People's Basic Needs

Trans People in This Karnataka Village Are Farming Their Way Out of Exploitation

Huli Timmapura is a little-known village in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka, and the perception is that life here is like every other countryside locale in India—uneventful and straightforward.

Truth be told, the village is far from being that and is silently helming the cause of social inclusivity and breaking stigmas surrounding the transgender community.

And how are they doing that? Well, agriculture!

In a country where transgender people continue to face severe discrimination, social ostracisation and lack of job opportunities, the fact that they have formed a group in Huli Timmapura, and are pursuing an activity as mainstream as farming, is rather refreshing.

Leading the group is 35-year-old Anju, a transgender woman. She and her friends, Spoorthi, Prema, Harshitha, Bhagya, Kavya, and Abhishek, decided to break free from years of exploitation and injustice to lead lives on their terms. Anju (first, from right) and her friends. Courtesy: Megha Malnad.

Across a plot of 4 acres, these folks have been cultivating vegetables like potatoes, corn and hyacinth beans for the last four years.

However, eight years ago, Anju’s life was very different. She was in Bengaluru at the time, and like many trans people, she turned to begging and eventually, sex work, to eke out a living.

“The daily exploitation and lack of respect broke Anju. She was fed up and wanted to live a normal and dignified life like everyone else,” says Megha Malnad, a transgender activist whose organisation, Madilu, works for the welfare of the transgender community.

While the organisation is based in the Lingadahalli village, it works across Chikmagalur.

(Note: Anju wasn’t available for the interview; hence Megha offered to speak on her behalf.)

She moved to Chikmagalur city, but things didn’t change—she had to deal with the patronising attitude of people, because of her past. Courtesy: Megha Malnad.

“People refused to trust her when she went around looking for jobs. They couldn’t get past the fact that she was a former sex worker. Hurt by their attitude, Anju decided to head back to her village and move in with her parents,” Megha adds.

It took a little while for her parents to understand why she wanted to take up a respectable job and lead a life where people wouldn’t look down upon her.

Initially reluctant, they finally opened their arms and doors and agreed to support her in every way possible.

Shortly after this, she met Megha and the transgender community in the region, thanks to Madilu. Megha Malnad, who left a managerial post in Mysuru to found Madilu.

“We have been helping the community members utilise government sanctioned loans to kickstart various small scale businesses as well to learn skills such as make-up, fashion designing, and weaving bags. Sadly, the lack of scope for these skills in small villages has been a major obstacle for us. For now, the main source of income for the community is the practice of badahi (where the transgender community is offered money for their blessings at auspicious occasions),” Megha explains.

So how did Anju decide on becoming a farmer?

“A few years back, Anju’s father passed away, leaving behind 2 acres of land to her. Instead of letting it lie unused, she thought of taking up farming and along with some of her friends, reached out to us. We guided them, and they picked up the basics very easily,” Megha recalls.

Support from Madilu has certainly helped Anju and her friends stand on their feet, just the way it has helped many others from the community in Chikmagalur. Courtesy: Megha Malnad. Courtesy: Megha Malnad.

She also explains that the group has faced many ups and downs like every other farmer in the country.

“One time, they had invested close to Rs 1 lakh on potatoes but were only able to make a profit of Rs 30,000. As this amount is equally split between all the members, farming isn’t the most viable livelihood option for them, and they still look towards badahi to meet their needs,” adds Megha.

While the group has surely faced losses in its agrarian journey, the members have soldiered on. In fact, today they farm across a plot of 4 acres, after receiving the additional two acres on lease from her relatives and are doing well according to Megha.

While the villagers of Huli Timmapura initally looked at Anju and her friends with suspicion, things have certainly changed today. Courtesy: Megha Malnad.

“They have become broadminded and inclusive in their attitude towards our community, which was not the case earlier. The change has been gradual, but it is happening. We wish this kind of change also begins in the urban areas as well,” she concludes.

You may also like: Here’s How This MBA Graduate Became One of India’s First Transgender Drivers

By farming their way out of the stigma, Anju and her friends are showing the way forward for not just for the transgender community but also the entire country.

We wish them the best.

(With inputs from Rajath Sharma)

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

Like this story? Or have something to share?
Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com
Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

52-YO TN Woman’s Revolution Gives Women Farmers Millets to Battle Climate Change!

A faint yellow bulb lights up a corner of Prathima’s kitchen. Sitting cross-legged near the stove, the mother of two roasts the last chapati she has rolled out. Today, her children will have to eat just half of their usual meal.

It isn’t a pleasant thought for a mother who along with her husband, had spent several months toiling in a plot of land, sowing seeds, spraying pesticides, and praying, that the rains showed mercy on her small Tamil Nadu village.

Last year was quite difficult for Prathima’s family, and now, they are up to their necks in debt. But what else can a farmer’s family do but strive through it all?

This is not just Prathima’s story. It is the story of hundreds of farmers like her, whose livelihoods depend solely on cash crops like cotton and rice.

These crops imbibe essential resources like water and nutrients but do not guarantee a high price in the market because the supply is, if not more, equal to the demand. Courtesy: Sheelu Francis.

In fact, as of 2018, rice plantations made up 60% of the sown land of the delta districts of Tamil Nadu. Various studies show that those districts where rice cultivation is 40% of the sown land, are either suffering from acute groundwater depletion or nearing this status.

Tamil Nadu, a largely drought-prone state cannot afford to keep going in this manner. With the very evident climate change especially in terms of the distribution of rainfall over the state, farmers are struggling to keep their paddy water-filled.

And while many of them are trying to deal with the changing rain patterns and unpredictable markets, a small revolution against the rice crop is emerging within the women farmers in the state.

Sheelu Francis, a diploma holder in Gender Planning for Development from the University of London, is at the forefront of this revolution.

“The Green Revolution gave subsidies to farmers on seeds and fertilisers as well as an assured price on their crops. And many parts of India, including Tamil Nadu, saw rich and poor farmers converting their dry land into paddy fields. They dug deeper borewells to increase the water capacity of their farms and eventually this led to the water tables going down. The available water has also become salty,” Francis tells The Better India.

She also tells us that this is not where the issue ends. In fact, large scale cultivation of cash crops that have a monopoly over the farmland has also increased the use of fertilisers by nearly a hundred times.

As the fertility of land goes down, the use of chemicals has to be increased, and as this usage increases, the soil becomes more infertile. It is a vicious cycle. Courtesy: Sheelu Francis.

