Before we go to Anurupa Mukherjee's work in Tripura,
let's dwell a little on her own irrepressible spirit. For, you will
experience a warm glow of affection for an India that can throw up such
personalities from time to time, in unsuspecting reaches of her land. And
how they go on to make India that bit better.
Anurupa was born in the 1920's in Tripura. If, for many
Indians, placing Tripura prompts a scratch in the head today, in the
twenties of the last century it was even more remote. It was in fact, a
kingdom and Anurupa was a distant member of the ruling clan. When she was
in her early teens, by a royal fiat, she and all the girls in the clan
were taken off schooling and moved away from Agartala. For, the Second
World War was at the doorsteps of Tripura. But she continued her education at
home. Then we have a whir of events, that build for us the portrait of a
restless spirit. On the day India became free in 1947, she runs up the
national flag atop her house, a startling act of 'forwardness' for a young
tribal girl. Then we have her joining the communists in an agitation to
end monarchy; amazing, considering she herself was royalty of some sort!
Next, she marries a Bengali officer of the Indian navy and moves to Delhi.
She joins the Congress party. Returns to Tripura. Fights an election. It
is, as I said, a whir!
But by 1953, we have an Anurupa who may have found her
centre. Seeing how the tribal girls miss out on life's opportunities,
Anurupa decided education was the key to a better life for these girls.
And yet, most of these girls could not go to school full time. Thus began
the 'coaching classes' pioneered by Anurupa. The idea is to get the girls
to work at their own pace and convenience, without ever losing sight of
finishing at least high school.
There are six coaching centres around the state today.
For girls who want it, there is residential accommodation and a pleasant
atmosphere in which to pursue their education. Till early this year,
nearly a 1000 girls - 90% of them tribal - have passed the matriculation
examination and many have of them have got jobs consistent with their
Today, Anurupa Mukherjee is 72 years old - and, 'maani'
or mother. Her activities have gained new dimensions and reach wider.
She has been chosen for the sixth Bhagwan
Mahaveer Award which carries a sizable prize money. Good News India never
publishes a story that is not authentic. For this story we rely on the
field work done by Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation. Every candidate for the
Award in the short
list was physically, personally verified. The jury of the Awards system
was presented with field reports. What follows is the report prepared by
the Foundation. It gives - in a prose that is formal- the widening sphere
of Maani's work. Below the report that follows, is information by which
one may contact Maani and support her work.
The Tripura Adivasi Mahila Samithy,
Krishna Nagar, Agartala, Tripura was established in the year 1953 by a
group of women social workers of Agartala with the goal of bringing rural
tribal women into the development process.
The main objectives of the organisation
to promote better economic conditions for
the weaker sections of the society, in particular, the women, children and
destitutes, through self supporting and income generating , economic and
other welfare projects;
to promote gender equality through social
to implement an integrated approach in
solving the problems of developing rural communities
to specially work for the educational
upliftment of the tribals.
The activities of the society, inter alia
include starting of centres in the remote corners of Tripura for educating
tribal women and setting up of Balwadi centres for educating children,
In addition, the Samithy is arranging
condensed courses for girls who have dropped out in the middle of the
education stream, to ensure that they at least acquire the qualification
of 10th standard.
Most of the girls have come out successful
in the examinations and have obtained worthwhile employment enabling them
to stand on their own legs. In addition, the Samithy has arranged various
income generating programmes such as, mushroom cultivation, leaf plate
making, spice processing, sericulture, rubber nursery, animal husbandry,
tailoring and weaving.
Further, the Samithy has undertaken to
house destitute and orphan girls for periods upto 3 years and making them
independent by imparting vocational training such as weaving, tailoring
etc during their stay.
The Samithy is also implementing a project
to install water tanks water starved tribal villages, to gather rain water
which would otherwise go waste.
The Samithy has also been implementing in
several villages, a scheme to encourage thrift among tribal women by
forming small self-help groups, which finance constructive projects
through small, but regular contributions collected from its members, and
made available to the needy at modest rates of interest.
Thus the Samithy has established itself as
an organisation deeply interested in the upliftment of tribals under the
leadership of Smt.Anurupa Mukherjee, President of the Samithy.
Smt. Anurupa Mukherjee, popularly known as
'maani' or mother is 72 and the driving force behind the organisation.
Born in a conservative tribal family and
married to a non-tribal [an officer of the Indian Navy] Smt. Mukherjee has
been a symbol of communal harmony in the state. Her commitment to the
upliftment of poor tribal women has opened a new chapter in the evolution
of NGOs [Non Governmental organisations] in the development-administration
of the state. She has played a significant role in the affairs of the
state . and at the national level in defining and vitalising the role of
women [particularly from poorer sections], in community welfare, specially
in the fields of education and social service.
The Selection Jury felt that the Samithy has done an excellent job in
its objective of promoting welfare of tribal
women in an under-developed tribal area of the country, and has selected
the Samithy for the Award under the category of Community and Social
- MRS. ANURUPA MUKHERJEE
- Tripura Adivasi Mahila Samithy
Agartala 799 001
Tripura State, India