Srikanth BollaBorn blind and poor, Srikanth Bolla was castigated upon by relatives and neighbors, and his parents were advised to smother the baby immediately after birth to get rid of a lifelong "burden". This supposed burden went on to study in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and then returned to India to become the founder and CEO of a 50-crore worth company - Bollant Industries, providing employment to differently abled people like him.
Simon OraonA Noble Environmentalist of a Lifetime Devotion
A story that inspires...
People react in their various idiosyncratic ways in the face of adversity. Few alter their course in order to avoid the ordeal, few languish in despondency, while one or two emerge as exceptions - who work toward eradicating the adversity. Adversity that befalls a place due to natural causes requires drastic measures to counter their ill-effects. And, this drastic measure might tantamount to a devotion of one's entire lifetime. Simon Oraon dedicated his life to the conservation of water and forest in Jharkhand's Bedo block. His glittering accomplishment of lifetime - has now been recognized by the Government of India. He has been awarded in January 2016 - the coveted, elite and prestigious Padma Shri - India's fourth highest civilian award.
Ever since childhood, Simon used to see his neighbors, relatives and other people leave his village during summer months in search of options for livelihood, as his own village - Bedo, used to run into severe water-crisis. And, if the monsoon failed in a year, drought claimed several lives. In 1961, he dropped out at class 4, and felt somewhat compelled to do something to prevent water crisis and drought-like situation every year.
Simon Oraon trudged all the way in the opposite direction of the stream in incessant rain to trace its origin. Once there, he mapped the contour of the rainwater falling from top of the hills. In the rocky, undulated terrain water gushed from atop creating ravines. Seeing this, he felt that building a dam at the foothills could prevent the water from streaming out. And, that same blocked water by the dam could be made to use in purpose of irrigation upon building canals. The canals originating from the dam would take the water across the village.
So strong was his resolve that he actually got going with the building of a dam. He got along a few villagers and constructed an earthen dam near Gaighat in Bero in 1961. However, the dam didn't last long as it couldn't withstand the force of water. After it got washed away, Simon, this time with added resolve, reconstructed a stronger dam. But, this time too it crumbled due to the strong water current. Nevertheless, this time it caught the attention of the state water resource department. They supported in building a dam with increased height and width. That dam exists till now without even a crack.
Later, without any help from the state government, Simon and his fellow villagers built one dam at Deshbali, and another at Jharia. They even built five ponds in the villages of Hariharpur, Jamtoli, Khaksitoli, Baitoli and Bhasnanda - which they linked to the dams. The trapped water in the ponds has been channelized to fields through canals. Simon didn't end at that. He took up the responsibility to ensure the maintenance aspect. He sowed more than 30000 trees to prevent soil erosion.
Courtesy Simon Oraon's initiative, around 1500 families now reap three crops instead of the single crop of Paddy that they had been reaping. The total farm area is around 2,000 acres. The village of Bero now has a vegetable market that even supplies vegetables to places like Kolkata, Hazaribagh, Ranchi, and Jamshedpur every month.
As head of Khaksitoli village, Simon Oraon had launched a people's movement to fight deforestation. He said by 1960, when vast areas of forest had completely disappeared, he decided to call a meeting in his village to sensitize people about the evils of deforestation and the possible blessings of afforestation. He spread his movement to other villages after he became chieftain of Bero area. Simon believes that water, from any source whatsoever, ought to be preserved instead of being allowed to drain away. The saved water can be put to use for greater yields. Simon has formed a 25-member committee in each village to look after the forest of the area. He summons a meeting on every Thursday to monitor the affairs.
Thanks to the tireless effort of a single man, Bedo has become the agricultural hub of Jharkhand. It supplies close to 20,000 metric tons to neighboring states. Simon Oraon hasn't relented yet though - he still plants at least 1,000 saplings every year.
A story that inspires...
This is the story of Srikanth Bolla, who hasn't let the cruelest of adversities life dealt him with - to break, suppress and defeat him. He might have had silently wept alone shrouded in misery in his earlier days. Today those unnoticed tears have manifested - in a 50-crore worth business. It is evident that he didn't give up on life; he is a man of gigantic resolve. Srikanth Bolla is now the CEO of Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries. This organization employs uneducated disabled employees to manufacture eco-friendly, disposable consumer packaging solutions.
It is such a massive misfortune to be born blind-to be subjected to lifelong gloom and being deprived to see one's surroundings. When keeping the eyes closed in an interesting situation can be so frustrating, it shudders to imagine how one might feel to keep the eyes closed all through life! Born unfortunate and deprived, Srikanth Bolla was also castigated upon by neighbors as "useless". They even advised his parents to smother him in order to free themselves from a lifelong burden. Today, this supposed "burden" is brightening up people's lives by providing employment in his own self-started company.