“Where once, a person got about 30-33 bags of grains from one field, it is down to just 15-16 bags today. And if the processes that are followed today are continued, it won’t be long before the number comes down to 4-5 bags,” she adds.

If rice is draining the last drops of water from the soil of Tamil Nadu, it is millet that is feeding the farmer.

“We asked women farmers in the community what seeds they had. Then we learned about millet,” Francis told The Ecologist.

Millet is believed to have been domesticated in India since 1200 BCE and was once a staple crop species. It was only in recent times that the focus shifted to rice.

Francis says that millet is a great climate resilient solution that is uplifting women farmers through nutrition and family income.

You may also like: 1 Cr Trees, 2500 Check Dams: How a Determined 86-YO Transformed 3 Gujarat Districts

“Millet, unlike rice or sugar, is not too vulnerable to temperature or climate. It was a major crop in Tamil Nadu at one point of time, and so, it is used to the natural resources available here. It also needs 1/10th of the water quantity that rice demands, making it a wonderful choice during these hard-hitting drought,” she explains.

And so Francis started the Women’s Collective in the state to advocate the cultivation of millet over rice or sugar. It wasn’t just the family income that she was targeting. Instead, it was the nutrition and diet of the family that she focused on with the women farmers.

“Many rural families are severely affected by malnutrition and diabetes. They rely on large-scale cultivation of a single crop for their income. A small portion of this crop, usually rice, is kept aside for the family. The unstable market does not give the farmer a good price, and the diet consists mainly of rice which has resulted in these problems. Millet is a great solution here too. High in fibre, iron, minerals, and proteins, it fulfils the basic requirement of a family’s diet,” Francis tells TBI.

And so she began her quest, going village to village and speaking to farmers—especially women—about how millet can make their family healthy again. A healthy family, after all, can work better. Source: Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective

“Ponnuchami’s mother and father-in-law used to cultivate millet. When they started receiving a hefty credit for sugar, they adopted new farming techniques and began the cultivation of sugarcane instead. A part of their land was converted into a sugarcane field and another into paddy. As the rates of paddy came down and sugar factories started cheating her of her money, she started realising what a mess she was in. The Women’s Collective encouraged her to restart millet farming, and that’s exactly what she is doing now. As a result, the health and income of her family have seen an upward growth,” she informs us.

Nearly 30,000 farming families, just like Ponnuchami’s, have now gone back to growing the all-natural, nutritional millet.

Another incredible thing about millet is that it grows best alongside other crops. So, with minimal land use, farmers can benefit from the cultivation of two, three or even more crops.

You may also like: Tamil Nadu Organic Farmer Uses Aquatic Fern to Increase Paddy Cultivation by 35%!

One of the main issues we face is that of land. Many poor farmers, especially women, do not have land of their own. Landowners lend them their farms when the soil is nearly infertile. Our natural methods help retrieve this fertility within a couple of years. However, when the land is fertile again, the owners refuse to lend them. The method that we use is called agroecology, and although it works against us after a couple of years, it has proven to be magnificent when while we cultivate millet,” says Francis.

Speaking to The Ecologist, she had said that agroecology is a chemical-free method of growing multiple crops like millet, grains, lentils, beans, and oilseeds together. Creating a bio-diversity of sorts, they utilise the land to the maximum to avail its benefits without causing permanent damage to it.

This revolution of sorts that is fighting climate change to empower rural Tamil Nadu is helping thousands of women and families survive through what can be said as one of the most incessant problems facing the humble farmer.

If climate change is a consequence of human actions, it is only obvious that we go back to the methods that did not damage the environment and personal health of consumers.

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Her Feminism Is His Too: 5 Men Fighting For Women’s Rights in India

It is a common expression to raise daughters like sons, but how often do you hear parents proudly stating that they would raise their sons like daughters?

Gendered behavioural patterns, like ‘boys don’t cry’, or ‘girls are meant to be weak and sensitive’ stem from patriarchy. These distorted notions of weakness have been hurting not just our women, but our men as well.

Owing to this conditioning, a friend once pointed out–“If we all are fighting for equality, then why should it be an exclusive idea only for women? Why can’t men also fight against patriarchy alongside women? Their issues should also be our issues.”

Alas! His thoughts are not in isolation.

India might have been a different place for women, if not for Raja Ram Mohan Roy.

Considered to be one of the first male feminists in the country, his relentless efforts to debunk myths and objectionable traditions, all to uplift oppressed women, continue to find meaning today.

A social reformer who fearlessly and tirelessly crusaded for women’s rights in the 19th century, he helped abolish evils like Sati, child marriage, and polygamy.

One of his prominent feats was the setting up of the Brahmo Samaj in 1828, as a movement to discard meaningless rituals and customs that promoted unfair treatment of any particular section of individuals, especially women. Under the movement’s banner, he even broke the shackles of the caste system and advocated for women’s education and property rights.

Like him, the following Indian men have reiterated women’s issues.

1. Harish Sadani Photo Source: Harish Sadani/Facebook

Established in 1993, Harish’s organisation is one among the first few that focused on preventing violence against women in India.

Reversing the concept of gender bias, his organisation, MAVA, an acronym for Men Against Violence and Abuse, has been empowering men to prevent violence or abuse perpetrated against girls and women.

He aims to shape up a men’s movement involving the youth, to take the responsibility of protecting and changing the gender-biased outlook, discard any sense of superiority, objectification on the men’s part, while also tackling social conditioning that has been breeding the divide between men and women.

2. Arunachalam Muruganantham Photo Source: Arunachalam Muruganantham/Facebook

Popularly known as the Pad Man of India, this name needs no introduction.

It began in 1998, when Arunachalam came face to face with the dark reality of menstruation faced by Indian women, especially in rural areas. He realised that his wife, much like many others around and before her, was using old rags–a highly unhygienic and dangerous practice.

Motivated to ensure her safety during her menstrual cycles, he invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine, which went on to impact thousands of women across the country and spread awareness about the adverse consequences of traditional unhygienic practices on a grassroots level.

His journey, however, was full of scorn and social ostracisation, as he dared to speak openly about an ‘only-women’ taboo. From being boycotted by village folk to being rejected by family, Arunachalam continued his quest to create the perfect sanitary pad.

He even went to the extent of building a fake uterus using a rubber bladder filled with animal blood and attaching it to his hip–all to test the quality of the pads. His relentless efforts have found recognition not only in his village but all across the world.

3. Satchit Puranik Photo Source: Neha Singh/Facebook

Neha Singh and Devina Kapoor began women-specific events in public spaces in 2013. They were inspired by the book Why Loiter by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade.

