September 2007 — Amritapuri
On Amma’s Birthday, 30,000 children of farmers living under the poverty line from Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will receive the gift of free education as part of a new social welfare program called Vidyamritam. The program is part of the Ashram’s new multi-pronged fight against the rising epidemic of suicide among India’s debt-ridden farmers.

According to a government census, there are more such suicides in Kerala than in any other state in India, with Idukki being the worst district. For years now, Smt. Mercy Matthew, the headmistress of S.N. UP School in Karunapuram, Idukki, has watched helplessly as dozens of her students have been forced to discontinue their educations due to their family’s financial strain. One such student is Rahul Raj, currently studying in the 6th standard. Some years ago, his father and eldest uncle committed suicide. He was being supported by another uncle, but then that uncle also died. Furthermore, his elder sister then died from cancer. His mother, Omana, was struggling to keep him in school. When Mercy Matthew saw the Ashram’s request for applications for Vidyamritam, she informed Rahul Raj’s mother, and they applied. He was accepted, along with 20 others from SNUP School.

Tomorrow, Mercy Matthew and her 20 students will come to Amritapuri for Amma’s birthday celebrations, when they will officially be enrolled in the Vidyamritam Program. Some 75 other students are coming by train from Maharashtra, as well as nearly 200 from Andhra Pradesh, among others.