Prior to VKP Intervention
Kathiravan is 20 years old and belongs to the Narikurava community[i]. He is from Vayalur habitation, Karanai village panchayat, Uthiramerur block, in Kanchipuram district. He has studied up to Class 10. His family consists of himself, his parents, his two older brothers and a sister. His father prepares herbal medicine (sometimes his mother helps him pluck the leaves), but it was not sufficient to make ends meet. His eldest brother is married and lives separately, his other elder brother does some civil work (Kambikattarathu), but this is not regular. He may sometimes get paid Rs. 5,000 per month, or sometimes nothing. His sister stays at home. In order to earn some extra income, Kathiravan would sell imitation jewellery (oosimani) or sometimes go hunting for small birds and animals (kuruvi, kokkuadikurathu). Sometimes he would also go with his friends to collect plastic waste (picking plastic bottles) in the street. However, their situation remained dire.
“Only once a week we could have three meals a day. But, sometimes this was also not possible when my mother falls sick and cannot cook”, he reminisces.
VKP’s Training and Convergence Assistance
However, in October 2021, Kathiravan’s life underwent a change. The VaazhndhuKaattuvom Project (VKP), DDU-GKY and Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihood Mission (TNSRLM), Government of Tamil Nadu, arranged a meeting with Kathiravan’s community people, where they expressed their desire for having jobs for their livelihood. On the basis of this request, officials of VKP facilitated to bring the community youth to train in various industries such as hotel management, automobiles, photography, welding works, and others. All the participating industries provided an orientation about their jobs and training. All the youth in the village participated in the orientation programme because they wanted regular incomes and improve their social and economic conditions.
After the meeting with the community, 25 members were selected (based on their preference for a particular training) to participate in hotel management, of which Kathiravan was one. Kathiravan and other members preferred hotel management mainly because they would get food thrice a day (“engalukku moonu velaiyum saappadu kedeikkum”). They all come from socially and economically poor background. He remembers the time when the household did not have enough resource to cook a proper meal and also his mother was unwell and they had to eat in their relative’s house. “They would ill treat us. This is why I wanted to learn to cook and through this earn a regular income”, he said.
The Transformation: Placement in Chennais Amirta and Double Roti Hotel
Chennais Amirta International Institute of Hotel Management, Chennai selected all 25 members for job training for 3 months. While initially, the youth were all present, by the end of the third week, only 7 participants remained. However, this is part and parcel of many of these training programmes, as explained by the VKP team. People take it up, but discover they do not have a liking for the job so wish to shift industries.
During the training, the youth learnt about hospitality, personality development, cooking and hygiene. They were involved in preparing foods, beverages, and cutting vegetables and fruits. “During the 3-months training, we learnt cooking and also enjoyed our work”, Karthiravan smiles. “We were very happy that the hotel chef and training managers would eat whatever we prepare. They treated us as one among them”, he says, happy to be accepted within his new community.
After the training, all the youth were placed in good hotels. In December 2021, Kathiravan received a job offer from the Kanchipuram District Collector, and he was placed in a hotel (Hyderabad Biriyani House) in Ooty. However, within a month of working he found he could not bear the cold and requested a change in location.
The VKP District team and Chennais Amirta’s placement officer sent him to Chennai, at Double Roti (Bread & Chocolate) Hotel, as Assistant to Chef with salary of Rs 10,500/- per month, with three meals and accommodation. Here he does activities like cutting vegetables in different sizes and style, making biriyani, sandwiches, beverages, and also learns about hospitality. “I am pursuing my job without any difficulties”, he said and the District team also found his work satisfying.
With his increased income, he was able to send money home, to repay debts and to meet his family’s expenses. With motivation and renewed enthusiasm, he has now a new lease of life. His next step is to move to a higher position or even get a job abroad.
VKP’s support has made him a changed man. He now dresses well, his level of confidence and self-esteem has increased and he is a respected person in society. He serves as a role model for many youth in his community, who also look to improve their bearing in society.
[i] They are a nomadic tribe, originally forest dwellers, and their main livelihood was from capturing small birds and animals. As they were not allowed to practice their original craft, they used to move from one place to another. The women would be involved in small handicrafts (jewellery making with glass beads) or in rag picking. And they lived a very destitute life, ostracized by society.