Intrigued by the concept, Sachit Puranik wanted to join but was reminded of the exclusivity of the events. His solution: What if I dress like a woman?

And that’s when it all began, leading to an event called, ‘Walk Like a Woman’, which portrayed the concept of walking in a woman’s shoes, although this time, it wasn’t just the shoes.

As a result, a brigade of more than 20 cross-dressed men, walked in the streets of Mumbai, from Prithvi theatre to Juhu beach, to sensitise the world towards women’s issues, and debunk the idea that women’s issues only belong to them.

A theatre artist, Satchit aimed to help the world shed generations of violence, both from the shoulders of the oppressed and the oppressors, with a promise of a better and more equal future.

Since then, his play, Loitering, about how patriarchy works against men while raising awareness about women’s issues in public spaces, has been travelling across various cities and countries.

4. Dipesh Tank Photo Source: Dipesh Tank/Facebook

The Nirbhaya rape case awakened the country to the gross reality reeling under the dark shadows at every corner, of every village, town or even city. Dipesh Tank was one among the many shocked Indians. Ashamed to have been a part of a community and gender whose members had perpetrated the monstrosity, he decided to take a strong stand.

Hence in 2013, he went on to establish War Against Railway Rowdies (WARR), an organisation which stands up against all sorts of sexual and emotional violence perpetrated towards women in public spaces.

Raising a clarion call against eve-teasers, the crowd-sourced initiative has since been helping government security forces, like the Railway Protection Force (RPF) of Mumbai, keeping these spaces safe for female commuters.

5. Shakti Vahini

Three brothers, Nishi, Rishi and Ravi Kant grew up in a environment where violence against women was commonplace. While on one hand, they witnessed incidents of domestic violence in the coal belt of West Bengal, on the other hand, their parents would teach them the opposite, to treat women with equal respect.

As these boys grew up into men, they set up an NGO, Shakti Vahini, to protect women and children from abuse and violence.

From working to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS, preventing honour killings, human trafficking, to rescuing young girls and women from brothels, the organisation has been an unflinching support to women in the state.

“The problem is so deeply rooted in the culture that men simply don’t realise that they are committing a crime when they assault a woman. So when we teach them to respect women, raise awareness about the harmful effects of the imbalanced gender ratio and tell them about the benefits of educating a girl child, they begin to understand. Many people have thanked us and said, ‘No one has discussed these issues with us before’,” Rishi Kant told The Better India.

Owing to its incessant efforts, the NGO has expanded to six states across country, and aims for more to come!

Also Read: A New Age Manto: This Heroine’s Goddess Creations Smash Society’s Chains on Women

We hope that the exemplary work of these men gains them the needed attention, and becomes the norm and not a rarity.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

Like this story? Or have something to share?
Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com
Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

Family Stopping You From Working After Marriage? A Lawyer Shares What You Can Do!

As a lawyer, I’ve been approached by many women for advice on balancing life and career after marriage. They ask me several questions, “Is working after marriage illegal? How am I supposed to manage everything alone? Isn’t this inhuman?”

They even tell me, “My career was my passion once, now, it has become a punishment. Is there any law for killing a person’s dreams?”

Regardless of caste or religion, these concerns are felt by women even in an evolving Indian society. Many women born in this era, looking to have a career and also marrying into a family, face this reality.

This concept is commonly known as “Marriage Bar”. Representative image. Source: Unsplash

Often, the husband’s parents have other ways to voice their objections. They tell the newly-married woman that they have enough to live and sustain in luxury, and wouldn’t want her to go out of home in search of work.

This has forced women on the verge of marriage to insist that they continue to work after marriage, should they choose to.

Dear women, there is no law stopping you from working or staying at home, as you please. But laws advocate women as part of the working culture.

The 2013 Companies Act, for instance. It prescribes women as directors of companies, and protects them from any abuse at the workplace.

Despite these laws, if you are forced to stay at home and stopped from pursuing your career, you can file for divorce on the following grounds:

1. Cruelty: Which includes mental cruelty, apart from physical. S 13(1) (a) of Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 1976 mentions this as any conduct that inflicts mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible to live with the partner. It is important to prove “Mental Pain and Suffering”. A female who has a career and is passionate about it can take the help of this clause.

2. Restraining the right of freedom to work

3. The National Commission for Women Act, 1990: The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India, established in January 1992. The Act aims to improve the status of women and their economic empowerment.

In many cases where the woman is “allowed” to work, she is met with the following responses, in words or actions. Representative image. Source: Wikimedia Commons

a) Words: “Oh yes, she can choose to do whatever she wants. She can work too. We don’t need her money.”
Actions: Money taken from her for regular “ghar kharch” and not letting her spend it the way she wants to.

b) Actions: Keeping a check if she is sending money to her parents’ house or using it herself.

c) Words: “You have some responsibilities towards the house. Join me in the kitchen and cook dinner at least. Help maintain the house.”

This causes her to neglect her health, and prioritise the needs of the home and others above herself and her work.

d) Words: “A woman may work, but not at the cost of household and familial responsibilities.”
Statements like these are made with the intent of making the woman feel selfish and inducing guilt.

e) Words: “A woman must ensure that she performs well as a bahu (daughter-in-law), even if she does not perform well professionally.”

This comment attempts to dehumanise the woman and make her believe that her self-worth comes from how much she can give to her family, and not from her accomplishments.

Also Read: Triple Talaq to Reservations: 5 Bills That Will Give Women The Backing They Need

Women experience burnout because of not being able to manage everything. The questions we must ask are these–Did she get married to spend all her time cooking? What about her passion for work? Weren’t the same things managed in the family before she got married? Then why are there pressures and additional responsibilities on her alone after the marriage?

In earlier times, women were not encouraged to work or study, so the focus was on teaching them household chores and arranging their marriage at an early age. Unfortunately, Indian society got used to this scenario.

But now, women are educated. There is a perceptible shift from the old culture to a new, balanced, growth-oriented approach. And as with any sort of change, there is active resistance. But, this needs to go. We need to accept change and alter the way we think.

Men and their families must understand that women can choose to work and pursue careers of their choice and that the duties of the household belong to them as much as to the women. Representative image. Source: Unsplash

As for women, you need to decide for yourself.

You May Also Like: Mumbai Couple Reverses Societal Roles, Proves Marriage Is All About Equal Partnership!

