NBA Press Release
  17 February 2009
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Three Day BAL MELA of Thousands of Children Culminates in the Narmada Valley

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
Email: badwani[at]narmada.org

“JEEVANSHALA KI KYA HAI BAAT, LADAI PADAI SAATH SAATH” RENTS THE AIR

“Jeevanshala Ki Kya Hai Baath…Ladai Padai Sath Sath” (The fact about Jeevanshala is that Struggle and Study goes together), and “Bacha Bacha Seekhegaa – Andolan Chalayegaa” (Each child will learn and participate in the Andolan) were the slogans and spirit of the three day Bal Mela (Children’s Carnival) in the resilient Adivasi village of Bilgaon, Nandurbar district, where more than 1400 children from the 14 Jeevanshalas (life schools), most of them from Adivasi SSP-PAF families and also children from other schools, gathered to celebrate the spirit of life, struggle and education, through the 12th year of this annual carnival. The Bal Mela which began on February 15th will come to a close today.

Thousands of kids assembled on the second day of the three day carnival with ever-increasing enthusiasm and zest. The little firebrands of the valley spent the three days and two nights with a great deal of creative fun and action, combining music, art, dance, games, sports, painting, film and education.

In various sports events, children showed tremendous healthy competition along with mind blowing stamina and sporting spirit.

Narmada Nav Nirman Abhiyan has been successfully running the unique format of Jeevanshala schools in three SSP affected states, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, amidst many odds. We mark this occasion to also thank all the supporters who are striving for better education and life for the little children.

Bal Mela is the stage of these children for being appreciated for their individual as well as group performances. The Days started with the 'Andolan Geet', the motivational songs from the various 'padas' (hamlets) of Bilgaon.

Competitions began at 8 a.m., in which children played for semifinals of KHO-KHO and Kabadi. Entire atmosphere was filled with huge energy and applause for children of Shobha Nagar, Jeevan Nagar, Manibeli.

There were competitions for long jump, high jump, and running, needle and thread race, which were equally interesting and joyful for the kids of Jeevanshalas.

In evening sessions, there were variety of entertainment program as well as competitions in theatre play, singing and dance in which, students performed the real stories and their fight for life after rehabilitation, problems occurred due to submerged villages .

Medha Patkar spoke about how the vision of ‘Sangharsh aur Nirman’ (Struggle and Reconstruction) is coming true in the Jeevanshalas. The andolan is not only about struggle but reconstructing life in the valley. The adivasi children, mostly first generation students, bring in a fresh lease of life and strength for the andolan. She recognized the selfless service of the teachers (mostly from local villages) and villagers who actually support and look after the day to day activities of the Jeevanshalas.

Famous poet Mr. Eknath Avad and Mr. Suryakant Malusare entertained children with their poems and stories. Famous artist from Kolkata Ms.Arpita communicated with the children and proposed to assist the children with creative form of learning.

The day ended with the telling documentary film made by budding documentary film maker and activist Ms. Manasi Pingle on 'Jeevanshala -School of Life'.

A team of activists from the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) Andhra Pradesh, representing various people's movements and organizations, including Ramakrishnan Raju from NAPM (A.P.), Sister Selvin from the Campaign for Housing and Tenurial Rights, Bilal bhai from Human Rights Forum, Ramesh from Association for the Promotion of Social Action and friends from other groups participated on the second and the third day. They are on a solidarity visit to the valley. Along with those who came, we recognize that there are thousands of supporters who could not make it this time, to come to the valley. We continue to expect their constant support and solidarity.

The Bal Mela continues to serve as a platform and milestone in the lives of these children, many of them successful first generation learners, to strive for a just society based on the values of respect for all communities, including the marginalized and for the appropriate and equitable kind of development.

Yogini Khanolkar, Kailash Awasya, Ashish Mandloi, Shrikanth