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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Meet Dr Neelam Gupta who helped 2000 in naxal areas get jobs through AROH Foundation

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Dr. Neelam Gupta is the founder and director of the A Ray of Hope (AROH) Foundation in Odisha, Jharkhand, and Bihar. She discusses what it takes to travel into risky territory in order to rehabilitate and empower young people.

Every day is a battle for survival for many people in Odisha’s Koraput district. However, the Naxalite movement had made it difficult for us to subsist. Rape, assault, and harassment were commonplace. The Naxalite movement has waxed and waned in Koraput district, as it has in many other parts of the state, throughout the years. It is part of the KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) area, which is considered one of the most backward in the country.While the execution of numerous specific programmes has changed throughout the years, abject poverty remains a serious challenge in this country.

AROH (A Ray Of Hope) Foundation’s assistance has made a significant difference for many in the region who want for more. AROH has worked with over 2,000 youngsters, including Rupali, in Naxal-affected districts of Odisha, Jharkhand, and Bihar to provide them with jobs, education, and other services. When AROH planned to expand into these areas to work with adolescents, my family — my parents and spouse — were vehemently opposed. We need to mainstream these youth, rehabilitate them, and change their thinking.

AROH represents the realisation of a childhood goal for Dr. Gupta, who enrolled in the Indian Agriculture University for her PhD after graduating from Delhi University.

She then intended to establish her NGO, but he parents advised Dr. Gupta to abandon the “crazy concept,” acquire a job, and marry.

Dr. Gupta will have to wait a few years for her aspirations to come true. She maintained a printing and publishing firm for about a decade, which helped her financial situation. She says, “It was a fruitful experience that aids much of AROH’s operation today.”

As the new millennium arrived, Dr. Gupta prepared to embark on the voyage she had always desired. AROH began by collaborating with the government on skill development and education projects. This has grown over time to include socioeconomic surveys and research, monitoring and evaluation studies, skill training and capacity building, social reforms, advocacy and mass mobilisation, formal and remedial education, water and natural resource management, health and sanitation, women empowerment, livelihood generation, and other activities remote women’s employment initiative.

Dr. Gupta gives one example of their work: “There was no RTE when we started (Right to Education, or Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009). It was a module I created, and it eventually aided thousands of pupils.”

AROH also runs RISE (Remedial Innovation in School Education), a programme called Padho aur Badho. The program has worked with over 50,000 children from slum areas to educate them using a child-oriented model, with community teachers and a focus on extracurricular activities. Vocational opportunities in traditional crafts for disadvantaged women are created by their project Garima.

Under their programme Sampoorna, AROH works to bring infrastructural development in 50 villages of India. In ‘red corridor’ areas, the NGO has provided skill training, livelihood,, education, health and well being, sanitation, and awareness.

AROH trains people for placement, as part of the government’s Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY. It also provides training in soft skills, spoken English, and basic computers under the DDU-GKY. AROH also operates a RISE (Remedial Innovation in School Education) programme called Padho aur Badho, which has worked with over 50,000 children from slum regions to educate them utilising a child-centered methodology, community teachers, and an emphasis on extracurricular activities.

Garima, their project, strives to provide impoverished women with vocational opportunity in traditional crafts. They work on infrastructural development in 50 villages across Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh as part of their Sampoorna programme.

AROH has given skill training, livelihood, health and well-being, education, sanitation, and awareness in’red corridor’ areas. The NGO provides placement-linked training as part of the government’s Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), as well as instruction in soft skills, spoken English, and basic computers.

They labour in the districts of Kandhamal, Rayagada, Naupada, Gajapati, and Koraput in Odisha, Girdi, Dhanbad, and Bokaro in Jharkhand, and Gaya in Bihar. Dr. Gupta says, “We are also working for the people if they are. We wish to work for their benefit and livelihood.” It took some persuasion, but AROH’s team was eventually allowed to work in these locations.

“We were given explicit instructions not to exploit their environment or mistreat anyone,” she explains.

Dr. Gupta has received phone calls threatening her to not send her team to work in communities. For this, police protection is frequently sought, and work has continued unabated.

According to Dr. Gupta, almost 40% of the 2,000 youths AROH has assisted from these locations are women. Many young women have been motivated by her determination to achieve financial independence. When women’s basic rights are denied, they often have to make do quietly.

Rupali, who was also trained under DDU-GKY, makes roughly Rs 18,000 per month working at a Japanese retail store.

Rupali was also named “Star Performer of DDU-GKY” by the Ministry of Rural Development at the scheme’s Alumni Conclave. AROH was awarded the Best NGO Award by the Global Compact India Network in 2019 for their work on all 17 social development goals.

Rupali says, “I’m going to stay in touch with the AROH team and help them with mobilisation and counselling so that more Rupalis can break down obstacles and fly high.”

Dr. Gupta says, “Such tales motivate us to keep going.”

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