In Just 2 Years, This Gujarat Woman Revived 87 Lakes In Tribal Villages

Written by , MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Chaitra Krishnan MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Experience: 5 years

Sitting in an air-conditioned room, working for a multinational company, hardly any of us think about the hardships that the lesser developed areas of our country face. People who live in these areas are deprived of the most basic requirements to sustain life — food, water, and shelter. And what are we doing to help them? Even if we get the opportunity, how many of us are ready to get into these places and help uplift them from the miseries? Well, the answer would be ‘not many’. We are so fond of the luxuries of life and the goals that we’ve set for our future, that we don’t really have time to help anyone else. But thankfully, there are some people who, not only go out of their way to help others and but also make it their life’s mission. Mittal Patel, the founder of the NGO, Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM) is one such golden heart.

Mittal gave up her biggest dream of becoming an IAS officer to support 28 nomadic tribes (NT) and 12 de-notified tribes (DNT) in Gujarat. In the process, she revived 87 lakes in their villages and became a catalyst for the development and recognition of these communities. Her life is a true testament to the fact that each one of us holds the power to change the world. Want to know more about Mittal? Read on.

From IAS To Journalism

Image: Instagram @mittalpatel_vssm

Mittal Patel aspired to be an IAS officer. While she was preparing for the competitive exams, she joined a Journalism course at the Gujarat Vidyapith. As a part of this course, she worked in different areas of the state, helping her understand the difficulties of the people living in such places. As a result, she decided to give up on her IAS dreams to help them. Soon, she formed VSSM to give voice to the weak and advocate for their rights. These people comprised primarily of the denotified and nomadic tribes in Gujarat.

Revival Of The Motisar Lake

Image: Instagram @mittalpatel_vssm

Last year in Gujarat’s Adhgam village, the village men gathered for a khuli baithak (open meeting) as usual. Amid all these men, there was one woman in the limelight — Mittal Patel. She spoke for three hours about the village and the scarcity of water that bothered the people. At the end of the meeting, the village head and the rest of the men agreed to support Mittal’s efforts in helping them.

Within just two weeks, the revival procedure began and the unnecessary plants and trees were removed from the area of the lake. The area was deepened to increase its storage capacity and the silt was given to farmers to use in their agricultural land. Adhgam village, located in Banaskantha district had been suffering from water scarcity for long. Even though the restoration of this lake did not completely resolve the issue for Adhgam, it surely made a difference by storing the water released from the Narmada Canal.

The Bigger Problem

Image: Instagram @mittalpatel_vssm

The revival of one or a few lakes wasn’t enough to solve the water scarcity in Banaskantha district. “The district is an arid area with sandy land and rainfall of around 15 inches per year. The depth in most of the borewells in the villages is about 900-1000 feet against and ideal depth of 100 feet. Reckless groundwater extraction to meet the non-drinking and farming needs of the village coupled with insufficient rainfalls have resulted in this situation. As for drinking needs, it comes from government pipelines but not every day,” said Mittal in an interview with a leading online portal.

Mittal realized that the problem couldn’t be solved without the help of the villagers and community participation. It wasn’t easy for her to convince people that the goal was to help them. But once they realized the point, they supported Mittal and her group. As a token of appreciation, the people of the village provided them with food and shelter during the course of their work.

Image: Instagram @mittalpatel_vssm

“Water is the most precious element on Earth. In the past, conserving it was of prime importance and making special provisions like ponds and lakes in water-scarce areas was considered to be a noble work. Communities and village elders took care of common water sources. They followed an annual calendar of cleaning and desilting village wells and lakes. Even today, providing water to the thirsty is considered to be the most righteous work. We are just trying to keep that tradition alive,” she concluded.

Mittal Patel received the Nari Shakti Award for her selfless service to the needy communities in Gujarat. Even today, she is clear about her future goals and is sure to succeed with the help of her team. It warms our hearts to know that there are people like Mittal among us. If we want to, each one of us can be like her and work towards uplifting the weaker sections of our society. Do you believe that you can make a change in society by aiding others? Have you ever considered social work as a profession? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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