BENGALURU: Three years ago, Rahul Prasad, a second-year-student of St Joseph’s College, visited a village off Mysuru Road as a volunteer with a medical camp. He re-visited the village Bhadrapura a year on, and was sad to see that the camp had no long-term impact. He spoke to the panchayat heads and decided to transform Bhadrapura into, what he calls, a smart village.
This February, he set up a food-processing unit here. This fair trade centre, which makes powders of spices, is set to sign contracts to send their products to the US and Canada.
“We talk about smart cities, but cities are already smart,” says Rahul. “India’s GDP will improve if rural areas are developed, that is my vision for the country and I am starting by enabling Bhadrapura.” This social activist and recipient of REX Karmaveer Chakra Awards runs an NGO called Juvenile Care.
While people say he has “adopted the village”, he does not agree. “I have only taken on a responsibility and I have no authority over the place,” he says.
Bhadrapura is a village in Ramanagara with 140 houses. “When travelling to Mysuru, people often overlook Ramanagara,” he says, adding, “I want the place to be known for spices.” The centre he opened in the village attracted its first investment in February this year.
One and a half years ago, Rahul set up a primary health care in the village, but it did not pan out well. “The locals were taking things for granted,” he says. “I decided, instead of giving something as charity, why not make them earn it.”
The Bhadrapura’s unit, which manufactures powders of black pepper, chilli, cardamom and coriander, had been closed for the past two months because of ongoing work. But they will resume operations soon and begin exports this October, when the village will be inaugurated as a “smart village”.
The food unit has had a domino effect and the villagers now look for more infrastructure development. “A village that has been isolated for 60 years cannot be developed in just two years,” he says. “But we have made a concerted effort to provide electricity here and raise awareness about sanitation and health as well.”
Rahul believes that the only way to develop a village is to respect its people and empower them.
“I will not call this F&B cottage unit a start-up because start-ups can fail. If this fails, then there are lives that I will be responsible for,” he says.