Agents of Change

450 young entrepreneurs swapped ideas and life stories on board a train as part of the Jagriti Yatra. Here five of them discuss their ideas.

Written by AMRUTA LAKHE | Mumbai | Published: January 19, 2015 4:04 am
A participant of the Jagriti Yatra this year, Aakash Mishra started a not-for-profit organisation at the age of 16. A participant of the Jagriti Yatra this year, Aakash Mishra started a not-for-profit organisation at the age of 16.

 For over a fortnight, 450 young entrepreneurs swapped ideas and life stories on board a train that travelled 8,000 kilometres across India as part of the Jagriti Yatra. TALK spoke to five of the most interesting innovators who are being the change they wish to see

Aakash Mishra,
Founder of Golden Bird Foundation
Twenty-year-old Aakash Mishra learned early in life that opportunities need to be created. “A year ago, I wanted a bicycle but couldn’t afford one. So I got sponsors on board for a cyclothon that I organised in Indore with city schools” says Mishra. Cycling is Mishra’s recent hobby and he rode 750 km from Indore to Mumbai to make it for the Jagriti Yatra. “I rode for four days, 12 hours daily, seeking shelter at dhabas for the night, toll booths and petrol pumps,” says Mishra, who is the founder of Golden Bird Foundation (GBF), a non-profit organisation that he launched at the age of 16. “I didn’t get a chance at a formal education, but I still made it. Many others will not be as lucky,” says the young entrepreneur who worked in call centres to pay his tuition.
Mishra, currently in Mumbai, is gearing up for the ride back home. “I’m working on riding 7,000 km in 35 days to attempt the world record,” says Mishra.

Manisha Mohan,
Creator of protective inner wear for women
After the brutal gang rape of December 16 in Delhi two years ago, Manisha Mohan felt galvanised to do something about women’s safety. At the time, Mohan was a second-year student of automobile engineering at SRM college in Chennai. A year later, Mohan created Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE), a protective lingerie for women that electrically shocks an assaulter. “A micro electric mechanical system in the inner wear generates a charge of 3,800 KV, enough to burn the attacker,” says the 22-year-old. Her bold invention, popularly dubbed as the “anti-rape bra”, earned her a residency at the Rashtrapati Bhavan hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee last year. Mohan is planning to launch a more wearable, waterproof version in the market soon.

Reena Lokadiya,
Gandhi Fellow working in education sector
Reena Lokadiya was born in the forests of Kalavad Gir, in the village of Junagadh. She had a regular upbringing, working in her family’s farm in the morning and going to school in the afternoon. Except for the lions. “Gujarat has more than 440 lions. There are a few in captivity, but the rest roam freely in our village. You can say I’ve grown up with lions,” she says.
But it’s not just the lions that make her special. Lokadiya is the only person from her village to complete a Bachelor’s in Arts, and earn a Master’s in Social Work from Gujarat University. She is also a recipient of the prestigious Gandhi Fellowship. “There are many things that do not reach villagers. I had no idea what a computer was till a few years ago, or that people read books. I want to change that,” she adds.

Tapak Dagam,
Sarpanch of Dagam village, Arunachal Pradesh
Tapak Dagam has an impassioned manner of speaking that commands people’s attention. It is  a quality that suits the 27-year-old Sarpanch of Dagam, a tiny village in the Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. “I was fresh out of college when I joined the Panchayat. I was brimming with ideas on how to solve health and sanitation issues in my village. When I voiced them, the elders asked me to lead the way,” says Dagam, who took the post when he was just 20. To solve his village’s sanitation problem, Dagam mobilised people to create separate bathrooms for houses. He even managed to get a government grant of Rs 4,500 for each house. “We built the bathrooms in Rs 3,300 and distributed the rest to the residents,” says Dagam, who is working on a website inviting tourists to visit the “cleanest and most beautiful village in the country”.

Vrundan Bawankar,
Founder Pavan Public School
After a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, and a Master’s in Public Administration, Vrundan Bawankar wanted to become a pilot with the Indian Air Force. After two years of training, she happened to visit the small school that her father was running in Pavni, a village 80 km from Nagpur. “It was the only educational institution around. I saw the state of the school and realised that my dreams could wait,” says Bawankar. The 25-year-old moved to the village and took over the reins from her father. Pavan Public School, has close to 300 students now, and operates on a Gurukul system. They have labs not only for Science and Mathematics, but English, Marathi and Hindi. Currently, Bawankar is trying to raise funds for building a pukka two-storeyed building in the village.
amruta.lakhe@expressindia.com

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