On the Last month of the last decade, i.e. in December 2010, i had an opportunity to participate in an "Environment Awareness Program" at an Ashram in Magadi taluk. Magadi Taluk is one of the backward taluks in Ramnagara District in Southern Karnataka. In spite of its proximity to Bangalore, Magadi is a backward region. Land is little rocky and not very fertile. Large parts of Magadi depend on the Tipgonahalli reservoir built by Bharatha Rathna Sir M.Visveswaraya. Magadi Suffers from poor literacy and pathetic Sanitation.
Though i was invited to give a talk, it was more a learning experience for me. My audience were about 100 children of class 10 from the Dhudupanahalli Village. They were from the Kannada medium government high School. Most of them were children of small and marginal farmers. None of them had any idea about piped water to their homes. None of them had any great idea about underground sewerage system.
I am quite used to giving talks in Kannada. So it was not a great thing for me to talk at length for almost 2 hours on water, health and sanitation. There were some uncomfortable questions at the end of the talk but i could negotiate.
But the most important part of the program was meeting with Sandeep. Son of a small farmer from Dhudupanahalli Village, Sandeep is a real hero according to me.
People like me are mere "Talkers" or at best i could describe myself as made up of "Academic Non Sense". I speak more and do less or almost nothing. But Sandeep is not like me.
Till October 2010, Going late to school was almost a routine for Sandeep. On one fateful day in October he was punished for going late to School. On inquiry into his problem, it was found out that he had to walk almost 4 kms a day to fetch clean water for his family.
The punishment was a blessing in disguise. Sometime in October 2010, Sandeep decided to solve his problem by himself. On his way to school, he learnt that a program was going on somewhere close by ;where local politicians and bureaucrats were present. He went in there and learnt that the GP president was presiding over. Without caring for anyone there, he made a public remark that the local politicians were looting the water meant for his village. He publicly accused the local politicians of theft and made a representation to the ZP CEO that the water from the tube well in front of his house was transported elsewhere and that he and his villagers were put to hardship.
This was reported in the popular Kannada Daily Newspaper "Vijay Karnataka" the next day. The Authorities were forced to act the very next day. Immediately a New Tube well was sunk and now clean water is just a 4 minutes walk for this young hero Sandeep.
Surely we have a lots to learn here. Particularly people like me who enjoy criticizing the system over the dining table have to learn from Sandeep. I regularly get into discussions and very heated debates while on long drives, or at restaurants or at coffee shops on topics of corruption, inflation, bad system etc etc. We talk to each other and debate pointlessly and think it is "Sexy" to criticize the system (this is true with some super academicians at conferences in five star hotels debating the system eating cashew nuts) . While i agree that one has to raise his/her voice, but its most important to rise the voice at the right time and at the right place to the right people. Arguing or debating about the system over a cup of coffee in the local coffee shop is utter useless. We must have the courage to shout at the right place.
(Few Pictures of the workshop here)
(Pictures of a similar workshop at a school near Nelmangala here )