Self-help groups offering a ray of hope for Assamese youth in rural areas

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Jorhat (Assam), June 15 : Though militant groups operating in Assam usually draw a lot of unemployed youth to join them and strengthen their cadres, various self-help groups who are transforming several youngsters' lives in Assam districts, especially in villages.

The self-help groups' impact is prominently visible in the State's Jorhart district.

Started by educated unemployed people, these SHGs have generated employment opportunities for the village youth and provided a ray of hope for them who are otherwise sought after by militant groups.

Betbari Shyam Goan, a non-descript village in Jorhat district is an example of how self-help groups with the available means and resources have generated employment opportunities to enable people to survive.

The novel change was noticed after individuals like Hasna Shyam, who started a Self Help Group 'Sanghamitra' with the help of just 12 women in Circa 2002, left an impact among villagers with their personal endeavours.

The self-help group Sanghamitra today produces handloom goods and generates an income of Rs. 40,000 a month. It has not just provided employment to many women but also it has helped in opening up thirty-three other self-help groups. It has made the village women here a productive force.

"There is huge demand of our product in national and international market. However, we are unable to tackle this. I decided to start a separate marketing section and also set up self-help groups, which need not involve me in the production works to fulfill customers' demands. Today, I've set up 33 self-help groups," said Hasnahyam, Sanghamitra, SHG Proprietor.

Thormet Shyam, an IT professional, is another pioneering entrepreneur of Jorhat, who has used the traditional agricultural practices of the village, to change people's lives.

Having been unsuccessful to secure a job in government sector, Shyam arrived in the village and took a bank loan to start a farm for rice cultivation. His endeavour set an example for the youth many of whom in frustrating times take to joining militant groups.

"Since 1990, I have been looking for a job but was not able to get. Then I applied for a loan from State Bank of India (SBI), Titabar division and got 17,000 rupees. With the money I have set up this farm where I've planted various types of vegetables," said Thormet Shyam, another farmer.

Thirty-year-old Mohinder Shyam is another youth, who took Rs. 30,000 bank loan to start fishery farming. Today, he owns three ponds and has been able to offer employment to at least 30 individuals.

"I have chosen to do this as it has benefited in earning my livelihood. It is profitable. I passed my matriculation and did an ITI course from Jorhat. After this I started a fishery farm and now have my own ponds. I prefer to devote more time to this and I want moreoung people to get involved in self employed occupation," said Mohinder Shyam, Fish Farmer

With their individual efforts, these people have showcased how despite a difficult phase of life it is possible to bring change by consistent attempts.

Nearly 90,000 self-help groups are active in rural Assam. They are mostly related to the fields of handloom, agriculture, fishery farming, poultry and Dairy.

Self-help groups have in the recent times got further momentum with the initiation of Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana or, the SGSY, a Central Government program aimed at eradicating poverty in rural areas.

The success of the scheme is a testimony to the fact that the people of the region do not want to suffer militancy and do not want their new generation to be diverted towards under ground activities because of lack of government jobs. By Apem Kamondong

ANI

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