AN INTERVIEW WITH FULMANJI- THE LOHAGARH ACTIVIST.

 

Lohagarh activist , Fulman Dajju has taken the efforts to revive the primary school for the dropout students of Lohagarh. His efforts have reaped successful results and he wishes to continue doing social work for the less privileged people. He takes his time out to teach the children and it is out of his sheer self-satisfaction that he volunteers to do such a noble task.

1. Tell me something about yourself?

A. You already know my name now. There is a tea garden here in Lohagarh which falls under my district, Darjeeling district. This is really backward place and the workers here spend their whole lives in the tea garden. I work here in the tea garden block. I have studied in Darjeeling and graduated from there and have done my B.S.C from that place. I had some difficulties back then and so I started working as a staff in the tea garden. As I was introduced to Darjeeling Mary Ward Social Centre in 2009, I got involved in projects with them.

2. What is your project about? Give some details about it?

A. The efforts of Mary Ward have extended in many villages in this area. These areas are Lohagarh Tea Garden, Siagarh Basti, Panighatta Tea Garden. We have had seminars in these places with the people. The seminars were on education, protection for women and children, nutrition for children and expectant women. We had an awareness camps in these issues and so we were attended a training for this campaign. We were also trained to recognize problems of these areas. These problems were lack of drinking water, lack of health centres, bad roads. We were trained to talk about these problems to these people and how we could prioritize these problems. We segregated the problems since this place is filled with issues. We have the problem of drinking water here. We tell the children to study; we can provide them with education and mid-day meals but the problem is that water is not available. When the mothers go to work, they take utensils and stand near the water tap for a long time and in a long queue. The children also look for drinking water so the question is, when do they study? We made the people understand that drinking water is essential. The second issue is health centre. This place has poverty and the minimum wage is Rs.250 to Rs.300.  The government has sanctioned this Labour Act and it is now executed but the tea garden workers here get only Rs.90. What wrong have they done? What will a man do with Rs.90? They have to buy medicines, rice and they get no medicines from the tea garden.  Even the community does not have much facility to get them medicines and hospital services. So what can a helpless man do? So we demanded for a health centre in this place.

The third this that government has sanctioned pensions for the old and disabled. So we wanted this pension scheme to be executed. We were trained by an instructor from Calcutta and a programme was held with the panchayat members. We made a committee and discussed about the problems and how to solve them. After thus, we made a programme in Mirik. The members of all blocks, namely health, education met at Jagjit Hotel. We had an interactive meeting and after that, we made a group known as Collective Voice. At that time, we had all resource persons. There is always a gap between the government and the people. The government wants to help and the people want help but don’t know how to go about. These issues cause a gap. We tried to remove this gap with the people and this project made a lot of progress.  Darjeeling Mary Ward was also involved and gave us a lot of information.

3. You brought back the school that was about to be closed down. What was your motivation behind this action?

A. You asked a very good question. This primary school started five years back. There were only two teachers and many teachers were not appointed. The student ratio began to decrease. The teachers should make the students believe that they are coming to the school and concentrating on each one. Later the parents felt that they were wasting their time in the school and so they stopped coming. So an education inspector had come and he saw that the school was closed down and so he closed it down all together. This school had not closed officially. The students were not attending and so it closed down for two years. A teacher stated that there are no students in the area and I challenged him to find out. A secretary had come to see the school while I was away. They said that the school would not run. They wanted to transfer the school elsewhere. I questioned them, “Who told you that the school won’t run?” and they said that it was stated by a teacher. Since we cannot do things alone, we needed support. We got assistance and I conducted a survey in the place. We requested the parents to send their children to school. We asked them if they wanted to educate them and asked for their opinion. The parents put the responsibility of educating them fell on me. Now that I had responsibilities, I had to act. As a child, I was always motivated to do social work. I took two teachers and conducted a thorough survey. We got more than 50 school dropouts in the village. I convinced at least 40 of them to attend school. They got admission in the school. Now there is no continuity because they are receiving their salary. There is no mid-day meal scheme either. So a supervisor visited and a committee was made. I teach the students from 12pm to 3pm. After that, I take lunch at home and go to the office for paper work. We will run the school if we have government support and this is our request.

 

 

 

       4.  Who were the people who believed in your efforts and helped you re open the school?

Nobody actually believed. If this school would go away, it would go away for good. So I requested the teachers to help. I love to educate people. I also requested Yogesh Chettri to encourage the teachers to teach.  Now I am happy since everybody is doing a good job. I am receiving self-satisfaction and I see the children are also improving. I am teaching them science and so even I am getting a revision of the old lessons.  I am extremely happy. Let us see what happens ahead.

5. What benefits have you seen in these children?

See, when you watch a programme or a serial, they show you a trailer at the end of every episode to grab your attention. Likewise, we give them a trailer at the end of every class telling them what we will teach them tomorrow. All the books are in English and everybody is happy since they are getting to learn. We are also giving them extra knowledge about their families. We need a lot of support to provide these children with stationary items. We also need to provide them with good sanitary facilities. Everything is a part of education.

6. Where/how do you see your school 5 years hence?  

Now even we are studying and teaching them like this is tedious. Five years later we will be prepared and we will prepare them as well. I was looking for a platform and I got one. I will go ahead with this hope that they get all facilities and education. In Darjeeling, I will make a model and show that effort can go a long way.

This mid-day meal scheme is also closed. We need funds and people to make the food and it is difficult to cook and serve them personally. It will be really good we get funds and support.

7. What should be a role of a good citizen?

I have a different theory. My son is working and I married at a young age. I told my son, ‘Don’t look for jobs. Create jobs.’ Even if you create a job for two people, it will be a nice thing. I feel everybody should also have political knowledge. What is the use of just working, eating and relaxing? We should have the knowledge whom to vote for. If we vote for a wrong person, his wrong decisions will affect my son, my family. As an Indian, these are the things we should know and I am proud to be an Indian.

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