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Trip To Saragur

Participants : Deepak,Manjari,Pooja,Neha,Nishant,Sridhar,Kiran,Shekhar

On 8 March a few of us had the opportunity to visit Saragur and see for ourselves the work which is being done by Swami Vivekanand Youth Movement over there.

For those who don't know about the organisation,quoting their website -"In the year 1984, a group of young medical students led by Dr.R.Balasubramaniam at the Mysore Medical College (in Karnataka State , India ) were starting to feel that the career in medicine they dreamt of pursuing was very different from the practice of medicine around them. They believed they had in them to make a difference and make a positive impact on the lives of the poor & the marginalized. And so, they started the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM, for short)".

Saragur is around 200kms from Bangalore and 60 kms ahead of Mysore.

We reached there around 10.30. The first thing we saw was the school which had been built for rural children. Right now the school is upto 6 standard and every year 1 class is added. The school is affiliated to CBSE.The school is well equipped with a huge playground, swings for small children,library,computer lab and even wi-fi access. SVYM generally does a lot of work with tribals of the area, yet this school is built only for the rural children. They are still working on ways to bring the tribals children  to the mainstream.For now they  have a separate school for them. One of the reasons for this is that most of  the parents of tribal kids are working in the rural households. So the  relationship which their  parents have, gets carried over to schools as well.

The tribals which SVYM works with had been living in forests. When the Forest Act was passed, they were forced to move out and settle down. In return they were given two acres of land per family by the government.Their primary skill was collecting honey and they had no idea about agriculture was a different matter.

The issues SVYM has to deal with while trying to bring tribals into mainstream and educating them are-

  1. Addiction- A lot of these tribal kids get addicted to marijuana which they grow in their own backyards.
  2. Sexually Active by the age of 12- These tribes don't have a concept of marriage,they are sexually active by the age of 12 and have had kids by the time they turn 14. As a result they are uneasy when they come to school.
  3. The 2 acre of land which they own can be used for agriculture only for 4-5 months. Rest of the year these tribes move to Kerala in search of work where they are unskilled labour. As a result the drop out rate is high.

Then we visited the hospital. Some of the interesting things which we saw are-

  • Highly subsidised for these tribals.The Registration fee being 2 rs and hospitalisation charges being 5rs/day.For the rest of the rural population the charges were just enough to cover the costs.
  • There is a State Rural Health Insurance scheme where the premium is Rs 120/year and the benefits include free surgeries throughout the year and  free hospitalisation.

After the hospital we went to see the Residential Tribal School. The school is from Class 1 to 10. The school is setup in a beautiful location in the forest and has a wonderful infrastucture. The classes can be divided into 3 sections.

  1. Standard 1 to 4 - open classrooms - The school initially started like a  typical school with confined classrooms. But the children would start acting  weird. Some of them actually jumped out of windows onto trees and would refuse to come down. Further investigation revealed that these kids are not used to closed/confined places and would get scared. So for the kids new to school, they came up with these open classrooms which are nothing but circular roofs on pillars with sunshades.Absolutely no other furniture.
  2. Standard 5 and 6 - semi open classrooms - These class-rooms are a hybrid of the proper classrooms and the ones defined above. With classrooms still being open but there being desks and chairs.
  3. Standard 7 to 10 - These classes have formal structure with the state syllabus as the curriculum.

Also, from what I understood in my very limited Kannada, there is no set curriculum from classes 1 to 6. There are a lot of activities and the learning happens through them. Also the focus is more on the arts side than on Maths and science.One of the major issue the Institute is dealing with is how to get these children into the mainstream after schooling is over. A lot of them get back to their usual lives after schooling because of dearth of opportunities/ideas. Few of them are hired by SVYM itself.

