“What can I do?”

Students planting trees

Alok Sagar has been living with tribals for the past 32 years.

He has planted more than 50,000 trees in the region. He believes that people can serve their nation better by working at the very basic level; the grassroots level. He spends his entire day collecting and distributing seeds from and to tribals.

Alok Sagar is a simple man who owns three kurtas and one bicycle. The hut he lives in does not even have a door. He maintains a low profile, though sometimes the authorities look at him suspiciously — wondering what is he up to.

Alok Sagar has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from IIT, Delhi, and a Ph.D from Houston University, Texas. While teaching at IIT Delhi, Alok groomed numerous students, including the former RBI governor, Raghuram Rajan.

There is much that unnerves us, and very little that excites us about our country these days. However, Alok Sagar and many others like him who are busy doing their bit believe that there is no need to wait for a PM or a messiah to come and wave a magic wand so that all can be well in the country.

Facts such as, we have more malnourished children than the poorest sub-Saharan African nation; nearly half the country struggles to survive, living in squalor as they are below the poverty line; or, the fact that nearly half the nation defecates in the open; or for that matter, the bitter truth that in terms of development of its citizens, we rank a dismal 132 — facts such as these and many more unnerve us while we fret nervously, clueless and helpless.

Of course, we once had a glorious past. At least, everyone claims so. The free India that we live in has not much to boast about, other than the figures on paper which supposedly indicate our growth rate, and the billions in our kitty with which we go arms-shopping. The latter lures some of the leading leaders of the world to talk about India being their ally or even a nation which has significant potential.

The media plays on our cynicism and does quite a good job of thickening its layers within us. While the panellists on the news channels scream incessantly and the members in the Parliament flex their muscles and each goes about guided by self-interest alone, can we take a pause?

Can we do a little bit ourselves?

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Dr Navniit Gandhi
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Dr Navniit Gandhi

Dr Navniit Gandhi is an academic, author, and a trainer/counsellor based in Kuwait. She has authored nine books and has written more than 300 feature articles till date, and is presently on the editorial board of The Teenager Today.