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Shyam Aggarwal

 

April 2010 Winner, for the story

Poly Lined Agriculture Pond & Land Shaping Project

 

"I thought giving time was more important than money as I could raise money if my projects were good. "


 

NGO Post: Tell us a little about yourself.: 

I am B.Tech. graduate of IIT Kharagpur from 1964 batch. I did post grad diploma in Welding Engineering (1966) from Duisburg, Germany. I have worked in steel, plastics and IT industry. I became Entrepreneur in 1990 and started a small IT company. I retired from business in 2008. I have lived in Rourkela, Delhi, Pune and Kolkata before retiring from business in Bangalore in 2008.


 

NGO Post: What are your areas of interest in the social sector?: 

My interest started in 1966 as I was bored in Rourkela. I had come back from Germany and this city had no after office life. I joined Rotary at the age of 24 and started going to villages on one Sunday every month on my scooter with a doctor. I would keep track of children and patients and he would immunize and give medication to those not well.

I moved on to Delhi and then Pune (1975) where I joined Round Table and did a lot of work in Blood Camps (collected one month requirement of the city) and appliances for the handicapped.

Later from 1978 I have been in Kolkata and developed interest in following areas – education of under-privileged girl child, drinking water in the rural area, reducing digital divide and greening of Kolkata.

I worked with Rotary Club, Computer Society, Schools on Line, The Indus Entrepreneurs and American India Foundation to be able to do what I thought were major problems.

I thought giving time was more important than money as I could raise money if my projects were good.


 

NGO Post: What are your current activities for the non-profit sector?: 

My current interests are in the field of Education for the under-privileged and Rain Water Harvesting for the rural areas for irrigation as also for drinking and cooking.

 

 In last six months, I have collected scholarship /awards to pay for fees for 21 school students. I am confident of increasing this to 50 by next year.


 

NGO Post: How did the story come about?: 

My family comes from Rajasthan though I have never lived there. I had always heard and seen photos of ladies carrying drinking water for miles every day. I have lived most of my life in Kolkata. In  1980s I was involved with selection of villages in Sundarbans, South 24 Paraganas, West Bengal to implement hand pump projects to provide drinking water. I was surprised to see that in Sundarban areas of water rich Bengal also, ladies carried water over long distances. The water is available at 30 feet and government sunk hand pumps to 100 feet and the water was not drinkable as it was saline. Up to 500 feet there was a chance of getting arsenic in water and so we sank hand pumps to from 900 – 1200 feet deep and they are still working after 23 years. I had helped raise funds for over 100 hand pumps and each costs about 1.2 lakhs today.

I saw the work done for water harvesting by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Ramakrishna Ashram, Nimpith there. In three years the incomes levels of farmers went up by 180 to 550 % with an average of 250%.

On settling down in Bangalore, I read so much about water shortage and no water for irrigation etc. I joined Senior Citizen Group, Indranagar Bangalore and with their help I visited a village Sonnahalipura in Hoskote district to find out what could be done. I chose this village because Canara Bank had a Self Help Training Center there and they helped me in communicating with the farmers.

I redesigned the pond (as done in Bengal) and then got it checked with Agricultural University, Hebbal. Based on my study of their experiments, I modified the design. I then suggested the project and benefits to farmers and Gram Panchayat to approve it under MGREGA scheme. This was approved on March 30 but not implemented this year because of administrative delays. We plan to implement in early 2011.

The pond would collect half a million liters of water per acre of land in Bangalore Rural district and this will help to get second crop and to improve the farmer’s income. Each pond of 500 cubic meter size would cost around Rs. 1.25 lakhs. Funding would be from MGREGA, Farmer and Loan from Bank to Farmer (without mortgaging farm land).


 

NGO Post: You are in a contest to win a $100,000 prize for a social welfare idea, What will your idea be?: 

Rural Karnataka scene and income of farmers could change if water for irrigation was available. The health of farmers and children could also improve if good quality potable water was available. I would utilize the funds for improving the awareness and creating demo units for the above two ideas in two rural districts that surround Bangalore. Bangalore Rural would be done by Senior Citizens, Indranagar, Bangalore and Ramanagar Rural District would be done by Rotary Bangalore Indranagar. They have agreed to do these projects and I am a member of both these organizations.

Costs

Farm pond of 500 cu meters                                       Rs. 1,25,000
Extra for filtration to provide drinking water                    Rs.    25,000 approx.
Extra for pump to pump water from pond to farm           Rs.    25,000  (guess)
Implementation support from Volunteers                       Rs.    15,000
(out of pocket for travel and meals and communication)

Contingency                                                                Rs.    10,000
Total per demo unit                                                      Rs. 2,00,000
Awareness and benefits campaign per pond                   Rs.    50,000

Leaflets, talks, presentations and refreshmentsfor farmers per demo unit
Total expense per demo unit                               Rs. 2,50,000
No. of demo units per district     8
Expense per district                                           Rs. 20,00,000
No of districts covered and expense  2                 Rs. 40,00,000

Balance left Rs. 5 lakhs approx.
 
To be used for accounting, documentation, photographs and filming etc. 

The eight demo units would be in eight villages of each district to cover geographically different areas so that many villagers can see the project in a near by village.

If any funds are left, they will be spent on the project. Administrative expense will be kept to minimum and probably would be absorbed by Senior Citizens Indranagar, Bangalore and Rotary Bangalore Indranagar.        

If this project is selected for the prize, the funds should be given to Senior Citizen and Rotary as I would not like to handle public funds. I would like to spend my time on coordinating the project rather than administration.                     



NGO Post: Any other thoughts?

Change the way scholarships are given to under-privileged children by many NGOs. I had developed a new way in Kolkata and found it to be more effective. This method has some commitment from the child receiving the scholarship in improving grades each year. I have started this in Bangalore already and shall write a story on it in another few days and post it at NGO Post.