The children at Tata Steel’s Tribal Cultural Society in Jamshedpur on October 13. Telegraph picture
Eight-year-old Sumi Sabar had her first brush with urban Puja when she hopped onto a bus and went around the steel city visiting pandals this year.
She was not the only lucky one.
More 192 children, hailing from villages in East Singhbhum’s Patamda block and studying in eight primary schools, were brought to Jamshedpur during Durga Puja to enjoy the thrills of pandal-hopping as part of an education project.
An initiative of Tribal Cultural Society, Tata Steel, and Jharkhand Tribal Foundation, a social group comprising staff of XLRI, project Akansha offers free education to children belonging to primitive tribal groups. The idea is to sponsor their education at residential schools till the matriculation level.
This year, there are 217 beneficiaries from Sabar, Birhor and Paharia tribes. While Tribal Cultural Society selects the beneficiaries, Jharkhand Tribal Foundation pitches in with funds.
“Gaon mein aisa nahi hota. Humko bahut maza aaya yahan ka Puja dekh kar (We don’t find this in our village. We had a lot of fun seeing the Pujas here),” gushed Sumi, who was mesmerised by the pandal at Utkal Association.
The children, who spent 10 days in the city and were put up at Tribal Cultural Centre, Sonari, also checked out several tourist spots like Jubilee Park besides taking part in cultural programmes.
They left for their schools on Friday.
Project Akansha was launched in 2011, when XLRI was able to generate funds to support one year’s education of 35 children. The number went up to 55 last year, when about Rs 2.2 lakh could be collected.
This year, the target is huge with 217 children spread across in eight schools. Till now, it has collected Rs 2.1 lakh. The expenses for a year per child comes to about Rs 9,900, which covers their daily needs.
“Till last year, we were educating these children in Hindi medium schools, but this year we are eyeing a couple of English medium schools as well. We start the screening procedure when we visit the villages at the beginning of the session. There are children, who can communicate in simple English. The best way to bring these vulnerable tribes is to make them a part of the mainstream society and give them education,” said Urmila Ekka, senior manager, tribal services, corporate sustainability services, Tata Steel.
Jharkhand Tribal Foundation is now trying to reach out to alumni, students and faculty members across the country for donations.
“We are pooling in money from students, alumni and faculty members. Also, there is an online transfer system. We hope to collect as much funds as possible,” said Madhukar Shukla, faculty member, XLRI.