Protecting your parisar

Traffic woes are a constant source of discussion and debate. Sujit Patwardhan, founder and trustee of Parisar, tells us how and why urban transport is their focus

 
Congestion, pollution and accidents are daily travails of the urban population. Huge budgets are being allocated for various transport projects. Yet, cities are reeling from the impact of sharp rise in the number of automobiles and two-wheelers and the lack of planning, infrastructure and urban transport. Isn’t it strange then, that only a few NGOs focus on problems of urban transport?
 
Parisar, is one such organisation, founded in 1981, in Pune, by a handful of individuals, sharing a growing concern about the deteriorating urban eco-system and livability of the city, constantly under the onslaught of skewed development priorities. 
 
Parisar opposed cutting of old banyan trees for widening of the iconic Ganeshkhind Road and, as usual, was accused of ‘stopping development’. It is then, that the activists realised a deep flaw in the way they were trying to solve this problem. We understood that wrong and outdated policies were the biggest threat to urban environment. This led Parisar’s to focus on issues of urban transport and advocate sustainable transport policies. 
 
In 2004, Parisar, along with other NGOs, organised a seminar called “One Right Turn” which, explored the ideas of sustainable transport, challenged the idea of ‘building your way out of congestion’ and proposed public transport, walking and cycling as solutions. These thoughts were vindicated by the National Urban Transport Policy (2006), which espouses nearly similar principles. The seminar changed the way the city thought about transport and led Pune to submit proposals to build a network of over 100km of Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) under the Central government-funded Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Parisar’s challenge today is to ensure proper implementation of this project.
 
Parisar publishes reports on its work regularly. One such report is the ‘Report card on the Quality of the City Bus Service’, an assessment of the cycle tracks and analysis of the city’s annual budget. Parisar also contributes in preparing various reports like the Environment Status Report a detailed plan for Public Bicycle scheme. 
 
Parisar has successfully pushed for adoption of a ‘Street Design Manual’, which will help in improving environment in the city so as to adopt walking as a major mode of transport. Parisar also helps creating a network of similar NGOs in various cities, with the idea of sharing experiences and aggregating forces for advocacy at the national level.
 
“Explaining what Parisar does is sometimes difficult”, according to Ashok Sreenivas, an IITian who splits his time between Parisar and Prayas, another NGO. “People usually connect more easily with NGOs that help the poor or the needy and where the beneficiary is someone you can visualise,” he adds. That may be one of the reasons why there are only a few NGOs that work in the area of urban transport, where it is more about getting the government to do the right thing than the citizens doing it . Those who work at Parisar come from diverse backgrounds and learn about urban transport on the job.
 
Gathering greater public support for improving public transport, creating cycling facilities and a better environment to adopt walking while moving away from automobile-centric planning are the ultimate goals of Parisar. These goals, once considered radical, have now, become mainstream. 
 
As an organisation, Parisar understands that it still has a long way to go. But that does not deter its belief that despite increasing number of vehicles, it can be easier to travel in days to come.
 
For contributing to its efforts, Parisar welcomes volunteers and offers student internships. Donations are exempt under Section 80(G) of the Income Tax Act.
 

Parisar

‘Yamuna’, ICS Colony
Ganeshkhind Road, Pune 411 007

 

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    Helping Those who have nobody

    Near Vasant Kunj’s ‘Green Avenue’, shielding residences of Delhi’s super elite, Veeresh Malik discovers one man’s mission to save the destitute

    The people at the tea stall, where I stopped to ask for directions, give me an indication—everybody knows where The Earth Saviour’s Foundation (TESF) is located.

    As I park my car next to brilliantly manicured green lawns, I notice some temporary shelters housing about four dozen elderly people and a couple of hundred young children in school uniforms, on the other side under tents—it is all about the circle of life. Suddenly it strikes you—the balance between the young and evolving next to the old and fading away. These are abandoned, destitute, mentally-challenged elderly people rescued from the mean streets of life who will, in all probability, leave the premises only on their final journey. The young children, some of them also rescued from the same mean streets, will hopefully move on to make something of their lives. Both sets are bound by an important element they find at the shelter—respect. And that is what makes TESF different.

    There is something so natural about this simple balance of the young and the old that TESF’s other activities, more on the ‘environmental’ side, also fit into a natural whole. In a brief four years of operations, TESF has grown phenomenally; its website lists a series of activities—from rescuing destitute women, to anti-noise pollution to working towards controlling fire-crackers to responding to the needs of providing decent funerals to unclaimed dead to promoting electric cremations, TESF seems to have taken multi-tasking forward in a sector which often gets stuck on one specific function.

    Ravi Kalra, the man behind this pro-humanity drive, has certainly had a chequered life. Son of a police officer, he cut his own path, teaching martial arts to the uniformed forces. He then dabbled in a variety of businesses in which he reportedly did well, but a major turning point came when it all collapsed. Recovering from this setback, he revived his martial arts into a successful venture, but again, decided to hand it over to his brother and focus on trying to give something back to society.