I did. I took a stand and prioritised my career. I attended to my family when I returned from work. Initially, I faced a tough time, but I did not change or neglect my passion. Of course, I had days when I was late in reaching home from work, as a result of which, I faced problems. But I maintained my strength, and explained things to the family. Gradually, they understood and supported me.

Choose the life you want. The law will be there to support you. But the strength lies in you.

Like this story? Or have something to share?
Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com
Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Coming Soon: The ‘SEPoy’ of IIT Madras That Could End Manual Scavenging

Though the Law prohibits manual scavenging, the practice continues unabated. For the most part, those working as manual scavengers remain undocumented, underpaid and exploited. This is a stigmatised occupation that operates from the underbelly of social negligence. Workers often receive no precautionary or safety equipment, resulting in serious health hazards and risk to life that far outweighs the meagre wages they get.

Earlier this week, two contractual workers in Gurugram died upon inhaling toxic fumes while cleaning a septic tank. In this poisonous environment, what one witnesses is semi-solid and semi-fluid human fecal material that makes up about two-thirds of the tank. Diving further, the fecal sludge actually starts solidifying into a clay-like substance and towards the bottom it gets rock-hard. While vacuum pumps can suck out the liquid and semisolid material like they do for sewer lines, what they can’t do is break down the hard sludge.

That’s where manual scavengers come into the picture. In most cases, the entire cleaning is done by them because it’s cheap.

Vacuum pumps are costlier than human alternatives.

“When safai karamcharis (sweepers/cleaners) actually showed us how manual scavengers carve the sludge and hammer it with their hands, we realised how difficult the environment is for them,” says Divanshu Kumar, a final year Mechanical Engineering student and part of IIT-Madras team led by Dr Prabhu Rajagopal, that is developing SEPoy – a Septic Tank Cleaning Robot.

Manual Scavenging. (Source: Facebook/Sushilaben Babusinh Solanki)

Speaking to The Better India (TBI), Kumar argues that this robot has the potential to eradicate manual scavenging altogether. In close consultation with the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), this team of researchers at IIT-Madras are on the cusp of delivering a product that could prevent safai karamcharis (cleaners) from engaging in the debilitating practice of manual scavenging.

“My work includes understanding how the robot goes inside the septic tank and how the cutting mechanism will work out. We are developing a mechanism by which the cutter can enter through small openings and subsequently perform homogenization of the tank contents. Once the hardened sludge is broken down, it can eventually be sucked off using vacuum pumps,” explains Kumar.

The only limitation now is that the robot cannot move in multiple places across the tank.

Divanshu, the IIT Madras Student and Professor Prabhu Rajagopal who are working on this project currently. (Source: Divanshu Kumar)

Naturally, the next step is the development of the robot’s propulsion capabilities. Speaking to various media publications, Professor Rajagopal, an Associate of the Centre for Nondestructive Evaluation at IIT Madras, speaks of the serious challenges involved in propelling this robot. He has been involved with this project for four years.

“If you use a rotary propeller, like in an aircraft, the blades will get congested within this fluid. Hence, we opted for bio-inspired fins,” Professor Prabhu told The Hindu.

Essentially, the robot comprises bio-inspired propulsion whose motion is set to mimic the fin movements of a fish inside water. Prof. Rajagopal is also developing multi-fin standalone propellers in related research that can aid this work.

The initial developments on the SEPoy robot were done by ex-IIT Madras students Kranthi Chaitanya and Tanmay Mothe during their Masters project in collaboration with Prof. Rajagopal. Their work was based on the fundamental understanding of fin-based propulsion developed by Masters students R. Santhosh and D. Srikanth also working in the group.

“Our first task is to break down the sludge and homogenize it. Once we achieve that part following rigorous in-lab tests, the second part of the work will cater to inspection inside the tank as well, where we will use all the propulsion technology. Even though the technology could work, the structure needs to be much more robust because it cannot work in the present form. The septic tank environment is much nastier than sewage pipe, which is essentially dirty water with other material. Sludge in the septic tank is much more solid and viscous,” says Kumar, speaking to TBI.

This is why more work is required on the bio-propulsion. The engineering challenges are very real. For example, the IITM team has understood that it is not ideal to have electronic devices or wires protruding into the septic tank environment, in order to avoid the risk of explosion because of inflammable gases present.

“After rigorous in-lab testing, we are on the cusp of field testing. If all goes according to plan, this product could be ready for the market in about three to six months, probably costing somewhere between the range of Rs 10-30 lakh. However, for the moment it does seem too soon to comment on the price,” says Kumar.

“One of the biggest challenges that has stymied the development of this technology is the very limited data on human faeces sludge. It is a very complex material, and there can be a large variation in viscosity, shear strain response etc for such media. The route we have chosen is to do a lab study on materials that could simulate sludge behaviour. We are testing it in an environment that simulates conditions in a septic tank but instead of human faeces, we will use some other synthetic material,” informs Kumar.

The prototype is almost already.

Earlier version of SEPoy which was developed for propulsion & cleaning. (Source: Divanshu)

“If we directly deploy the prototype in a real septic tank, there are high chances of failure. The stage we are in right now is to simulate a septic tank as much as possible in the laboratory, and to do that is a challenge,” he adds.

Unless you truly understand the material you have to cut, it’s hard to develop strength, shear endurance, and other facets of the robot. That is why this team at IIT-Madras has extensively consulted with members of the SKA.

“Since we can’t do any direct testing in the lab, whatever inputs we are getting about the environment, come from the SKA. They were the first ones to tell us that the sludge is very hard in the tank. Unfortunately, in-depth understanding of the septic tank and sludge behaviour is very limited in the scientific sphere,” says another researcher.

Also Read: How This Delhi DC’s Initiative Is Gifting a New Life To Manual Scavengers!

Another challenge is the variation in the size of the septic tanks. There is no set standard. Thus, these engineers really have to come up with a dynamic design that could address at least a major part of the septic tanks being developed in the country. This is the knowledge researchers also received from the SKA.

“Our effort is to ensure that these safai karamcharis can operate these machines and not enter septic tanks. Another fundamental aspect that I’m working on to reduce the complexity of using this machine as much as possible,” says Kumar.

If we want to save lives, these robots could one day be the way forward.

IIT Madras student Divanshu Kumar standing with SEPoy.

