Small Steps Big Leaps



Senthil Gopalan worked as a mechanical engineer with several Indian and American companies before deciding to engineer happiness and prosperity for villages. In 2004, he settled upon Thenur village in Tamil Nadu to open Payir, a Rural Empowerment Facilitation Centre, with the belief that every human deserves a good quality life. Lagging behind the times, this village in Madurai district was plagued by lack of primary health care facilities and sanitation, high school drop out rates, lack of viable agricultural practices and round-the-year employment. Through Payir, Gopalan has established an outpatient health unit with two beds, a laboratory and a dispensary. Addressing the need for renewable farming practices, Payir runs an organic farm where villagers are taught about environmentally sustainable agricultural techniques. A community learning programme too has been initiated. Payir, Gopalan’s brainchild is thus re-engineering the face of Thenur, for better.


Natarajan, a manual labourer came up with a novel idea to beat the mining mafia at their game: populate the area. Disturbed by the unlicensed quarrying in his picturesque hillock in Konni, Kerala, he distributed half an acre of his hard earned land free of cost to ten poor families. Though the threats of the quarry owners have not died down, Natarajan has made title deeds for the land donated with the rider that the plots cannot be sold to anyone for the next 70 years. He says it his way of ensuring at least that much land remains out of bounds for the mining mafia. With his meagre savings, Natranjan had purchased one and a half acres of land and has been living with his wife in a tin shed located on a corner of the plot. The villagers are suffering from respiratory problems caused by constant mining and are troubled by the deafening noise of the granite crushers. But only this 80-year-old has shown courage to stand up against the exploitation.


Tirelessly getting old tyres to the safest place possible: a recycling plant is 16-year-old Anubhav Wadhwa’s mission besides managing his software development and analytical company and his studies. His recently launched website collects end-of-life tyres and deposits them with recycling plants for an extraction process called pyrolysis whereby fuel, oil, steel can be retrived. Wadhwa’s concern for the environment proved to be the primary impetus for the initiative. The site Tirelessly launched in December 2015 provides an alternative arrangement for those who wish to discard their used tyres in an eco-friendly manner. It is also a better option than the burning of tyres which releases many toxic gases into the environment. Wadhwa says his initiative will bridge the gap between the tyres lying unused and the many pyrolysis plants across India. The teenager’s efforts received special recognition on German TV channel ProSebian which featured him in a documentary for its show titled Galileo.


What do you do when people housed at the highest peaks of India are deprived of the most basic necessity of life: Water? You create glaciers for them. Chewang Norphel, also known as the ‘Ice Man of India’ created ten artificial glaciers to help the natives of Ladakh deal with the scarcity of water. Being a cold mountain desert, Ladakh receives only 50 mm of rainfall per year leaving locals always thirsty for more. Norphel, a retired government official decided to put his engineering background to good use and created reservoirs which would store the melting water in the summer and in turn become glaciers that could be used as water sources in winters. Since these artificial glaciers are created at lower altitudes than the natural ones, they melt earlier providing water for the villagers. What a tall accomplishment for this man who is also credited with building many roads, canals, bridges in the Himalayan region.