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Mumbai collegians work to change villagers’ lives, get them jobs

Students from various city colleges have undertaken similar projects to generate employment and financial opportunities for villagers

mumbai Updated: Mar 26, 2018 11:28 IST
Musab Qazi
Students from HR College teach at a rural college.
Students from HR College teach at a rural college. (HT Photo )

Last week, students from the National Service Scheme (NSS) unit of KC College, Churchgate, installed a machine for grinding spices at Karwale village in Palghar district. The set up will provide employment to 15 women from the area, who can earn a living by grinding spices and selling it in the market.

“We wanted to empower the women,” said Zoya Khan, one of the students.

For the past few years, students from various city colleges have undertaken similar projects to generate employment and financial opportunities for villagers in mofussil areas of the state. Besides strengthening the rural economy and empowering women in the villages, these projects provide students with hands-on training.

In the past three years, students from Rotaract Club of HR College, Churchgate, have been arranging funds for small-scale businesses in Kumbarwadi and Varwandi villages of Ahmednagar district. As part the ‘Gazab Maharashtra’ project, villagers — mostly youngsters — pitch business ideas to students who provide them anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 as seed money to start the enterprises. While parents of students chip in, most of the funding comes from big corporations.

Ishan Jawrani, a student of HR College, said the project took shape in 2015 when they visited villages to dig wells in drought-hit Marathwada. “Village chiefs showed us around and highlighted the need for better schools and colleges. So we decided to improve literacy rate in the villages. We taught junior college students entrepreneurship and basic accounting, and started funding their business ideas,” he said.So far, HR College students have conducted training sessions in four colleges and funded 25 enterprises.

In 2016, a few students pursuing Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education (SIMSREE), Churchgate, organised a financial literacy camp for a village on the outskirts of Virar. They came to know that plastic was banned in the village and people used paper envelopes. The students helped a group of women from the village to start a paper bag making business.

For their project, the SIMSREE team took help of a city-based organisation that trained 20 women from the villages near Virar to make paper bags. It has become a self-sustaining business with more women joining in and very little help required from the students. The women earn anywhere between Rs7,000 and Rs8,000 a month for a few hours’ work.

The students have also organised digital literacy workshop for children at an orphanage in Ulhasnagar and Dharavi to make them employable.

“We also organised financial literacy camps in villages and educated people about various government schemes,” said Dharamaraj Thakker, final year MBA student and member of college’s Student Social Responsibility Cell.

However, not all these enterprises have such success stories. In fact, 11 out of 25 businesses funded by HR College students eventually shut down. Many of small businesses set by KC College in Karwale village, in the past last 13 years, could not be sustained.

According to Satish Kolte, NSS programme officer at the college, busy schedule of women in villages and lack of exposure to market were responsible for the failed projects.

“The women are occupied with household chores and farming activities. So they have little time to work on their own enterprise. While the villagers lack exposure, they are now visiting the city to procure raw material for their businesses,” he added.