‘While the cleaning and maintenance of septic tanks and sewer lines is a serious social problem, a mechanisation of this process also offers serious engineering and technological challenges. We have taken one route to this through innovations in the type of propulsion and homogenisation, which we hope together with modular design will lead to a simple and cost-effective solution. Our work has reached the prototype stage and we are set to perform laboratory trials. The road from the laboratory to field deployment is long and tough, often dubbed ‘the valley of death’ – but we hope to cross this chasm and take this to the field in the coming year, thanks to the efforts by dedicated students such as Divanshu and others’,” says Professor Rajagopal, speaking to TBI.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

AP Man Toils For 14 Years to Build Innovation That Helps Weavers Save Time & Money!

Every beautiful motif or pattern that you come across in a silk saree is the result of thousands of punch cards that are laced together to work in tangent with a loom.

Known as the Jacquard Machine, this mechanism was invented sometime during the start of the nineteenth century with the goal to help weavers save time and bring some respite to the backbreaking hard work that went behind every handwoven work.

While the rest of the world has far progressed from this aged way of manufacturing textiles, many weaving communities in India continue to use the punch card-based Jacquard Machine to design silk sarees, where every single card is manually created and controlled by the weavers.

While electric components have made way into this apparatus, the dependence on the punch-card system continues to prevail.

Not only is the process quite time consuming—taking easily between 15 days to a month for every single design, what makes the painstaking efforts of the weavers quite short-lived is the life of these cards that last only up to two-three years. The outdated punch cards. Courtesy: Sivakumar Modha.

All the efforts and hardships that the weavers face greatly affected Sivakumar Modha, a native of Hindupur town in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in 2000, the young man was preparing for MCA entrance, when an impromptu visit to the weaving village of Modha near his hometown would forever change the course of his life.

“I was visiting a friend of mine, when I first saw a loom. Until then, I never had the opportunity to observe one this close and my curiosity sparked. I understood how the punch cards played a central role in the generation of designs. For instance, the more intricate a pattern got, the more number of punch cards it would require to create it. Which meant, a weaver would have to spend even more time on the same work,” says Sivakumar, in conversation to The Better India (TBI).

And it wasn’t even a profitable balance of efforts with returns. Costing about Rs 4 for every card, the entire cost of simplest of designs would easily amount up to Rs 20,000 ( a card set for a saree), while barely surviving for three years.

“Even more heartbreaking was the fact that about 20 per cent of the weaving communities across the country were still working on such kind of looms. While production might be meeting the demand, it came at the cost of the weavers, and seeing their struggle made me want to do something that would alleviate their hardships,” he recalls.

Leaving behind the dreams and ambitions that his family had for their son, Sivakumar decided to trudge down the revolutionary path. Sivakumar Modha.

He wanted to figure out a way in which technology could be incorporated in the weaving process that would reduce the manual work while delivering the same result.

However, when Sivakumar discussed his plans with his family, they were opposed to the idea and tried dissuading him from flinging away a lucrative career path. In fact, his father was so riled up with his decision that he refused to talk to him. But Sivakumar had made up his mind, and nothing was going to stop him—not even family opposition.

He set out to research on various weaving communities that still worked with the punch-card mechanism to understand their struggles. During this time, he also observed how the electronic components of the Jacquard Machine would get damaged once every few months which was financially straining.

“So I’d to figure out a mechanism that would rule out this snag from happening over and over again,” Sivakumar explains.

Sadly, his father passed away in 2004, which Sivakumar believes amounted from the tension and anxiety of his son’s wayward choices. This affected him deeply and he left his hometown to move to Hyderabad in 2006. Courtesy: Sivakumar. Courtesy: Sivakumar.

“A lot of my friends and acquaintances discouraged me, but I didn’t give up. To this date, my family members have no idea about my whereabouts, but I still keep track of their well-being,” he sadly adds.

Sivakumar spent the next 14 years researching and developing an electronic Jacquard Machine that would replace the conventional punch-card mechanism to an image-based system incorporated to the loom through a pen drive!

He christened the device Modha Device.

Even though it is still a prototype, two weaving communities—one based in Hyderabad and another one in a village in Tamil Nadu are using his invention. Courtesy: Sivakumar. Courtesy: Sivakumar. Courtesy: Sivakumar.

“Any design can be woven into a fabric using Modha Device, which is battery-operated. A pendrive with image files needs to be connected to the machine, which is already connected to the loom. Replacing the punch-card mechanism reduces roughly about 90 per cent of the time that a weaver would otherwise spend designing the cards,” explains Sivakumar.

A family that refuses to speak to him or friends who refused to back him in his endeavours aren’t the only sacrifices that Sivakumar has made in this pursuit. When he met the love of his life 12 years back, they decided to get married but not have any kids until his invention becomes available in the market.

“My wife has been my backbone all along and never gave up on me. It is her unwavering belief in me that has kept me going,” he proudly adds.

One interesting aspect behind Sivakumar’s years of work behind making Modha Device a reality is how he finally managed to eliminate the breaking down of electronic components caused by mechanical force diversion in the Jacquard Machine. Sivakumar with his innovation. Courtesy: Sivakumar. His first creation with his parents in the frame. Courtesy: Sivakumar. Courtesy: Sivakumar. Courtesy: Sivakumar.

It easily takes over a month for a weaver to create a complicated design like the following while costing anywhere between Rs 80,000-95,000 for the final product. “But with Modha Device incorporated to a loom, the same design can easily be created within 5-10 minutes with zero time invested for design creation,” says Sivakumar.

Furthermore, because punch cards are made of card board (made from trees), its elimination in Modha Device makes it an eco-friendly as well sustainable innovation.

Courtesy: Sivakumar. Courtesy: Sivakumar.

“It took me over a decade, but I did develop a solution that ruled out this anomaly and increased the longevity of the electronic component. I’ve applied for a patent for this technology,” he adds.

Sivakumar shares with us that the financial demands of developing this device was met through angel donors from software industry, who wished to remain anonymous. Overall, he has spent about Rs 50 lakhs, including both his own funds and donor investments.

At present, he is hoping for investors, whose contribution would help him take Modha Device to the market. “My estimate is Rs 2 crores and I really hope someone comes on board to make this a reality. Lives of weavers will significantly improve, if my innovation reaches them all. In fact, I’m also in talks with both central and state government authorities, who have promised to offer 50 per cent subsidy to weavers once my machine goes commercial. They can’t help me before that happens,” shares Sivakumar.

Costing between Rs 40,000-42,000, Sivakumar hopes to sell the product at a price of Rs 50,000—only adding a small margin for his sustenance. Courtesy: Sivakumar. Courtesy: Sivakumar. With Padma Shri Awardee Chintakindi Mallesham. Courtesy: Sivakumar.

