| Members of the self-help group make bamboo handicrafts at the murong ghar (community hall) of Tongani village in Dhemaji district. Picture by Vinod Kumar Singh |
Dhemaji, Jan. 24: A group of differently-abled seniors in a Mising village here has defied the odds and set a fitting example for the village youths who while away the time drinking and gambling.
Since July last year, the 18-member group, led by Hemchandra Pegu, has taken up making traditional handicrafts of bamboo, a legacy passed on to them by their forefathers, through a self-help group at Tongani, a village under Kulajan Gaon Panchayat near Silapathar in Dhemaji district.
Barring Pegu, a retired school headmaster, the 17 others are differently-abled persons aged between 70 and 80.
“We had formed a self-help group to revive an age-old tradition of our community and also to inspire the new generation, most of whom are seen wasting time, drinking and playing cards by the roadside. The idea came about as we wanted to infuse a change, remove unemployment and also set an example for the men who indulge in frivolous activities while the women work in the fields or prepare food at home,” Pegu, 82, told this correspondent.
From morning till dusk, the village elders work at the murong ghar (a community hall in the village), making utility articles of bamboo.
“We make utility articles such as bamboo baskets and mats. The bamboo comes from our backyard. The items are sold at a price that is cheaper than the market rate,” Pegu said.
The income, however, is limited at the moment.
“Currently, we make Rs 40,000 per month, which is sufficient for the 18 of us to make ends meet but not enough to take the trade to the next level. A portion of the money is also used for charity, such as treating patients. So, despite the crunch, we still contribute to society,” he said.
The self-help group, however, is yet to be registered and named.
“We hope to give it a name some day as we move ahead,” Pegu said.
Out of Assam’s 15-lakh Mising population, three lakh live in Dhemaji district. Perennial floods in the district have destroyed farmlands of many villagers, leading many to live in a state of penury. Unemployment is also another scourge that afflicts many in the district.
“We need financial help from the government to take the trade forward. So far, we haven’t been heard,” said 78-year-old Miteswar Mili, who is one the members of the self-help group.
Another member, Risaram Pait, 76, said the group has other projects lined up and hopes to implement them through Dispur’s support. “This is just the beginning, the new generation has to take this legacy forward and, more importantly, live a secured life. We also need training to improve our work,” Pait said.
In the last six months, a conscious section of citizens has lauded their efforts, with many youths showing an eagerness to join them. “It is indeed a very innovative and encouraging project,” said a youth.
Mising Autonomous Council member Pratap Taye has assured the self-help group of aid. “I have assured them of financial help,” Taye said. (See Page 16)