When Prakash Radhakrishnam, a little boy of 11 from Chinna Kanchipuram, along with his two brothers Ramesh and Balaji started attending the night classes set up by RSS for poor silk weavers in Kanchipuram town, he had no idea that it was actually not only the turning point in his life but the entire silk weavers community, of which he was too a part, is going to step into a era of light and prosperity. Indeed the Silk Weavers of Kanchipuram- a town located 72 km away from Chennai, capital of Tamilanadu, were constrained to live in the pitiable, unorganized and marginalized state of perpetual ‘hand-to-mouth’ existence. Ages old illiteracy made them an easy prey to shrewd money-lenders and employers. Because of their analphabetism they regularly defrauded by employers and local money landers until Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh, in 1981, launched the Akshara Abhiyan to equip them with basic illiteracy to counter the exploitation they were facing.
Today Prakash and his brothers are not the employees of someone else silk but they themselves are successful silk businessmen and earn 30-35 thousands monthly. Prakash Ji's association with Sangh has gone so deep over the period of time- from a mere beneficiary now he has become Prant Sahsewa Pramukh of north Tamilanadu Prant. Prakash ji still remembers his days of night classes as a student when Shakha karyawah Murtiji used to teach Tamil, English, Mathematics and sometimes he also loved to tell them inspiring moral stories. Murti ji devoted 20 valuable years of his life in imparting education at this night classes center.
“Even much before the Sewa Vibhag came into existence In Kanchipuram, Sangh set up a first ‘Thiruvalluvar Night Classes' for Silk Weaver community more than three decades before with the efforts of Dhanush Ji, then Vibhag Pracharak of Kanchipuram” tells Sundar Laxman Ji, who was Prant Sewa Pramukh in this region that time and now a Akhil Bhartiya Adhikari, adding these night classes from 6:30pm to 9:30 pm witnessed a great foot fall from this Weaver community- specially the youngsters. Since then it has been 35 years Akshara Abhiyan is continuously bringing the change in the lives of Silk Weavers of Kanchipuram. Till now 4000 weavers have been benefited from this initiative. Now they can not only make signature, but perfectly read and write accounts and equipped with all the basic mathematical knowledge to calculate their profit and loss. Getting inspired from this Thiruvallur night classes initiative even Tamilanadu Government established 33 Night schools in the Bastis (habitat) of Silk weavers in this region.
“There was a time when this town of Tamilanadu had only 15% literacy rate but now it has uplifted to 60% which indeed is the testimony of the success of Aakshara initiative” elaborates Sundar Laxman Ji. Even some of the youths of this weaver community of Kanchipuram town have become graduates.
Today the scenario in Kanchipuram district is altogether different. Weaver families have started giving so much attention on ensuring that their new generation must get the appropriate education and admirely says that all the credit for transforming their lives goes to Aakshara initiative initiated by Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh.