It was not just people in India who were shaken when news about the deadly Pulwama terror attack broke out. The NRI community abroad was jolted as well. While everyone offered condolences for the martyred soldiers' families, 26-year-old Viveik Patel wanted to be more than just a social media warrior.
Viveik, an NRI residing in the US, started a Facebook fundraiser to support the families of the 42 slain soldiers of the Pulwama attack. He started the initiative to raise $25,000 USD and to his surprise, he got it in just three to four hours. He once aspired to join the Indian Army and even got selected, but he couldn't make it as he wanted to pursue higher education.
Over $1 million (over Rs 7 crore) in just 14 days with contributions from more than 26,000 donors is no ordinary feat. Viveik, the brain behind the cause, says he feels fantastic about the huge response. Viveik started the fundraiser on FB as he was unable to contribute through the government portal 'Bharat Ke Veer.'
Speaking to Express, he says, "I couldn't make the payment on the government website as it asked for documents like PAN, which I didn't have with me. Also, the site was down due to heavy traffic. Then I thought I will create an FB fundraiser and make it more convenient for others to connect." He suggested that the government website should have a simpler donation process. "No one wants to go through a tedious, complicated process. Options like passport number or foreign national identity number could ease the process for NRIs. We don't need an FB fundraiser if the government portal has flexible options," he adds.
Earning the trust of people to donate money in the fundraiser was a huge challenge for Viveik but he believes that his initiative will change this notion. "When I started this, I decided that I should set an example for everyone to trust social media fundraisers and I hope this has definitely made an impact," asserts Viveik, who credits the donors for making the highest fundraiser in the history of FB possible.
His family can't be any prouder. Earlier, his nationalism was always judged as he moved to the US but now, he doesn't have to prove it to anyone. With his efforts, now 'Bharat Ke Veer' has started to accept USD and even FB supports payment through more currency options. "It's a huge achievement. Now, people from across the globe can contribute towards this fund," he says.
The next big task for him is to ensure the transfer of money. He is in touch with the Indian consulate in New York, which is providing him with all the support. "Things are going in the right direction but it's a long process and it's going to take some time. But definitely, the funds are coming to India," he assures. Viveik works with a team which shares all the updates about the fundraiser on a FB page, ensuring everything is transparent.
Viveik, who hails from Gujarat's Vadodara, works as a business analyst with Conduent in Virginia. His parents are lawyers by profession. When asked about the best compliment he has received so far, he says with laughter, "It was from my parents who told me that I am not wasting time on social media anymore."
Viveik says the NRI community is very optimistic about the government under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi after the recent airstrike against Pakistan. "We are so positive that this is the guy who can lead us in the future as well," he concludes.