The dalit village of
Senthilveedhi, about 3 km from the town of Tiruchendur, Tuticorin District, Tamil Nadu,
Out of the Anawim IOI Project
villages, Senthilveedhi was the worst affected, though several other villages too
experienced damage. The major occupation in Senthilveedhi is the collection of seashells
and conversion into lime. A small number of the villagers are engaged in fishing.
The shells come in from the sea only
during three months November to January. During the season, the villagers collect
the shells day and night, whenever they are washed ashore, and dump them in big mounds on
the shore. The rest of the year they make a living by firing the shells in small kilns.
On December 26, 2004, the tsunami
took away in a few minutes the entire shell collection and all the kilns. The few
catamarans owned by the people were also damaged. All the villagers lost their
livelihoods. The Childrens Centre that was providing much-needed supplementary
education to the village children was also washed away.
tragedy of post-tsunami relief work has been that all the resources and attention have
been concentrated on the worst hit areas elsewhere on the coast. Very little relief and
rehabilitation has reached villages like Senthilveedhi. Four months after the disaster,
the villagers are in destitution. Initiatives to scale-up their activities they must
partner with each other through a confederation established by a larger Grants Programme
Continuing the thrust of
the Ecovillages activities, the Project focus is also on women and children.
The reasons for this
generally carry a heavier burden (compared to men) in running the household and have also
felt a greater impact of the tsunami damage.
experience in the our Ecovillages project has shown that women are very responsive to the
development activities and a focus on women and children has led to greater wellbeing in
While the first task is to
restore the livelihood of the women by rebuilding the kilns, it is also necessary to view
the disaster as an opportunity to retrain the women in alternate occupations. Shell
collection and processing is not only subject to the vagaries natural forces, but is also
not sustainable in the long run. As the
population grows, there will not be enough shells for all. In such a case, the villagers
will also be forced to buy corals illegally mined by others.
The Project will also restore
the Childrens Centre and strengthen in a sustainable way the educational,
recreational, and cultural activities of the children traumatized by the tsunami.
The project aims at long-term
sustainability. By the end of the project, the women are expected to be independent and to
continue their old and new occupations without any external support. They will also help
run the Childrens Centre.
The target group is the dalits, who are the
bottom of the social hierarchy in Indian society and were considered untouchables before Independence. In spite of
constitutional safeguards, the social and economic situation of many such groups has not
Most of the villagers are engaged in producing lime from
seashells. Given the social conditions, only a small number undertake fishing. A few others are employed as agricultural laborers
and construction workers.
population of the village is about 380, of which adult women are 130. There are about 75
benefits almost all the families of the village.