For societies to advance and be more habitable, certain individuals have to pick up the mantle to facilitate societal change. One progressive approach to addressing the sensitive and necessary aspects of life is social entrepreneurship. Over the years, many social entrepreneurs have been selflessly engaged in promoting positivity and progress in different facets of society, but perhaps not many are more involved and dedicated to solving the problems in different aspects of society as Bhrigu Borthakur; a humanitarian, environmentalist and social entrepreneur.
From helping the physically challenged in Assam and facilitating women empowerment to general community development, Bhrigu has dedicated his life to finding modern solutions to the challenges in his society. He believes low income, ignorance, and poverty are just some of the major causes of many of the problems faced in society. “I understand and feel that the very cause of socio-economic problems in the society is the low-income level of the people. I also think that women of our society have unused potential which, if harnessed, can prove very productive. These thoughts inspired me to work in activities which can empower people by raising their level of income,” he observed.
Recalling the first time that piqued his interest in social matters, Bhrigu tells us that organisations like Help Age India and Smile Foundation inspired him as a child to get involved in social work and social causes. “It was probably 2004. Unlike every year of flood Assam sees, that year was severe. I remember my uncle, who came for a visit, was discussing the flood condition at Samaguri, Nagaon and I, as a child, got empathetic and wanted to help them. As my uncle was supposed to go back by the evening train, I rushed to my neighbours with my friends to collect donations for the flood victims, and before lunch, we could collect a good amount which I gave to my uncle. After few months I got a thanking letter from someone in the village. This was my first social work which still motivates me to do good work.”
Bhrigu’s startup; Care U 365, started in 2013, is one way through which he is providing solutions to problems in areas like education, community development, health awareness, assistive technologies for disability, women empowerment and many more. Their work covers more than 50 villages, such as Ramshing Sapori, Hathiayana, Ganesh Kuwori, slum areas in Guwahati, Bonda, Boragaon among others. The organisation makes this possible by establishing programmes and utilising assistive equipment to improve the quality of life of the disabled. For many people in Assam that are physically challenged, education has been a huge challenge. This is why Care U 365 has put measures in place for disabled people in Assam to get quality education which is a right rather than a privilege.
“There is no appropriate education policy designed for the disabled people. For the blind, we are producing braille materials and since 2019, we have started making audiobooks and have also launched a YouTube channel for the blind with the name ‘Disha for You’. We are also seeking a land grant to set up a state-of-the-art college for the disabled in Assam.” Bhrigu has already begun creating sports programmes for disabled athletes in the state.
He also adds, “The most worrying part is there is no clear data of several disabled people in Assam. After the Union Government amended the act on disability in the year 2016, the categories of disability increased to 21 which now include people with dwarfism and acid attack victims. The central Government introduced the UDID portal to enrol people with disabilities but so far in Assam, the number has not yet reached even 50,000. This is unfortunate. Even the number of pensioners in Assam is around 1,60,000 which contradicts the data available from census 2011. For this, we need to have a separate disability census. In this regard under the initiative of the government, we are planning to go ahead with the idea.”
Armed with a degree in mechanical engineering, Bhrigu’s goal to improve the education scenario is not limited to people with disabilities. From setting up co-curriculum centres and activity centres to infrastructure development projects in government schools, Bhrigu has tried his best to make a significant impact in this sector. All sections of vulnerable children are in the purview of his mission. Rag pickers, village children, dropouts, and street children all are equally given emphasis. Mission 50 project has so far covered 13 schools with the latest one at Mahorichuk Village LP School in Majuli. The team has also set up many libraries and community reading halls.
In the area of women empowerment, he reveals that women are the unused potential of society and, if harnessed properly, can give optimum results. While he acknowledged the efforts of government agencies, he says the emphasis should be given more to the feasibility of the projects. “The women Hira potters of Assam were working manually until we, with the initiation of Laxmi Education Foundation, introduced motorised Chuck and Pug Mill.
“Now with the direct aid of FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) FLO (FICCI Ladies Organization), we are now working in two districts and four villages to empower the Hira women, potters. Apart from this, we have also conducted sewing and cutting courses and other vocational courses in several villages, as well as literacy programs for illiterate women and girls, and a jute bag and sanitary pad making unit,” he adds.
Bhrigu further informs that the jute bag and sanitary pad making project has been set up with initial machine aid from Guwahati Gateway Ladies Circle 158. The motive of setting up this sanitary napkin manufacturing unit is to empower the women and girls of Ramshing Sapori and nearby areas. Currently, a total of 8 women are directly involved. The unit is supplying subsidised and free sanitary pads to the needy.
Bhrigu is a true humanitarian, whose sole aim is the alleviation of poverty through social entrepreneurial solutions. He showed his resilience in achieving this during the waves of a pandemic that struck the country. “Aahar is our free food distribution initiative which we started on 19th April 2021. It is running successfully in Jorhat and Guwahati. The project comes under the umbrella project named Magic Van. The latter works on key areas such as education for all, hunger relief, creating livelihood, and women empowerment for people living on the streets. Rajmal Kamal Chand Sethia Trust is our promoter and organisations like Round Table also supported us. Response and support from the public are also good,” he said.
Apart from his services towards humanity, he is also a hardcore environmentalist who is concerned about afforestation. He plans to plant billions of trees around communities to improve the ecosystem is, although lofty, taking on a practical approach. “The Billion Tree initiative aims to plant fruit saplings in public places to cater for the nutritional needs of the poor people, especially those who stay by the roadside. It would also aim to plant fruit saplings in village households among poor families. Though it seems a little utopian we believe that this initiative will start a chain campaign to fight malnutrition,” he notes rather enthusiastically.”
Bhrigu’s startup mostly generates funds through crowdfunding. So far they’ve received a fund of Rs 1,00,000 from former Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal through SLAC for the Braille printing of a competitive examination book for the visually impaired. Another Rs 40,000 was awarded as a one-time grant from the social welfare department.
For the next five years, Bhrigu hopes to take his humanitarian outfit to the next level, for the sake of the lives he has been able to positively affect. Care U 365 is known for its simplicity and originality and will, in the future, come up with more constructive projects so that they can be of benefit to even more people. “In the next five years, we plan for a college for the disabled and a research and development centre for assistive technologies. Overall we want to be among the finest original organisations in India,” he concludes.
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