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INTERVIEW

Meloor Village is located on the south bank of Chalakudy Puzha and east of NH 47, just 6 Kms away from Chalakudy. There are 16 wards in the Meloor Grama Panchayat with an area of 2306 hectares, which is famous for its natural beauty and plantations.









As President of Meloor panchayat in Chalakudy, Thrissur, Kerala, P. P. Babu has imagined, pursued, and achieved much that any leader could be proud of. Yet there are many problems in the development field to be solved to achieve gram swaraj. The Asraya Destitute Rehabilitation Centre,,indigenous industries, small self financing units with the help of Kudambasree - these and other ideals of local government have been planned and implemented for the development of Meloor Village . In this tiny hamlet situated in the interior of Kerala, aspirations turn into reality. The panchayat President was selected for Nirmal Gram Puraskar award 2007-08 for implementation of sanitation schemes in villages. He received the award from the President of India. He was also selected as the best Panchayat President in Thrissur District by Kerala youth Guidance movement .

In an interview to Sreeni K.R , P.P Babu, Panchayat President talks about the responsibilities taken up to protect the Meloor village environment, and his vision to guide the village to attain the status of gram swaraj.

When did you take charge as the President of Meloor Village, Chalakudy, Thrissur, Kerala?
I took charge on October 6, 2005 as the President of Meloor Village, Chalakudy, Thrissur, Kerala.

As a panchayat chief, most of your responsibilities are centred around protecting your village environment. Does that mean you got ample opportunity to try out Gandhis ideas on gram swaraj?
Meloor Grama Panchayat consists of 16 wards which covers an area of 2306 hectares with an population of 24854. Agriculture is the back bone of Meloor village and as a part of decentralisation of activities, much has been gained in the production and service sectors in the panchayat which holds the first place with respect to area and population. Maybe you can look at this as an economic ideal or as Gandhian thinking.However we lack the facility to market our products. Most of the things we sell are "unfinished products", such as harvested crops, unpasteurized milk, banana and coconut  oil. We send these items off to other places, to be processed, packaged, and transported back to us.

First of all, planning needs to be done to improvise on our village development. We have to bring small agro based industries to our village so that middle men can be avoided and this also helps to find employment through new economic activity. Yet there are many problems in the development field which need to be solved to attain gram swaraj.

Meloor is the largest producer of Banana in Kerala. Are you thinking of some source of capital for a few startup ventures to make them fairly independent so that you are able to generate more job opportunities in your village?
Once Meloor was the largest producer of Banana in Kerala. But,for the last few years, production has drastically reduced. To bring Meloor back to the map, we started compulsory agriculture on uncultivated land. We are providing free seeds, fertilizer ,water and all necessary infrastructure to the farmer groups . In this way we are able to make a drastic change in the production unit. With the help of Kudambasree units, we planned and started cultivating 50 acres [25 acres of rice and 25 acres of vegetable] of land using organic fertilizers in the first phase. In the second phase, we planned to start some agro based small scale industries which have helped to solve unemployment problems, to some extent.

Many of the projects undertaken by you are successful. But the underlying purpose of these efforts is to transform society, is it not? What is your verdict on that larger goal?
183 Kudambasree units are functioning in our village. We have completed many successful schemes with their help and we are looking forward to doing more in future. We want to convert each of these Kudambasree units into a small scale industry in order to solve the unemployment problem. For this we arrange regular training programmes and classes conducted by experts.

Kudumbasree represents economic,social and women empowerment.It believes that poverty is a multi-phased phenomenon.At what phase are you implementing its services at your village?
Economic,social and women empowerment is the motto of Kudumbasree. I want to look at Kudumbasree in a wider perspective.I would like to convert each unit as an economic,social empowerment centre where women are aware about their rights and find justice in their needs. The changes Kudumbasree has brought in the last few years have been remarkable. All members got equal opportunity to learn the banking process and are equally responsible in all projects. They learned in group the management system, financial transaction and the responsibilities towards society.

How many Kudumbasree Ward Samithies or Area Development Societies(ADS),and Kudumbasree Panchayat Samithies or Community Development Societies(CDS) are working at the panchayat level in Meloor?
In Meloor, 183 Kudumbashree units, 16 ADS and 1 CDS are working at the panchayat level .

How does the Balasabha sangamam function at your village?
Balasabha sangamam is functioning very well at our village. Last year we conducted a talent examination test for students and Kerala Ulsavam at various parts of the panchayat to find out talented sports personalities .As a part of Balasabha sangamam we are utilising a fund for Anganwadi maintenance by providing gas and electrical connection.

Kudumbasree program is an integral part of every village in Kerala. What changes     have you seen through this program in your village?

No doubt, Kudumbasree program is an integral part of every village in Kerala. As women form the back bone of a family as well as society,they are more aware of their rights. They are better organised and do things in the right way. These structures give added importance to women empowerment, both social and economic. The paradigm shift in the approach is that any woman who is residing in the Grama Panchayat can become a member of Kudumbasree .This helps to remove the caste barriers from our society to greater extent.

What are the goals you have set for your village and which are the upcoming projects?

Goals

Sampoorna Village: All the basic facilities for those who reside in our village, such as land,water,hospitals,schools and electricity.
Street Lighting using Compact fluorescent Lamp [CFL]  in our village.
Swajjal Dhara Plan completed at Pushpagiri, Poolani, Koovakkattukunnu which helped to remove water deficiency in these areas.
We welcome more agro based industries into our village.
New projects
Organic farm project[We have started experimenting on 50[25 acres of rice and 25 acres of vegetable] acres of land using organic farming methods;Expecting result on or before Onam].After looking at the success rate, we will implement and extend the same to the whole village.

Cancer Detection Centre
Prevention Cell to reduce the suicide ratio.
Old Age Pension Scheme.
Kombanpara Project approved.
Fisheries Project with the help of College of Fisheries,Panangad.
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