The Sree Vijayalakshmi Charitable Trust has disbursed nearly Rs. 300 crore to help students realise their dream of higher education, writes Subha J Rao
Friends Shanthi and Divya have scored above 900 in Class XII. Their fathers, Ammasai and Eswaran, are farm labourers from Thandampalayam near Erode and earn less than Rs. 30,000 a year. The girls wanted to study further, but there was no money at home. That’s when they approached the Sree Vijayalakshmi Charitable Trust in Ramnagar. After verification of marks, the girls were given Rs. 12,500 as grant for every year of college. “But for this, I would have had to take many loans to educate my child,” says Ammasai. Elsewhere in the spacious waiting area, Shabana Yasmin is waiting with her Class X marksheet — she’s scored 423 marks and is here to receive scholarship for Class XI and XII.
So far, the Trust, founded in 1990 by O. Arumugasamy in memory of his wife Vijayalakshmi, has disbursed nearly Rs. 300 crore in scholarships to students — to pursue their higher secondary and college education (Rs. 12,500 a year for an arts degree and Rs. 25,000 for a professional course). In the academic year 2011-2012 alone, more than Rs. 75 crore was given out as funding. This year, in its 23rd year of existence, the Trust hopes to hit the Rs. 100-crore mark. Already, more than 39,000 students have received funding, says R. Vellingiri, Trust advisor.
In the initial years, The Trust limited itself to scholarships to members of the Vokkaliga Gowder community to which Arumugasamy belongs. Soon, he decided the benefits must reach all. The Trust has so far helped more than a lakh people earn degrees in medicine, engineering, the arts and agriculture and doctorates in many disciplines.
Passing on a good turn
Many have returned after making a name for themselves and offered to help the Trust. But, all Arumugasamy wants is that they look after their homes well and, if possible, pass on the good turn to others, in whatever scale possible. “I’m just happy that my wife would approve of and appreciate what we are doing.”
Some students are also given full scholarships that take care of their entire education, including college and hostel fees. S. Gomathi, who is doing Aeronautical Engineering in Bannari Amman Institute of Technology, is one such beneficiary. “My father had abandoned our family. Amma used to cook at weddings and social functions to ensure our family of five survived. I live in Karatchikorai, a village near Bhavanisagar Dam. A leaking hut was home and we did not have electricity. I would study by the streetlight behind our hut. College was a dream. I never imagined I would one day do engineering. This is an opportunity I will always be grateful for,” she says.
R. Sasinthar is pursuing his MD (General Medicine) from Madras Medical College, Chennai. He was a beneficiary of the Trust from 2004-2010. “We lived in Mettupalayam and life was miserable after my father’s business failed. The future looked very bleak. This aid was a godsend. Once I settle down, I will definitely take care of at least one person’s education. The freedom to study without worrying about finance is a boon.”
That’s something software engineer V. Manikumar seconds. He got a full scholarship from 2000 to 2004 for doing engineering at Madras Institute of Technology. “The scholarship was a life-changer. It was also a motivation to help others.”
The money for the Trust comes from the sand business. “I don’t take a single rupee from my business. Everything goes to the Trust. However, to ensure the work continues even after my time, I am putting in place measures to ensure the Trust will never lack funds,” says Arumugasamy.
Once, Arumugasamy was told by his father to take up a job at SIV, Sirumugai, to help with the family finances. He did not. Today, the man who hails from Kuppanoor village and came to Coimbatore in 1980 with next to nothing, has bought many properties of the erstwhile company, including the school in Sirumugai, which has been renamed the Sri Vijayalakshmi MHSS, and the SIV Tower on Avanashi Road, now called Senthil Tower. His qualification? SSLC fail!