Kolkata: Recently, Aamir Khan, launched the anthem Ala Toofan, for his pet project – The Satyamev Jayate Cup, an initiative by The Paani Foundation, that aims at maximising watershed and water conservation. The second edition of this competition– Water Cup is all set to kickstart on April 8, 2017. The tournament, which started off with a modest 3 districts participating in 2016, will be witnessing 30 districts participating this year.
The nation, has gone gaga over the motivational anthem, but do you know the man who motivated Mr Perfectionist to kick start this unique tournament? Meet, Dr Avinash Pol, a dental surgeon by profession and a water conservationist by passion.
The water man
A 43-year-old dentist hailing from Satara, Maharashtra, is busy travelling to various districts, building up the tempo and even handpicking a few villagers to be trained for the tournament. It took a good five days to get a slot of 15 minutes for this interview. “The tournament is about to take place. It’s getting more hectic with every passing day. Every morning I have to do shramdaan for two hours at Ajinkyatara, then attend my patients in the hospital post which I have to do work related to this tournament. At the moment I am in Sholapur and am busy doing the groundwork,” he says.
What is this Ajinkyatara and shramdaan, he is asked. To which he says, “This is where I began my journey as a conservationist. On January 12, 2013, in response to an appeal made by a local newspaper to clean the fort’s premise, I reached Ajinkyatara, a Maratha fort in Satara district. Two more people turned up in response to this advertisement. Since then, it has become a daily practice for me and them to reach the spot by 6:30 in the morning and toil for two almost two hours to clean up the fort premise. By the way, with time, our team is now a 40-member team.”
Recalling his journey Dr Pol shares, “When I began practising in Satara, most of my patients complained about none of the government plans being implemented. They also complained of water crisis. So, one day, one of my patient asked me to attend a gram sabha related to public toilet. To my surprise not many turned up. However, that didn’t deter me from helping those villagers set up public toilets.” He laughs, and says, “Believe me I didn’t have to shell out a single paise to help them. All I did was, help them avail benefits from government schemes.”
Every government has policies to resolve water issues
Two decades back, this was how, Dr Pol began his humble journey as a social crusader. However, with time, he noticed that the problem of water scarcity, was increasing.
He reveals that any government, be it the Congress, BJP or any other political party at the centre, all set aside funds for the drought hit areas. “There are many government funds, but mediators to make them reach where needed is rare. So, I took it upon myself to be that missing link. I used to scan newspapers for news related to water conservation. I was also toiling two hours on daily basis, with my group at Ajinkyatara Fort. Our efforts, were already paying rich dividends, my group had grown. It comprised of a healthy group of 40 people, who without any communication or reminder reach the fort at 6:30 pm sharp, for the two hours shramdaan, as we call, for the betterment of the fort,” he adds.
His tale travels
His work was now and the changes he was bringing about in drought prone Satara district, was making people take notice of the silent revolution that he had brought about. One day, an official from his village introduced, him to a person called, Satyajit Bhatkal, who had come to know about his work and plan. A few days later the man was back, but this time with his crew. “Satyajit shot a documentary of the work that we were doing to conserve soil and water at Ajinkyatara. He showed my work to Aamir, who called me over for a lunch. He told me that he wanted to do something for drought prone areas. But I dissuaded him from giving grants or funds to the villages. They didn’t need money. What they needed was direction and guidance on how to conserve,” Dr Pol recalls.
That was when the idea of hosting the Water Cup took place. So, what is this water cup all about? Do people play matches? Well, for the uninitiated, Satyamev Jayate Water Cup, is a competition, held in Maharashtra, under the aegis of Paani Foundation, a non-profit organisation run by Bollywood star Aamir Khan, that aims at addressing drought issues in Maharashtra.
The Water Cup
The Satyamev Jayate Water Cup, Season 2, is a competition with a difference. During this contest, spanning over a time period of 45 days, participating villages work for watershed management and water conservation. The best performing village wins a trophy, and a prize money of Rs 50,00,000.
So, now with so much of a change coming in, does it mean that his work is done? “This is just the beginning. Helping out 70 villages till now is too little. When we will be able to eradicate this issue of water scarcity, from India, then the job will be done. But we will be able to achieve this, only if every single citizen is motivated to bring about a chance. Remember, no policy, no fund can bring about the change, unless, we get involved.”
So, are you ready, to contribute? Let’s just begin by not wasting water. What say?