Hi Reader! This is Cristina with an amazing interview of an amazing person again… A person who provides education free-of-charge, who supports inter-caste marriage and held group marriages with dowry for those who can’t afford it. The person who has founded NGO (Lok Samiti) to help people. He is a devoted social activist opposing the illiteracy and abhorrent traditions, such as – child marriages, child labor, etc. He is famously known as Nandlal Master.
His name is Nandlal Prasad, a Varanasi-dweller who is aa weaver by profession. Nandlal’s family had been in the business of Banarasi-saree weaving for generations. Part of the community, Nandlal noticed the distinct lack of education system for young children, depriving them of a fruitful future. At age 17, Nandlal started couching few village children in basic schooling. With this small step, Nandlal took the first step towards the brighten future. Within the month, every child in the village came to him to learn.
As the only teacher in the village, he earned the title ‘Masterji’ with which he is most commonly known as. It is a sign of the villagers’ respect towards him. Soon, rumors of a school being open spread to other villages, consequently children from those villages started coming the attend the lessons as well., parents were hesitant to send their children after dark to another village. Thus, they appealed to Nandlal to open another school in their village. Perturbed, Nandlal implored the help of other youths in the village in his quest to educate children.
Lok Samiti also started financially supporting group marriages without partiality, including dowry, supported inter-caste marriages despite villager’s protests. Nandlal further stipulated that “before marriage, both girl and guy must meet and agree to the marriage.” In many situations, one side objected to the marriage, and Nandlal followed their decision as the last voice. This practice is well recognized in the community.
His biggest achievement, as of yet, is the demolition of the bonded-labor system. Nandlal unraveled the truth behind this system which yielded to be the poverty.
Readers, you must understand, this community of weavers were so poor that they were barely making ends meet. Along these lines, what must they do when there is a marriage at home or someone is unwell? They must borrow money, which they cannot do so from the bank for they have nothing as collateral. Then, how do they get money? They go to Mahajan to negotiate a deal. “The child will work to pay off the loan.”, they say. Only, the loan would never be paid off as the need of money never lets up.
From then on came the idea of ‘self-help’ groups. One could compare them to a ‘trust fund’ for the villagers, which the villagers themselves are in change of. With a genuine reason, one can keep money save, can take loans and can pay off accordingly.
Most of the women agreed with thus practice and joined the self-help groups and has started their own enterprise as well. Today, there are about 150 self-help groups, with over 3000 women being members.
In 1996, Nandlal started a program for children – an outing. During one such jaunt was where an accident occurred, the driver and a child expired and everyone else were heavily injured. The villagers were enraged with this incident and blamed Nandlal. They burned down his hand loom again and again till his family, fearing for him, send him away from the village. A year later, the villagers settled their feelings and asked him to come back to open the school again.
From 2003 to 2010, Nandlal led a campaign against the Coco-Cola bottling plant through the NGO, Lok Samiti. He also appeared on TV, a special edition of ‘Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindgi’ by Amitabh Bachchan.
We wish him success in his endeavor to improve the education system for children by incorporating technology and establishing health centers where the poor can receive free treatment. Another future he envisions is one in which the fairer sexes can assert themselves and become self-sufficient.