Courage and passion fuel Indians


Courage and passion fuel Indians
Vivek Menon

Meet the men and women who are aiming high and defying obstacles

By Nithin Belle

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sat 26 Jan 2019, 10:27 AM

Last updated: Sun 27 Jan 2019, 11:02 AM

A large country like India faces enormous problems that have to be tackled not just by the government, but also by individuals who have to often take on the system and bring about significant changes. We feature five such personalities who have been taking on these challenges across different segments:

Vivek Menon
Wildlife conservationist, environmental commentator and author
Mahatma Gandhi had said: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Vivek Menon, a wildlife conservationist, environmental commentator and author - of eight wildlife books - and photographer, believes that one idea that can save India's nature is ecological connectivity across a human-dominated landscape.
Menon is the founder, trustee, executive director and CEO, Wildlife Trust of India, and also a senior advisor to the president and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
"The very presence of seven billion people in this world is pushing the natural world to its brink," he wrote recently. "Even the most idealistic of conservationists realise that nature is fighting a losing battle when pitched against the greed (and some would argue need) of man."
The more pragmatic conservationist would fight hard when core areas are defiled but would be satisfied if development with safeguards is allowed in other places, he added.

Dr. Kriti Bharti
Opposing child marriages
As a child, Kriti Bharti suffered a great deal in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, as other family members ill-treated her and her mother. Her father had abandoned her mother when pregnant. But the mother fought valiantly to raise Kriti on her own. "In conservative Rajasthan, this was scandalous," Kriti told an interviewer.  "My relatives wanted me aborted. They couldn't accept me, and the multiple life-changing consequences made me mature emotionally at an early age."
Consequently, Kriti chose psychology as a career to protect children against emotional damage, and the past few years has seen her battle child marriages in Rajasthan. Her name is featured in the Limca Book of Records for getting the first child marriage annulled in India in 2012. A year earlier, she had set up the Saarthi Trust to help child brides and get their marriages annulled. Hundreds of child marriages have been stopped by Kriti and the Saarthi Trust. Of course, life has been quite tough as she has got several death threats over the years from villagers, caste councils and even politicians. It is going to be an uphill task for Kriti and her associates as things change at a snail's pace in many parts of India. It is only the efforts of people like her that can bring about revolutionary changes in despicable social practices.

Tukaram Mundhe
Firebrand officer
The Indian bureaucracy, both at the centre and in the states, is dominated by Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, who are said to be among the brightest and smartest people coming out of the higher education pipeline.
While most IAS officers accept the fact that as bureaucrats they are answerable to politicians who are their bosses as ministers, elected officials and parliamentary and state legislature committee members, some are known to have stood up to the rule of the law, withstood political pressures and paid a heavy price.
One such person is Tukaram Mundhe, known as a firebrand IAS officer in Maharashtra. Tukaram is a no-nonsense government official, who often clashes with elected officials and refuses to heed to their 'requests', but pays a hefty price.
Last month, for instance, he was transferred the second time in just 35 days - when an average IAS officer is there at the post for at least two to three years. In November, he was shunted out as the municipal commissioner of Nashik and posted as a joint secretary in the general administration department in Mumbai, reporting to the chief minister.
But in a little over a month, he was found uncomfortable and pushed out of the key post and shifted to an 'inconsequential' post of director, Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society.
The 2005-batch IAS officer has been transferred more than a dozen times in his career. The young officer indeed appears to have an 'exciting' time ahead over the coming years.

Hima Das
The 'Dhing Express'
She's still in her teens, lived most of her life in a small village near Dhing in Assam, but catapulted to the level of a top athlete in 2018, when she became the first Indian woman athlete to win gold at the international level.
Hima Das, 18, became the first Indian sprinter to win gold at an international track event last July; she won it in the 400 m final at the World U-20 Championship held in Finland, posting a time of 51.46 seconds,
And at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August, she won three medals: a gold and two silvers. She won the gold in the women's 4x400 m and silver medals in mixed 4x400 m and 400 m individual event.
Hima, known popularly as the 'Dhing Express,' ended the season with a ranking of 23rd in the world and second in Asia. Her remarkable performance has made her one of the most popular sportspersons, not just in Assam, but across India.
For an athlete who used to run barefoot in her native village, Hima is now being wooed by multinational shoe brands and given several contracts to endorse products.

Dean D'Cruz
Innovative designer
Dean D'Cruz practices natural architecture, using locally available materials and traditional technology while designing structures. He had graduated from the Sir J.J. College of Architecture in Mumbai in 1983 and two years later joined renowned architect Gerard da Cunha as an assistant in Goa. He was fascinated by the state and its architectural style and decided to stay back.
Initially he became a partner in Natural Architecture, which worked on cost-effective housing in the style of Laurie Baker, the British-origin Gandhian architect, who got Indian citizenship in 1989. Baker, who died in 2007 when he was 90, had adopted Kerala as his home state.
Dean too used waste building materials and innovative designs right from an early stage. Later, he worked as principal architect of Dean D'Cruz & Associates, taking on small hotels and homes. In 2001, he founded Mozaic, which aims to provide holistic solutions to its clients.
The architect was part of the Goa state level committee that made the regional plan 2021 for the state. "Our biggest challenge is not just managing energy and water resources but the noise and disharmony caused by development that disturbs," Dean told an interviewer some time back. "We need to find ways to make buildings disappear and allow nature to take over, using as little of its resources and taking away as little of its natural beauty. Therein lies the harmony we are all seeking."

Dr. Kriti Bharti
Dr. Kriti Bharti
Tukaram Mundhe
Tukaram Mundhe
Hima Das
Hima Das
Dean D’Cruz
Dean D’Cruz

More news from