The joy of hope pervades the Narikorava settlement in Sathya Nagar here.

Elders heave a sigh of relief over the interest Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has shown in bringing the community under Scheduled Tribes, while youngsters are elated over the prospects for socio-economic emancipation for them and future generations. They have been leading a life of deprivation so far. Due to their hand-to-mouth existence, education was never a priority.

Education

In the nearly 40 Narikorava families in the settlement, there are only three who pursue higher studies.

And, of them, a student who is now studying in second year in a private polytechnic college is on the verge of discontinuing.

“I have borrowed much and unable to repay. I simply cannot take any more loans anymore,” says Kashmir, who looks much older than 40 years that he says is his age.

He knows full well that his predicament implies a full stop to the ambitions of his son Veeramani to extricate the family mired in poverty.

A tent made of a polythene sheet in which there is a scattering of household items is what serves as his home.

Veeramani slightly missed the opportunity for admission in a Government polytechnic since his score was not adequate under MBC quota under which the community has been categorised.

Kashmir now believes there is cause for optimism.

“If the notification comes on time, I will be able to educate at least my second son Thiruvenkadam beyond school,” said Kashmir, pointing to a sprightly student playing with a catapult.

Many either drop out or discontinue studies after schooling and start going for work, said Sathish, who studies B. Com in a city college.

His younger brother had also dropped out last year and has turned a cause for concern for the family.

Worry

His family members are worried that he might turn out to be like the other youth in the locality who had turned vagabonds or alcoholics after dropping out. Manjula (35) too has the fear. She resigned herself to fate when her son discontinued while in Plus-Two last year.

“He stopped going to school just two months before the public exams. He asked if I would educate him further and I could not give him a convincing answer. The very next day he stopped going to school. I hardly earn Rs. 300 a day selling beads at far-off places, and after meeting the travel expenses, I am left with less than half my earnings with which the food expenses are met,” said Manjula.

She, too, pins hope on the notification for making higher education possible for her younger son Sridharan.

Says Kumar, elder brother of Kashmir: “Bringing us under Scheduled Tribes has been long overdue. At least, hereafter, we could dream of seeing the future generations transforming into government employees and salaried professionals.”

Shankar (75), an elder, however, is circumspect. He says: “The hopes of Kashmir and Manjula hinge on the alacrity on the part of the Union Government in responding to the Chief Minister’s request.”

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