Features Saturday, May 02, 2015 - 05:30
On the occasion of the Tamil New Year on April 14, 53 children from the Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu rode back to their homes on cycles they had just received from a group of IIT-Madras students. The donated cycles were gifted to the children to help them pursue and complete their education. Called “Gift a Cycle”, the project is an initiative by IIT for Villages (IViL), a student body that works towards rural development in the surrounding areas.     Stressing on the importance of cycles in rural areas in the country, Ram Prakash, a research scholar at IIT-M says, “There are statistics that show how a high percentage of students in such regions drop out of schools or do not pursue higher education because their schools are situated far away from their homes. This applies more to girl students.”   “Besides cycles are an environment-friendly mode of transport.”   It was in 2012, that a then student of the institution started this project. Since numerous students in the college use cycles and sell it once they graduate or pass it on to their juniors or abandon them, the project is aimed at killing two birds with one stone.   After the student, who was a Swiss national, graduated, the project was discontinued for a while. It is last year that the current group of volunteers including Prakash picked up the idea with renewed zeal.   Once news of the project reached social media, offers to donate cycles poured in from not just from Tamil Nadu but also from outsidethe state.   The cycles however aren’t distributed randomly and there is an organised process. The group is in touch with a community development officer who works in around six to seven villages in the district. Based on the officer’s inputs, which is cross-checked, the group draws out a list of economically backward students as recipients for the project.   “We mostly target school children. Orphans, those having to travel long distances to their schools and also brilliant students,” says Prakash.     The donated cycles undergo a check, and the worn out ones get the necessary repairs. At present, the group is accepting cycles in all conditions and is ready to bear the expenses on minimum repairs.   “But we want to reduce the repair costs eventually, especially when we receive cycles in bulk,” says Prakash.   IViL has collected a set of another 100 cycles so far, but the students are waiting for their exams to get over to work on the distribution.