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For the Sake of His Tribe

Where there is muck, there’s brass and IRS officer Suresh Lakhavat proved this, when he literally transformed his village and changed the lives of his people through sheer determination and hard work.

The Banjaras or the Lambadas are historically a nomadic trib,e who ancestrally are of Rajasthan descent and are housed in stray populations in hamlets called “Thanda”. They are often located in tribal rural areas with` jubdas (huts) as shelter. The ‘Thandas’ are so cut off from the mainstream that the majority of them haven’t seen a school campus in their entire life.

Even after hailing from such a poor and backward place, nothing could stop IRS officer, Suresh Lakhavat to achieve his dream of getting into civil services. Not just this, he successfully pulled out his district from its impoverished condition, taking it on the path to development.

PENURIOUS STATE

Residing in Sarwapuram Thanda hamlet in Mahabubabad District, Telangana, 200 km away from Hyderabad, the only connectivity that the residents and the place had were the narrow walkways along the Railway Tracks. To reach the nearest town that was 10 km away, the villagers had to travel additional 5 kilometers as there was no proper road and was the closest market available. The place had remained detached from the rest of the society since its existence.

Mr. Lakhavat’s house before getting into the civil service

85% of the population was illiterate and the fortunate 15% were those who were initiated into education in the early 90s by the hamlet’s first teacher. The first known school was a 40 square feet space let-out by an ironsmith in his thatched hut workshop. When the rains came pouring in, this temporary school space would remain shut for months. Such was the condition of the place that they had no electricity till 2010.

DIAMOND IN THE MINE

Mr. Lakhavat had this burning desire to bring a change in the condition, for his village and his people. He realized the need of transforming the condition of his native place. He knew he had to do something big and extraordinary if he wished to take the villagers out of this swamp.

He worked hard to clear his UPSC examination and got into Civil Services in the year 2010. That’s when he set out on the path to uplift his native place and make his people’s lives better.

UPLIFTING ‘THANDA’

His first step was to work towards increasing the number of classrooms and construction of toilets in the primary school building, but before that, it was necessary to get a proper electricity connection in schools. His civil servant friends helped him in his mission and he was able to acquire an electricity connection for the village, which was the first step towards his dream of developing Thanda.

Internal roads were built in the district

Thereafter, he shifted his focus to construct internal roads that connected the villages in 2017, so that the villagers did not have to walk for long distances, even for basic necessities. This idea was not happily welcomed by people of the nearby villages and his father was even attacked once. But this incident did not sway Mr. Lakhavat. Fighting against all odds and acquiring assistance from his batchmate, Mr. Lakhavat successfully constructed the internal roads, in a record time, before the monsoon.

INTERCITY CONNECTIVITY

After small victories, it was now time to accomplish really big. He shifted his attention to the everlasting problem of connectivity of the Thanda to the nearest Railway station. The officer engaged with the collector personally and approached several senior officials as well as ministers for this work. It was difficult but he did not give up.

As Mr. Lakhavat said “Work related to this road project actually commenced during the lockdown period on account of coronavirus pandemic in July 2020, when the train services were shut down. Initially, there was major resistance from the Railway authorities as the road had to be made through the railway land. I approached some of my friends in the Railways. Thanks to their intervention, this road finally took off. The lockdown actually made this road happen as the train services were shut on the route during the entire period and the road construction could be undertaken.”

Railway tracks were made to induce intercity connectivity

An initiative was also taken under CSR to install a RO plant to supply drinking water in October 2020. This is being done with the help of the district administration, led by Mr. V P Gautam.

SON OF THE VILLAGERS

Having experienced it himself, Mr. Lakhavat was empathetic to the plight of the poor people in the village and supported the educational needs of economically weaker tribal students. Their tuition fee was taken care of. He constructed make-shift libraries equipped with competitive books to help the students in their preparation even during the pandemic. As a result, numerous youngsters have managed to get employment in the private and government sectors.

Mr. Lakhavat with the people of his village.

Mr. Lakhavat grew up watching the impoverished state of the village and its people. He took a pledge to make their lives better and stood up to it. He never gave up or gave in despite an adverse set of circumstances and many setbacks. It required unflinching commitment, meticulous planning, perseverance, the capability to resolve these issues.

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