by Father Blany Pinto for BISMumbai

The Don Bosco Lonavla social outreach staff, Sonali Shelke and Ravi Shelke, met the Maval taluka MLA and requested his help to obtain caste certificates for the people of the 03 villages - Vaksai (46 families) Karanduli (36 families) and Mundhavare (30 families), which are presently adopted by Don Bosco Lonavla. The social outreach staff, along with 01 coordinator from each of these 03 villages, are guiding families to get the necessary documentation to procure the certificate. Obtaining the 'caste certificate' will enable the indegenous people to benefit from various Government schemes.

The dual devastation wrought by the COVID-19 and the Cyclone has compelled Don Bosco Lonavla to reach beyond these 03 villages, which in ordinary circumstances would otherwise not have been reached. During food-kiys distribution in 18 villages, it was discovered that nearly all these villages are inhabited by adivasis who do not have a certificate, and are entirely unaware of their entitlements. Hence, now the focus is to help all the 18 villages to acquire the certificate.

Identifying one or two persons from each village who will work as coordinators for the village under the guidance of the outreach staff, will help collect the necessary forms from the Gram Panchayat Office, distribute these to the people and help them to prepare the papers. A camp is to be organised in each of the villages to scrutinize the documents and then finally submit the papers to acquire the caste certificates. Ganesh Shinde, an adivasi, who is employed in the Panchayat Office, has readily volunteered to be of assistance in the entire process.

A visit to the Adivasi Welfare Office in Pune is to be made to check the available schemes, especially those concerning clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Awareness meetings are to be arranged in the coming weeks with the villagers. One of the major hurdles is that most villages are in demarcated 'forest areas' and consequently, the schemes cannot be materialized. However, the Forest Department has vouched to provide every possible assistance. The requirements to access the various schemes are: a bank account, a ration card, Aadhar card, and Caste Certificate.

In the meanwhile, a survey-visit was made by Father Roque Green - Parish Priest at St. Anthony’s Parish in Pune, and his team of Punya Kumar, Gitanjali Rai and Rafella Luis to Fanasrai village [which they have adopted] to check on the progress of the 'well-cleaning' undertaken by the 10 families in the village . Fathers Xavier Devadas, Blany Pinto and Cleric. Jansen Vaz also joined the expedition. The springs and the rain water have helped increase the water level to an unbelievable level in just a week. In the coming week, the team will cover the well to prevent contamination of water. Gitanjali Rai and Rafella Luis visited the families to check cleanliness and awarded 03 families which had kept the house and their surroundings most clean. They also spent time with the children teaching them English, with an awareness session on cleanliness. The families are pleased with the intervention made by Father Roque Green and his team. Now, they have a proper roof over their head and will have access to clean drinking water in the coming days and will also obtain the caste certificate.