Small Steps Big Leaps



A lawyer by profession, Leslie Pereira, does not only offer legal aid to clients. Having been abandoned at an early age, he extends his help to people, forsaken by their families, living on the streets of Mumbai. Pereira spends most of his life in the compounds of government- run hospitals, looking for patients whose families have stranded them. So far, the lawyer has successfully rehabilitated hundreds of destitute sex workers, HIV patients and elderly people. One can spot him in hospitals, assisting those unfamiliar with the place and occasionally at police stations to help victims file a case. Born in Goa, Pereira decided to walk this path after he was denied assistance by some hospital authorities in time of need. Pereira, who practises at the Bombay High Court, has been handling Public Interest Litigation cases on various issues for the past 18 years. This gives him the expertise and vision to serve humanity irrespective of caste, colour and creed towards the betterment of society.


Tired of waiting for forest officials to clear a mountain road project, the residents of villages near Karnaprayag decided to take charge one day. And in just 10 days, about 300 villagers built their own road connecting Bhatkwali with Bainoli village.The villagers worked for almost eight to nine hours a day, and carved out a three-kilometre long motorable road. All the construction work was done using basic tools like chisels and hammers. For long, the project was not being initiated because forest officials believed that it would involve shredding of trees. However, the villagers managed to achieve their goal without touching even a single tree. The road was originaly supposed to be built under the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojna. Most of these villagers come from the mountain regions of Bhatkwali, Chorasain and Bainoli near Karnaprayag. The villages are perched on altitudes between 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level, and accessibility between them had been difficult so far.


Very few realise the true meaning of this adage. Those few who do include Tada Periyasamy. Once a Naxalite, he now runs a trust which conducts night classes in 60 villages surrounding Cuddalore and Perambalur. To equip the students with practical skills the trust also runs yoga, sewing and computer classes. Additionally, he mentors 45 Dalit school children at a hostel in Perambalur and teaches them Hindi every weekend. Being deprived of learning Hindi because of Dravidian politics in Tamil Nadu, Tada takes help from a team of four Hindi professors from Chennai, who visit the hostel every weekend to teach these kids the associate official language. Periyasamy, the founder of the Dalit Panthers of India with Thol Thirumavalavan, later moved to DMK before eventually shifting to BJP for a political career. A man whose former livelihood relied on taking up arms against the state’s tyranny, now espouses arming children with education.


Inspirational and devotional songs are often heard in the villages of Aurangabad district in Maharashtra these days. If one follows the sound, one will find that the singer is actually a bureaucrat. Vijaykumar Phad, the Deputy Divisional Commissioner, posted in Aurangabad divisional commissionerate has taken it upon himself to do something to prevent the increasing number of farmer suicides in the region. He has chosen to use his skill of narrating stories with a moral lesson in the form of devotional songs, with a view to counselling and encouraging the farmers in several villages. As of now, he has already covered 25 villages. According to a senior revenue official, farmers are connecting well to the exercise. That Phad’s vision has takers is evident in the fact that the number of villages seeking his sessions are now on a waiting list.


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