In 2009, when Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) closed its gate on him for being blind, Srikanth sought admission and got through the prestigious and elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was selected among 120 foreign students and was the only Indian blind student selected by MIT. He pursued Computer Science and Business Management there, and then returned to India giving up on lucrative job-opportunities in US because he wanted to serve the Indian community of the differently-abled people in his utmost endeavor. Upon his return to India, he had set up a support service platform to rehabilitate, nurture and integrate differently-abled people in society.
During Srikant's initial primary school days, he was isolated by his fellow classmates and was relegated to the last-bench to be seated alone. No one used to involve him in their activities as they felt he was incapable of anything. Loneliness from isolation had befallen him in a manner such that he used to then consider himself the "poorest child" on earth-not due to lack of money, but due to lack of companionship. Trudging about 5 kms every day through puddles of water and slush, the blind boy toiled for 2 years between age 6 to 8 to reach to school. When his parents learnt their son's harrowing experience in the school, they took the decision to shift him to a special school in Hyderabad, where he could study with children of his kind.
It was in this school in Hyderabad that the sparkle of the then to be un-earthed diamond shone occasionally. He scored excellent marks in his grades. He played Chess and Cricket for India. He worked with former president of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on various projects, motivated around eight lac youths in Youth Transformation project in the Lead India campaign.
Towards the end of his bachelor's course at MIT, the past miserable incidents of his life for being a blind person started bothering Srikanth. He didn't want people, who're blind like him or are disabled in any other way - to suffer the same wretched treatments that he had to undergo. He didn't want the disabled, who formed 10% of India's population, to be treated as social outcaste. Srikanth felt a strong urge to do something to make them play an integral role in the development of economy. Therefore, he relinquished the opportunity to have a high-profile job in corporate America and fulfill the American dream. He came back to India.
Today, Srikanth has four production plants, one each in Hubli (Karnataka) and Nizamabad (Telangana), and the other two in Hyderabad (Telangana). A plant, which will be 100% solar-operated is in the pipeline and is supposed to be built in Sri City in Andhra Pradesh. The workforce of the company is comprised of 70 percent people with disability.
Isolation of disabled children begins right at birth. Parents either smother them, or put them in asylums alienating them from mainstream society. Srikanth holds his parents in extreme high regard and revers them for not paying heed to people's advice and disposing him off after birth, but educating him to enable him. In fact, his parents brought him up with utmost compassion, care and love against all odds. Srikanth Bolla - what a worthy child of such glorious parents!
Anil and Pamela Malhotra300 acre SAI Sanctuary
300 acre SAI Sanctuary
The global warming is a wakeup call to everyone and especially to India since the country has been experiencing a fast depletion of its forest cover and disappearance of its fresh water sources. Today, rivers in both north and south India have been drying up and shrinking in size on account of deforestation in their catchment areas. Deforestation also means poor retention of ground water and lower rainfall due to poor evapo-transpiration, etc. Therefore, climate change and global warming cannot be ignored at any cost. The answer...? REFORESTATION
Meet the Malhotras
Anil and Pamela Malhotra were always passionate about nature. Back in 1991, this NRI couple returned to India to turn their passion into a dream project- creating a wildlife sanctuary of their own! They began their mission by looking for a suitable land first in north India and later in the south. They finally zeroed in on a huge 55 acres of land in Theralu village next to the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka to create the Save Animals Initiative (SAI) Sanctuary. They chose Kodagu because it is supposed to be a micro hotspot of biodiversity on Earth. Over the years, their dream has widened into over 300 acres of beautiful forest which is home to several threatened species of animals from elephants, tigers and leopards to deer, wild boar, Sambhar, wild dogs, jackals, foxes, hyena, civets to river otters, the giant Malabar squirrel, snakes and 300+ species of birds.
Blooming of the Idea
As Pamela wisely points out, we expect the government to do everything. However, alert citizens and NGOs have equal responsibility and can do their own bit to conserve the wildlife and forest cover. With these thoughts in mind, the couple initially purchased approximately 55 acres of unused and abandoned land from Kodagu farmers. This land was not in use due to excessive rains in the district. The passion to expand this green cover grew stronger with each passing year and they kept buying lands from farmers who were not using them. This helped them to expand their sanctuary and the farmers to repay their debts with the money. Today, a quarter of a century since they started, their sanctuary has expanded to cover over 300 acres of land.
