a matter of self-sustenance or voluntarily drudging in poverty. It is their life, and I’m just being a facilitator in helping them take control of it—with pride”, Prasad says.
In a phone conversation with Bala Prasad, he shared his ideology with inspiretelangana.org…
- I have been doing these activities from 10 years now, as working an IT employee I used to do the donations, provide books and other things to the villagers. But from last 3 to 4 years I have changed my route and wanted to make them to stand on their own feet. Though you contribute donations to them, it doesn’t bring any change. We need to make them leaders in their fields and self-sustainable.
- We are not political leaders and make them to depend on us. Any NGO or organization should motivate and inspire them instead of providing money or school fees and books.They should not depend on any one for anything, they need to survive on their own. If we encourage one member of a family and make him strong and self sustain, then he/she will take care of their families and ultimately the village becomes strong.
- Everyone is a beneficiary of the society. As a part of society one should think to give something back to the society instead of depending on the governments. Everybody must have a bondage with the society and should realize themselves that without society we are nothing.
- My friends, colleagues and my company often involve in my activities and in fact, most of my activities were successful with their help only. But we can’t pressurize them every time to extend their support. One may contribute once or twice but as everybody has their own lives, I don’t compel them regularly. But whenever I get a chance to interact with them, I’d tell them about various activities and sometimes I take them to movies and restaurants to talk about these activities.
- Everybody has family problems especially when you are married and have kids. They sometimes feel that I have been wasting my time and money for others. But I always try to convince them and mostly they listen to my words. Sometimes I involve them in my activities, so they too understand the problems of others. Without my family support I couldn’t do whatever I am doing now.
- We need to make the youngsters to self-sustain. In our project, a batch of 30 boys were already trained by GMR Skills development institute in Hyderabad and 15 girls among 20 were already earning money by making products such as phenol, soaps etc. So, around 50 families in the village are became strong and self-sustained and an income worth 50 lakh rupees were generated a year and sent to the villages. The result and improvement automatically inspires other families and ultimately makes others to come forward and show interest in these projects.
- I always get help from the god in one or the other way once I wanted to start a project. Till now most of the money I spent on these activities are my own. I take loans from the bank or I spend money from the credit card and I always feel that If I get an extra income or money that itself is a message from the almighty to spend it for some other services.
- I have worked in abroad for 3 to 4 years in countries like Malaysia and Singapore. Whatever the money that I earned there, I saved it and spent for various activities. Every month I spare 20 or 30% of my income to do these services and whenever I couldn’t save enough money, then I use my credit card. Later I clear them in installments.
- I do not have any restrictions to do particular kind of activities. I do whatever possible for me, either it is providing education or donating books, chappals or sometimes I provide bulbs to the houses who aren’t affordable to them.
Bala Prasad also encourages others to involve in his organization activities and welcomes volunteers who interested to extend support and contribution.
As of future ventures, Prasad plans on helping fund the coaching classes for civil service aspirants in Domakonda. “I’m sure there are many students who want to be part of the services, and I want to help them to realise their dreams. Only those who have lived through adverse situations would want to bring change in the society,” he adds.
You can reach out to LIFE at firstname.lastname@example.org or 8008376988.