SEASON CHANGE

Sunil Mittal says that he is often asked why Indians don’t give. “My view on this is simple: India has got wealth recently. People are not comfortable with it just yet. They are not sure if this is for real and if it is sustainable. Also Indians want to save up for their children. Each one of us has done that. My parents did it, I do it. Despite the fact that I am reasonably wealthy, I still want my children to live a better life than I do."

Syama Jogi is a solar engineer trained at Barefoot College, Rajasthan.

At Lounge we believe that many of you might be interested in giving too but often slack off because you are not sure about the cause or whether the charity you want to support will actually use your money sensibly. This year we decided to visit NGOs working in the hinterland and selected 11 causes that might touch your heart. Watch our slide shows and videos (www.livemint.com) to get a real glimpse of how rural India lives and what they think. We also found that there are agencies that track the work of NGOs carefully so you can be sure that your money is utilized well if you decide to be part of the giving brigade.

Click here to listen to Lounge Podcast

So as you head out to shop for the perfect gift (don’t sweat, because we have already scoured the stores to look for gift ideas that will delight just about anyone) and spend time indulging and splurging, take part of your Saturday off to read about what your countrymen in rural India aspire to. Enjoy the issue, enjoy the season of gifting and giving.

— Seema Chowdhry, Issue Editor

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IT TAKES A VILLAGE

The real India lives in villages. You’ve heard that before. You know that the urban-rural divide is so large that they are literally two disparate worlds.

Yet fundamental, age-old problems are unresolved: The girl child is unwanted, child labour is rampant, many in villages still travel a few kilometres every day for water or firewood, schools operate without electricity, morning ablutions are a behind-the-bush affair and children as young as 5 or 6 trek 3-4km to get to school.

Who is helping our villages bridge these concerns? Can you help in small ways?

To find out, we visited villages in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Haryana, and visited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and a few for-profit organizations working in various fields—from female foeticide, water conservation, child labour, use of solar power, organic farming, self-governance, dealing with AIDS and primary education to alternative means of livelihood. We met individuals who have committed themselves to rural development even though that means a life of constant challenge, of overcoming scarce resources. Some of the results are truly transformative.

We hope these stories inspire you to give, and be part of the cycle of positive change.

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Helpers of Handicapped | Training for self-reliance

In a remote village in southern Maharashtra, this facility helps people with handicaps become independent (read more)

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Navdanya | A non-chemical green revolution

By promoting organic farming, this organization hopes to help Indian farmers become self-sufficient (read more)

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Barefoot College | Powered by the sun

An organization that is teaching women from India, Africa and Afghanistan to become messiahs of light (read more)

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ARTI | Fires without smoke

By improving kitchen conditions in tribal schools in Thane, Maharashtra, this group tackles a serious but invisible problem of public health and ecology (read more)

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UNICEF-IKEA | Death by cotton

For years, children from the border areas of Rajasthan have been trafficked to Gujarat to work in cotton fields. They’re now being enrolled in school (read more)

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Positive Women Network | The positivity principle

A sisterhood that empowers and supports those with HIV to lead a normal life (read more)

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Centre for Social Research | No state for girls

A village and an NGO highlight the reasons why the girl child has little chance of survival in Haryana and elsewhere (read more)

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Agastya International Foundation | Sculpting scientists

This foundation opens up science to more than 100,000 rural children every year (read more)

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Ranthambore Foundation | Call from the wild

With eco-awareness programmes in schools and livelihood generation programmes, the Ranthambore Foundation is integrating the locals to save the tiger (read more)

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Chirag | Water warriors

How simple efforts in water conservation by this group may solve the water crisis in the hills—and even in the plains (read more)

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Seva Mandir | Enabling people to participate

654 villages in Rajasthan are following a model of governance the entire country could use (read more)

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