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#RiseFromWithin: Making Social Responsibility Personal – Ashok Garla and the story of Amachavadi
"Sustainability has to be a way of life to be a way of business.” – Anand Mahindra
In 2017, TechMighty Ashok Garla and his family were on a road trip to Mysore. The journey was long, but the tranquil scenery as they traversed through scenic villages and towns, more than made up for the time spent in the car. While the visuals of the countryside were breathtaking, the driver remarked that the reality of communities living there was stark in contrast. They lacked resources and support, and the already dire situation was only getting worse.
Ashok wanted to help but didn’t know how to. Much like many others who could sympathize with the problems of farmers in India, he was struggling to find solutions.
This incident stuck with him for a long time. Growing up, his father had imbibed in him the importance of helping the needy and leading with kindness and compassion. In 2009, When his daughter turned 4 and they decided to celebrate it at a shelter for the differently abled, Ashok came face-to-face with his life’s purpose: individual social responsibility. He recalls that seeing the children’s faces light up in joy was something he would never forget and that there was simply no other life experience or job that would provide the same satisfaction.
It was these two life experiences that set the stage for the impeccable work that has transformed the lives of an entire village. A few months after their trip to Mysore, Ashok’s wife and daughter returned from a training session – by an NGO, the IDPMS (Initiative for Development through Participation of Marginalised Sections) Society – in Amachavadi, a village in Karnataka, India. Home to 1300 farmers, Amachavadi was suffering the dire consequences of a massive water crisis. There hadn’t been any rain since 2011; the cultivated land had reduced by more than half and some crops like banana and vegetables simply could not be grown anymore.
But now, there was a sliver of hope. The solution to their problems lay in the science of water conservation. The trainer of the NGO session was a farmer who had managed to restore groundwater levels for over 2000 acres of land by constructing borewell recharges – water conservation structures that replenish existing borewells.
However, with a single borewell recharge costing half a lakh to construct, how were they going to fund this project?
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” goes the famous quote by Anne Frank. Upon hearing the woes of these farmers, Ashok and his wife got to work right away. By reaching out to their small network of family and friends, they managed to raise around 1.2 lakhs. But their resolve to help Amachavadi did not waver; they knew they could create a larger impact with more help.
Farmer Veeraraja Nayak standing next to elakki banana trees that finally thrived after the second check dam was constructed, ensuring his borewell was recharged with water
That’s when Ashok reached out to Employee Social Responsibility Options (ESRO) at TechM for support in terms of funding and volunteers. As the name suggests, ESRO helps TechMighties fulfill their individual social responsibilities. Ashok took it upon himself to convince ESRO that this was a cause worth investing in. He assured them complete transparency and ownership, and at the end of the day, his passion for helping the villagers won them over.
In just the first year, IDPMS and TechM, in a collaborative effort, constructed 13 borewell recharges for the village. To ensure that these borewells don’t run dry, four check dams were constructed that helped water percolate to these recharge systems. Recently, a 700-metre-long canal that runs through the farmland was de-weeded, deepened and widened, benefitting over 14 farmers and 54 acres of land. Ashok recalls fondly that the moment they finished constructing the canal, there was huge downpour of rain— almost like a symbol of their lives, finally, changing for the better.
The past five years, however, haven’t been easy. In the beginning, Ashok’s lack of expertise was a huge hurdle, and he didn’t feel confident owning the project. But with his heart set in the right place and the mentorship of the NGO members, he was able to learn quickly. With the NGO needing funds, and Ashok needing “domain knowledge” as he calls it, this collaborative effort helped bridge the divide and create real, positive impact.
The team is set to construct two more check dams this year, and Ashok is hopeful of finally fulfilling his life’s purpose.
With one village transformed and thousands of destinies rewritten, he’s just getting started.
Here are a few TechMighties that Ashok would like to thank. We salute your efforts! :