History

WHY  AND HOW -MELGHAT

Melghat is the hilly and forest region of nearly 322 small villages and known as one of the most underdeveloped regions in the Maharashtra state. The main population is of Korku tribe, which is primitive and is marginalized from the development processes. An estimated 5,000 tribal children died of malnutrition in Melghat between 1992-97. Only in 1997, 1147 children died in Melghat due to malnutrition and lack of proper healthcare. This was a shock to many people. When the media picked up this shocking story, it generated a wave of criticism directed at the government and its inability to provide for the tribal’s who have inhabited the forests for centuries. But that is where it ended. No solutions were found. There was nothing concrete in the wake of lip sympathy. Until a group of curious social workers from Pune decided to penetrate into Melghat on a fact-finding mission. In the rainy months of 1997, nearly 265 volunteers from 14 districts of Maharashtra went to live with those children and work with them to save these vulnerable children. The campaign was remarkably successful and volunteers realized that there is a need to have a permanent structure, which could respond to such emergencies. With this need, MAITRI, a trust was formed with a view to mobilize resources for the situations where people suffer due to poverty, ignorance and lack of proper healthcare. And since then, the work is going on.

About Melghat Mitra

 

Melghat Mitra is a group of volunteers, which came together in the monsoon of 1997 to save the tribal children in Melghat who were dying because of malnutrition. In the 3 monsoon months of 1997, Melghat Mitra ran an emergency program where nearly 265 volunteers from Maharashtra and elsewhere lived with the people in 6 villages over a period of 10 days. Besides helping the local government health machinery to deliver their services, they tried to understand the problems and lives of the Korku tribals in Melghat.All funds required to run this program were raised through public appeal at the time, and every single individual who worked as Melghat Mitra during this period worked as a volunteer, without any monetary compensation. In fact, all of them spent from their own pockets for their individual expenses and the funds raised were utilized entirely for the program in Melghat.This program gave an insight into the complex and multi-faceted problem of malnutrition and helped  to look at the problem from different perspectives of the multi-disciplinary volunteer force that worked there. They believe that malnutrition needs to be addressed at its roots, and for doing so; we would have to basically ensure the sustainable livelihood mechanisms for the Koru families. In addition, access to basic health and education services will also have to be ensured.Since then, we have continued working in these 6 villages and have in fact spread the area of operations to 6 other villages as well. They have developed good and trusting relationships with the villagers there, thanks to three volunteers who have camped out in one of the villages for nearly twelve years now. The work continues to focus on the three aspects that got identified, namely health, primary education and sustainable livelihoods.Four volunteers in Chilati have succeeded in gaining the confidence of the people in the Hatru area. In the last fifteen years, they have helped the people to get the benefit of the different government schemes. People from Chilati and the neighboring villages come to us for guidance and consultations.

Apart from helping the people in their own work, they have a group of volunteers which works on quality education in this area. These classes are for children in the primary school and all children in the village in the corresponding age group take the benefit of these classes. They have mortality survey of 12 remote villages from 1998 to 2013. The survey has been conducted with the help of villagers, who have contributed their time for the same.

Now the strategy is to develop the capacities of the people to solve their own problems rather than make them dependent on us. Therefore, they do not burden the people with our programs but help people in their own initiatives.

Maitri continue to raise  funds through the public, strongly believing that such an activity should run entirely through public support, not only in order to ensure accountability and transparency, but also to ensure that the problem of malnutrition in India is understood and owned by the people of our country. They believe that it is only with collective efforts of the common man and of every single citizen that we can address the deep-rooted poverty of our Korku friends and others in similar situation.

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