As a special feature for World Environment Day 2016, I wrote a story of Manjit Singh, a socio-environmental changemaker based in a remote tribal village of North Maharashtra called Salaiban. I consider the 3 days I spent with him at Salaiban, working and chatting, as a privilege. You can imagine my elation when I got an opportunity to represent Tarunai Foundation run by him at the Social Welfare & Growth Awards (SWAG) 2016 organized by The CSR Journal.
The story goes back 3 weeks when one of my friends informed me about upcoming SWAG awards. The award solicited entries in 5 categories namely Education & Skill Training, Women Empowerment & Child Welfare, Environment & Agriculture, Sports and Health & Sanitation. It instantly became clear to me that I should nominate Manjit Singh in the Environment & Agriculture category and do my bit towards helping him get recognition for his noble efforts. After consulting Manjit Singh, I filled out a detailed form and sent it to The CSR Journal team. Within a fortnight, Manjit Singh called me and said, “Rohanbhai, I received a call from the awards team and they want me to present Tarunai’s Salaiban project at an event on 8th July. Since you have done all the legwork, can you represent us at the event?” I jumped at this opportunity. The sense of satisfaction of genuinely helping someone get recognition for his work is indescribable. This was my ‘Good Karma’ moment and I would not let it pass by me!
SWAG 2016 brochure
As the date got nearer, we had multiple phone calls to discuss several questions especially those related to scalability of the Salaiban project. Scaling up and replicating this project is our Achille’s heel and I had a hunch of being questioned on this. However I decided to be honest if such a question were to be asked. Manjit Singh is currently not thinking of taking this project to other parts of Maharashtra or the nation because he strongly feels that complete sustainable development of Salaiban requires patient and focused hard work over a period of at least 5 years.
The awards function was held at Hotel Leela in Mumbai. There were 3 contenders in each of the 5 categories. Finally, the moment of truth came and I went up on the stage. Here’s a video of the event when Mr. Vivek Talwar, Vice President of Tata Power asks me the question I didn’t want to be asked, and my reply to it.
Post the award ceremony a woman nominee came up to me and commended me on my answer. She said, “I liked that you honestly said that you are not looking to scale your project. At all competitions we are asked how we would expand our project beyond current location. Is it always necessary that scaling up quickly is the best way forward for everyone.”
A good thought to ponder on!