How this 24-year-old medical student brought drinking water and electricity to a remote village in Rajasthan
This is the story of one man’s struggle to better the living conditions of Rajghat, a remote village in Rajasthan. With his untiring efforts, villagers now have access to electricity and potable water.Roshni Balaji
On the border that separates Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh, lies Rajghat, a village cut off from mainstream society.
With unpaved paths and rocky boulders lining the region, pucca roads remain a distant dream. At any given point in time, it is common to spot the residents of the village clamouring for water and yearning for electricity. They are denied some of the most basic amenities needed for a healthy human habitat.
Into this rocky terrain and unfulfilled lives of the villages entered Ashwani Parashar, a 24-year-old medico whose aim in life was to make a difference, and “be the change he wished to see”.
Ashwani is a student of Sawai Man Singh Medical College, Jaipur. He visited Rajghat for the first time in 2016 to distribute sweets to the underprivileged during Diwali. When he saw first-hand the plight of the villagers who had no access to electricity or potable water, he was shocked.
Apart from a hand pump, the only source of water in the village was the River Chambal. However, even that was polluted.
“I could see carcasses of animals floating on the surface of the river. Since the residents of the area did not have any other choice, they were risking their lives by consuming the water. Such were the inhuman conditions under which they were living,” notes Ashwani.
For most of the villagers, life used to come to a standstill after sunset. Food had to be cooked during the day and children had to complete their homework before it got dark. The practice of open defecation was widespread due to the absence of toilets.
The next year, with the support of a few friends, Ashwani began knocking on the doors of various government departs to implement welfare schemes in the village. He held a number of meetings with the Public Works Department (PWD) officers, District Collector, and the Principal Secretary. He also wrote letters to the Chief Minister of the State as well as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
When the meetings and letters yielded no results, Ashwani initiated #SaveRajghat, a social media campaign aimed at getting people together to help the cause. He also filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in 2019 in the High Court against the Government of Rajasthan on the grounds of Right to Life as mentioned in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Not only did he bring about a sense of awareness about the poor conditions of the village, but he also sought support from people to make the lives of the residents better. The #SaveRajghat campaign was well-received across all platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Through his efforts, Ashwani managed to garner enough funds from both non-governmental organisations and individual donors for Rajghat’s development. Today, all 100 households have electricity, and most of the residents have access to clean drinking water as well as restrooms.
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“It was not an easy journey. But the endeavour was worth it. It felt great to see people smiling at the end of it,” Ashwani Parashar tells YourStory.
“A number of individuals and organisations came forward to make a difference to Rajghat. Karma Konnect, an Ahmedabad-based NGO kicked off a crowdfunding campaign. The funds collected were used to install water filters for the supply of clean drinking water in the village. Surendra Jitani, a renowned businessman from Delhi, sponsored money to install solar panels. The Indian Norwegian Community later provided all the resources required to station electricity poles and metres for the continuous supply of power,” he adds.
The 24-year-old’s PIL finally bore fruit when the High Court issued a notice to the Chief Secretary to build eight community toilets in Rajghat. With this, the village became open defecation-free and the overall health of the people improved. Presently, the government is undertaking efforts to make potable water available for all the residents by constructing pipelines.
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The residents of Rajghat finally saw light at the end of the tunnel after Ashwani and his friends garnered the resources to provide them with water and electricity, and they are extremely grateful for his efforts.
“My family was parched due to lack of clean drinking water. My children were unable to study after school. None of us had the money to get a toilet constructed in the vicinity. It was only after Ashwani Parashar stepped into our village, that we began seeing a positive change,” says Ramachandran, a resident of Rajghat.
Since Rajghat did not even have basic facilities like running water, electricity or toilets in place, most men remained unmarried because no family would marry their daughter off to a resident of the village. It also earned the title of “a village of bachelors”. The place had seen only two marriages in the last 10 years. However, a couple of weeks ago, Veerisingh and Urmila’s wedding took place amidst much fanfare.
“I never dreamt of giving my daughter’s hand to a resident of Rajghat and that too under the light of so many bulbs,” quips Deendayal, father of Urmila.
A winner despite all odds
Ashwani Parashar fought tooth and nail for the welfare of the people of Rajghat, and despite many hurdles, continued his work, undeterred.
As one can expect, getting a mammoth task like this take off came with a host of challenges.
“It was quite challenging to manage my time. I used to focus on academics and medical research on weekdays and work on the campaign over weekends. A lot of people discouraged and condemned me during the process. They thought that my efforts would lead me nowhere. But I did not think of giving up even for a moment. I simply could not walk away after seeing the pathetic living conditions of the villagers,” says Ashwani.
The 24-year-old is currently preparing for his entrance exam in order to pursue MD.
However, his efforts towards the betterment of Rajghat continue. He is planning to revamp the government school in the area to improve the learning outcome of children and also oversee the provision of potable water by the government.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)