MUMBAI: Subhash S. Ediga's first birthday last month was bereft of any lavish celebrations in Metuchen, New Jersey. Instead, the $4,000 (Rs 232,000) saved on the party and gifts was donated for a noble cause - 10 widows of Maharashtra's Vidarbha region.
"It was a tough decision. But my wife Sireesha, daughter Surina (6 years) and my parents, who had come down from Andhra Pradesh were very supportive and encouraged me to go ahead," the boy's father, software developer Suresh Ediga, told IANS over the phone from New Jersey.
Surina also chipped in - by emptying all the coins from her piggy bank - for the worthy cause after hearing an inspirational talk by her parents.
He also sent out an appeal to his friends in the US and through his NGO, i4Farmers, asking people to chip in - instead of buying gifts for Subhash.
"It deeply hurts when we learn that the farmer who produces food for us cannot afford his own meal," Ediga said.
The money collected would go towards rehabilitation schemes for the most deserving Vidarbha farm widows, through the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) NGO, Ediga said.
In February, too, Ediga and his group of friends, employed or entrepreneurs in the US, had adopted 10 widows and given them aid worth $4000 for various domestic, farming, academic or medical purposes.
"To streamline such initiatives and take on more activities where individuals can contribute to the solutions for the farming crisis, the i4Farmers (www.i4farmers.org), not-for-profit organization was set up," Ediga said.
Three years ago, on Surina's third birthday, the Edigas had "celebrated" by donating the party bash money - $1,000 - for a year-long mid-day meal scheme for 75 children at
a school in his native village of Patancheruvu in Andhra Pradesh through an NGO, Akshaya Patra.
VJAS has already set the good cause rolling after receiving the money this month, said its chief Kishore Tiwari.
"Surekha Chavan of Vagdhara in Yavatmal has been given Rs.25,000 to buy seeds and fertiliser for the current sowing season. Asha Ladake of Dahegaon got a similar amount for cultivation. Shila Mandavgade of Saikheda got Rs 10,000 for a high-end sewing machine," Tiwari told IANS, quoting from a report sent to Ediga and his friends on how the money is being utilized.
Now another widow, Kamal Surpam, will be given Rs.25,000 to buy a motor pump and pipes to supply water to her farmland and more widows will get help upon receipt of funds, he said.
Earlier this year, Ediga and his group were inspired to work for the cause after reading an IANS story about an elderly Parsi couple - Cyrus Guzder and his wife Lyla - who donated over Rs.10 lakh for the Vidarbha widows.
Appreciating the role of IANS in highlighting the issues of Vidarbha, Tiwari said that after the Jan 16 story ("A Parsi couple's healing touch to Vidarbha's farmers"), there have been offers of donations from shocked readers in India, the Middle East, Far Eastern countries, Europe, the US and Australia.
"Many have written asking how they could contribute in their own small manner, and some like Suresh Ediga have extended help as a group. We said that the situation in Vidarbha is alarming and every form of monetary or material help is welcome," Tiwari said.
VIDARBHA JANANDOLAN SAMITI PRESIDENT – KISHORE TIWARI, B.E. (Mech.Engg.), M.B.A., LL.B., M.A. (Pub. & Admn.), M.A. Sociology, M.I.S. (USA), Fellow - I.E.H., Fellow – Institution of Engineers (India)- CHARTERED ENGINEER BACKGROUND : Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti is fighting for the cause of common man since 1998. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti is constantly pursuing its battle on various fronts like – a.Administrative b.Judicial c.Quasi-judicial d.Legislative e.Parliamentary f.International levels PUBLIC ISSUES : 1.Farmers suicides 2.Mal nutrition of Tribals. 3.Plights of Rural economy 4.Drinking water 5.Right to Food 6.Right to Education 7.Problems of Minorities 8.Issue of Separate Statehood to Vidarbha THE EFFECT OF MOVEMENT : The continued follow up and Jan Andolans of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti has resulted in many success broadly classified as – 1.Waiver of small farmers crop loans 2.interest remission to marginal farmers 3.right to food to the lacs of tribals. 4.Primary Education to every rural students. 5.Farmers packages 6.BPL benefits to thousands of poor families. 7.Justice to unwed mothers