Friday, 2 August 2013

Lepers colony sponsors poor childrens education, share money that they make seeking alms

For the last thirty years, M. Ganesan (52)  and his family have been staying in a remote piece of land on the foothills of the Maruthamalai hills away from mainstream society. This native of Thanjavur moved here after he was diagnosed with leprosy and was shunned out of his home town along with his wife and three children back in 1984.

After moving to the Marudamalai foothills along with 40-odd families who too suffered a similar fate, Ganesan and his neighbours formed the Amar Jyothi Leprosy Nivaran Sangh, an organisation that basically fought for the livelihood and rights of lepers in their colony, in the year 1998.

“Most of our members begged at the Marudamalai Murugan temple and also in the neighbouring residential colonies to make a living as they are severely crippled and unable to do productive work,” Ganesan, who is the president of the Amar Jyothi Sangh, says.
Ganesan of Amar Jyothi collecting money from other residents in the common donation box

Following the introducting of multi-drug therapy in India that was provided free of cost to fight the Mycobacterium Leprae (the bacteria that caused the condition), the severly-disfiguring disease has been cured in a vast majority of the patients across the country.

 “All residents in this colony comprising of around 100 families are fully cured and we have a governement issued card that shows that we have tested negative for the bacteria. Yet, the social stigma is preventing us from getting useful employment,” says Ganesan.

Ganesan and his neighbours, most of whom are in the late stages of their life and have been dumped at a remote corner of the state for three decades, however do feel the urge contribute to bring about a social change despite being ostracised from mainstream society.

When the members of the Amar Jyothi Leprosy Sangh donated Rs. 800/- towards a city-based NGO for sponsoring the class ten education of a poor, rural student on July 23, it was a moment that shook the conscience of many present at the modest event.

“It is a historic moment, probably the first in the country when a lepers colony is donating for a child’s education using the money they collected by seeking alms,” says Sethu Murali, who runs the organisation Pirarku Udavu. 

Sethu Murali got in touch with the lepers colony to help them out with waste food from weddings and other functions. “During one of my visits here, I told them about our program to help rural students education and the members here immediately wanted to pitch in the effort,” Murali says. “So I gave them a donation box to fill. Within thirty days, the box was full and I was asked to collect,” he recalls.

Ganesan and his associates claim that they want to prove that they are not useless folks as thought by many. “We want to play a role in promoting education and thereby vindicate our role in the society,” he says.
 The next donation box is presently at the community hall in Amar Jyothi and is getting filled fast.

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