MAM Extends Educational Programs

29 January 2009— Tiruvanantapuram Brahmasthanam Program

On the first night of Amma’s programs at her ashram in Tiruvanantapuram, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) furthered its commitment to education. Vidyamritam Scholarships were given to 180 children of Tiruvanatapuram District, and MAM inaugurated its new arts-and-crafts school, Amrita Shilpa Kalakshetra.

Inaugurating Sipla Kalashetra In the presence of Amma, G. Sudhakaran, minister of the Devaswam Board of Kerala, inaugurated the arts-and-crafts school. Addressing the gathering, he said, “This world is full with tension and war. Peace and harmony is the slogan of Amma.
War can be for good or bad. Reject the bad. Even if the war is for good, it should reach peace –  that is the message Amma presents before us.

From badness to goodness, from darkness to light, from death to immortality—this is the vision of India. The educational systems, institutions, research and architecture India had in 6,000 to 7,000 BCE no longer exist—universities like Taksha Shila and Nalanda. Back then, the tradition was 14 teachers to one student. Now even one professor for 1000 students is not available.”

Amrita Shilpa Kalakshetra is an extension of MAM’s university, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham. One of its primary aims is to train talented youth in traditional wood-carving, an important aspect of Indian art. Like most crafts in India, wood carving was traditionally taught by artists to their children, and thus carried down from generation to generation. As such traditional lineages have deteriorated, it is MAM’s intention to help restore the lost art to its former glory and status.

The institute’s training program is recognized and approved by the Government of India’s Development Commissioner of Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles. The institute is located in Poonkulam, Vellayani, Tiruvanantapuram. It will soon begin conducting month-long and six-month-long courses, providing deserving students monthly stipends of Rs. 2,000 during their courses.

Vidyamrita distribution Regarding these scholarships, as well as the Vidyamritam Scholarship Program, Sudhakaran said, “In India, giving 100,000 students substantial scholarships—as Amma is doing in Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra and throughout India—is no small thing. Not even the government is providing so many scholarships.”

Eight new Amrita Sree* self-help groups were also launched during the program, with Congress Party Leader K. Karunakaran distributing working-capital bank-loans to the groups. Addressing the gathering, he said, “When I reach Amma’s feet, I feel a satisfaction, a happiness. I cannot say exactly why. Experience is the guru. When Amma visits countries that do not know much about India, and I see them become emotional, I also become emotional.”

Ramesh Chennithala, MP and working-committee member of the Congress Party, also addressed the gathering, saying, “The world is pervaded with Amma. Amma is God in a visible form. Here you can unburden your mind’s sorrows and sufferings. Love, brotherhood and purity spread wherever Amma walks. This is why hundreds of thousands of people come to Amma. People around the world can live together with mutual love, respect and faith, and go forward without dispute. Amma is showing us this path. May Amma’s blessings be there for the world and for all the people.”

Other dignitaries present on the dais included P. Surendran Pillai, MLA; George Vargheese, deputy director of Handicrafts Department, Government of India; and arts patron Akira Fujisawa.

– Tulasi

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* Launched in 2007, Amrita Sree will benefit 100,000 women. It is part of MAM’s Farmer Suicide Prevention Program. The goal is to form 5,000 self-help groups. So far 3,000 have been created. Not only does MAM help the women form the groups but also helps them attain bank loans for working capital.

Hope for the Drowning

India’s Farmer Suicide Problem and Amma’s Solutions
25 February, Bharata Yatra 2008 — Ahamed Nagar, Maharashtra, a roadside stop between Pune and Mumbai


It was only after Amma’s program in Vidarbha that some of the Western devotees travelling with Amma learned the full extent of the region’s suicide epidemic. Figures that baffle the mind: farmers committing suicide at a rate as fast as one every eight hours—more than 1,000 suicides a year. Wanting to understand the problem more clearly, one such devotee asked Amma to explain the situation as well as Amma’s plans to help rectify it.

“The entire lives of these people revolves around agriculture,” Amma said. “The government should be supporting them. In some places it is doing so, but not effectively enough. In other places, it is not doing so at all. Some farmers own and cultivate very small plots of land—maybe only one to four acres. That is their sole source of income. If there is a problem with their harvest—if their crops fail—they go broke. Sometimes when the crops are planted, the price may be at 20 or 30 rupees per kilo, but then by harvest time the value has plummeted to only 10 rupees or less. When this happens, they have no other means to continue farming than to take out loans, using their land as collateral. Often they cannot take loans from government institutions or proper banks, only from private money-loaners. These money-loaners charge extremely high interests rates—as much as 30 to 40 percent. The proper banks will not loan them money because they feel the risk of default is too high. These interest rates place such a financial burden upon the farmers that they end up unable to pay their field-hands. Furthermore, they may have additional expenses, like having daughters of marrying age for whom they need to raise dowry. The result is complete and total financial duress. The farmers feel utterly helpless and, seeing no other way out, they decide to commit suicide. They give their children poison and then drink it themselves.”

