There may be just a few days left for the Yatra to get over but the Yatris seem unstoppable. TANYA THOMAS
As the Tata Jagriti Yatra enters its final leg, the yatris on board are gearing up with ideas for socio-economic enterprise. While a few are only yet germinating, some are already in full swing. Others seem caught in limbo for a while. Here are a few of the minds whirring as the train chugs on.
Swapnil Barai (24) Regional Manager, AOFG India
With prior experience in the infamous farming regions of Vidarbha, Swapnil is now attempting to put in place a farmer-oriented sustainable model for organic agriculture where the tiller is both owner and marketer. He's found his entrepreneurial streak in red gram – organic farming and direct retailing. The firebrand social work graduate's biggest test though will be to remain focused and develop a transparent and economically viable set up for farmers and his third area of interest, the de-notified tribes of India.
Barsa (20) Std. XII
This petite Bihar girl and Ivy League aspirant lives and breathes environment conservation. As British Council's Climate Champion, Barsa's gap year after school was devoted to her pet project WAH! (We Aim High), a students organisation now with 16 international branches. Her latest venture is ‘ Green Dream, Green Bihar for Greener India' in alliance with the State's Government Education Project. But for all her success, Barsa remains amazingly level-headed. She's unfazed by the several run-ins with school principals reluctant to implement the simple eco-friendly improvements proposed in Green Bihar. Funding is not the issue, she says, passion is.
Amit Kataria (22) Founder, Rose Computer Academy
Amit isn't your regular businessman. But then again, his circumstances aren't typical either. Polio crippled his body, but that was no dampener to ambition. After graduating from Delhi University, Amit returned to his village of Choma in Haryana to spread basic computer literacy in the metro's backyard. He started two years ago on a loan and good wishes. Today, Rose Academy is a two-storey building with 12 computers and 14 faculty members. The prize money he wins in contests like the Youngest Entrepreneur Award go to updating infrastructure. The feisty young man is now all gung-ho on expansion and making Rose a brand name in computer education.
Bhumika Saini (21) Metallurgical Engineering student, NIT Jaipur
Mondialgo, the international young engineers contest, is good news for India. It's 10,000 € second prize for an Indo-German team of engineers may just solve a remote Rajasthani village's sanitation woes. Team in tow, Bhumika devised a three-pronged waste management approach for the Baghawas township. The project proposal is an inter-connected eco-sanitation system with minimal water usage (keeping in mind that it's desert land), a natural biogas mechanism for domestic cooking needs and an improvised solar chimney fitted in the kitchen, intended to reduce incidence of sore eyes. They've kept all three anti-corrosive and low-cost. The village itself will get the installments for free.
Ramalakshmi (25 ) Senior Applications Engineer, Oracle
When this techie learned that a nearby slum had the lowest literacy rate in Bangalore, she began to moonlight as an English teacher for a self-initiated night school. But how far can you get when seventh grade students with Wordsworth in the syllabus can't spell ‘apple' right? Ramalakshmi then settled for plays as a medium to teach children English, Again, Cinderella and fairy godmothers don't click with children struggling for a meal a day. So she's self-authored scripts which children can practise, learn from and also have fun with. Her current dilemma though is finding writers who can tailor scripts for the children to perform and for dedicated volunteers who'll carry on the work even after she stops.
Kushal Agrawal (21) and Gaurav Saxena (22), Electronics Engineering students, VIT, Pune
This duo sure has something up its sleeve. A news story on the country's rising fiscal deficit from unrestrained infrastructure spending inspired them to re-engineer the government's tendering process. To make the system fool-proof, they have designed an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software which integrates all government processes and smartly side-steps cost escalation and inordinate delays. Pleased with the project proposal, the Chattisgarh government has chosen it over a Microsoft solution for the same issue. Once the prototype and patenting processes are completed, the two hope to gain the government's final approval. They admit they are daunted by the massiveness of the project and their own inexperience. But if the idea cuts out all the money laundering in the system, we'll be waiting for it to roll out.