Other States

For students from Marathwada, no return home this summer

Friend in need: A volunteer distributing food to students from drought-hit Marathwada

Friend in need: A volunteer distributing food to students from drought-hit Marathwada  

A volunteer outfit is their only support as they battle homesickness

As drought and the concomitant water crisis grip Maharashtra, several students from the State’s parched hinterland studying in Pune city have no choice but to skip their summer visit to their respective hometowns.

The drought has compelled these students, who hail from some of the worst-hit districts in the Marathwada region, to be ‘exiled’ in Pune during their summer holidays.

According to 21-year-old Vinayak Renewal, an M.A. student at S.P. College, a visit to his home in Nanded at this time of the year could cause embarrassment to him and his family.

“Much as I would love to go home for the summer, my presence there would only add to the burden of my family. The drought and water crisis has ravaged farmlands in my village, putting a great financial strain on my father. If I go there now, he would feel sorry at not being able to offer me something and I in turn would be ashamed to ask him for financial help,” says Mr. Renewal.

His father’s two-acre cotton and soyabean plot has been destroyed by the truant monsoon, plunging the family into debt. To support himself and pay for his studies, the student works a six-hour evening shift everyday at a clothes shop . “I get paid ₹6,000 a month, which helps me pay part of my fees, books and other study material. It is tough to surmount the soaring education costs, but there is no other way,” says Mr. Renewal, who sleeps in a clothes godown at night to defray his expenses.

No unique situation

Twenty- four-year-old Nivrutti Tigote, hailing from Rinsangaon in Nanded’s Loha taluk, has a similar story. Now pursuing his M.A. in Economics from S.P. College, his father’s death from cancer in 2017 was a turning point in his life.

“At that time [in 2017], I seriously toyed with the idea of giving up education and settling in my village to care for my mother. But I was persuaded by my teachers who said I could only secure my future through studies. Moreover, consecutive years of bad rainfall have laid waste to my village, which faces a water and food crisis as all crops have been destroyed,” says Mr. Tigote.

He says that his situation is not unique. It is the story of hundreds of students across Marathwada who have no jobs and hail from villages reeling under acute agrarian distress.

Mr. Tigote, who shares a single room in Pashan with five other students hailing from drought-hit regions, has taken up a job with a catering service to sustain himself. “I get ₹600 for a night event and ₹400 for a day job,” he says.

For 26-year-old Deepak Kangane, hailing from Ranmala in drought-racked Jalna district, there is no leaving Pune until he “makes good” by cracking one of the competitive exams. “Like many others, I hail from a family of farmers. I had two unsuccessful attempts and cracking the UPSC exams. Now, I am determined to get into government service,” he says.

Mr. Tigote, Mr. Renewal and Mr. Kangane pursue studies somewhere in the hours stolen between classes and their part-time jobs.

A helping hand

In a bid to ameliorate their hard-pressed situations, the ‘Student Helping Hands (SHH)’, a volunteer outfit formed by proactive student leaders in Pune, has come forward to help out their colleagues with free meals. “If a student from the arid districts in Marathwada thinks about visiting home, the dire water situation is a major deterrent. A whole lot of planning needs to be done on how to procure additional water in the event a relative comes to visit,” says Kuldeep Ambekar, a founding member of the SHH and leader of the student wing of the Loktantrik Janata Dal United.

He notes that these students barely get a chance to reunite with their families twice — once during summer and the second time during the Diwali holidays.

“They are cut off from their families, without emotional support and are forced to battle it out in the big city. To ease their expenses, the SHH is helping 700 students from drought-hit regions by providing them two meals a day. We are also helping these students secure part-time jobs, so that they support themselves and are not dependent on their already hard-pressed relatives back home,” said Mr. Ambekar.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:49:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/for-students-from-marathwada-no-return-home-this-summer/article27175088.ece

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