When purchased, the land already had native species of cardamom and other trees on it. Retaining them, the couple planted additional native trees to expand the green cover. Today the SAI sanctuary houses several indigenous trees, many of which are of medicinal value. It also includes approximately 10 acres of coffee and 15 acres of cardamom plantations. Besides this, the couple does organic farming too.
Even as the green cover of sanctuary expanded, a number of animal and bird species started making this sanctuary their home. Today, this one-of-its-kind 'private' wildlife sanctuary has a beautiful river in the middle that is home to several aquatic species like fishes and snakes, including the King Cobra. It also has huge, thick trees that are home to several birds like the hornbills and 300+ species of routinely visiting birds.
Protecting the Sanctuary
The duo follows some basic principles such as,
- No chopping down of any trees
- No interference with the existing eco-system and letting nature take its course
- No human interference and no poachers.
As a way of identifying new animals visiting the forest and keeping a track of animal poachers, they have installed cameras at strategic locations across the sanctuary. They also ensure that people who visit the sanctuary are responsible tourists who are keenly interested in exploring nature's beauty. Smoking and drinking in the sanctuary is completely prohibited as it disturbs the animals and the overall purity of the air.
Patrolling 300 acres of sanctuary for poachers is yet another challenge. To counter this, the Malhotras have even spread awareness about preserving wildlife and nature in schools and nearby villages.
The SAI Sanctuary is a truly inspiring project. In fact, it has won the
'Wildlife and Tourism Initiative of the Year'award by Sanctuary Asia in conjunction with Tour Operators for Tigers in 2014.
To know more about this sanctuary, visit www.saisanctuary.com .
Your project has a unique name. What does Belaku mean?
Belaku is a Kannada word which means light. Through our project, we hope to brighten people's lives - be it by electrifying their homes, or by offering health and education programs. Our project is therefore, aptly named Project Belaku.
How many of you have been part of this project? How do you manage your careers and work for this social cause?
Our team basically includes four us - Sunny Arokia Swamy B, Balachandra M Hegde, Kotresh Veerapur and Kumaraswami H. We all are engineers and have graduated in 2015. All of us are working with some of the leading companies in India. Managing our careers and our social work at the same time is surely a challenge. For this, we plan our activities primarily on weekends.
Can you please describe all the work done by you as part of this project?
Once we decided to go ahead, we started by surveying several villages and shortlisted two of them for our project. We then designed a prototype and started testing it. Once we were ready with the design, we started replicating it. The final stage involved installation of solar panels, tube lights and bulbs in 18 houses across 2 villages.
How much time did it take to plan and execute your project from start to end?
We all came up with the basic idea of Project Belaku in our 3rd year of engineering and were really keen to implement it. After completing our engineering, we came across an article that stated that there are several villages in Karnataka which do not have electricity. This inspired us to start planning our dream project. We went and surveyed a few villages on 6th & 7th of February 2016. After shortlisting 2 villages, we went and met the HOD of our college. We were keen to complete before monsoon, so we finished the entire project by first week of April. The overall planning to execution process for this project took us about 4 months.
How did you gather funds for your project? Did your college or any NGOs support you?
The project was completely funded by our college M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore. We have also put in some personal funds in the initial stages of the project.
How many homes did you manage to light with your project?
In total, we covered 18 houses in 2 villages, 10 in Ghatkunang and 8 in Khangaon. We have provided one tube light, 3 bulbs and one mobile charger for each of these houses.
Please share some unforgettable events that took place during the project.
The project has involved a lot of hard work on part of the entire team. Since we were running against time, we worked practically day and night. During day time, we worked in scorching heat and completed mounting of the solar panels on roof tops. When work extended to late nights, we had no option but to work in pitch darkness with help of some torch lights.
The entire experience was seriously worth it. The satisfaction we got by watching smiles on people's faces once the work was completed is surely unmatched. And the hospitality shown by the villagers to the team was simply amazing. They served us traditional home cooked meals and beverages while we worked. We are truly feeling blessed.
What was the villagers' reaction once the project was completed? How has the project changed their lives?
The villagers' reactions was simply amazing and unforgettable. We put solar panels in the villages on the auspicious day of Ugadi. The villagers who had never seen electric lights in their home, thought the glowing lights were a gift from gods themselves. They were so excited that they performed a pooja of the new solar panel and joined hands in the form of namaskars to the glowing light bulbs.
The villages are surrounded by thick forests which are home to several wild animals like the bears. Earlier, without any lights, the villagers would be confined to their homes by nightfall for fear of personal safety. Today, these homes have bulbs at their entrance which helps to keep animals away in some way.
Project Belaku has covered 2 villages till date. Do you plan to cover many more?
