Small Steps Big Leaps



Known for its quick delivery of lunch boxes in the city that never sleeps, Mumbai Jevandabbe Vahatuk Mahamandal has initiated the process of reduction of food wastage by feeding the poor and the needy with large quantities of leftovers. Through collaboration with over 30 wedding planners and caterers, this community of dabbawalas has set up two helpline numbers which party planners, caterers and any other individual can dial to schedule a pick-up of leftover food. Under this roti-bank initiative, the dabbawalas collect the excess food from the nearest location and distribute them among pavement and slum dwellers and to those living below the poverty line. With a policy of no profit no loss, some 400-odd deliverymen work beyond their regular shifts in the afternoon and evenings during festivities in Mumbai and with the same speed and efficiency that has been their hallmark since the inception of their organisation.


Denied the opportunity to finish school as a child due to untimely death of his father and pushed into work at a roadside tea stall in Cuttack, Odisha, D Prakash Rao today runs a school to ensure children of slum dwellers are not deprived of education. It was in 2000 that Rao laid the foundation of this commendable work which advocates education over employment of children. He eventually opened a small school and hired a teacher, the entire cost of which continues to be met from the meagre returns of his tea vend. He distributes about 50 litres of milk every morning to all school going children in the locality and visits children in the school during lunch break. Today about 86 students receive primary education in this school, after which Rao gets them admitted to a government school. He is of the view that it does not matter which economic strata one belongs to: It is imperative that every child receives a proper education.


Ravi Kalra, founder and president of the Earth Saviours Foundation, has embarked on a new mission to educate drivers against unnecessary honking in an attempt to reduce noise pollution on Delhi roads. Besides putting up ‘No Honking’ banners, distributing pamphlets, stickers and organising public awareness campaigns, Kalra has also been making regular rounds of government institutions for several years now. His efforts have culminated in a directive which requires 90 percent of commercial buses in Delhi to convert their pressure horns to low density horns. Additionally, January 1 has been declared as ‘No Honking Day’ in the Capital. As per the Supreme Court, it is an offence to blow horns in five sensitive areas anywhere in the country — at signals, during traffic jams, in residential areas, near hospitals, and near religious institutions. Known as the ‘No-Honking Man of India,’ Kalra is also a world record holder for wiping out ‘Horn Please’ signs from over one lakh commercial vehicles.


An honorary animal welfare officer and a renowned animal rights activist with People for Animals (PFA), Mahendra Shrimali actualised his unconditional affection for animals by opening India’s first shelter home for disabled dogs. The 64-year-old has been employing his van as an ambulance for over 15 years now while managing a PFA vet clinic simultaneously. While making rounds in the ambulance Mahendra came across many paralysed, blind cats and dogs who were often severely wounded. Their helplessness moved him to take up this initiative where such animals could not only be given proper meals twice a day but also free medical assistance. Along with a team of four doctors and many volunteers, the shelter today hosts 25 dogs that are slowly healing and receiving immense love and care. The shelter is running on Mahendra’s monthly pension of Rs 45,000. Mahendra now sees this work as his life’s mission.