Deepak Kumar is an Indicorps 2012 Fellow partnered with Center for Development Orientation & Training (CDOT) in Bihar Sharif, Bihar. Deepak’s project focuses on promoting organic farming practices through establishing and strengthening farmers collectives.


In an attempt to compensate for my lack of Hindi proficiency, a Sohdih farmer gestured to the sky. He was trying to convey that farmers are dependent on two things: the weather and the government. I doubt I will forget such a powerful statement as I continue on with my 2012 Indicorps Fellowship in Bihar. I had always read and heard about the fact that Indian farmers are a marginalized group. However, to hear from their own mouths that they acknowledge how little power they have firmly cemented it into me. Read the rest of this entry »

The monsoons hit Chandigarh this week, leaving people soaked and happy that temperatures are once again bearable. As I was leaving my room yesterday, I was met with a number of newly formed “lakes” and “rivers” (read: large puddles of still water and large puddles of moving water). Navigating my way around this to arrive at my destination was no easy task. While there were the smaller pools of water that had a small path of sorts on the side or through well-placed stones, there were a number of pools of water that initially seemed to have no possible route to cross. No side path, no rocks and not only was there no path but there were obstacles in the way- happily bathing pigs, large frogs and cows. “There is no way.  How do I do this? I have to do this. I have a group of 30 kids waiting for me.” With all seemingly traditional ways of getting across this puddle gone, I turned back to find another route that could possibly take me to my destination. While backtracking, I found a pile of broken old bricks.

I put down my bag and started to pick up bricks. I returned to the puddle and began to strategically place the bricks in the puddle and then tested them accordingly for ‘walk-ability’. As I was doing this, two children stopped behind me, as they too, needed to cross this seemingly impossible puddle. They realized what I was doing and started to go back and forth bringing me bricks to make a pathway forward. Together, we made a bridge of sorts to cross the no-longer impossible puddle. We crossed, parted ways and went along our business. In the evening, when I returned, I saw the brick path; we had lain in the morning being used by the evening commuters returning home from work.

As I walked home that evening, I realized this puddle is a good representation of my year- challenges, triumphs and partnerships. From the beginning of the year, there have been challenges that had easier pathways forward and those challenges that seemed to have no direction but backwards. Taking the lessons from failures and missteps and learning to appreciate moving backwards has been a lesson I have learned and am still learning. Triumphs, both big and small, have led me to learn more about the world and appreciate the good, bad and ugly in people. Partnerships have been the key to making triumphs delightful and challenges solvable and sometimes, well all the more challenging.

Furthermore, this story represents the most useful tool I have discovered and utilized this year- that I have the power within me to produce change. Rather, everyone has this innate ability and the onus is on you to tap into it and use it. At Indicorps, we are encouraged to dig internally to discover our ability to navigate tough situations. However, people rarely test their extreme limits and thus underestimate their capacity to tackle and handle untraditional, tough situations.

While I myself am still learning about my own capability to push my limits, I now have a confidence that I can handle anything that comes my way. It’s never this big solution that comes with jazzy lights but rather a solution that comes through existing resources with a path created one brick at a time.

Zishan Jiwani is an Indicorps 2011 Fellow partnered with Grampari in Maharasthra. This column was first published May 7, on the Grampari blog.


Zishan with Baban and Lilabai, owners of a newly built toilet.

When I got the news that I was going to Abhepuri, a village in the western part of the Indian state of Maharashtra, for a sanitation project, I logged on to the Internet and checked out Abhepuri’s toilet stats. The Indian government runs a savvy website which has village-by-village statistics for the number of household and community latrines. What I found took me by surprise. Abhepuri won the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (clean village award) in 2009, meaning every household is suppose to have an individual latrine or have access to one and the village is supposed to open defecation free. Villages receive a substantial cash prize for achieving this milestone. That was a bit confusing but I figured, I’ll see when I get there.

When I got there, I had a list of 15 households either without toilets or without functional toilets. As the days and weeks went on, that number kept growing. In all out of the 200+ households in Abhepuri, at least 46 households don’t have a latrine and likely practice open defecation. I also learned that many of the BPL families who were listed on the website as having built toilets had built incomplete ones. For example, the village came in three years ago and built Narmada Gole’s toilet up to the point of installing her seat. No walls were built, no door and no roof. Until recently, she didn’t bother to complete it either.

