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Defy the norm, pledge to take up a cause

On Republic Day, three students who ­championed various causes in ­college share their unique stories and talk about why they want to make a difference.

education Updated: Jan 21, 2015 12:38 IST
Gauri Kohli

They are young, motivated and passionate about their cause. Whether it is working in the social sector, innovating for the environment or raising one’s voice through political activism, these young students feel that each one can contribute to nation-building.

One of them is Prakhar Bhartiya, founder of Youth Alliance, a social enterprise aiming to transform universities into nurturing grounds for young leaders and encouraging them to work at the grassroot level for various causes. “This Republic Day, every college student should feel inspired to take up a cause in whichever field they wish to. It could be related to academics or starting with something as small as teaching an underprivileged,” says Bhartiya.

He likes to work with a small group of youngsters at a time and focuses on personal transformation and mentoring of each individual. In last three years with 29 alumni initiatives/enterprises and over 50 taking to non-conventional careers, he has motivated youngsters like him to defy the norm and carve their own paths.

Bharitya taught as a full-time class teacher in under resourced school in Kondhwa, Pune and Kurla, Mumbai. He has also worked towards youth empowerment and participated as an Indian delegate in the South Asian Youth Conference. In 2014, he won the Google for Entrepreneurs competition, the Rhodes Youth Forum in Greece and partnered with the United Nations Population Fund for Youth Alliance.

Before Youth Alliance, he was selected by Teach For India movement as the pioneer batch fellow in 2009. He has been invited to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Greece, London to talk about his work on youth leadership. “While I was in college pursuing electrical engineering I felt that students in colleges live in their own world, unaware of what challenges the world is facing. We have so much time to do something constructive but are unaware of what and where to contribute. I thought of starting Youth Alliance and give a platform to students where they can contribute and get connected to real India,” says Bhartiya.

For Pradeep Podal, an IIT Bombay alumnus, a postgraduate degree in energy science and engineering, learning was not restricted to the classroom. “We wanted to innovate through what we learnt in engineering. We are currently focused on building thermal and electrical gasifiers. Our gasifiers can use a lot of agricultural waste which was previously unusable and was burnt. Bringing commercial value to this waste greatly improves the livelihood of landless labourers. A thermal gasifier can replace fuels like diesel, LPG, furnace oil etc used in industry. The electric gasifiers we are working on are designed to work in the remotest corners due to their low maintenance requirement,” says Podal.

He worked with a solar manufacturing company for a year before starting his company called Urjas. He believes that technology and innovation can actually solve problems more easily than something like policy changes. “A set-top box can fight cable mafia like no government can. A mini-grid can raise rural lifestyles like MGNREGA possibly can’t,” says Podal.

Tanishtha Arora, a life sciences graduate from Delhi University is currently pursuing law from Campus Law Centre, DU. She is secretary of a social organisation named Integrated Talent Development Mission (ITDM), working to bridge the gap between northeast India and mainland India. She is a student activist and has organised and participated in several events to work on this cause. She has also worked on student union elections in her university.

One example is a study tour organised in December 2014 to the northeast. “Seven students from Delhi University worked on this project. A survey was done on the Bodo tribe of Assam and Khasi tribe of Meghalaya which included study of their culture, history, economy, tourism, and the problems they face. The report will be published in a souvenir to be released in DU this week. We also adopted a village named Beranga Bari in Assam where skill development and awareness programmes will be organised. I am also coordinating campus activities of ITDM and have about 20 DU colleges working on university issues,” says Arora.

Good samaritans

A social worker, a science and technology innovator and a political activist have been working in their respective areas, armed with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation

Prakhar Bhartiya,founder of Youth Alliance
On Republic Day, every college student should feel inspired to take up a cause in whichever field he or she wishes to. It could be related to academics or something they like. One of the biggest challenges is that we are not working with the disadvantaged directly and the ideas of personal transformation and empathic leadership are not easy to find funds.

Pradeep Podal, IIT Bombay alumnus
We wanted to innovate through what we learnt in engineering. We are currently focused on building thermal and electrical gasifiers. Our gasifiers can use a lot of agricultural waste which was previously unusable and was burnt. Bringing commercial value to this waste greatly improves the livelihood of landless labourers. A thermal gasifier can replace fuels like diesel, LPG, furnace oil etc used in industry for heating by converting agri-waste to clean and eco-friendly gas.