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In a world where most people just want to gather more and more belongings it is so rare to meet a person who willingly gives up a safe growing corporate career to start social work. I am proud to say I have met such a brave, selfless man, Shantanu Gupta. He was strong and bold in dreaming about a better world and, instead of moving in the inertia of day to day life, he has decided that he wants to "become the change he wants to see in the world". I was happy to see his efforts in helping others were recognized and he is one of the 10 featured candidates for the next Tata Jagriti Yatra. Here is what Shantanu says about his journey in life and his own dreams.

Born in a little town in north of India, my childhood was very simple and real. We lived in a small government quarter and my father was the single earner for our family of four. He was a safety engineer and a union leader in a drug manufacturing company. I went to the nearby government school and was an average student until 4th standard. With the guidance from my sister, I stood first in my class in 5th standard and then onwards I got inclined towards studies. During the following years I studied hard, participated in lots of extracurricular events and won many accolades. My school enabled me to acquire a practical bent of mind with logic and reasoning and a genuine craving for knowledge. It helped me to be a conscientious and a diligent student.

In the final years of my schooling I had put a lot of effort and reached to one of the famous universities of India, G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology to pursue my engineering degree. I was from a lower middle class family and I was aware that funding my and my sister’s education was never easy for my father. In the very first year of my studies in the engineering college I had put countless number of hours to secure the “University Merit Scholarship” available to the top 3 students of each discipline. The four years in university gave me the opportunity to study with students from various states of India, with different cultures and back ground. Living away from my parents made me responsible and zealous to achieve some thing for me and my country. It gives a great pleasure to recall how all of my hard work resulted in getting me a “Vice Chancellor’s Silver Medal” for standing second in the college in my engineering branch. In college I was partial to learning and leaned towards academics. For me it was an experience that helped me to shake my self and identify my potential, capacities and capabilities to move ahead.

After the college I landed in the professional world of Information Technology and worked in many different domains like manufacturing, publishing, automobiles, telecom, finance and insurance. My consulting profile gave me the opportunity to work in various cities in India and abroad and hence opened my eyes and heart for various cultures, traditions and religions co-existing in the whole world. Working in India, Israel, Cyprus, Hungary, Egypt and Switzerland gave me an immense understanding of the international dynamics of governments, cultures, religions, history and most importantly the prevalent development issues in various countries. It was difficult to strike a balance between the work and the family life in the competitive world of consulting. But my regular discipline of practicing yoga and meditation helped me to keep my balance.

Coming from a small city in India, I was happy to enjoy my professional growth clubbed with national and international exposure. But I want to confess that the cause of social contribution, social service, justice and national issues always pulled me more than my work. So to quench my thirst for what I call a “real work”, I kept myself engaged in lots of volunteering activities for the betterment of the society. Initially, I involved myself in various random volunteering opportunities such as conducting theatre plays in Bangalore for fund raising, spending time with street children trying to learn through plays in Punjab, working for micro-fiances NGO Rangde and writing editorials for various social magazines.

My efforts and my bent for social sector gave me the courage to leave my plush corporate life and I got the admission in the 'mecca' of development sector: Institute of Development Studies, Sussex (UK) for my Masters in Governance and Development.

Currently I am heading the education program of Naandi Foundation in Hyderabad, India. In this project, we run remedial classes with more than 23000 underprivileged children and trying to improve the basic governance of government primary schools in India. Along with this we are trying to develop and innovate the low cost business model for entrepreneurs at the local level to fill the huge demand of remedial education at the local level. In this multi million donor funded project I play multiple roles: heading a team of 700+ people to run this huge program, networking and partnering with other NGOs and leading the communities towards program objectives, government and the donor and most importantly, making the program self-sustained and developing many entrepreneurs at the community level.

India is country of 1.2 billion people. It’s growing at the rate of 7-9 % from last 5 years and even now in the recessionary times. Even then 75 % of the population is below the poverty line ($ 2 a day) and 40 % people are literate. This new growth story is only limited to the 20% of the urban and semi-urban population. Systemic corruption and administrative malfunction in the political and bureaucratic structure of India is stopping the percolation of the growth to the last person on the street. Educated, trained and able people are not entering into politics. I think to clean the dirt, we have to get our hands dirty. I want to enter into the Indian political system and then bring the wide reforms in the system. These reforms should be studied and crafted very carefully keeping diverse background of India in mind. Academically, I want to study all the political reforms happened internationally over last 50 years and want to work out detailed, workable, stage wise strategy for Indian political reforms. Today the health of nation is measure through its Human Development Index (HDI), which largely rests on GDP/capita, health statistics and education statistics of a country. I want to study the education, health and livelihood/employment sector policies of various developed and developing nations to understand the dynamics of this trio in development of a nation. So my aim during is to reflect on my own experience, learn from the experience of the other scholars and work on the required political and administrative reforms in India for better service delivery by the government machinery, which is vastly defunct as of now.

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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jun. 20th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
Its me!
This is just so great. Hopefully a lot more ppl including me have the courage to do what Shan has done. Its so easy to talk about changing the world but only a handful actually work on it. I'm honoured to that I know someone like him, who is and will always be an inspiration to me.
eshgheman
Jun. 21st, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
Re: Its me!
I wish the person would have signed it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )