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Four Day Long Balmela  Begins in Historic Village Manibeli



Manibeli, February 18 : Annual Balmela of the Narmada Jeevanshala started on the beats of drums, slogans with much enthusiasm in the august presence of Nandurbar District Collector, Shri Mallinath Kalshetty, former Sports Minister Maharashtra Padmakar Valvi, noted educationist Vijaya Chauhan, NAPM conveners Suhas Kolhekar, Madhuresh Kumar and eminent social activist Medha Patkar at historic village Manibeli, Maharashtra. The Balmela is organized every year by the Narmada Jeevanshalas since 1992 in the adivasi villages of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. These villages fall under the submergence zone of the Sardar Sarovar Project and been the site of many protests and struggles in last thirty years. Manibeli, site of the many Satyagrahas, the first village from the dam site, has lost a lot of its land, houses, cattles over the years still survives and currently houses a Jeevanshala and 65 families along with their agrarian fields and cattles and temples. 


The Balmela starting from February 17th will go on till 20th. Currently 9 Jeevanshala functions in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and has 962 students in it, along with this Shobha Wagh residential hostel is run at Dhadgaon, for the students pursuing further study, post standard 4th. These are residential schools recognized by the Maharashtra government and fully run by the donations and support from the public at large and managed by Narmada Nav Nirman Abhiyan. The Balmela offers the chance for the children to show their skills in the games such as Kabbadi, Kho-kho, athletics, running and cultural performances like traditional dancing, songs, skits and plays. Each of the jeevanshalas have their own team and they compete with each other for the top prize.


The Jeevanshalas offer them the rare opportunity to study in the interior villages where there are no basic infrastructure even after 69 years of independence, without electricity, roads, health facility and any government schools. Situation have started improving only recently with people using solar panels for basic lighting and with some support from district administration after years of struggle and efforts of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The Jeevanshalas provide children education in their mother tongue and Marathi till standard 4th after which they go to the government schools in the nearby tehsils and towns. Today more than 10,000 students have passed from the schools and have gained employment with government and other fields. Some of them have also become State and National level athletes and brought laurels.


IN the face of the adversity / disruption of their tradition and culture and complete uprootment from their habitat due to submergence by SSP /  their resolve to have a dignified life and livelihood is what defines the continuance of these Jeevanshala even after 25 years.


The motto of the Jeevanshalas : Ladai Padhai  Saath Saath (Struggle and education goes hand in hand) is what guides them. They have to study and struggle to survive, in the era of the development terrorism, since they are the once who asked to sacrifice for the larger national good and in public interest.


See some of the photos of the Balmela here


Manibeli Declaration :

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