Not a Mere Update!

Covered by NDTV: Matching Policy With Reality

Article on A Young Man’s Crusade

Article on Youth Ki Awaaz: They Warned Him From Entering This Village

Article on The Alternative: What Sustainability Could Mean

‘Go for the broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that working on your dreams is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things- childhood, country side, parents, loves-that go on slipping through our fingers.’  [Edited from the original version]

A friend once wrote these lines in a diary that she had honored me with. These lines have kept me going all the while.

What I have learnt all this while is:

Any grassroots issue identified can be resolved at an efficient pace, if the development practitioner is deeply involved with the community. The community and the practitioner work together in a non-complaining way towards finding feasible solutions along with all the political & bureaucratic structures in place. If after identification of core issues in the village, the issues are resolved in the time span of one year or earlier, the methods and approach used can be applicable in other similarly difficult areas, and definitely useful in less difficult areas with few contextual modifications in the approach.

Sounds bookish, but I have successfully used this approach in an interior tribal village, Suaba (Odisha), most of you shall be aware of by now.

A glimpse of my first oriya speech
A glimpse of my first Odiya speech.

The village was inaccessible, and the community wanted and needed access. So we collaboratively started working on resolving the access issue. While to create access to Education and physical access for the village, it was necessary that it must be done through the bureaucracy/government machinery, as it is the state’s responsibility to make sure that every child has an access to Right to Education and if the community wants it, access to the outside world through an all-weather road at the least.

Kids back in school!
Kids back in school!

Creating access to Energy was the third thing that is the state’s responsibility too, but analyzing the approaches and timeline being followed, along with the community I decided to take this fully in my hands. I didn’t want this to be ‘just another project’. The entire conceptualization, planning, fund raising, keeping a check on unsustainability was done with the help and support of many individuals and organizations of great value. Some of you might be reading this right now and I am sure that you are glad that you took a step ahead. Kudos to you!

The Online Fundraising Campaign
The Online Fundraising Campaign

In order to reach ground the project took almost 5 months. The journey was full of peaks and troughs, at the same time being equally amazing.

The entire project cost is INR 6, 61, 152, and as I write this the work is going on in the village Suaba 8 Km up on the mountain.

Lack of sustainability was a major concern. We took following actions to resolve it up to a significant extent.

  1. Created a corpus-account under the name of Suaba Bijuli Karjyakarini Samiti, with a contribution of INR 1000 per household adding to INR 35, 000. This amount will be used in case of troubleshooting emergencies. The account is a joint account between the committee and Gram Vikas, in order to prevent misuse of money.
  2. We are signing a 3 year long maintenance contract with the implementation agency.
  3. The community will undergo training on day to day maintenance and usage of the systems.

The material had arrived on 13th October, 2015 at around 11 a.m. There was no other way of transporting the material involving batteries weighing around 50 Kg each, but to carry the material on foot, climbing 8 Km uphill on an extremely rocky terrain.

The Terrain to the village
The Terrain to the village- 8 Km long

Next day early morning there were women, men and children with glittering faces ready to bring light to their community. This gave a glimpse of immense energy that people have in them when they unite for a cause, their cause. No one carried their own material (since it is an individual household system). Some people took more rounds then others- proudly, to carry the material to village and to facilitate the installation process as soon as possible.

Community Members Carrying Material

The technicians were a little worried as I took them for site inspection so that they have an idea of what they are going to play. One of them stayed.

Before staying he said, ‘Joddi mu feriby, mu aau thore aasipaaribi ni!’ (If I will return now, I won’t be able to climb this village again.)

This was a dream, looking forward to setting an example through actions and not sheer talks.

We did it together! Kudos!

Ongoing work.
Ongoing work.
 The Community Hall after electrification-Outside
The Community Hall after electrification-Outside

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

  • -Robert Frost

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