‘Compulsions of poor were exploited by certain people’

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For almost a decade, Bashir Ahmad Nadvi is running a successful charity in Srinagar. In this interview with Umar Mukhtar he offers details of Athrout’s rise, operations and sources of donations

KASHMIR LIFE (KL): When and how the idea of starting an ‘Athrout’ came to your mind?

BASHMIR A NADVI (BAN): It was in 2006, I was propagating Islam in seminaries. At one seminary I came across some shocking revelations. Compelled by different circumstances, certain people were selling their honour, dignity and faith because they were helpless. Their compulsions were exploited by certain people. They used to convert them by luring them with hefty amounts. This harsh reality was existing in our society and I did not know this. This is something that brought my conscience to life. This episode was the trigger and main factor for setting up Athrout.

KL: What are the key areas where Athrout works?

BAN: Providing medical facilities to the needy people, household items to very poor families who cannot make their two ends meet, empowering youth by assisting them in opening their business outlets, arranging simple marriage for girls, helping in natural disasters be it floods, fires or earthquakes and providing monthly cash of Rs 300 per head to destitute families. These are some of the areas we work and focus on.

 

KL: Since Kashmir is passing through turbulent times – conflict, earthquakes and floods. How necessary do you see the role of NGO’s?

BAN: Conflict-ridden places which are prone to natural disasters, NGO’s have a very crucial role to play. Here conflict has devoured more than one lakh lives till date and it is prone to disasters. So we have to be there with our people in such times. They are working. You might have seen, when something unfortunate happens anywhere, NGO’s reach to people faster than the government.

We have to keep ourselves ready all the time to serve people. Also NGO’s should not restrict to any specific area, they should be able to help people in diverse aspects.

 KL:  How many people are associated directly with Athrout?

BAN: There are 50 volunteers working with Athrout who are round the clock available and are ready to serve people at any time. There are another 150 people who can be called upon in emergency situations. Also there are five people working as staffers at the office including the ambulance driver and the sweeper.

KL: What were the challenges you faced when you started working and what are the challenges now?

BAN: The major challenge always is to keep your NGO credible and free from any kind of allegations. Sometimes the volunteers could misuse the name of organisation, so we had to take care of that.

 We sometimes wanted to help some needy pellet victims of 2016 but some people blame us for getting funding from somewhere else. Recently we helped the Amarnath pilgrims who met with an accident, for that we were also criticised.

Also some agencies come and question us about the funding and ask some unnecessary questions. These challenges have always been there.

KL: Working in 2016 unrest was challenging for everyone. How did you cope with that?

BAN: It was challenging. The situation was like that we had to come to a place and share a common space. Also the cause for all was one, ‘to serve’ the needy. So we maturely handled the situation and collaborated with each other to provide the better services.

But I do not know the reasons why some NGO’s are now hesitant to work in that manner. If we continue to work like we worked in 2016, we can serve the society better.

KL: The proliferation of NGO’s in Kashmir has sent people thinking. Many say credibility of some could be doubtful. How do you see it?

BAN: Yes, there is mushrooming of NGO’s. Some of them claim they work for the people but when it comes to delivery, they figure nowhere. There are quite a few organisations working on ground. Authorities must take care of this aspect. There should be necessary action against those if there is a clear case against them.

KL: How do you raise the funds? Is there any specific system for donations?

BAN: There are six ways by which we raise funds to run our operations. We have 600 members who are affiliated with us. They donate a minimum of Rs 50 with no ceiling on the maximum. We have a donor who donates Rs 20000, every month. Zakaat is another source in the month of Ramdhan where from we generate a handsome amount of money. Besides, there is Sadqa Fitir and general donations. These are our sources of income.

We also collect animal hides of the sacrificial animals on Eid and install donation boxes at certain places like malls, business establishments and at other places. With this we manage our operations which have been flawless so far.

KL: You have done some work on women empowerment front?

BAN: We have established Al- Nisa, a centre for women empowerment where girls are provided with the cutting, tailoring and designing classes. The sharp minded girls would be sent to designing schools too.

We our also planning to set an online shopping site under the banner In-Deed. Whatever these girls would design that will be available there.

KL: What are the Future plans?

BAN: Construction is in process for the dialysis centre for poor patients. Also there will be an exclusive hospital for women, to be managed by women from the sweeper to an expert. Apart from this we are planning to have a school where quality education would be provided to the poor children.

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