Dr. Ujjwalkumar Chavhan is from a small village holding multiple degrees, is an officer of the Indian Revenue Service in Income Tax Department. He has helped farmers from his village to transform their life and villages nearby. Please watch a small video and don't miss to read his full interview with Inspirational Beings team to know how he has carried out his mission, how he has overcome the challenges and what are his plans ahead.
Tell us about your family background and childhood?
I am Dr. Ujjwalkumar Chavhan. I am native from a small village named Dhamangaon, District Jalgaon in Maharashtra, India. I studied MBBS, Master of Arts in Economics, Master's in business law, and Taxation (MBTL), and now I am pursuing a Bachelor of Laws. I am an officer of the Indian Revenue Service in Income Tax Department, holding a post of Deputy Commissioner. I am working in Mumbai.
I was born into a middle-class family. My father was a farmer, and my mother is a retired primary teacher.
Despite securing a high-rank job in government, why you have continued your education?
I love to study. Knowledge gives you a broader perspective for looking at things. MBTL and MA in economics are relevant to my career in the income tax department. Law studies make my work full proof.
Secondly, in case of a situation wherein, I don't want to succumb under pressure in the department. So, having multiple degrees, gives me freedom and confidence.
Why you thought of starting a water conservation mission?
My childhood in the village was very happening and lovely. I spent my childhood on farms, with domestic animals and nature. I always wanted to contribute to the village, to give back to society, to strengthen my roots.
Over the period, the flowing river and our green village diminished due to the commercialization of agriculture for cotton and excessive usage of water. The river became dead. Agriculture became utterly uncertain, and youth started migrating out of the village. Aliveness in the village went missing. One prominent farmer in our village committed suicide in 2016. During the same time, I observed farmers protest very closely. It was the expression of agrarian unrest and protestation against uncertainty by farmers. That time I decided to shoulder my responsibilities towards my people.
Tell us about your mission?
Our mission is to make villages drought-free by conserving water.
In my village Dhamangaon, we have created 62 small dams on rivulets. And this had created a surface water reservoir of 200 million liters of water. After every rain, this quantum percolates in-ground raising groundwater level. Multiple showers of rain recharged the groundwater to the level of saturation. As a result, now the groundwater level is just 5 feet from the ground. River in the village was dead since the last 21 years started flowing again! Last summer, work was extended to 5 other villages.
What are your best and worst experiences in the mission?
The best experience was to see the dedication of youths towards this mission. Pankaj Pawar and Swapnil Jagtap were so devoted to this work that they were sleeping in the farms near Pokland machine in the night. They spent the entire summer for this cause. They inspired the villagers from their actions and dedication.
The worst experience was with the government official. Under one government scheme, Jalyukt Shivar yojana, the work of widening and deepening of rivulets were done but only 20% of the amount was spent on the ground. When the measurement was taken, it was found that the work is not as per the estimate. We have raised this issue to higher officials, but they were also involved in the chain of corruption and were reluctant to take any corrective measures. The problem was discussed in media too, but the officials of the Agriculture Department and local politicians did not budge.
What challenges do you face while carrying this mission?
The challenge is to align people on this agenda of water conservation. People are not trained to cooperate, contribute physically, and economically. Their involvement is critical for creating their ownership over the reservoir so that they take care of it and maintain it. Sustainability is only possible through people's participation.
It required 21 visits, 14 meetings in the village. Experts were made available from all over Maharashtra. The other problem is the availability of funds. Farmers don’t have any savings. Government schemes, NGOs, CSR donations, are the only sources, but they are limited.
What is your plan ahead?
My plan this year to extend this work to 50 villages. I am training 15 people now. These people will further empower five people from 5 villages. This will help us to cover 75 villages, but the attrition of 25 villages is expected. In the remaining 50 villages, we want to create a reservoir of 100 million liters each. These 5 Billion liters of the surface reservoir will make the whole district draught free.
This will make the villages draught-free and will help to cultivate two crops a year. This should generate employment for 8-9 months, and prosperous villages with happy families
Your message to society?
I have only one message; it is valid for the individual and the community. Don't expect somebody to come and help you. If you see a problem, find a solution and start working on it.
This story is supported by
Pravin Pawar from Chalisgaon, Maharashtra, India.