Amma then said how, more often than not, the fields are maintained solely by the families themselves. In such situations, much of the responsibility of cultivation falls upon the shoulders of the children, forcing them to discontinue their educations at early ages. Amma explained how the Ashram’s Vidyamritam program, which is providing scholarships for 30,000 such children throughout India, is aimed at correcting this problem. “At least the children who are interested should be given the opportunity to study,” Amma said. “If they receive at least a basic education more avenues of income will become available to them and their families.”

Amma said, “Amma feels the situation is due to how inextricably tied to agriculture these people’s lives are traditionally. If we provide them with alternative means of income, it may help.”

Amma then went on to elucidate the Ashram’s Amrita Sree Program [Amrita Self-Reliance Employment & Empowerment Program]. “The Ashram has started conducting vocational training for groups of women from such families. These groups are then given some initial seed capital in order to start cottage-industry businesses. The Ashram is also coordinating these groups to avail of loans from proper banks. This will help the families become less dependent on the whims of Nature and the success of the harvest.”

Amma paused for a moment and slowly scanned her eyes across the faces of the 400 or so disciples and devotees surrounding her—people from around the world trying to mold their lives after her example of selfless service. She then said, “When someone is drowning in a river, they will cling to even a single straw for dear life. Amma feels these programs could be like that straw, providing them with at least some hope for the future.”

Amma then reflected on the larger problem: how the soil is losing fertility due to pollution, global warming and the additional demands placed upon the earth due to the exploding population. She stressed the need for India to conduct more research in the area of agriculture technology and rainwater harvesting. “We have to start thinking of means to conserve water,” Amma said. “We have to learn how to produce more crops with less water, and how to get water from the lakes, ponds and rivers to farming areas.”

Amma said she believed that artificial means of cultivation were a necessary evil. “These artificial means of producing greater crop yields are temporarily appeasing hunger, but ultimately they are causing further damage,” she said. “It is like cross-breeding a donkey with a horse. The result is a mule, which has neither the good qualities of a horse nor a donkey. Similarly the new ways of cultivation are creating more crops, but are resulting in deterioration of health—physical and mental. Regardless, they are needed at this point in time. Such is our state. In this way we can continue for some time—like a cancer patient extending his life another six months through chemotherapy.”

“In truth,” Amma said, “the situation is worse than a third world war. If it were war, there would be instant death—not this long, drawn out suffering. Rectifying the situation is a Himalayan task. Only if we generate love and compassion in our hearts and come together as one can we hope to make a change.”


Rs. 200 crore project to curb farmer suicide-5f

Rs. 200 crore project to curb farmer suicide

Amma deeply concerned about suicide among farmers

15 March 2007 — Mumbai, Maharashtra


Chief minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh held a high-level meeting with Amma at the Sahyadri government guest house here on Thursday on the issue of suicides by farmers of Vidarbha. After the meeting Amma announced that the Ashram will undertake an Rs. 200-crore [$45.4 million U.S.] project to tackle the problem of suicides by farmers  of Maharashtra, Kerala and other states.

Amma was deeply concerned about the large number of suicides by the cotton growers of Vidarbha. During an hour-long meeting, Chief Minister Deshmukh, chief secretary D.K. Sankaran and other senior officials briefed Amma about the extent of the problem and the steps taken by the government to tackle it. Deshmukh said as a result of a series of steps taken by the state government and the Centre, the problem is now beginning to come under check. “But the problem cannot be solved through economic packages alone. What is needed is social and spiritual interventions so that the farmers realize that suicide is not the way out. In fact, it only further aggravates the problem for the families,’’ Amma commented. The CM agreed and sought Amma’s assistance in dissuading farmers from taking extreme steps. Amma stressed the need for personal counselling of the vulnerable persons. She recalled the experience of MAM volunteers in dealing with a similar problem in thw Wayanad District of Kerala.


Amma appreciated the efforts made by the Maharashtra Government and said it represented the best efforts taken by any state government to deal with the problem of farmers’ suicides. She said even though in comparison to the total number of suicides taking place in the country the suicides by farmers may be less,  in absolute terms the numbers are large enough to warrant expeditious interventions at all levels. The hysteria among farmers needs to be neutralised and associated problems like alchoholism etc. need to be remedied.

Apart from the chief minister and chief secretary, others who attended the meeting included senior cabinet minister Patangrao Kadam; ministers Balasaheb Thorat and Ramraje Njmbalkar;  principal secretaries Sarogi and Pande; divisional commissioner Amravati and Goyal; and some of Amma’s disciples and devotees.


Free computer education for 12 students of Dharavi slum

23 April 2006 – Nerul, Navi Mumbai

On 23 April, Amma’s ashram (MAM) in Navi Mumbai started a program called “Amrita Tava Sevanam.” Through the program, the Ashram has extended free computer training to 12 youths from Dharavi, a Mumbai slum. They will be educated at the Amrita Institute of Computer Technology (AICT) located on the grounds of the Navi Mumbai ashram.

The Ashram also distributed school bags and raincoats to 51 underprivileged students from Dharavi.

Panduranga R. Pawar, the chief educational officer of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, addressed the gathering. After lauding the social and humanitarian activities of the Ashram, he said, “Those students availing assistance from the Ashram should do their studies well, and upon settling in their life, they should also support other children who need educational help.”