The first phase of Project Belaku has given us immense satisfaction. It was simply amazing to see joy on people's faces after the project was completed. This is what inspires us to do more. We feel that many more people are still waiting for our support. So, we are planning a hydro power project in the next phase. We are currently surveying 4-5 villages and plan to start work post June 10 this year.
If yes, do you wish to call for more volunteers to come forward?
Yes, volunteers are always welcome to join us. As a matter of fact, we would want local volunteers to come and give us technical inputs or help us with the installations. With the nature of work that we are doing, we also invite people to provide financial support, recommend villages that can be covered under our project, or simply help us to fetch more hands to do the technical work in villages.
You have achieved something the government could not in last 69 years. What are your comments?
Indian government has been doing so much on a big scale. We believe that even citizens need to contribute in some way to make India a better place. So here we are, doing our share.
Chewang NorphelArtificial Glaciers
Ladakh and its water scarcity
Water is indispensable part of our lives. So is it in Ladakh, one of the most scenic regions in the Himalayas. However, it would be tough to believe that water is increasing becoming scarce in these snowcapped regions like Ladakh thanks to global warming, increasing population and increased interest of tourism industry.
The melting ice is the basic source of water for villages in the Himalayan region. With global warming, the Himalayan ice melts faster than it did earlier. Melted water from the Himalayan ice goes waste in the summer months as it gets drained into the Indus River. Ladakh is, therefore, facing rising problems in fetching drinking water over the last few years. Villages adjacent to rivers can opt to build canals to divert water and create a water reserve. But what about other villages? A new idea of creating artificial glaciers could be an answer to this problem.
Idea behind Artificial Glaciers:
Artificial Glaciers are created by freezing water from the rivers or streams on the mountain slopes during the winter months. In the spring time (or the sowing season), the artificial glaciers can melt in time for their use in irrigation. Early irrigation and sowing also ensures early ripening and harvesting of crops.
Creation of Glaciers
The idea of a manmade glacier first struck Mr. Chewang Norphel when he saw chilled water flow away from a tap and gradually freeze into an ice sheet as it touched the ground. He then proposed an idea to build canals and dam like structures that would obstruct melted water from natural Himalayan glaciers from flowing away during summers. The water thus saved during summer can be frozen during winters to form glaciers.
Mr. Chewang kick started the first artificial glacier project in a tiny village called Phutse. He used all his passion, experience and engineering skills to create canals for diverting river and stream water to a well shaded catchment area. The key idea that helps create the glaciers is controlling the velocity of water. Since water flowing through main streams in steep areas doesn't freeze, it is required that the water to be frozen be diverted to a shadow area by constructing a diversion channel with a mild grade. When it reaches the site, the water can be released downward of the hill, distributing it in a small quantity so that the velocity can be minimized, and ice retaining walls in series can be constructed to store the frozen water or the artificial glaciers.
The Phutse project costed approximately Rs.89000 and was created using only locally sourced materials and local man power. Till date, 10 such artificial glacier projects have been carried out by Mr. Chewang in different parts of Ladakh.
Farmers in the Ladakh region have shifted their focus from the tradition crops of the region to cash crops like peas and potatoes. Unlike the 90 days maturity time taken by the traditional crops, the cash crops need 120 days to mature. This means the cash crops need to be sown at least 20 days earlier than the usual ones. An artificial glacier can help by becoming a good provision for the additional water requirement until harvesting of the cash crops.
The glacier waters also help to increase the tree plantations in their region, rejuvenate the groundwater table, thereby increasing the flow of water in the downstream and natural springs. It also helps to moisten the soil and development of pasturelands for grazing. Overall, Mr. Chewang's efforts have helped to increase the income of the locals and reduce migration of local people to the cities.
The cost involved in creation of a glacier is determined by the terrain where it is to be created and the length of water canal and stone wall to be built. The cost could range anywhere between 3 to 10 lakhs. However, it is difficult to get adequate funding as it's not a 'proven' solution to water scarcity. Also, there is no provision or funds allocated especially for it in the government schemes. Another problem is inadequate support from local population during construction and towards for maintenance of structures created for glaciers. It is now up to the rural development department and the LAHDC to promote this technology and take it ahead.
About Chewang Norphel:
Chewang Norphel is a resident of Skara 'Mahey'. After earning his Diploma in Civil Engineering from Civil Engineering School, Lucknow, he started working in Rural Development Department as an Observer. He retired as an Executive Engineer from Rural Development Department in March 1995 after 30+ years of service. Soon after, he joined the Leh Nutrition Project, an NGO based in Leh, as Chief Project Officer and worked with the project for 17+ years. Today, Chewang Norphel is known as the "Ice Man of India" owing to his efforts in creating 10 artificial glaciers to solve water scarcity in Ladakh.