SocialStory is YourStory’s initiative to bring out the voice of the marginalised in India, and, in doing so, put forth the stories of individuals, organisations, and initiatives that are bringing in a positive change at the grassroot level. As the year 2015 is coming to an end, let’s look back to the best stories of the year our editors have handpicked which, we believe, are poised to create a lasting impact on the times to come.
BodhaGuru is a social enterprise that creates innovative learning products and platforms for children between the age group of four and 12. The learning products include immersive mobile-based learning apps, interactive books and videos that can work even on low-end feature phones. Their aim is to make quality education available at Rs 25 a month.
Anand Krishna Mishra
Eleven-year-old Anand Krishna Mishra has set an example for many who find it too difficult to break their inertia and give back to the society. A student of Class VII from Lucknow, this ‘chota masterji’ has reached out to children from slums and over 125 villages around the city and organised his ‘bal choupals’. He spends his evenings educating children of his age, and has inspired over 700 children to get enrolled in schools.
Writer, actor, teacher and lyricist Deepak Ramola is the Founder of Project FUEL, an acronym for Forward the Understanding of Every Life Lesson. This is what Deepak does in his venture. So far, Deepak has taught over 40,000 people through his workshops and has conducted workshops for people from all walks of life.
Upholding their mission statement, ‘recycle toys – recycle smiles’, Toy Bank impacts the lives of 48,000 children every year. Through toys, the organisation helps to broaden a child’s horizons both analytically and intellectually. Toys help develop a child’s motor skills, cognitive thinking, emotional well-being, and social and organisation skills, while spreading smile and happiness.
Happy Horizons Trust
Husband–wife duo Kshitiz Anand and Vatsala are handling the problem of illiteracy in Bihar head on. Working across 30 schools in six districts in Bihar, Happy Horizons Trust is working towards improving the quality of education, with focus on basic skill sets like speaking, reading, basic arithmetic, self-confidence, and students making better informed choices on avenues they can pursue.
SourceTrace helps capture information regarding agriculture, financial services, and retail through existing mobile and wireless data networks in developing economies, up until remote areas. They work with smallholder farmers and empower them with information and technology. The organisation has reached two lakh farmers in three continents and 10 countries, and is planning to reach one crore farmers by 2017.
Girindra Nath Jha
Bihar’s very own blogger farmer and environmental activist Girindra Nath Jha is revolutionising the way farming is done. He has been running a famous agricultural blog for over nine years, which upholds environmental concerns, farm issues, and educates farmers on better ways of farming. He also makes useful videos, helping farmers from across the country learn better techniques of irrigation, creation of manure, handling pests, enhancement of farm produce, and quality of their yield.
The hacker-turned-shepherd-entrepreneur is fighting for justice in the Pashmina ecosystem and enhancing the lives of over 50,000 shepherds, over three lakh craftsmen and women, and over two lakh Pashmina goats. Babar Afzal is doing it all, from preservation of the Pashmina goats, and raising awareness about fake Pashmina that is destroying the industry, to creation of a retail fair trade platform for the Pashmina industry that would represent the community of shepherds, weavers, and craftsmen linked with the ecosystem.
Shrikant Gajbhiye is the Founder of Bee The Change, which offers free beekeeping training to farmers and forest populations in Maharashtra. He argues that when bees are kept alongside farming activities, production increases between 20 and 200 per cent, besides, of course, producing honey to sell in the market. Shrikant has trained more than 500 farmers and forest population, and currently its network counts 50 trainees.
Vivek Pandey, Prateek Singhal and Devendra Gupta
The three engineers from IIT-Kharagpur have developed a solar-powered cold storage system that works at zero running cost as a solution to the wastage of agricultural produce in India. Developed at the Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Park (STEP) of IIT-KGP by the trio, the micro cold storage system has been tested and proved in a farmland in Karnataka. The team plans to sell units directly to farmers and create village-level entrepreneurs who will act as nodal points for cold storage in markets where a farmer can store his produce at a fixed cost.
From an idea in Egypt to a full-fledged business that supports a remote cobbler community in Karnataka, Desi Hangover has come a long way. The young entrepreneurs are not only empowering cobblers in the hamlet, they have also opened new global markets for the cobblers. Averaging sales of around 500 footwear a month, they have also adopted the only school here, and are helping children with world-class learning facilities.
Winner of Intel’s Young Scientist Award, Karan Jerath has invented a device that shuts down undersea oil spills. After going through 30 different designs before zeroing in on the current one, he has proven its usability. With successful experiments and test results, Karan is trying to find backers and investors who will produce the 75-foot tall, 300-tonne machine.
