The new project—titled Amrita Self-Reliant Villages (Amrita SeRVe)—is a “village adoption” program through which the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) has selected 101 villages throughout India with the goal of helping them establish the required infrastructure to become self-reliant role-model villages for the country.
When asked about why she was starting Amrita SeRVe, Amma said that villages are India’s foundation—its life-force—and that it is society’s responsibility to take care of them. “It is our villages that, in fact, sustain us by providing we, who live in the cities, with the vegetables and other forms of nourishment we need to in order to survive,” she said. “However, today, we are just exploiting them and casting them aside. It is time to acknowledge that our villages are our very foundation and move forward with one heart and one mind to protect and serve them.”
With the goal of holistic development, the Amrita SeRVe project will provide assistance to each of the 101 villages in the following focus areas: 1) Infrastructure & Facilities, 2) Healthcare, 3) Energy, 4) Skill-Development & Sustained Livelihood, 5) Disaster Preparedness, 6) School Education & Adult Literacy, 7) Environmental Protection & Afforestation, 8) Self-Empowerment, 9) Communication & Monitoring.
“Travelling across the length and breadth of India as part of her annual tours—stopping in remote areas en route from one city’s program to another—Amma has personally listened to the problems of millions of poor villagers from all over the nation,” said Swami Amritaswarupananda, the Vice-Chairman of MAM, upon Amrita SeRVe’s launch. “No one knows a child’s heart better than its mother. So, too, no one knows the heart of this world better than Amma.”
The Mata Amritanandamayi Math—which has had Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic-Social Council since 2005—has vast experience in each of these nine areas.
1. Infrastructure & Facilities
Through its Amrita Kuteeram homes-for-the-homeless program, MAM has already built more than 45,000 houses throughout India, often constructing entire neighborhoods complete with medical centers, community halls, roads and bore wells. Through Amrita SeRVe, MAM will now ensure that each villager in the 101 adopted villages has a proper home and that the villages have school buildings, streetlights, community halls and proper drainage.
In the area of healthcare, MAM—through the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS Hospital) and other health centers—has provided more than 2.6 million people with totally free medical care since 1998. Through the Amrita SeRVe, MAM will ensure that each village of these 101 villages are equipped with basic healthcare facilities as well as with trained health-workers.
In the focus-area of Energy, MAM is a staunch promoter of using clean energy sources to create sustainable communities. An extensive solar-panel system was recently installed at both the AIMS Hospital and the Amrita University campus in Ettimadai, which also uses bio-gas in its day-to-day operations. MAM has also established a solar-powered mobile vocational-training unit. Through Amrita SeRVe, MAM will ensure that the adopted villages are equipped with clean and sustainable energy sources. The plan is to power streetlights at village junctions using a nanotechnology-engineered solar-panel cell created in a joint project between the Amrita Centre for Nanosciences & Molecular Medicine, Nano-Solar Division, and the Amrita University’s School of Engineering. This solar-panel cell, which is radically cheaper and more efficient than other solar-panel cells—will also be used to charge computer tablets used in the Amrita SeRVe’s afterschool tutoring program.
4. Skill Development & Livelihood
In the focus-area of Skill Development & Sustained Livelihood, MAM has already helped more than 100,000 women to form 6,000 self-help groups and, for several years now, has been providing vocational training for women in poverty. It also is providing pensions to 69,000 widows and physically and mentally challenged people throughout India via its Amrita Nidhi pensions-for-life program. Through Amrita SeRVe, MAM will establish a vocational-training institute in each of the 101 villages, as well as set up its Amrita SREE Self-Help Group Program and extend Amrita Nidhi pensions to those who require financial aid.
5. Disaster Preparedness
As an organization that has responded with relief-and-rehabilitation packages following the worst of India’s natural disasters—including the Bhuj earthquake of 2001, the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, Cyclone Aila in West Bengal in 2009, and floods in Mumbai, Bihar, Raichur, Gujarat and Kedarnath—MAM has considerable experience with natural-disaster relief and prevention. Following the tsunami, MAM built 6,296 tsunami-resistant homes and equipped a remote peninsula with an evacuation bridge. It is also already protecting several landslide-prone villages with early-detection systems created by Amrita University’s Centre for Wireless Applications. Through Amrita SeRVe, MAM will assess the disaster-risk potential in each of the 101 adopted villages and put into place the required infrastructure to ensure maximum protection.
6. School Education & Adult Literacy
MAM currently provides 46,000 scholarships for impoverished children throughout India via its Vidyamritam program. In the focus area of School Education & Adult Literacy, MAM will extend this program to all poor children in the villages as well as implement afterschool tutoring and adult-literacy programs. To this end, MAM will use Amrita CREATE’s multimedia tablet-based language-learning program called Amrita RITE (Rural Indian Tablet-enhanced Education). Amrita CREATE has already done pilot testing for Amrita RITE with tribal students in Mananthavady, Kerala, and Ettimidai, Tamil Nadu with positive results. It has also done pilot programs for such training in Bhuvaneshwar and Amritapuri.
7. Environmental Protection & Afforestation
The seventh focus area is Environmental Protection & Afforestation. MAM has already planted more than one million saplings since 2001. As part of Amma’s 60th birthday celebrations, it began a new endeavor to plant another six-million trees, including 600,000 in Kerala within one year, obtaining saplings through an arrangement with the Kerala State Government’s Ministry of Forestry. In each of the 101 villages, MAM will conduct afforestation drives. It will also provide vegetable seeds and educate the villagers in home vegetable cultivation. Cleanliness drives and basic recycling education will also be conducted through MAM’s Amala Bharatam Campaign—a government-lauded program that has been conducting regular clean-up drives throughout India since 2010.
MAM regularly teaches yoga and meditation at its centers, schools and university campuses throughout India. At the request of the Government of India, Amma’s Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique—or “IAM Technique”—has been taught to thousands of members of the paramilitary. And MAM already has a system in place for educating individuals about the dangers of substance abuse. In Amrita SeRVe’s focus-area of Self-Empowerment, MAM will regularly conduct meditation and yoga camps as well as awareness campaigns about the dangers of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.
9. Communication & Monitoring
The final focus area of Amrita SeRVe is Communication & Monitoring. Amrita University’s Centre for e-Learning has constructed an award-winning multi-modal, multimedia e-learning platform currently being deployed at several IITs, NITs and other leading educational institutions. With regards to Communication & Monitoring, MAM will establish basic Internet connectivity in the villages and provide a variety of eLearning services via A-VIEW.
The Amrita Self-Reliant Village Program was officially launched on Amma’s 60th Birthday with the assistance of a number of State and Central Government Ministers. The Central Minister for Human Resource Development, Shashi Tharoor, praised Amma’s humanitarian mission, saying, “Normally we receive gifts on our birthday, but today, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi—as she has done for the past 60 years—is giving to us. We have seen so many programs released here: adoption of 101 villages, relief-and-rehabilitation of Uttarakhand, technological innovations to help the poor… Everything is giving here.”
Similar accolades were passed down by Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India, and Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister. “Sri Mata Amritanandamayi inspires millions of people all over the world with her message of altruism, selflessness, love and compassion,” wrote the Prime Minister in a message that was read aloud on the dais. “Hers is a life dedicated to the service of society and spiritual awakening of the people.” The President—via a video message—said, “Mata Amritanandamayi is popularly known as ‘Amma’ because of her love and compassion for all human beings, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion. [The Mata Amritanandamayi Math] is taking many pioneering initiatives to serve the humanity, both in Indian and abroad. On this happy occasion, I wish Mata Amritanandamayi Devi all happiness and also many more years of fruitful service to the mankind.”