Prashant Kalaskar

‘I was born in 1973, in the town of Sangamner. I had a completely urban background and no connection to the village areas; despite this, I always had a desire somewhere to work for the betterment of the rural areas of India. After completing my diploma in civil engineering in 1996 I went to work in Mumbai in the construction industry. I did well there but the desire to do something in the rural areas never left me. After 1.5 years, I decided that I would work for a short time in the rural sector before returning to city life. I joined the Indo German Watershed Development Project (IGWDP) in 1997; I was attached with the Nisargayan NGO, when WOTR was working in capacity building in the IGWDP. In 2002, I joined WOTR and have been never looked back since. I am at present Assistant Manager and in charge of the Regional Resource Centre Sangamner. I currently handle projects in areas like climate change adaptation, watershed development, natural resources management among other areas.
In the early days, we grappled with many challenges. Convincing villagers to do charai bandi (ban on open grazing) or shramdaan to support our work itself was very difficult. They felt that shramdaan amounted to free labour and were opposed to it. But through constant dialogue and tweaking programmes to meet local requirements, we were able to win over the village communities. They started supporting our work.
Despite my hectic schedule, I did a B.A. in Sociology and a diploma in environment management while working; I have also encouraged three of our staff members to do their masters degrees through correspondence.
When I look back on the work we did, I feel happy that I could do my bit for the rural areas but I still feel there is so much more that can be done. My long-term dream is to revive rural urban linkages that are being lost. Many city residents have lost touch with the villages they migrated from; I would like to create a mechanism whereby they can revive that bond and contribute to the development of those villages.’