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June 2012 IC Newsletter Image

Indicorps Newsletter June 2012

Neal Somchand“It is lonely. No one listens to me. I haven’t left this house in over 2 years. I have forgotten what the village looks like”. I am sitting inside a small house in Kalale village, 2 hours from Mysore city, Karnataka. Ravi became bedridden 2 years ago, and his condition has gradually deteriorated. With three children, two of whom have yet to marry, his mind is preoccupied with the marriage of his daughters. “I don’t want my family to spend any money on me. They should be saving their money for themselves.” Ravi worked for the post office until he had a fall that left him bedridden. In addition to physical pain, the worries of his family have meant that he has not slept in over 3 months, resulting in slight delirium. Sitting in the room the emotional trauma that all the family is going through is obvious. Approximately 0.4% of the rural population in India is estimated to be bedridden*, however with the relative recent surge in non communicable diseases this number is expected to rise in the near future. While there are a number of causes, paralysis due to stroke, cancer and old age are some of the most common. Pain relief is available at a cost, however, for patients that are below the poverty line, like Ravi, a doctor visit is a luxury.

I visit Chikamma. She has been lying in the same small room with no windows for over four years. Hard of hearing and almost blind, like Ravi, Chikamma had a fall which has left her immobile. Chikamma has one daughter who works in the fields during the day, leaving Chikamma on her own until the evening. While the neighbours look out for her. They admit that because they have small children it is not always possible to keep a close eye on Chikamma. As I approach the door the dog barks, alerting Chikamma that she has a visitor. Mistaking me for a doctor she requests a sedative. She says that sleeping is preferable to being awake since then she doesn’t have to think. I sit beside her and hold her hand. She speaks a little about her day, and about her daughter. Evidently she is lonely. She tells me she rarely says a word all day since there is no one to speak to. Unfortunately my basic Kannada is only able to hold a conversation for about 2 minutes, after which we sit in silence. I see tears well up in her eyes.

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Yuvsatta, an Indicorps 2010 Fellowship partner organization, will be holding the Seventh International Youth Peace Fest (IYPF 2012) in Chandigarh.

7th International Youth Peace Fest (IYPF 2012)
Promoting the spirit of volunteering among the next generation to bridge the barriers of race, color, religion, nationalities as well as filling the gender and economic divides by empowering youth is more timely than ever. Each day the headlines demonstrate the human cost of this divide.  Each day the hatred and distrust grow. Now is the moment to leverage this opportunity, to address this ever-more-dangerous global divide. You’ll agree with us that in so many ways our world is shrinking. And there are ever-increasing opportunities to connect with people on the other side of the globe, but generally these opportunities are squandered.
With the aforesaid in view, to connect the young people beyond geographical boundaries for common good of all, we bring those leaders together to inspire change during our annual International Youth Peace Fest. As we believe there are capable young leaders in every global community who can become catalyst or ‘Agents of Change’.
Next 7th International Youth Peace Fest (IYPF 2012) will be happening in peace-city Chandigarh, India, between September 27 to October 2, 2012. And this is to request you to kindly see if you can motivate some young change makers to participate. The detailed programme schedule of IYPF 2012, a newsletter of outcome of IYPF 2011, some videos of past IYPF initiatives are all attached for your ready reference. Some basic facts about the venue of the programme are as under;
September-October is a perfect time to visit Chandigarh, when the weather is pleasant. During this period, it is neither too hot, nor too cold and also there is not much of rainfall. For more details;
The young people coming from outside usually stay with a local youth of their age and gender for greater understanding, sharing of ideas and dreams. Youth Host-Youth Guest. The accommodation can also be arranged in local School/College Hostels and Guest houses, which again are clean and comfortable. For young guests staying with local families or Hostels/Guesthouses everything i.e. stay, food, travel etc. is free, but if they want to stay in Hotels than according to their budget that can also be arranged.
A link to Hotels in Chandigarh
It’s very difficult to imagine any major city in India more ideal than peace-city Chandigarh, a model of outstanding modern urban planning. Chandigarh’s beautiful gardens, bicycle paths, architecture, vast network of educational institutions and culture all contribute to a quality of life that is unbeatable anywhere else. Come and see Chandigarh – a Utopia!
For more details about the city;
Reaching Chandigarh from New Delhi (the capital of India)
Chandigarh has its own airport and has regular flights from Delhi. Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher operate regular flights from Delhi and the tickets are cheap as well as affordable. Frequent trains also run between Delhi & Chandigarh and the rates are very cheap. The city is well connected to Delhi through roadways. Deluxe buses and A/C Volvo are available from Delhi to Chandigarh with a charge ranging between Rs 300 to Rs 800. Tourists can also hire A/C or non A/C taxi which charges from INR 2,000 to INR 7,600 (for a single or round trip).

