Is it the people who make a journey or is the journey that makes the people? That’s a very difficult question, especially if the trip that we are talking about is Jagriti Yatra. This is a 15-day train trip starting today, which gives an opportunity to 450 young people to travel all over India meeting 15 role models, which include the likes of Bunker Roy and Anshu Gupta in 12 different cities — Mumbai, Hubli, Bangalore, Madurai, Chennai, Vishakhapattanam, Bhubaneshwar, Patna, Deoria, Delhi, Tilonia and Ahmedabad.
We spoke with the founder and chairman of Jagriti Yatra Board, Shashank Mani, about this interesting project. He is the Executive Director – consulting at PwC.
SS: How was the idea for Jagriti Yatra conceived?
SM: The first Yatra happened in 1997. I was working in the UK at that moment and I felt I took a lot from my country but I was not giving anything back. I took three month’s leave to help young people discover the India of the future through a train trip. Through the trip we also wanted to celebrate Indian independence. At that time no one believed in it, but somehow we were able to do a 21-day journey. Seven years later I felt that it would be a nice story to tell my children. That’s when I decided to write a book named, ‘A Journey through Healing Civilization’. It was published in 2007 and a lot of travel enthusiasts excited by the book convinced me to repeat Jagriti Yatra.
SS: What is the vision and importance of Jagriti Yatra?
SM: The reasons why we are doing Jagriti Yatra today are very different from 1997. Today, I see a top level India that is doing well, a bottom level India that is helped by charity, NGOs and the government, but there is a middle India consisting of 600 million people which remains negleted. We want to focus on them. Our vision is to create one million entrepreneurs by 2020 through this Yatra.
SS: How can a train trip change a person and at the same time the country as well?
SM: When you go outside you can do something which you cannot do in a classroom. The train shakes you up at a personal level because it puts you in an unfamiliar environment where you meet new people and have new experiences. It shakes you physically, intellectually and emotionally. That’s why people have a very different learning experience. As far as changing a nation is concerned, everything starts with a few young, motivated men and women. We are in the business of developing these young people. I believe that enterprise development is the way to move a country forward.
SS: What are the challenges you faced in those years?
SM: I would say we had three major challenges. The first one was funding: it’s always challenging, to fund the program and the Yatris. The second challenge is getting the right people. People are the ones who make the journey. In certain areas internet is not available so to reach them we need to use the Press and write in different languages. Lastly, this journey is also about how we keep the Yatris motivated after the trip. They need the tools to move forward and that’s what we are trying to work on.
SS: What is your message to those Yatris who are starting their journey today?
SM: To be born at this time and in this country is a privilege. There are new opportunities for the next 30 years. We have a lifetime chance to change this country. Things are in the right direction: Demography is right, economic policies are right. And people who are making this journey through Jagriti Yatra arethe right fit. They need to take those opportunities and hopefully through enterprise development they will change things.
This article is the first of a series of a collaboration between SocialStory and Jagriti Yatra. Alessio Pieroni is on the Jagriti Yatra to share stories from the journey. Watch this space for more updates.