“My decision to take this path or develop this device was never triggered with lucrative intentions in mind, but for the betterment of the weavers. Which is precisely why, when a Kolkata-based weavers firm offered to buy out my invention for Rs 20 crores, I refused the offer downright,” he adds.

Despite having created such a revolutionary device, Sivakumar isn’t happy as it hasn’t yet reached those who need it the most. “Whenever Modha Device becomes a commercial entity, my goal is to make it accessible to between 500 and 1,000 weavers in a month and possibly in five years, to one lakh weavers across the country,” he says.

On a parting note, Sivakumar shares with us that when Modha Device will finally hit the market and reach every weaver as he had envisioned, he will attribute the success with gratitude and humble apology to two people. “My mother and my wife—for they have suffered a lot because of my decisions, and I believe that without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to create this device even in 20 years,” he concludes.

You may also like: How a Young Woman From Rural Odisha Used Technology to Revolutionise Weaving in Her Community

Driven by such a great cause that would benefit scores of weavers, we really hope that Sivakumar finds the aid and assistance he needs.

If you wish to help him in this pursuit, you can reach out to him at 9866001678 & 7095810510 as well as mail him at president@pallesrujana.org or sivakumar.modha@gmail.com.

(With inputs from Anjani Samyukta)

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

Like this story? Or have something to share?
Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com
Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

1 Cr Trees, 2500 Check Dams: How a Determined 86-YO Transformed 3 Gujarat Districts

Premji Patel longed for his hometown in Gujarat. Though a trader in Mumbai, he was unimpressed by the skyscrapers, the fast life and the ambitious people scurrying around to make a name for themselves. The city life wasn’t exactly his cup of tea.

Often, it takes a strong dose of inspiration to push us to make an important life decision. For Patel, it was a story about an African shepherd. The shepherd, he read, had accidentally planted seeds along his regular path and ended up converting barren land into a lush forest! This story, from a distant land, was instrumental in changing the course of Patel’s life. From a trader in the busy city of Mumbai, Patel would go on to earn national recognition for transforming the districts of Rajkot, Gondal, and Mangrol of Gujarat into a dense forest.

Patel had received the book with the story emphasising the amazing efforts of a shepherd as a gift from his son in 1967. On his next trip home, in Rajkot, he started asking the senior citizens about flora and fauna in his hometown. It was eye-opening for him to know that the land that had lain barren for all his life was once teeming with green life—a forest ranging from Gir to Dwarka for a distance of about 285 km!

The journey toward a lush forest begins with a seed: Courtesy: Vruksha Prem Seva Trust.

Bapuji did not remember the small book of a few pages, but he remembered the lesson and started collecting seeds and made a consortium of seed collectors and suppliers across India,” says Yashodhar Dixit, referring to 86-year-old Patel. By the end of the year 2010, Patel had sprinkled 550 tons of seeds of various varieties (Local) and covered nearly the entire districts of Rajkot, Gondal, and Mangrol of Gujarat state.

“Through several projects, he planted nearly one crore trees and his work had been acclaimed by Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam,” Yashodhar informs, The Better India.

Although Patel’s achievements are massive, he began with a very simple idea. Every village has a temple that its devotees frequent. He started planting trees around the temples, a place with a relatively low risk of people cutting them. He had hired a person to buy seeds and plant them. The process took time, but it was an experiment worth waiting for.

As soon as Patel realised that his efforts are bearing fruit, he planned the next step. Courtesy: Vruksha Prem Seva Trust.

It wasn’t long before he formed a network of seed collectors, buyers, and sellers, knowing all too well that even if a fraction of his seeds survived and grew into trees, a considerable amount of his land would turn green again.

The Vruksha Prem Seva Trust (VPST), which Patel started in 1968, records that he collected 550 tons of seeds of trees like Prosopis Julliflora and local varieties like aawal, grass seeds, karanj, neem, palash, etc. For three decades, Patel dedicated all his efforts to planting and taking care of the trees.

Patel’s vision, however, towered above the gigantic trees that he had spent a large portion of his time fostering. The aim was not just to increase the green cover over Gujarat’s Saurashtra and Rajkot. Instead, it was to solve or at least reduce the water woes of the local farming communities.

“Along with trees we started well-recharge projects, and for the same, cement, and pipes were supplied to farmers to bring water from wells to the farms. This was done in the 1980s, and there was no looking back from here. The Gujarat government started check dam program in consultation with Vruksha Prem, and till date, we have constructed more than 2,500 check dams across Saurashtra region,” Dixit, a trustee of VPST says.

Making Rajkot drought free: Courtesy: Vruksha Prem Seva Trust.

Few can understand the value of water more than a farmer. One month of monsoon too early or too late spells doom for thousands of farmers who have spent their entire year caring for the crop. Scanty or excessive rainfall means the farmer has nothing but his savings to survive on for the following year. And as rains diminish year after year, so do the financial condition of the poor farmer.

With a parched land, a sky devoid of clouds and crops dying of thirst, many farmers find no other solution but to resort to extreme, fatal ways out.

Noting how urgently the farmers needed someone to provide water to cultivate their crops, Patel began his crusade.

You may also like: This 25-YO Engineer is Helping Villagers in MP Grow Forests in Their Backyards!

Back in the 1970s, Patel had brought about 18,000 hectares of land in 54 villages under a watershed development programme to help the farmers secure their water needs through natural, non-invasive and inexpensive ways.

According to the Central Ground Water Board of India (CGWB), “These projects involved the construction of 21,600 dams covering 1,500 ha land benefitting around 5,500 families. Before this, the trust had undertaken the activity of well recharging in six districts of Saurashtra wherein 50,000 feet lengths of cement pipes were distributed among the villagers.”

What VPST has achieved so far: Courtesy: Vruksha Prem Seva Trust.
  • 6,250 hectares of land so far provided with water to ease farmers woes.
  • As a result, 2,100 families were directly benefited.
  • 30,000 trees were planted around the dam areas to balance the ecology of the region.
  • Overall, these initiatives have provided a secure income to the families and in most cases, even increased their annual income.
  • Tells Dixit, “The Gujarat government has also invited various NGOs for Roof Top Rainwater Harvesting projects, and VPST is awarded the highest number of houses for being given this facility. Till date, we have completed 4600 rooftop rainwater harvesting projects giving benefits to nearly 20000 people directly.”

You may also like: India’s First REDD+ Project: Meghalaya Tribes Are Reviving 27k+ Hectares of Forests

The Better India tried to get in touch with Patel but he was unavailable for a talk due to health reasons. But his work speaks for him- the work that has him invested for over three decades now.

