“We were unaware of the herbs that were available in rural areas. We learnt a lot from the herbal exhibition. If we get training in preparation of herbal medicines, we will go back and serve our society,” said a group of opinion leaders from Jharkhand and central Bihar after a visit to the herbal exhibition organised by Sri Putru Maharishi Social Medical Service Centre in Sathuvachari here on Tuesday.

The 17 opinion leaders, led by Bilal, Senior Technical Assistant, Field Publicity Office, Ranchi, were on a two-day visit to Vellore district on March 20 and 21 under an inter-State cultural and knowledge exchange programme organised by the Field Publicity Office, Government of India, Vellore branch. K.P. Arjunan, State president of the Tamil Nadu Parambariya Siddha Vaidhya Maha Sangam, explained to the opinion leaders the greatness of Siddha medicine.

In the afternoon, they met Vellore Collector Ajay Yadav, who explained the role of tourism in national integration. He wanted more such visits to be organised in order to foster unity among people of different States. Later, the opinion leaders visited the Government Museum inside the fort, where K. Saravanan, curator, showed them the historical artefacts. He demonstrated the ‘magic' of water being poured into the Karigiri ‘magic jug' not spilling even after being inverted upside down.

The opinion leaders visited DKM College for Women, Vellore, where they saw the performance of traditional dances of Tamil Nadu, including Bharatanatyam, Kolattam, Kummi and Karagam by NCC cadets of the college. They later had discussions with D. Maninathan, secretary, K. Revathi, principal, and Amirthavalli, NCC officer of the college.

On Wednesday, the team visited the Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Anaicut. A. Somasundaram, Deputy Director of Health Services, Vellore, told them that maternal mortality rate in Vellore district was 80 per one lakh deliveries as against 250/1,00,000 at the national level, while the infant mortality rate in Vellore district was 21 per 1,000 live births as against 47/1,000 at the national level. He told them that Vellore district was in the forefront in Tamil Nadu in health delivery. The opinion leaders saw the computerised registration of patient details at the PHC.

Later, they visited Ilavambadi village, where they were received by representatives of Women's Organisation for Rural Development (WORD). T. Lakshminarayanan and J. Balasubramanian, Assistant Project Officers, District Rural Development Agency, and P. Murugan and Manimegalai, Block Development Officers of Anaicut, explained rural development schemes being implemented in Vellore district, especially the Anaicut block. A. Maragadam, director of WORD, explained the activities of women self-help groups. C.M. Sooryakala, chairperson of Anaicut panchayat union, and Santhakumari, president, Ilavambadi panchayat, were present.

The visit was organised by T. Sivakumar, Field Publicity Officer, Puducherry and Vellore.