Published: 05th July 2018
Meet Rajasthan medical student Ashwani Parashar who crowdfunded solar power and clean water for the village of Rajghat
Parashar is a medical student from Rajasthan who has been working with the people of Rajghat to help them access the basic facilities that they are lacking
When Ashwani Parashar set out to bring some reforms to the village of Rajghat in Rajasthan, he ran into many hurdles, as expected. But it wasn't the endless visits to the government office or courts that infuriated him, it was these two questions that were constantly thrown at him — "Why do you care?" and "There are one lakh villages like this, do you think you can change anything by changing this one little village?" — that really got to him. "I would tell them, as government servants I will let you take care of the remaining 99,999 villages, let me take care of just this one," Ashwani said.
Ashwani Parashar is a 23-year-old medical student from Dholpur, Rajasthan. For the last four years, Ashwani has been working towards the upliftment of the people of Rajghat by providing better resources to them — from electricity to drinking water. The medico was always inclined towards social causes from a very young age and it was during one of his clothes drives that he came across the village of Rajghat, located just seven kilometres from Dholpur, which is the hometown of the sitting CM, Vasundhara Raje.
Big dreams: Ashwani is currently doing his internship
The clothes drive that led him to Rajghat
"My friends and I all contributed our old clothes and we were distributing them among the neighbouring villages. That's when I first laid eyes on Rajghat, the villagers showed me around and I saw that there were no roads and no electricity in any of the homes and the worst thing was that the people had no access to drinking water," Ashwani recalled. The river that flowed nearby was the same that the villagers used for drinking. Unfortunately, it was completely contaminated, "In the regions near the mouth of the river, the bodies of babies are not cremated, they are instead dumped in the river and the villagers sometimes find these bodies floating when they are collecting water and sometimes, because they have no choice, they drink it anyway," he explained.
Another problem that the villagers faced was the presence of crocodiles in the river, "Many young children had been injured or killed when they would go to fill water. The villagers were plagued by all sorts of problems. Most of the people don't have jobs and forced to run to alcohol too," Ashwani said. Even the local school only functions in a single room,"Grade one to five all function within a single room and there is only one single teacher for all the classes," he added. "We can talk about the Right To Education, but what about the Right to Life. Even when I asked these villagers why they weren't sending their children to school, they said their focus is on getting three meals a day, so where did they have the time to think about sending their children to school?" he asked.
Like family: Ashwani with his friends and the people of Rajghat
The constant question - Why?
Ashwani said that witnessing the dire conditions of the people there pushed him to try and help the villagers out, "People keep asking me why this village? Why do I care? I don't know, I just came upon this village and suddenly it began to feel like my own," he said and added, "Don't we all protect our homes?"
The first thing that Ashwani did was to question the authorities about the water supply, "There were a hundred trips that I made into these government offices but it did not yield any results, then I started going to court and finally filed a PIL. The court then directed authorities to make arrangements for safe drinking water to be provided to the village. After months of delays, the villagers finally have 39 water filters installed. I used to visit the village almost every week over the last few years but never dared to drink a glass of water, now it brings me so much happiness to request a drink." Ashwani said with pride.
Crowdfunded solar panels
The medical student, with the help of his friends, installed solar panels that are now being used to generate electricity, "We could not bring electricity to all the houses but we chose the houses where the families were sending their daughters to schools. Eventually, we are going to be able to electrify the village completely but we thought we could also encourage more families to send their daughters to school this way," he said.
Hashtag Rajghat: Ashwani also launched a campaign online to garner funds for the village
But how did he get the money to bring about these changes? Ashwani said he got in touch with various NGOs and also reached out on social media to crowdfund the solar panels for the village. "We started an online page and the hashtag #SaveRajghat that even went viral, bringing us lots of other sponsors too. We've now been able to build a huge network of people from across the world who regularly ask for updates about the village. Some others have also reached out for help for their own villages," Ashwani told Edex.
An MBBS schedule, government office visits and court dates
Devoting oneself to reforming an entire village is quite a herculean task and what Ashwani has done and continues to do still leaves us, members of this cynical society, wondering how he even does it. Besides all this, what we cannot forget is that Ashwani did all this while being a medical student. How? "I would try to do most of the work on the weekends, except when it came to visiting government officials or filings PILs. Otherwise, I must thank my friends for helping me throughout with classes," Ashwani said.
Currently, Ashwani is doing his internship so he doesn't get as much time to go to the village but every time he does, the villagers welcome him with open arms. He says the connection will remain for life and he is nowhere close to done with regard to work. "Right now I have to focus on my education but as soon as I get time I will start work on other issues," the young man said. But Ashwani's plans for the future go beyond Rajghat, he hopes to work on other villages too but something else that he's keen on working on is developing India's education system. "I'm very inspired by Anand Kumar's Super 30, so I hope to start something for medical education on the same lines."
Success at last: After running from pillar to post, the young student was finally able to install filters in the village
There's no stopping him now
Ashwani's so young and yet, he has managed to change more lives than our 50-60-year-old politicians sitting in parliament. Has he not missed out on being just another college kid? He laughs at the question and then says, "No, no I have. I managed to go out and have fun with my friends too. Maybe not as much as a regular college student but I've not missed out on much. I'm glad I walked into Rajghat and I hope to walk into more such villages and help uplift them."