Ritesh Garg is the Founder of Yuva Prerna Yatra, a five-day bus journey in the foothills of the Himalayas to inspire the youth and get them to work at the grassroots level.
The motivation to start Yuva Prerana Yatra came when Ritesh was travelling himself. “While traveling I met a lot of people in rural areas who often told me, ‘Pahad ka paani, aur uski jawaani khabhi uske kaam nahi aati (the water and youth of the mountains never benefit it, the water (resources) flows to the plains and the youth migrate for better opportunities. People only come here to spend their old days)’. So I thought why not connect both (youth and resources) to develop the area. Ours is a result driven society, we need to show people that this can be done. Once they see that development is possible then they too start thinking along the same lines. To exploit this mindset we started Yuva Prerna Yatra.”
The story of Ritesh’s life is an inspiring one. Born and brought up in a village near Roorkee, he learned the concepts of civil engineering in class two while making dog houses. “I needed to make sure that their roof was light so that even if it fell during the night the dogs wouldn’t get hurt. My mother was allergic to dogs and I used to get beaten up every now and then but still did the same thing.”
After his graduation, Ritesh went to Delhi to prepare for the civil service exams, but could clear it only in the third attempt. Ritesh says, “Before attempting the IAS, I didn’t even know the location of Japan and Germany on the world map and here I was sitting for the interview in the IAS.” However, he didn’t clear the interview.
After attempting IAS, Ritesh started preparing for CAT. It was about the same time when he was preparing for CAT that Ritesh had a life changing experience:
“I also used to teach kids in a school in Dehradun. When I would go there and ask some of them what they wanted to do in life, some would say a police officer, some this and some that. There was one 12-year-old girl who said she would grow up and get married and have kids. After a few days another girl asked me, “Bahiya ye jo aap sapne dikha rahe ho, sirf sapne hi dikhaoge ya inhe poora bhi karoge (will you just show us all these dreams, or will you help us achieve them too)”. I was speechless. Her question shook me from inside.”
This decided the course of his future. Ritesh learnt English from scratch and cleared CAT in just two and a half months with 95 percentile. He opted for Faculty of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University, as it was closest to his goal of working in an NGO and using his political knowledge gained while preparing for IAS.
After his MBA, Ritesh worked with Jaipur Rugs and helped them establish their operations in UP, but this stint didn’t last long and he joined Jagriti Yatra team and helped them with operations in the North East. It was then that Ritesh traveled over 100,000 kilometers in a year and the seeds of Yuva Prerna Yatra were sown.
Yuva Prerna Yatra is a bus journey where participants go through a rigorous selection process. Once selected, they go for a five-day journey where they meet role models who have done great work in rural areas, and see how things can be transformed and local resources can be used to bring self sustainability.
As it is a mountainous region and risks run high, they do a recce of every place twice before they embark on the journey with participants. Ritesh says, “We even have fixed stopping points for toilet breaks. We stop after every one-and-half to two hours to avoid travel fatigue, and to utilize that gap, we have something known as ‘session on the rocks’ with some of our champions who travel with us.” At present, the registration fee for the Yatra is Rs 4,500 (mandatory) and additional Rs 6,500 is for people who are half sponsored, while those who can afford pay the full amount of Rs. 17,000. The sponsorship currently works on a cross subsidy model.
Know more about Yuva Prerna Yatra.