In conversation with Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University ex-fellows.
- How did YIF change your life?
Having farming family background, studied in government school and college, YIF changed my life in following ways – improved my soft skills and inculcated critical thinking approach; exposed me to a global and vibrant global community and taught me to deal with it efficiently; allowed me to explore various subjects to get out of my comfort zone.
- How should aspiring candidates prepare for the fellowship?
Be yourself. Understand the objective of fellowship and then prepare yourself accordingly. YIF values learning spirit for excellency and you need to answer how this programme will help you to achieve that.
- What do you currently do?
I am the Founder of SumArth. The organization is trying to establish agriculture as an established profession for the future generation. Currently our focus is on Bihar’s farmers. We are working towards increasing the income of farmers by introducing cash crops in the state.
- What motivated you to start SumArth?
I belong to a farmers’ family. Since my childhood, I have witnessed the plight of a farmer in Bihar. From my early childhood my family suggested me to do one thing “Never get involve in Agriculture” because they have not witnessed regular cash flow in this sector.
After my engineering, YIF and work experience; I started SumArth to solve the problem of cashflow in Agriculture in Bihar.Today we have 15,000+ farmers in Gaya and we are one of the largest producers of onion and mushroom in Bihar.
1. How did YIF change your life?
Given that I came from a socio-economically weaker background, it was a bit difficult for me to settle initially. However, YIF opened a whole new world of possibilities for me and broadened my horizon. All the batch mates, faculty and Founders are very empowering. I was the second youngest in my batch and had the opportunity to mingle with people with diverse backgrounds. There were engineers, lawyers, photographers, architects. Being at YIF helped me in understanding which direction my life should take. Being at YIF and getting liberal arts education helped me in imagining and putting down my thoughts on paper. Till today, I have the support from Pramath Raj Sinha, Amit Chandra. Meeting my batch mates and these influential founders is the central point of my answer because when you meet such people, you are inspired.
2. How should aspiring candidates prepare for the fellowship?
Anybody aspiring to prepare for YIF should understand that YIF is not a regular programme which has a set criteria. But one should try and spend enough time on application essays. They are self-revealing. You just need to be who you are. Do not shy from showing your true self, being bold and speaking up of your vulnerabilities, strengths, weaknesses. YIF looks for people who have passion for building something. YIF welcomes all kinds of people but what it definitely looks forward to is an unreasonableness in the way you look at the world and how you go about in navigating the tumultuous nature of the world. YIF encourages people to find solutions to problems that can make this world a better place.
3. What do you currently do?
I am the Founder and President of Bharat Navodaya Abhiyan. BNA is a public service wing of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas’ alumni network which is a national coalition of over 12 lakhs rural educated Indians. The portal enables, encourages and unites students and alumni of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas to impact and lead 21st century India and the world.
4. What motivated you to start Bharat Navodaya Abhiyan? What does BNA do?
By the time I graduated, I was sure that I wanted to work with this network of my school of Navodaya Vidyalaya Alumni Network. I realized that this was a huge and powerful network, largely untapped. That’s where the potential and opportunity lied. I wanted to help and serve my people. Gradually, we started Navodaya Scholar Programme, flagship initiative of Bharat Navodaya Abhiyan. This we launched in partnership with the Ministry of Education, GoI. We select top 30-40 high school students from rural communities and work with them for two years. They go through a leadership journey that prepares them for college life etc. The programme gives them 21st century skills.