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Gandhian social worker and social change activist
MR. VEERAIAH PASSED AWAY
Social change activist, Secretary & Chief Functionary of Arthik Samata Mandal (ASM) of Atheist Centre,
Mr. Veeraiah has died due to cardiac attack. Mr. Veeraiah died at Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, India at 8.30 a.m.,
on Friday, 18 April, 2008.
Mr. Veeraiah was born on July 15, 1937 at Vangalapudi, East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India, wherein,
Satyagraha Ashram and the provincial branch of the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust are also located.
During his teenage, Mr. Veeraiah was attracted to Gandhian ideals and went to Indore in Madhya Pradesh
to work with Devendra Kumar, in Gandhian constructive programmes. He spent 15 years in North India.
In 1968, he became the National Secretary of Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. He was the Founding Secretary of Indore Khadi Sangh, India,
a society for the welfare and productive work of Khadi spinners and weavers. He was also the Founding Secretary of the
Village Potters Cooperative Society, Indore. He was closely associated with Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi.
He was also the Founding Director of Gandhi Book House, for the publication and promotion of Gandhian and sarvodaya literature.
Mr. Veeraiah was a post graduate of Indore University and became an expert in rural finance and community development.
He was also a student of the University of Peace in Belgium and War Resisters International. He had advanced training in
Disaster Management at ADPC, Thailand. His education spanned on issues of bee-keeping, low cost nutritious food for the poor,
non-violent social change from universities in the U.S.
Endowed with rich experience abroad, he returned to New Delhi, India in 1972. Mr. Veeraiah was a relentless worker, focusing
on Gandhian constructive programs and realizing Gandhian ideology and humanism through his work and outreach. He was the Secretary
and Chief Functionary of Arthik Samata Mandal, a 31-year old Gandhian NGO founded by Gora and J.C. Kumarappa. When the 1977 cyclone
and tidal wave devastated Andhra Pradesh, he took up relief and rehabilitation activities all over Divi Taluk, of Krishna District.
Ever since then, he played an important role in disaster management in the cyclones and floods that struck in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1990,
1996, 2000 and 2005 in the Krishna, Guntur, West and East Godavari, Prakasam and Nellore districts.
ASM took up health, education, community development, agriculture improvement, lift irrigation, disaster preparedness, environment protection,
mother and child care, habitat improvement and in developing innovative and alternative livelihood options.
Mr. Veeraiah contributed his entire life through ASM, for the cause of the upliftment of the marginalized sections of the society who are socially,
economically and culturally outcast. ASM reached out to the lambada tribes in Nalgonda district to spread education, health facilities, micro enterprise,
so that they could be mainstreamed into the society. The handloom weavers were given a new leaf of life as they were caught up in the vicissitudes of life,
between the natural disasters and inability to cope with the pace of mechanization of weaving. The weavers were given safer habitats, their tools were upgraded,
skills were capacitated and marketing linkages were developed, so as to cope with globalization. This received appreciation from the then
Chief Minister Mr. Chandra Babu Naidu. In order to revive agriculture in the collapsed aqua-culture lands, he worked towards de-siltation and desalinization
of lands, which gradually turned to become fertile. Vulnerability reduction and disaster preparedness found prominence in ASM's coastal development work.
Health and education were his primary focus. "If a woman is educated, the family will be educated", was his motto. All the programs of ASM invested
in educating women and children. Through the approach of child centred community development, more than 50,000 poor and marginalized children received scholarships
towards education in the past 30 years. To make the disabled children become differently abled, he was involved in free polio corrective surgeries for scores of children.
His commitment to promote social justice and communal harmony were realized through his programs of encouraging inter-caste marriages, promoting scientific temper
at the village level and secular outreach of programs irrespective of the beneficiaries' caste and religion.
His work received wide attention and attracted national and international dignitaries such as Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth of England,
the President of the Save the Children Fund, U.K., who appreciated his commendable secular and humanist constructive work.
He was an uncompromising atheist and secular social change worker. He led a very simple life, without any private property. His sterling qualities
of honesty, uprightness, transparency, commitment to the poor and the downtrodden, his innate urge for selfless service to the society made him unique.
He was always close to the realities of the rural scene, found solutions to people's problems from the community with whom he worked and lived as one of their members.
Mr. Veeraiah became a household name for the coastal and tribal communities in Andhra Pradesh, as his life mission was to make them resilient to natural and economic disasters.
He was a handloom weaver's guardian, a tribal's hope, a farmer's man, fisher-folk's saviour, and a child's friend. He worked for the integrated development of the communities,
so that their rights are realized and their potentials are put to best use.
Mr. Veeraiah was cremated in the electric crematorium in Vijayawada on 19 April at 4 p.m. A funeral procession was conducted to honour his work and contribution for social justice.
He was cremated without any rites, in a secular manner, as he is a committed atheist.
Mr. Veeraiah is a pillar of strength for Atheist Centre and Arthik Samata Mandal. He is the son-in-law of Gora and Saraswathi Gora. He is survived by his wife, Nau Gora,
his son, Rahat Gora and daughter, Sabala Gora and three grand children, Saaras, Tejas and Spoorthi, and a large family of committed workers.
As a tribute to his work and contribution, the media (TV, Radio and print) extensively covered his demise. Atheist Centre condoled his death.