PUNE: There is ‘no vacation’ for students hailing from drought-hit areas in Maharashtra. While the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) and its affiliated colleges are heading towards the end of annual examination and the summer vacations are right round the corner, a set of students from parts of Maharashtra have decided to stay back in the city because of water and food crisis in their villages.
“There is no water to even take a bath at my house. Water crisis has been prevailing in my village for past few years. In fact, for consecutive three years, I haven’t gone home during this time because of drought and heatwave in my village. I go only for four or five days in Diwali vacation. Also by staying back in the city, I can earn some money and save it for my next semester’s fees,” said Vidyasagar Niras, who belongs to Gangakhed village in Parbhani, Marathwada region.
To support his education, Niras has enrolled in earn-and-learn scheme provided by SPPU and at times takes up the job of a security guard as well. “We have a two-acre farmland with soyabean crop. My parents are farmers. But this time, poor rainfall affected cultivation badly. This has led to a financial crisis. I earn around Rs3,000 per month with the help of earn-and-learn and security guard’s job pays me Rs300 to 400 more,” said Niras, first year student of MA Economics in Sir Parashurambhau (SP) College.
Another student, Nivruti Tigote of Risangaon in Nanded district said his parents have advised him to stay back in Pune, as their village is facing water and food crisis.
“Until a few years back our village was dealing with water crisis. However, this year we are hit by food crisis as well. None of the crops like soyabean, tur dal etc have given good yield this time. My father has expired and mother doesn’t work. My brother is a driver and sister-in-law works on others’ farms.
“However, currently she has been there as a garbage collector because there are no crops on the farmlands,” said Tigote, first year student of MA Economics in Fergusson College.
“Given this condition, it is not feasible to go back home. I also can’t afford the tickets to travel back home. Instead of wasting that money in travelling, I can utilise it to survive here. It has been years now that we haven’t celebrated any festival properly. It is a pathetic situation back there,” said Tigote, who also works in catering services to support his education.
Pooja Gange, a final year student of Masters in Commerce from Marathwada Mitra Mandal’s College of Commerce (MMCC), who is currently preparing for banking examination said, “I have survived on Rs 3,000 only in past two months, which my father transferred to me. I used to work at a bank to sustain my livelihood but had to leave two months back and haven’t received my last month’s salary.”
“I have my final year examination and competitive examination next month. Regardless of my exams, I couldn’t have gone back home because of water crisis and heatwave in that area. Since 2013, I have only been home during Diwali because that is the only favourable period to go home,” said Gange, who hails from Tandulajagaon in Latur.
To reduce their financial burden, Students’ Helping Hand (SHH), a non-profit students’ organisation, has been providing them two meals of the day for free. The organisation supports around 600 students in the city. “We have recently added 300 more students in our service. However, because of the drought in different parts of Maharashtra, over thousands of students have opted to stay back here. We are trying to extend our facility to maximum students but due to budget constraint, we are unable to do so,” said Sandhya Sonawane, Secretary of SHH.
“Cost of meals of each student is Rs 2,200 per month. We have been managing this by sponsors, donors and through corporate social responsibility activities which directly fund the associated mess. We are trying to bring in more donations to help the needy,” added Sonawane.
These students have stated that food facility provided by SHH has helped them save at least Rs 3,000 per month.