At a time when media is inundated with mudslinging over the qualification of leaders, the story of a former IIT Delhi professor who has spent the last 32 years in service of the downtrodden in Madhya Pradesh is a breath of fresh air.
Alok Sagar, a resident of New Delhi, did his bachelor in electrical engineering from the prestigious IIT Delhi and got his masters degree from the institute in 1973. He went on to complete his PhD at Houston University in Texas, US, before returning to India to become a professor at his alma mater.
However, it later dawned on him that he would be able to better contribute to the growth of the country and its people by working on the ground. So, in 1982, Sagar resigned as professor and began working with the tribals in Betul and Hoshangabad districts, helping save the environment — one tree at a time.
He has planted more than 50,000 trees in Betul district. And in association with the Shramik Adiwasi Sangathan, Sagar works for the welfare of tribals. Today, he can be seen riding bicycle, in line with his green endeavour, collecting and distributing seeds among tribals at a reasonable rate.
Over the more than three decades, the memory of his degrees faded, and no one would have ever known of the great mind in their midst had it not been for the election in the district’s Ghoradongari assembly constituency.
Unable to trace his background, the Betul district administration grew suspicious of Sagar and ordered him to leave, citing security reasons. It was only then that the former professor revealed his enviable qualifications.
“Unlike the baseless fight over degrees of politicians, Sagar has set an example of being a true social worker,” said Anurag Modi, an activist who works with Sagar.
During his time as a professor in the 1980s at IIT Delhi, he taught Raghuram Rajan, the present governor of the Reserve Bank of India, but Sagar says he doesn’t need a degree to serve people, only will power. “In India, people are facing so many problems, but people are busy proving their intelligence by showing their degrees than serving people,” he said.