Agents of Change

Most of us complain or groan about the conditions that we are thrown in! We often have discussions and debates about how our social values are degrading, the economic, social and political systems need to be revived, deforestation and climate change is happening at an alarming rate and how the governments should initiate change. But, in this same world, I came across a few people who are tirelessly working to bring about transformation in the society and had been invited on the VEDH platform for their work. They are the pioneers of a new movement called the ‘citizen driven movement’. Gandhiji had rightly said,” Be the change you want to see in the world”. And here are a few examples who personify this quote.

Each faculty has a different story share, what lies behind them is a journey unique to them. They have overcome their own challenges and braved some ‘custom- made’ hardships. But this blog reviews them together for they share a common goal- to bring about transformation in the society and change lives of common people. 

From left: Mr. Vikram Sing and Ruma Devi

I begin with Ruma Devi, a fashion designer and entrepreneur from Barmer, Rajasthan who has let the local art and talent shine on the world map. Her life has never been a bed of roses. After suffering from a major setback in her life when she couldn’t save her newborn due to poor economic conditions, she decided to create a source of income for herself and for many like her, by starting a handicrafts business. Ruma Devi started  her entrepreneurial journey by making cushion covers and bedsheets along with 10 women with the help of Vikram Singh ji (A social activist from Barmer). Today, she is an established fashion designer. Her entrepreneurial movement has touched over 22,000 women, empowering them socio- economically. ‘Gramin Vikas Chetna Sanstha‘ has been applauded globally and Ruma Devi has been awarded the prestegious ‘Nari Shakti Puraskar‘ (2018) and many other acclaimed awards like the ‘Shilpa Abhimani Award‘ by the Govt. of Sri Lanka :Promotion of handicrafts, Honor by Women on Wings, Netherlands, to name a few. Ruma Devi is certainly an epitome of ‘Local to Global Entrepreneurship’. 

Team VOPA. Second from left: Rujuta Seema Mahendra; Third from left: Prafulla Shashikant

Next, I would like to talk about Rutuja Seema Mahendra and Prafulla Shashikant, directors of VOPA ( Vowels of People Association). Rutuja, an engineer by education has worked with ‘Snehalaya‘, Ahmednagar (Snehalaya ‘Home of Love’ and was founded in 1989 to provide support for women, children and members of the LGBT community, who have been affected by HIV and AIDS, trafficking, sexual violence and poverty) and ‘Nirman‘, Gadchiroli (Nirman is a youth initiative started by Dr. Abhay and Dr. Rani Bang to identify, nurture and organize young change makers to tackle societal challenges. During her graduation years, she was selected under the ‘Chief Minister Rural Development Programme’ to worked for the development of Jambhala, a village in Aurangabad division. Her hands on experience of initiating change at the grassroot level by bringing about innovations in schools, reducing school drop out rates, setting up a wrestling training center for boys and girls, imbibing a thought to ban child marriage, etc. is truly inspiring for youngsters. Prafulla Shashikant has also worked with Nirman as a leader for a few years. Collectively, VOPA strikes to help the teachers, schools and NGOs to make them more effective and efficient in their mission. Currently, they have come up with an innovative project titles ‘V school’, an online education platform designed to help students residing in the outskirts and the villages to access free education at their doorsteps amidst the pandemic. This is truly innovative! 

Mr. Kantrao Deshmukh

Now that we are talking about villages, we must not leave Kantrao Kaka (Kantrao Deshmukh) of Zari, Parbhani district who is working to bring about various agricultural, social and structural reforms for his village. He has successfully started agri fruit farming in the drought prone region, implemented the ‘Jalayukta Shivar Yojana‘ and set up a rainwater harvesting project in the Lendi stream. He didn’t restrict his work to agriculture and water harvesting alone. Kantrao Kaka organizes organ donation camps and has also started the ‘Swatantrasainik Panditrao Vision Centre‘. A step closer to social transformation, the village celebrates Bhaubeej for widows and collective marriage ceremonies are organized for the blind and differently abled. His contribution was recognized by the State government as he was awarded the ‘Vasantrao Naik Krushibhushan Puraskar‘, 2012. Today, Zari serves as a role model for many villages in India. 

From left: Mr. Sarang Gosavi and Dr. Anand Nadkarni

I come to Kashmir now, the land known for its natural beauty and gentle people. Although the centre of media attention for protests, attacks and unrest, Sarang Gosavi, a software engineer from Pune is set to change this identity. Inspired by Lt. General Patankar’s speech, he decided to work for the betterment of Kashmir. Since 2001, ‘Aseem Foundation’ is working for the Kashmiri youth through initiatives such as training them in using computers, education for children and youngsters, setting up a software company for them, empowering girls and widows by setting up bakeries selling apple biscuits, etc. Currently, the volunteers of ‘Aseem’ primarily focus on 3 main areas: Education, Entrepreneurship and Awareness. Sarang Sir’s and ‘Aseem’s’ work knows no bounds; It is ‘Aseem’

Mr. Maulik Sisodiya

Lastly, I talk about Maulik Sisodiya, the executive director of ‘Tarun Bharat Sangh‘, an Indian NGO that focuses on spreading simple water saving steps, such as rain water harvesting amongst local communities across the arid regions of Rajasthan state. ‘Tarun Bharat’ has been working for the rejuvenation of traditional rainwater harvesting structures, impacting lives and livelihoods of many through its work. Maulik Sir (the junior water – man) and his team continue to work for the regeneration of small ecosystems around small rivers leading to the revival of macro level hydro-cycles and ecosystems. 

As I sit back and ponder on the inspiring work of each faculty, I realize that all of them are ordinary folks whose contribution to the society makes them extraordinary! Their attitude of ‘looking for an opportunity in adversity’ makes them stand apart as true heroes of the modern times. Their humility and simplicity, regardless of their achievements gives them the strength and fortitude to face adversities with level- headedness. All of them have opted for different pathways-some are set to bring local talent to the globe, some to bring social, structural and educational reforms while some are devoted to save Mother Earth from environmental degradation. They each carry the bag of their unique experiences, hardships and challenges but a common thread that binds them together- is the goal to bring about reformation.  Each of them is an artisan and each of their reform- a patch. When all these patches are cobbled together, they give us a beautiful art- piece. This patchwork speaks hope, perseverance, determination and simplicity that inspires the young and the old to reunite and revive India’s lost glory and title ‘Sone ki Chidiya’.

Sakshi Jadhav

-Sakshi Jadhav,
Pune.

About the Author: Sakshi is a first- year Bachelor of Arts student from Pune. A Yoga enthusiast, she was introduced to VEDH in the month of April, 2020 during one of the VEDH katta programmes. She has since been a beautiful audience, watching many VEDH sessions on AVAHAN- the YouTube channel.

References:

Published by VEDH गुजगोष्टी

Vocational Education Direction and Harmony (VEDH) is a now thirty year old project brought to the audiences by the Institute for Psychological Health, Thane. Brainchild of eminent psychiatrist and activist Dr. Anand Nadkarni, VEDH aims at imparting vocational education among students, teachers and parents. Now hosted by over ten cities across Maharashtra, VEDH is looked at as much more than a means for quality vocational education. Its larger function as a community building project has been beautifully encapsulated in its tagline- 'Jeevan ki Paathshaala'! We will soon be hosting the 100th VEDH!! This blog was started with the objective of celebrating this landmark by facilitating an exchange of ideas and experiences about VEDH, from the pens of audiences, students, parents, teachers and faculty members. Come, be a part of the VEDH experience!

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