Striving for gram swaraj
Whose ideals inspire you the most?
I am a Gandhian. I will work to the end to realise Gandhiji's gram swaraj.
How can Gandhi's dreams be realised?
Through people's participation. Every community has tremendous amount of hidden energy. Therefore, what needs to be done is to make people realise their collective power and strive for peace and prosperity.
What is your role in this?
I concentrate on the formation of gram sabhas. I help people sort out their differences and come to a common platform.
Hundreds of people from your area had recently gone for the kar seva at Ayodhya. Did you also go?
No, I am a devout Hindu but not a fanatic. My kar seva means helping villagers solve their problems and protecting forests.
What are you doing to regenerate forests?
I mobilise people to safeguard forests, plant trees on denuded hills and protect wild life from poaching. So far 11 Jungle Bachao padyatras have been organised and the gram sabhas have responded positively.
What have you done for your village?
I began a door-to-door campaign for the girl child's education and against the practice of child marriage. Now, the primary school in the village has the largest number of girl students (22) in the area. The anti-child marriage drive will take time to bear fruit.
What else have you achieved?
I have been mobilising people against the safa or phetta (turban) ceremony in which a person inherits the family responsibility and vows to preserve and promote its dignity. It is an extravaganza traditionally advocated by the brahmins. Usually poor families have to borrow money for the ceremony and they slide further into the debt trap.
What setbacks have you suffered in your efforts?
Besides tardy response to my campaigns and opposition from vested-interest castes, the major blow came from forest officials who framed me in three cases of poaching and timber-smuggling.