    Initially, he worked on rescuing the elderly abandoned in and around Delhi. Some of the stories he relates—of elderly parents being thrown into the streets, of unwell siblings abandoned outside hospitals, of people incapable of looking after themselves, of handling funerals—are simply mind-boggling. Soon he realised that there was a major problem with street children too and started working on that as well.

    Essentially, TESF, set up in 2008, rescues the young and the old from the streets, cleans them up, provides basic medical assistance, gives them food and shelter for the rest of their lives and, eventually, ensures they get a dignified funeral (Mr Kalra also helps cremate hundreds of unclaimed bodies). The children are a mix of street and impoverished neighbourhood children, who are provided day-school facilities till about pre-puberty.

    TESF has four ambulances, plenty of computers to put order into their activities and I watched bags full of old clothes being sorted out. TESF was started with Mr Kalra’s personal funds; your donations to it will be eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act. However, what Mr Kalra would really want from people is more volunteering. He wishes that people would just come to meet the abandoned elderly since many of them still crave for their family.

    Getting like-minded people on board is a challenge, and it is his hope to some time build a ‘pukka’ construction. The basic philosophy is simple—‘do what you can, don't expect to change or improve matters too much, and certainly concentrate on the effort, the results will follow’. If you like the thought, do go out and volunteer. All that is asked of you is friendship and empathy!

    The Earth Saviour’s Foundation
    34, Green Avenue Road,
    (near D Block Church) Vasant Kunj,
    New Delhi - 110070
    Ravi Kalra: Founder & President 91-9818171695
    [email protected]  |  www.earthsaviours.in

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    Grassroots Vikas: Is the Way Forward for India

    Financial inclusion in its true sense is about knowledge and empowerment leading to ‘vikas’ or progress. Harjot Kaur writes about how Vadodara-based Zoher Doctor is changing lives of the underprivileged

     
    That Vikas Trust would have been set up by a financial planner is clear from its very objective—not merely to make people self-sufficient through livelihoods, but to empower through every tool of financial planning available to the more educated and privileged people—access to credit, a savings plan, insurance, access to medical benefits and guidance in finding markets for products. Vadodara-based Zoher Doctor, a financial planner for over a decade, he decided that the best way to give back to society would be to provide ‘real upliftment’ to the underprivileged through a ‘self-sustainable plan’. 
     
    And, in two years since 2010, his effort is attracting support from a cross-section of people and donors. The concept is deceptively simple—Vikas Trust provides financial and social resources to those who want to transform their lives. It provides self-employment through gruh udyog (home-based industry), upliftment through microfinance, medical aid and specific help for women and children. Gruh Udyog offers products like candles, pickles, bags, handicraft items and artificial jewellery. Vikas Trust helps to source raw material at competitive prices and help in marketing the final product through the internet and a display-cum-sales centre (inaugurated on 4th September). 
     
    For starters, Vikas Trust provides interest-free loans to avoid a debt-trap. Field workers visit localities of the underprivileged, talk to local leaders, meet families and assess credit needs as well as willingness to become self-empowered. Zoher Doctor says, “I need to understand the mindset of these people to help them come out of the vicious circle of poverty. If I want to help them, I need to know what work they would be interested in doing. Then I talk to government agencies and other NGOs, to generate financial and intellectual resources for them.” 
     
    The original loan has to be repaid to recycle money for others’ benefit. People are also taught about savings, investment and insurance to make them financially independent. The recovery rate so far has been 100%.  
     
    Since the concept was new, the founders made an initial contribution of their own funds; they also had a tough time convincing potential beneficiaries to understand their concept of empowerment. Shaiyar and Sahaj, two Vadodara-based NGOs, helped Vikas Trust in its outreach effort. Changing the mindset of people, used to government subsidies or doles from NGOs and religious trusts, was a challenge, says Zoher Doctor. But now that it has proven the concept, donations are flowing in from individuals, corporates and other well-wishers. 
     
    Another innovation of Vikas Trust is the ‘Medicard’ provided free of cost to beneficiaries. The card has been structured with the support of like-minded doctors and hospitals; it entitles a person to a significant discount in treatment. The Trust is also working on preventive healthcare. For instance, Wockhardt has supported a free eye-check-up initiative.
     
    Other activities of Vikas Trust include, distribution of medicines and vitamin supplements under medical advice as well as clothes and foodgrains to the needy and counselling for education and family problems. Vikas Trust also runs a free library at its office premises for poor children. Mr Doctor plans to take the Trust’s activities forward by adding businesses such as garment-manufacturing, jewellery-making, developing parks, distribution of foodgrains to disabled singles and a building a call centre. 
     
    If you want to extend financial or social support to Vikas Trust, contact the members at the address given alongside.
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    COMMENTS

    Zoher Doctor

    7 years ago

    Thanks.
    The Contact details is:
    Vikas Trust
    402, Bholesai Apt., Bh. Emperor, Parsi Street, Fatehgunj, Vadodara 390002 GUJARAT
    (O) +91 265 6553344
    (M) +91 9824063400
    E-mail: [email protected]
    [email protected]
    web site: http://www.vikastrust.org

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