Inspiration is what keeps us going. These amazing, brave, dedicated inspiring leaders of India are doing groundbreaking work in the social sector and working for a better tomorrow. They help us believe that there is good in the world. So here I have enlisted 10 such inspiring Indians who have gone against all odds to reach out to people in a way that is entirely different. This post is not really in any particular order because, after all, ranking them seems a little fruitless.
Since 1997, he quit his job and started serving the society and took up other assignments to fund Shloka, a free English-medium school for children from the Goregaon slums in Mumbai. His foundation currently runs 4 English Medium schools which provide free education to the poor. He requests small donations and goes around shouting “Vidyadaan Shreshth Daan” in local trains. This man is one of those faces of the society who break the general belief that one must have their pockets full to do something for the society.
The college gives simple school lessons in reading, writing and accounting to adults and children. It works to impart skills people’s need in their everyday lives. The most sought after students are “drop-outs, cop-outs and wash-outs”. He has helped over 1000 villages in 37 countries to get electrification with solar power. The ‘Barefoot approach’ may be viewed as a ‘concept’, ‘solution’, ‘revolution’, ‘design’ or an ‘inspiration’ but it is really a simple message that can easily be replicated by the poor and for the poor in neglected and underprivileged communities anywhere the world.
Never underestimate the power of ‘One’. In 1979, Payeng, then 16, encountered a large number of snakes that had died due to excessive heat after floods washed them onto the tree-less sandbar. That is when he planted around 20 bamboo seedlings on the sandbar. He worked on projects after projects and transformed the area into forest over 30 years. Molai forest, now houses Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, over 100 deer and rabbits besides apes and several varieties of birds, including a large number of vultures.
‘All people have a right to sight’. Dr. Perumalsamy Namperumalsamy and his army of cataract fixers at India’s Aravind Eye Care Hospitals have been performing surgeries to give the blind people their eyesight back. The surgery has been around for decades, but the chairman of Aravind — which was founded in 1976 with the goal of bringing assembly-line efficiency to health care — figured out how to replace cataracts safely and quickly and helped 3.6 million people get their vision. Featured in TIME’s Top 100 list.
There are men who squirm at the mention of a woman’s period. Then there’s Muruganantham, who re-engineered a sanitary machine which makes about 120 napkins an hour. Currently more than 1300 machines made by his start-up company are installed across 27 states in India and seven other countries. Receiving the award from the Indian president was not the happiest moment of his life. But his proudest moment came after he installed a machine in a remote village in Uttarakhand, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
This activity consisted of providing free meals for cancer patients and their relatives. Beginning with fifty, the number of beneficiaries soon rose to hundred, two hundred, three hundred. As the numbers of patients increased, so did the number of helping hands. The ‘Jeevan Jyoti’ trust founded by Mr Sawla now runs more than 60 humanitarian projects. For last 27 years, millions of cancer patients and their relatives have found ‘God’, in the form of Harakhchand Sawla.
Her life started as being an unwanted child, followed by an abusive husband who abandoned her when she was nine months pregnant. But Sindhutai emerged stronger with every difficulty she faced and became a ‘mother’ to over 1400 homeless children. Currently she has opened 5 shelter homes for the orphans where they are being educated as well as provided all the basic amenities of life . She has proved that a mother can be someone who adopts you and takes proper care of you.
‘The Ice Man’. Sounds like a pretty cool super hero, and he kind of is. You’ll find him in the Himalayas. Back in 1987, Norphel invented artificial glaciers and started constructing massive dams in order to efficiently use the water gathered from melting ice to change the lives of the farmers. 30 years ago, Norphel was laughed at and never taken seriously, but today he stands in front of the camera as a proud citizen, and a real climate hero. He has proved that if man is the one responsible for disturbing nature, he also has the capacity to save it.
Sharma, a father of three from Aligarh, was forced to drop out of college in his third year due to financial difficulties. When he decided to start the free school, he didn’t want other children to face the same difficulties. So he eventually persuaded local laborers and farmers to allow their children to attend his school instead of working to add to the family income. The children from the neighbouring villages attend class for two hours daily, where they learn math and basic reading and writing skills. He believes, his greatest achievement was changing the attitude of his students’ parents. Most of them now encourage their children to study.
Arputham was born in Kolar Gold Fields, near Bangalore, in the south of India. He moved to Mumbai when he was 18 to work as a carpenter. Having no place to live in, he began sleeping outside people’s houses in Janata Colony, a slum of around 70,000 people. When the inhabitants of the slum were threatened with eviction, he united the community in organizing protests and fighting injustice. Over the years, Arputham has built 30,000 houses in India, and 1,00,000 houses abroad. For his remarkable work, he has been awarded the the Padma Shri. He didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize but Jockin Sir has dedicated his life to bring peace for slum dwellers.
This may be a small force at present, but if we all stand together , we can wipe out all the social tensions.
I salute these true heroes who have made us all extremely proud.