Community Correspondents

Ashok Paswan

Ashok Paswan

Ashok Paswan is a Dalit rights activist, mentor and student currently pursuing a BA with honours in Economics.

He was driven to get an education despite his family’s low financial capacity; his father was a labourer and his mother managed their home. While he did well academically, he was forced to take a year off to raise money after completing class 10. During this year, he worked under harsh conditions in a steel company and as a truck driver. He managed to complete class 12 but was once again unable to continue his education. He took up odd jobs: installing hand pumps, working in the marble industry, working as a welder. An NGO contacted him during one of his stints after he was identified as the only person in his community to have completed class 12. He was supported by the NGO to enrol in a BA programme from R. Lal College in Lakhisarai, Bihar.

Ashok was not fully satisfied with securing his own education after identifying that barriers made education inaccessible to Dalit students, particularly higher education. He committed himself to change the system through his role as a mentor in the BR Ambedkar Student’s Forum. He assists students with application forms, coaching, counselling and more. Ashok believes that “we should move forward and match each person’s progress step-for-step” and practices what he believes in; he’s not only mentored 65 students but also helped train 7 mentors from neighbouring districts, amplifying his impact.

While Ashok was born in Lakhapur in Jamui, his parents moved him to his grandmother’s house in Vitalpur at an early age. “Jamui lacks basic services and my parents believed it would have been hard to raise a child here,” he says. He believes that people settle for unjust practices and aren’t aware of their rights and laws, attributing this to a rampant lack of education. However, Ashok says he believes in his community and likes that “if there’s an issue raised, people will come to a meeting, listen and discuss-- people do care.”

His first video and one that’s most important to him was about electricity access in his village. Lakhapur residents did not have access to electricity for 15 years after their transformer melted. In order to make a video about the issue, he commuted to a neighbouring village to access electricity. Through the video, Ashok enrolled his community members to raise money to book a car and visit the district official’s office. “It took us two years and we went to the office 10 times,” he says, “but the village I stay in now has electricity.”  

Another case that was important to him was one that involved Dalit families’ access to water. Community members complained to him that 40 homes had been consuming water from a dirty pond for 30 years because of a dysfunctional handpump. He raised the issue with an official who assured him an inspection within 30 days. The official inspected the situation and had a hand pump installed in 15 days. “There was no video required in that case,” he exclaims.  

Impact-oriented journalism is the reason Ashok believes in VV’s community media model. “VV doesn’t just make one video about an issue and then move on to the next. They’re committed to solving the issue and creating an impact. Bringing change is the focus, especially in the area that I’m from where nobody covers our issues-- Dalit or general issues.”

Ashok also credits VV in helping him increase his confidence: “Previously I could not say two words in front of officials or a crowd,” he says. Now he can and does organise training sessions (he’s a Play for Peace trainer) and confront officials, “I can make a crowd laugh as well!” Senior residents of his community ask him for advice and he’s even assisting one family with planning their daughter's wedding-- a responsibility that’s filled with him pride.

After his graduation in 2019, Ashok aims to continue his work as a social worker. He wants to develop a model where people no longer get an education to be mere employees, but where they’re able to incorporate care for the community as well.

Videos from Ashok

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Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana – A welfare scheme or scam?

 
/ May 17, 2017

More than 1800 women of Jamui district, Bihar have not yet received their entitlement under the Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana, since September 2013.

SUCCESS: Access to water after 30 years

 
/ September 16, 2014

Ashok Paswan from Bihar joined the Video Volunteers’ team in February 2013. He is a strong young Dalit activist in his area and works extensively on empowering young people from his community.  He is a team member at the BR Ambedkar Student’s Forum. In the following interview he shares how...

No facilities for Pregnant Women

 
/ September 28, 2015

Madva, Bihar | Ashok Paswan Mamta Devi, a mother of a newborn child, failed to receive primary healthcare from the Aanganwadi in her village during the pregnancy of her child.  Mothers in Jamui repeatedly complain of recurrent episodes of giddiness and weakness, and low immunity in their infants. This failure...

No facilities to learn

 
/ June 30, 2014

The Right to Education Act 2010 ensures that schools provide basic facilities relating to education such as an adequate number of teachers, midday meals, drinking water and toilets.  Not too much to ask right?  Wrong.  Welcome to overpopulated, corrupt India.  This is a scenario repeatedly reported by our VV-Correspondents.  However,...

10 Years No Ration

 
/ June 11, 2014

An annoyed resident Suma Devi informs us, “It has been 10 years since I got married but our ration cards have not been made yet.  Everybody excluding us got their ration cards, why are we not getting ours?”   Call to Action: This is the question asked by 25 families...