This post is a part of Neer, a collaborative project by DCB Bank and Chaaipani to bring out stories of individuals and initiatives that are working hard and smart to save water.
We all possess an undying spirit to do something we really believe in. However often times we have to drop certain ideas for the fear of failure or just because it is the most convenient option.
Here is a man Eklavya Prasad whose passion for the term ‘WATER’ made him cross all sorts of boundaries and hurdles to not only execute what he believed in but also to make the people around him realise that they too can have that one thing which reaches Mother Earth in its purest form – NEER, JAL, PAANI in simple terms – pure drinking water.
Coming from a family of doctors, Eklavya Prasad was expected to follow the family tradition. However, his interaction and experiences with people, while he stayed with his brother who was pursuing an M. Phil degree in JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in New Delhi, exposed Eklavya to various collective actions, political issues and students. It was at that time he learned how to relish even badly cooked food, how to approach friends and how to cherish this beautiful journey called life.
Eklavya wanted to study something which had a bit of everything from humanities and also a practical side to it. Hailing from then Bihar (now Jharkhand) and brought up in Dhanbad, Eklavya started searching for options to do a Bachelor’s course in social work. Jamia Millia Islamia was the only institute that offered a bachelor’s degree in this course and so he enrolled in it.
In his third year, as part of the field work, he got a project where the sole objective was to understand what deaf and mute people go through. Since Eklavya was quite active in the theatre he used that medium to connect with them. He also learned sign language and started linking various issues to the other. The entire experience made him feel the need to work for issues that were not being addressed.
It is definitely not surprising that he got into the prestigious TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and graduated with a Masters in Social Work (MSW). The practical side of this course made him experience several aspects of real-time life issues in the rural areas. He found out that rural work was far more comforting and involving for him.
In the year 1995, he started to work in Seva Mandir in Udaipur and hence started his water journey.
“My first Guru, Narayan Ameta, who was the Forest Co-ordinator taught me everything about water, right from the letter ‘W’. “
Later on, he worked for the Centre for Science and Environment. He was taken into the water unit by Anil Agarwal, the person who redefined ‘environment’ in India. After working for four years, Eklavya took up the role of a consultant in Delhi and from then on life took another turn.
“I decided to write a story about floods in Bihar for a magazine called the ‘Civil Society’. However, after writing the story I felt something was missing. I had visited the areas affected by the floods and the story had come out very well. But that was not enough. I made the decision to visit Bihar every 2 months and study the situation there. The diseases that were recurring and the problems faced due to floods had to be looked into.”
Eklavya realised, apart from suffering from floods, people were facing other related problems. So he went around various villages in north Bihar trying to convince and explain to the people why rainwater harvesting should be adopted. He knew that to implement it successfully, the technology used should be cheap. He had found out a method which made use of a polythene sheet and container.
“Many people thought I had lost it and, once I was even threatened to be thrown out.”
But Eklavya never gave up. He continued to try and convince the people and started getting mixed responses. It was at one such meeting that three people, who were working in the North East and Himachal Pradesh respectively, stood up and extended their support. The practice was followed back in the place where they had migrated for a sustained livelihood. That helped a lot and finally, people decided to go ahead with the installation. Slowly a change started occurring and an unknown benefit that of the incidence of gastro- intestinal problems started getting addressed by consuming rainwater. It was around this time that ‘MEGH PYNE ABHIYAN’ (MPA), a campaign that looked into the flood-prone areas in five districts of North Bihar was born. Initially, it started off as an informal network with help of the members of Arghyam, a foundation based in Bengaluru with a focus on groundwater and sanitation.
Slowly the campaign got registered as a Public Charitable Trust and currently continues to work in the flood-prone areas of North Bihar.
The kind of hard work and toil that went into developing various practices is truly amazing. What is exceptional here is the efforts made by the entire team to convince people and earn their trust. Slowly people started talking about it. MPA started working towards keeping up the impact all the year round. People made the team realize that it’s not just during floods but the need is to be cautious throughout the year. Slowly they started to see the impact of their work.
All through their journey, Eklavya and the other members have been working on various innovations Jal Kothi (rainwater storage facility), matka filter, flood resistant dug wells and the like. This is just a small part of the work done by them. To actually explain their entire journey till date would mean devoting ten more pages of writing space!
Megh Pyne Abhiyan has been working in collaboration with several grassroots organizations and resource groups. I must say that listening to the entire work done by Eklavya and Megh Pyne Abhiyan is something out of the world.
With each passing day, Eklavya continues his work with even more passion and dedication. He says it is extremely important to work with students as they are a group we need to associate with. Megh Pyne Abhiyan has made a group of students from ninth grade the water ambassadors in Dhanbad. A dynamic and enthusiastic ‘Gang of 20’ or G- 20, these students are from Carmel School, Dhanbad and are working on ‘Participatory Research on Urban Groundwater’ for the Dhanbad city, and proposes to publish a report by July 2018.
Eklavya Prasad hasn’t taken a holiday since 2011. This work is his entertainment, his life! He says “your work should be a good package of everything – fun, enthusiasm, passion, commitment and joy. And before one starts talking about a problem there should be realistic articulation.”
Well, in a world where water is taken for granted in some areas and longed for in others, Eklavya Prasad’s life journey has so much to teach us human beings – you can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.
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