Human Life Development & Research Centre (HLDRC) is a social centre run and managed by the Jesuit Fathers of the Province of Darjeeling in West Bengal. They belong to an international Catholic religious order called Society of Jesus. Jesuits are known globally for their contribution in the field of education, particularly in the secondary, higher secondary and higher education. However, they have also been championing the cause of the poor, vulnerable and the marginalized by working for social justice as social activists, lawyers and human rights activists. HLDRC has been established chiefly with the aim of working in the field of social justice and to work on other right-based issues.

Brief History of HLDRC: This organization can be considered a kind of new wine in the old bottle but with a difference. 1st August, 2013, was a landmark event in the history of the Darjeeling Jesuit Province when four well qualified Jesuits with degrees in Law (LLB), Master’s in Rural Development (RD), Master’s in Social Work (M.SW) and a Doctorate in Development Economics set their foot on Prabhat Tara Residence, Matigara to begin what is ‘social activism’ in social work parlance. But while they resided at Prabhat Tara Residence, Matigara, the planning and execution was done from their offices located in the old buildings of Shanti Sadan, Siliguri. After an intensive brain storming facilitated by Dr. Walter Fernandes- SJ, a seasoned Jesuit from Kohima Region in the field of social activism, the group comprising four Jesuits along with all the former provincials and principals of colleges in the Darjeeling Province, came to a consensus that tea plantation issues of North Bengal should become the focus of this new centre’s work/action.

People often ask why such a long name? Well, once again several people were asked to suggest names. Some suggested names in Hindi while others in English; some suggested what would be quite catchy name such as, “Pragati”while still others suggested name that would describe the work. Finally, after a month the director, Fr. Lalit and the Provincial, Fr. Kinley finalised the name that had both elements: human development and research. Thus, Human Life Development & Research Centre or HLDRC in short, was born.

At the very beginning itself a decision was taken that the entire older social related works in the plains of Darjeeling would be merged or come under the umbrella of HLDRC. Thus, while documentation, computer course and spoken English classes continue to be held under the Loyola Vocational Training Centre (LVTC), it came under the ambit of HLDRC. Similarly, some other older programs such as, tailoring, Self-Help Group (SHG) and study centres for children in tea gardens also came under HLDRC with an aim of further expanding them. Thereafter, new programs such as Training of Trainers (TOT), work on Provident Fund (PF), pension and gratuity and awareness seminars on socio-economic condition of tea gardens as well as legal and women’s issues were added. After the completion of first year that is, 2014 the centre was divided into two units: i) Social Action Unit, under which have been placed all the action-based activities such as, Awareness Building Seminar, and capacity building programs such as, Leadership/Paralegal training, work in PF/pension/gratuity etc; ii) Social Development Unit under which have been placed tailoring, computer/Spoken English course and newly established weaving course.

In the year 2016, two more programs were added onto the Social Action Unit- campaign against trafficking in persons or Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign and work on National Food Security Act (NFSA) under nationally initiated Lok Manch. In the same year HLDRC also started collaborating with the District Legal Cell, Darjeeling and Darjeeling Legal Aid Forum, Siliguri and took the Lok Adalat to many tea gardens with help from session, district and high curt judges. An important initiative undertaken by the centre has been publication of simplified booklets PF/Pension, Government Schemes/documents and Gram Panchayat. This way HLDRC is moving from strength to strength by exploring new avenues and widening its horizon.