Back in 2012, he had told The Telegraph, “For 25 years, I have made planting trees a mission of my life. When I die, no wood should be used for my agni sanskar. I cannot see the trees which I planted being chopped for my funeral.”

(Edited By Saiqua Sultan)

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Private School in Noida Opens Door to Poor Kids, Educates Them After School Hours!

With dreams in her eyes and confidence in her persona, 13-year-old Roshni excitedly marches towards Millennium School in Noida. Although it has been just four days in her new school, she is already listing the professions she wants to pursue when she grows up.

While every child in this private school has aspirations of making it big, Roshni’s journey is a little different.

Born in an economically backward family, Roshni lives in a basti in Noida’s Sector 16. Her father is unemployed, and her mother is the sole bread earner, who barely manages to feed the family of six.

In a situation like this, where even basic amenities are a luxury, education was never a priority for Roshni. Until now.

Roshni is one of the 80 underprivileged children chosen to attend a private school and receive quality education under the ‘Open Door’ project.

Started by Shantanu Prakash, founder of Educomp Solutions Limited and The Millennium Schools, the initiative aims to provide underprivileged kids with the same teaching standards, facilities and quality of education provided in private schools.

Speaking exclusively to The Better India, Shantanu, an alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad, says,

I have been a part of the education industry since the last 30 years. From all my experience, I strongly feel that private schools must shoulder the responsibility of making education a fundamental right. We cannot constantly blame the government. So, we have taken charge to change the narrative of education in India. The Open Door Project is an institutional response by The Millennium Schools to the problem of children outside the education net.

Banking on the existing private education infrastructure, The Millennium Schools, a national chain of K12 schools, are now providing education to children from slums and poor economic backgrounds after school hours.

We are now using our assets and opening our doors to underprivileged children. The faculty of our schools and people from different strata of society will conduct the kids on a purely volunteering basis using the schools’ resources, adds Shantanu.

Launched on April 12 (World Street Children’s Day), the project is currently teaching 80 children from slums and red-light areas in the city.

The goal is to make 9,000 children from classes 3-8 a part of the initiative in the 55 Millennium Schools across the country. The Open Door Project aims to educate underprivileged kids in private schools

Vijay Laxmi, Principal of Prayas Vidyalaya (run under Open Door Project at The Millennium School, Noida, speaks about the impact of the project. She tells The Better India, “Our volunteer teachers are teaching these students with great passion and commitment. Having good infrastructure makes a big difference. These children are a bit in awe when they first come in, but like all children, they soon adapt. With time, we see no difference between their learning abilities and those who attend the normal school.”

According to the 2011 census, 8.4 crore children in India do not attend school. This is nearly 20 per cent of the age group covered under the Right to Education Act, according to a report in The Times of India. Of the ‘Out of School’ children, 19 per cent are forced to work.

“I believe that a large-scale campaign that enjoys the collective efforts of private schools can help mitigate the crisis of out-of-school kids in India. It is, therefore, a time to seek institutional participation to contribute to this enormous and yet most critical task—of ensuring that there is no child left without an education,” says Shantanu.

Partnering with NGOs like Kat Katha (that works with children of sex workers) and Salaam Baalak Trust (which provides support for street and working children), Shantanu’s team will approach other private schools to implement the Open Door Project. 80 underprivileged kids are currently studying in The Millennium School in Noida

There are close to 3,000 private schools across the country. If each institution agrees to implement a project like this that imparts education to at least 200 children, then the issue of ‘out-of-school’ kids can be resolved, he concludes.

Also Read: 30-YO Ex-World Bank Consultant Invents Education App, Helps 4000+ Kids in Odisha

To know more about the initiative, visit the website.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

Like this story? Or have something to share?
Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com
Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Deliciously Organic: How a Vegan Chocolate Is Empowering Local Women in Tamil Nadu!

Mahalaxmi sits with three other women sorting though the cocoa beans spread before them. Their brows are furrowed in concentration. A bean is chucked into the bin; too small. The other meets the same fate; too flat, a few others—broken. All these imperfect beans are eliminated from the small heap till the women are left with the richest sample at hand.

This sample of 300-odd cocoa beans will determine whether the gunny bags they fill adhere to the quality standards set by Mason & Co—a vegan, organic chocolate company in Tamil Nadu.

Started in 2014, Mason & Co is a tad different from most chocolatiers in India. Apart from the guarantee of their product being organic and vegan, the company sources all the raw materials from local farmers and empowers local women through employment.

For the love of chocolate: Photo credits: Natasha Mulhall/ Mason & Co.

Fabien Bontems came to India from France about 22 years ago with his mother. Though Fabien’s mother was on a quest for spiritual well-being, he found a home in the State of Tamil Nadu. Here, he trained to become a sound engineer, but five years ago, his career took a new turn when Jane Mason visited India.

Jane Mason is a lawyer and raw food chef from Australia who passionately practices Yoga. This love for yoga decided her visit to India—Auroville, specifically, to pursue her passion further. Of the many cultural differences that she acquainted herself with here, she realised that she had to give up on her love for chocolate. Jane is a vegan and most chocolate products in India had dairy.

“I also found that the preservatives used marred the original taste of the chocolate; and if you’re used to good artisanal chocolate, you can’t eat anything else,” she told The Hindu.

Being a raw food chef, she started experimenting with cacao and made her own chocolate. When her friends tasted her fine home-made chocolate, they encouraged her to go commercial. That’s when Jane partnered with Fabien and started working around with the available raw materials, and flavours to finally establish their unique brand, Mason & Co.

“It took us about two years with the experimentation. We had to be very careful with the flavours and the texture. Jane and I met in India itself and knew each other before we started the company. Her knowledge of the culinary arts and my technical knowledge came together in this enterprise,” Fabien tells The Better India.

One thing was clear for the duo. The enterprise had to be directed at empowering the locals and ensure that everything—from the raw materials to the end product—benefitted Indians.

Local strength whipped into decadent chocolate: Photo credits: Natasha Mulhall/ Mason & Co.

One of the very first aims of Mason & Co was to tie up with farmers who would guarantee organic cocoa beans to chocolate connoisseurs. “They’re used to cultivating for the mass production market, where it’s quantity over quality. A lot of farmers refused to work with us as they felt it was too much work to grow the beans organically with the focus being on the quality of each bean. Currently, we work with farmers; visiting their farms often and teaching them methods, telling them what we didn’t like about the taste of a certain batch and what they could do to fix it,” Jane tells The Hindu.