Bollywood director Mansoor Khan shot to fame with his super hit film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, in which he launched Aamir Khan. He soon decided to leave stardom to don the muddy boots of a farmer. He bought seven acres of land, seven cows, and two goats with the money he had left and settled in the hills of Coonoor. He is now living a quiet life as a writer and an artisan who makes cheese.
The Living Greens
Founded by Prateek Tiwari, The Living Greens is pioneering the urban farming scene in India, by providing citizens with light portable greenhouses where they can grow vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs on the top of their houses. The organisation is perfecting solutions to grow vegetables vertically so that people living in flats can grow them too. Prateek and his team is also developing technology for creating terrace gardens either for vegetables or grass. They are also developing a model by which people who do rooftop farming can produce compost with their own waste.
Founded by Kristin Kagetsu, Amrita Saigal, Grace Kane, Ashutosh Kumar and Zachary Rose, Saathi produces India’s first 100 per cent eco-friendly sanitary pads made from waste banana tree fibre. Saathi is not only making affordable sanitary pads for rural women and girls, it is also helping farmers with an additional source of income from the banana fibre waste generated.
Energy, waste and sanitation
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak
In an attempt to fight the health and social problems associated with the manual scavengers of India, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak went on to tread the path of Ambedkar and Gandhi. Liberating scavengers through low cost sanitation by inventing the twin pit pour flush model, Dr Pathak built Sulabh Shauchalaya, which, in four decades, has evolved into a Rs 275-crore social enterprise.
Rethinking waste management in Bengaluru, Pro waste aims to change people’s habit of throwing waste, and instead segregating it and giving it to recycling centres. Working at the ground level with the people, the organisation stresses on awareness, training, and efficient process until final disposal of all categories of waste. The idea is to recycle 100 per cent of the waste produced, and eliminate all forms of waste that goes to the landfill.
Sampurn (e)arth is a Mumbai-based startup focussed on urban waste management. All their solutions are decentralised, and the waste-generator has to take the added responsibility of waste segregation to keep their waste management system active. The startup has also developed portable biogas plants of different capacities, thereby creating value from waste.
Invictus Saur Urja
The Kolkata-based startup is committed to increase the standard of green energy in West Bengal. Invictus Saur Urja has been revolutionising the way rooftop solar energy is generated. Their solutions include consultancy and installations of rooftop panels. They are also actively working with SMEs and big corporate institutions because it has recently become mandatory for them to switch to renewable energy.
Founded by Rustam Sengupta, Boond is a social enterprise that promotes alternative energy across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi NCR and other northern States. Since 2010, Boond has been providing light, clean water, pest control and hygiene to the poor living in remote areas of India and creating rural entrepreneurs and distribution channels for products like solar lamps, solar home systems, water filters, efficient cook-stoves etc. Boond has sold more than 7,500 solar energy systems till date and the initiative has already impacted the lives of more than 50,000 people in rural India.
Reshma Valliappan was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was 22. It has been over 10 years since Reshma has been advocating for issues related to mental health, disability, sexuality and human rights and she has often talked and written about her journey with schizophrenia. Her story of fighting with the condition is deeply inspiring.
Swagat Thorat has been running India’s first Braille newspaper since February 2008. His 50-page Marathi newspaper Sparshdnyan, meaning ‘knowledge by touch’, is published on the first and 15th of every month and has a dedicated reader base. He started with publishing 100 copies and has now grown to publish 400 issues every fortnight, which are gifted to schools and NGO working for the visually challenged across the 31 districts of Maharashtra. Swagat dedicates most of his time in running his publications and developing and spreading the Braille language, which he has taught to hundreds of people.
Dr Hanumanth Rao
Through four different NGOs, Dr Hanumanth Rao runs India’s biggest establishment for the disabled. He’s brought light in the lives of 58 lakh people suffering from physical and mental disability, besides starting numerous educational institutions and research centres to train individuals in disability management. Through his unmatched effort in the field of managing and curing the disabled, he’s earned himself a reputation, and continues to inspire many in India and outside.
Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman
Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman started a campaign against child sexual abuse at the age of 10. Once subjected to the heinous crime herself, she has been a vocal advocate against child abuse. While still a teenager, Pranaadhika formed an organisation called ‘Right Now Kolkata’ (name changed to ‘Elaan’ later), and went around to coffee shops, schools, book stores to spread awareness. This year, she has started a campaign to educate one million people on sexual violence, and to work with them on preventing it.
Dr Preeti Adil Chandrakar and her engineer brother Praveen Adil are on a mission against oral cancer in the rural regions of Chattisgarh. Itidirkha is their mobile dental unit. At a time when only 1.5 per cent of dentists in India work in rural areas, the sibling duo has been on the road for over two years now. Their clinic has received over 3,000 footprints and 100 per cent patient satisfaction.