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 he was able to get a hand pump installed for his community of Lakhapur. 40 people now have access to water.
“People in my community know me well through my work with CSEI and BR Ambedkar Student’s Forum which focuses on Dalit issues, especially the empowerment of Dalit youth. When I returned from the IndiaUnheard training, I was eager to begin working on my first video. I was nervous and hesitant as well so I was taking it slow. But people had already heard that I had been trained in use of video recently and this is why Bachu Mangi, the Tola Sewak (a para-teacher for the hamlet who is responsible for tutoring kids in the hamlet and ensures that they attend school) approached me.
One day in July, Bachu Mangi from Purab Tola Musadi came to my home and shared with me the difficulty his locality was facing due to lack of access to water. He informed me that the handpump installed in his areahad been non-functional since the last 30yrs! This really upset me and I went to the hamlet to learn more about it. Lakhapur is a village of 2500 people; I found that the residents of around 10 houses (40 people) who live in Purab Tola Musadi, on the outskirts of Lakhapur village, had no water source of their own and used to fetch water from a nearby well. The well had become dirty and now these people had to go further into the village and fetch water from other peoples’ handpumps. Whether they got water or not depended on whether the other villagers didn’t mind sharing.
Around this time, I was encouraged by my mentor to attend the next Gram Sabha (village council meeting) that was scheduled for 2nd October. We thought thiswould be a good opportunity for me to understand what issues people are raising with the authorities. I attended the meeting and realized this was the perfect opportunity to voice the issue being faced by Bachu Mangi and his neighbors. I spoke directly to the Village Head who assured me that he would look into the matter immediately. He requested me to wait for one month and then make the video when they had installed the handpump. I decided to give him sometime to act on his words.
After 20 days, I went to Purab Tola Musadi and found that the handpump had been installed near Bachu Mangi’s house and the villagers there seemed very relieved that their struggle for water was now eased. I’ve now made a video to show how we can make things change if we are ready to put in some effort and engage with the responsible authorities as well.
My learning has been that if we try, then anything is possible. I have a reputation now that is very different from other young men in my community and that makes me proud. I also feel more confident about approaching people in authority because of the opportunity I have got through this work. I’m looking forward on my next change-making video!”
Interview compiled by Radhika
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