The school had a dismal record until the NGO adopted it, making it a model institute; but the alcohol shop near it may destroy everything.

Andhra NGO fights uphill battle to ensure liquor shop doesnt open near village schoolThe Zilla Parishad High School in Yazali
news News Saturday, February 03, 2018 - 11:33

"Did I do wrong by thinking about developing the soil where I was born? Did I commit a mistake by not taking to the streets and making demands, for which there isn’t a simple answer?"

These were the words written on Facebook by Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi, a former software engineer in Hyderabad, who moved back to his village of Yazali in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district.

Lakshmi put up his status after he heard that an alcohol shop will soon be set up near the Zilla Parishad High School in the area.

A few years ago, seeing that his village was battling a major problem with alcoholism, Lakshmi quit his job, and moved back to Yazali and formed an NGO with other like-minded people.

The school was facing its own set of problems. Earlier, it is said to have had only 12 or 13 students appearing for the Class 10 board examination. Indiscipline and disinterest among the students and teachers had resulted in children dropping out by Class 5 or 6.

In 2010, around six boys from the village, who were barely out of school, died in successive accidents; most of them were driving drunk.

However, the NGO formed by Lakshmi adopted the school and managed to turn things around. Today, in the mandal, the school is regarded as no different from a private school in any city.

The drop-out rate dipped and the pass percentage has soared, and children from neighbouring villages have also started to attend this school, taking its enrolment figure to 450.

Two years ago, Lakshmi and others managed to ensure that the alcohol shop does not open shutters in the village. However, the issue has returned to haunt locals as a new shop is being readied right next to the school.

Speaking to TNM, Lakshmi said that he had approached everyone, from local revenue authorities to the Commissioner of the Excise Department.

“I have come to understand that there is someone powerful, who can influence the government, who wants to set up the shop this time," he said.

He alleged that officials were twisting the rules and claiming that the shop was 250 metres away from the school.

"It hurts me that I’m not able to stop such things. I came to serve my village after receiving appreciation from my leader (Andhra Chief Minister) Chandrababu Naidu, using my hard-earned money and land," Lakshmi says.

Ironically, even as the shop was getting ready to be opened, the school received a letter of appreciation from state Human Resources Minister Ganta Srinivas Rao for the students’ performance in the board examinations.

“Given the past experience, students will start consuming liquor and so will agricultural labourers from neighbouring villages,” Lakshmi says.

“I took to social media as a last resort, hoping that at least this may move the authorities,” he added, appealing to officials to consider the bright future of innocent children in the school.

Read: How an Andhra software engineer moved back to his native village, and is developing it

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