The highlight of the day was meeting the person who started all this, Dr R Balu. He told us that his mission was to reduce the inequity between the Urban and  Rural India. Then he explained what he meant by inequity. He gave examples like-

  1. The Kabini River dam which is in HD Kote supplies 40% of the water supply of Bangalore. Yet,at HD Kote all they get is water enough to irrigate 3000 acres of land!
  2. The hydroelectricity generated over there is around 27 MW. If all the electricity needs of HD Kote are meet the maximum demand it can have is 3-4 MW. Yet all they get is 10-12 hours of power supply. All the electricity is sent to Bangalore.
  3. The Contribution of the tertiary sector in Karnataka's GDP has increased from 18% some years back to 36% now. However the population engaged in it has grown only from 1.4 % to 2%. During the same time the population involved in Agriculture has declined from 65% to 61% only. In short the inequality is increasing.
  4. In Rural India, for every 100 children that start schooling, only 7-8 children complete it. While for Urban India the figure is around 80.

He further said that it is difficult to get industries to HD Kote because of poor infrastructure, even promises of cheap and skilled labour are not enough  to compensate for badly built roads and power shortage.

Lastly he encouraged all of us to vote. He said intelligent people like us actually going ahead and participating in the system instead of shunning it is the only way out. We have to bring accountability in the system. This task is very much possible. All we have to do is to start asking questions!

There are a lot of questions left in our mind, but due to paucity of time we had to call it a day. However, Dr Bala has promised to meet us the next time he comes to Bangalore.

Disclaimer:- The above mentioned stats may not be precise

bcsagar's picture

Also in B.R. Hills, please read..

This is a laudable work by SVYM, which I have visited too. 

The inspiration for same came from Dr. Sudharshan (Right livlihood awardee)  who is involved in empowerment of  Soliga tribals In BR hills.

They were young doctors from Mysore Medical college in 1980s who shunned pursuit of money and took up upliftment of downtrodden.

We keep focusing on endless problems of our cities, while our villages are in stone ages.
We should realise that cities run on sacrifises and resources from villages.

The same story is of North karnataka areas like Raichur which are polluted by Thermal station and the power is sucked
by Bangalore. Where does the grains and vegetables you pick up in AC super stores come from ?

Yet we read papers like Times of India who eulogize city life and their focus in headlines is on some revellers who are just interested in self Indulgence !!

silkboard's picture

Wonderful trip report

Delayed comment, but thanks for sharing the trip report Shekhar, enjoyed reading it.

To me, the most telling stat (I have read similar numbers on Asha website) is:

In Rural India, for every 100 children that start schooling, only 7-8 children complete it. While for Urban India the figure is around 80.

The thing called equal opportunities is dead right there.

Rithesh's picture

Wow guys - amazing report

I almost missed reading it.

That should have been a very though provoking trip. The rural-urban divide and the lack of proper education will be our greatest challenges in the next two decades.

Especially education, as Nandan Nilekani puts it “lack of education” might turn out to be the “difference between demographic dividend and demographic disaster”

Just shows what a set of dedicated people can achieve. The Parikrama School in Bangalore or the SVYM - we all need to stand up and take a bow if not anything else. At some point the government should start delegating the job of primary education to such organizations.

Can we take that up on Praja - lets do a study to show how inefficiently our government schools are run, how much money is being wasted and with all this data lets try to force the government to hand over atleast a few schools to these organizations. I am sure it is worth an effort.

Lets show that we urban middle class are more worried about such fundamental things than just about our commute times, clogged roads, volvo buses and AC comforts.

Naveen's picture

Saragur - Revealing Indeed

Hi Shekar,

Many thanks for your report - it is very sad that inequalities are deepening further even as we are making steady progress in other, more easier growth areas, thanks mainly to the private sector.

Though this nation has the burden of uplifting the very large BPL sections, not enough is being done to address these more important concerns.

I salute SVYM & Dr.Balasubramaniam for taking the initiative & making a difference that stands tall.

If you do indeed meet Dr.Balasubraminiam again, please involve us in praja as some of us are certainly interested in interacting with SVYM & support their noble efforts.

