Distinguished Alumni Award::Raghu Hari Dalmia

Raghu Hari Dalmia has led a number of companies with diversified interests, including cement, industrial ceramics, and mechanical engineering. He has held leadership positions in various Indian business associations and has created international strategic alliances in areas of business. Raghu studied Mechanical Engineering from IIT Delhi (1967-72)

He has been involved in schools run by family in various parts of the country to uplift the education of children from the towns and villages. He has been taking interactive sessions with student of these schools as well of several other Schools and Colleges in various parts of the country.

In an interaction with Dr Vanita Srivastava he talks about his village adoption programme and more.

What did you study in IIT Delhi?

 

I studied Mechanical Engineering and passed out in 1972.

 

What is the one thing that you learnt from the Institute that has helped you in tackling day to day problems of life?

 

Rather than engineering it was more a holistic approach to problem solving with a clear mind to define the problem and seek answers step by step.

 

Can you brief a bit about your project on adopting villages? Why and how did you get the idea? What were the main challenges?

 

I started in 2004 when someone in Chirawa told me that this area has been declared a dark zone for ground water. I took up this challenge to minimize the water loss or perhaps even to increase the ground water availability by reducing the water withdrawal from ground, recharging the water into the ground, making the villagers aware about the impending water problem in the coming years and discuss the action plans with them to solve this.

The base point was to harness the rain water from roofs of buildings, homes, schools etc, build tanks to store water for house hold consumption, creating a network of pipes to collect the overflow from these tanks and recharge them into the ground or put this water in a pond for village use. Most important point in this was to ensure Bhagidari (participation) of the villagers so that they feel the ownership of water and tanks and maintain them. We also ensured that any water collected through this method was to be used by all villagers, irrespective of caste or religion and irrespective of financial status. Today the participation is greater than 50%.

Next was to tackle the consumption of water point which was agriculture. Agriculture consumes 80% of the total water consumed. We requested some experts to help out with technology of farming so on the one hand water consumption will go down and on the other hand yield of the produce will increase, helping the farmers to get better income.

We started our work with 50 farmers and have gradually increased to 5000 farmers and our aim is to go to 12000 farmers in the region in 5 years period.

We have been able to increase the income by around 22% to 50% depending on the crop and land quality and reduce the water consumption by about 35%. Our aim is to go upto 50% to 75% increase in income and reduction in water consumption to by about 60%.

As we started getting more and more familiar with the villagers we started working on creation of orchards for better income, increase tree plantation to create forests, create clean villages, plastic free villages, alcohol free villages, open defecation free villages, creating women self help groups for women empowerment and so on. We have had very good success in some and moderate success in others. But our aim is to convert all villages of Chirawa to the above mentioned ideas.

Currently we are working in 55 villages and plan to cover 88 villages over 10 years.

Initially we faced a lot of problems to convince the villagers about our programs, they always doubted an outsider, but finally our first rain water harvesting tank was constructed after 8 months.

 

What is the message that you would like to communicate to the young students of IIT Delhi?

 

Have a purpose in life. Bigger than earning money. That will come by in any case by your hard work. Don't get into the daily din of society. Think what you can do for the Nation also

 

What is your daily routine like? How do you de-stress yourself?

 

Nothing specific. Just relax, read books, watch TV and do some exercises.