TBI also got in touch with Mansi Reddy who handles the marketing and partnerships of the company. Mansi told us that currently, they work with five farmers in the States of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, who grow organic, chemical-free cocoa beans on a commercial level.

You can buy chocolate products by Mason & Co at The Better India Shop, here.

“”We source our beans directly from farmers, removing the need for a middle man. We consult with them in their harvest, processing, and fermentation to create better quality beans. We have no exclusivity with our farmers and they are free to sell their beans to anyone at a fair price,” she tells TBI.

A fair price is fixed between the farmers and the company with one vital clause—no compromise on the quality or authenticity of the produce. Only then will the yield be considered as sold. Each of the farmers that they have partnered with has an Organic-produce Certificate guaranteeing that what you get in your packet is 100 per cent chemical-free.

Bean to bar: Photo credits: Natasha Mulhall/ Mason & Co.

“One feature about Mason & Co that I find remarkable is that we employ only local women in the organisation on every level; from segregation of the sample beans to making the end product. We do not rely entirely on machinery and many of our processes are done by hand. We have 14 women in the organisation and although we don’t like to bank on it, the entire company is women-run except for Fabien!” Mansi says.

Every part of the chocolate-making process is overseen on a very personal level to ensure the customer gets exactly what they are paying for. All processes like the carefully-selected farmers as honest and reliable sources of organic cocoa beans, the work of the local women who make the chocolate bars, drinking chocolate and cacao nibs, are monitored carefully.

You can buy chocolate products by Mason & Co at The Better India Shop, here.

“You will also notice that we don’t use any preservatives, which is basically the ideology of Mason & Co. In fact, we use minimal ingredients. Organic cacao and organic sugar are the only primary ingredients and of course, the flavours of the specific product. The organic, vegan principles have limited our flavour variety but it is worth it,” Mansi says.

“Another interesting aspect of Mason & Co is their ‘single origin’ method. This means that every cacao bean in a bar of chocolate comes from the same region and even the same farm, which is called ‘Single Estate.’ Cacao beans grown in one region or farm will have ‘terroir’ which means that they will develop flavours specific to the climate, farming, and processing. By using single origin beans we ensure purity in flavour dedicated to a specific region,” says their website.

A unique initiative that fills the niche for vegan, purely organic chocolate products in India, ‘Mason & Co has already found a market in over 100 stores in India. But you need not search for them elsewhere. You can purchase their products at The Better India Shop. Follow the link here.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Meet the Mumbai Cop Who Went Beyond Duty to Help a Kashmiri Man Get His PF Money

Growing up, it was common for most children, including myself, to be terrified of police officials.

Often, when I threw a tantrum to not eat veggies or stomped my foot or sat down on the road creating a ruckus, my mother would tell me, “Will you stop? Police ko bulau? (Should I call the police to arrest you?)”

While it would be unfair to say that these are the only incidents that influence our perceptions of khaki-clad men and women, popular culture doesn’t do much to change that perception either.

Where one Dabangg cop, clearly against the rest of the system saves the world as other officials are showcased to be bribe-taking, common-man harassing villains.

“That is a perception that needs to change. We are bound by law and our conscience to help people in distress. Often, the general public’s opinion of us is based on hearsay,” senior inspector of Charkop Police Station, Hemant Sawant, tells The Better India. He has been serving in the force for more than 30 years.

The senior cop made headlines recently after he went out of his way to help a Kashmiri man, Shoukat Ali, get his provident fund (PF) which was stuck since March 2019. Senior Inspector Hemant Sawant.

Ali worked for a private company in Kashmir in 2013, the headquarters of which are located at Charkop in Kandivali, Mumbai. Due to lack of financial backing, he could not visit the firm’s head office or the PF office to claim his PF money.

This was at a time when he needed the money desperately, for his daughter’s admission fee.

Though he tried to make several calls to officials at the PF office to clear the amount of Rs 52,000, his efforts went in vain. He was asked to come down to the office, which he couldn’t. Lack of a proper internet connection and shutdown of services in the valley added to his woes. So he couldn’t even go about filling the online form either.

Finding no recourse, the man went on the Mumbai Police website and found the closest police station, which happened to be Charkop.

Without further ado, he dialled Inspector Sawant’s number and put forth his grievances.

“He apologised to me saying, ‘I know this is not the work of the police, but I am in urgent need and I have no one to help me. Please help me, Sir.’ I could feel his helplessness, so I decided to help him out,” Sawant adds.

He jotted Ali’s EPF number and also sent a constable to the PF office for a few other details. He then visited the office and spoke to the concerned officials about clearing Ali’s amount.

The PF officials extended full support and also explained the technical reasons behind the delay in releasing the amount. They added that Ali would have to fill up a form and send it across. Sawant took the printed form and couriered it to Ali in Kashmir. Once the man filled the details and sent it back, Sawant submitted it to the PF office.

“The cheque was released and he (Ali) was very appreciative of my help. He did not expect that the police would help him. But I am glad I was able to change that.”

Ali added how it moved him that the officer went out of his way to help him, a gesture which helped him save close to Rs 10,000 on the trip.

Speaking to the Hindustan Times, he said, “Although I’ve never met Sawant Sir, he went out of his way to help me. I’m grateful to Mumbai Police.”

Sawant was lauded for his gesture by Sanjay Barve, Commissioner of Police, Mumbai; Rajesh Pradhan, Additional Commissioner of Police, North Region; and Sangramsinh Nishandar, Deputy Commissioner of Police.

You May Also Like: Exclusive: Meet the Hero MP Cop Who Ran 1.5 Km With Bleeding Man On His Shoulder

He bids adieu with a message for fellow officials.

“If a person walks into the police station, understand that he/she is in distress. No one expects you to go out of your way to help them. But within the framework of the law and your duty, make that effort to address their issues. And do it honestly with a clear conscience. You will have to help them now or later, then why drag the process by doing it half-heartedly? Help the common man happily. They are our utmost priority.”

The man, with thirty years of experience, gives officials a tip, saying, “When a common man walks into my police station and asks me for help, I put myself in their shoes and think, ‘How do I expect the police to help me?’ And that’s how I then go about addressing their concern. Empathy is important.”

To the general public, he says, “Every action has a reaction. When you approach the police arrogantly, you forget that they too are human beings and can react the same way. But when you approach them positively, you will get the assistance you need.”

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

Like this story? Or have something to share?
Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com
Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.