Naveen's picture

Our Own Apathy

Hi All,

I think we only have ourselves to blame - our collective lack of support to governmental efforts & fleecing out from the various subsidies has resulted in more deprivation to people in need.

I dont think the government alone can single handedly run all the subsidy distribution networks efficiently by themselves. People are equally important. That we are a selfish, corrupt people is borne out when we see even the well off trying to escape taxation & indulge in bribery & profiteering without a sembalance of guilt.

What can one expect from poorer workers involved in PDS networks ?

Efforts by the several NGOs such as SVYM, Parikrama, Family Services, etc. are laudable, in this context.

aanilc's picture

A small correction...


It has been wrongly quoted that Dr.Sudarshan was the inspiration for starting SVYM . The inspiration actually came from the life, words and deeds of Swami Vivekananda. 2009 happens to be SVYM's 25th year. To get a glimpse of what's happening in SVYM, see:


I think we only have

I think we only have ourselves to blame - our collective lack of support to governmental efforts & fleecing out from the various subsidies has resulted in more deprivation to people in need.

I dont think the government alone can single handedly run all the subsidy distribution networks efficiently by themselves. People are equally important. That we are a selfish, corrupt people is borne out when we see even the well off trying to escape taxation & indulge in bribery & profiteering without a sembalance of guilt.

I totally agreee with you.

Also I feel our current system is such that it gravitates where the money is. And right now the money is in the cities. With a population like we have I dont think that is sustainable.

I will surely try to setup a meeting for all of us whenever I get to know that Dr Bala is in Bangalore.

ssheragu's picture

educaton for all


the work by SVYM and the likes are laudable

in fact our own Parikrama is doing goodwork; for a donation of Rs 500 per year a slum child can be educated by Parikrama; 

I have a few suggestions

(1) so as a policy I would suggest that all of us at Praja contribute Rs 500 or more per year to Parikrama (in fact I am already doing so) or to any other NGO or social organization enagaged in education so that education will be available for all

(2) further I still find that we are all beseiged by beggars at junctions and at traffic lights in Indiranagar and other posh places of Bangalore, with small kids doing excellent acrobatics (which can fetch them and the country a gold medal); to avoid this NGO's and these social organizations should depute and send neatly dressed ladies in cars to these spots, pick up these children, and put them in such schools where free food and education are provided and along with proper education, there acrobatic skills can also behoned & developed for good use

(3) some obvious places where these ladies can find child labour is in garages and hotels

(4) WIPRO is involved with Govt. in developing Govt. schools; we at Praja can get details of this initiative and do our mite for improvement of Govt.schools

(5) we at Praja, as a policy should not patronise any shop or place where child labour is being practised

(6) we at Praja should also reprimand the owners of such places

(7) 1098 is a number of Govt. Department where complaint can be lodged against child labour practice


many thanks


Srinath Heragu

ramesh_mbabu's picture

Srinath - It is a tough job

The other day we were interacting with a nun involved in rehabilitation of underprivileged kids, as per her it is a wild world over there. The kids are forced to do menial jobs like rag picking, begging(yes, it is a forced job most of the times), because they earn >Rs200 per day or rather they have to earn and buy liquor & other errands for their parents. So when ever the kids are sent to schools and associated hostels, the parents reach there after a couple of weeks, make a scene and bring them back to so called home because they are a source of income for them.
It is a tough world for these kids.....................

ssheragu's picture

Ramesh M Babu - Putting roadside children in schools - a tough


Hai All

I agree with Ramesh-M Babu that uplifting roadside children and putting them inschols is  a tough job

Here are a few suggestions

(1) passing a law that begging is a crime or a law resricting begging to specfic areas

(2) this way begging will be discouraged just as No Smoking signs cause loss of  freedom to smokers and discourage them

(3) subsequently employing well dressed, gentle ladies will help in eliminating begging and ensuring education for all

many thanks

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