IYPF promotes the spirit of volunteering amongst youth in order to bridge the barriers of race, color, religion, nationalities as well as to fill the gender and economic divides.  Each day headlines demonstrate the human cost of these divides.  Each day hatred and distrust grow. Now is the moment to leverage the opportunities for peace, to address these ever-more-dangerous global divisions. In so many ways our world is shrinking and there are ever-increasing opportunities to connect with people on the other side of the globe, but generally these opportunities are squandered.

With the aforesaid in view, to connect the young people beyond geographical boundaries fort the common good of all, we bring global leaders together to inspire change during our annual International Youth Peace Fest. We believe there are capable young leaders in every global community who can become catalysts or ‘Agents of Change’.

IYPF 2012 will be take place in the peace-city of Chandigarh, India between September 27, 2012, to October 2, 2012.

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The Indicorps Internship Program allows individuals to spend 3-6 months at the Indicorps office in Ahmedabad on a variety of individualized projects tailored to meet Indicorps’ needs, intern interests and strengths.  The Internship allows individuals who are passionate about India to work directly with Indicorps staff to support the Fellowship program and local projects.  Internships are available to anyone unable to make a one-year commitment.  In the past, we have had interns in high school and interns with graduate degrees (including a PhD) join us.

Currently, we’re looking for a Communications Intern. Interested in honing your communications skills, learning about the inner-workings of an NGO and being a part of the Indicorps Team?

To apply, please send your Statement of Purpose and CV to


  • Create an overarching long term strategy for Indicorps social media outreach.
  • Engage staff to build and maintain an overall communications strategy.
  • Create calendar (academic and socio-cultural) for potential outreach events, especially in the US, UK and India.
  • Maintain existing media contacts and create new media contacts for publishing Indicorps Fellows’ public columns, reviews and Green Papers.
  • Represent Indicorps to media channels and establish relationships.
  • Create outreach materials such as fliers and visiting cards.
  • Organize creative outreach events throughout India.
  • Facilitate staff training on social media tools.
  • Compile and organize all existing Indicorps outreach contacts.
  • Organize Indicorps photo library.
  • Edit Fellows’ public columns, reviews and Green Papers.
  • Be open to interesting, non-Communication related projects!

Candidates should possess

  • Understanding of Indicorps’ philosophy of service.
  • Strong oral and written communications skills.
  • Ability to clearly present findings and translate them into recommendations.
  • Motivation, initiative, and the ability to work in a fast paced, forward moving environment.
  • Excellent computer skills, including MS Office products. Willing to experiment and learn new software and communication tools.
  • Proven record of dependability.
  • Strong analytical and organizational skills.

This is an unpaid internship. Accomodation will be provided for the intern.

Update on the Indicorps Fellowship Application process: the Application Deadline has been extended to March 10th 2012, 10pm IST.

As we reach out to more dedicated and talented individuals of Indian origin, we have decided to extend the deadline to encourage new applicants who have just learned about Indicorps to apply.  We look forward to reading your applications and learning more about you.

KanikaWhat is the value of land? If you asked me this question a year ago when I was living in New York City I would have asked for the dimensions and location of the land, then I would have considered market conditions and provided an estimate. Living in rural India provides me an entirely different perspective. Not one based on monetary value, but rather on the importance of land as a livelihood source for so many.

Let us consider the situation in the village of Ganeshwadi where I am currently residing. The village is one hundred percent adivasi and it is an entirely agrarian economy with the primary sources of income coming from the sale of cotton and farm labor earnings. While the villagers are farmers by profession, the majority of them are considered landless as they do not own the land on which they are cultivating. The land belongs to a private trust that was formed over sixty years ago, and the villagers pay a small fee to cultivate on this land each year. The most distressing part of this scenario is that the original owners of this land are the indigenous tribal populations who are now paying to cultivate on it. They have been living on and using this land for generations before others came along and claimed it.

What are the problems associated with this setup? First, because these farmers do not legally own the land on which they are cultivating, it is exceedingly difficult to get loans from banks. Many are forced to use moneylenders and pay flat biannual or annual interest rates of 50 percent i.e. on a crop loan of 15,000 rupees they will have to pay back 22,500 rupees—an interest rate that is unimaginable to most of us.

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