At a time when farmer suicides in Vidarbha dominated headlines, Ajeet Saxena became the sole proponent of justice for the unheard.
Ajeet was the first to set up bank accounts for the children of farmers. He also managed to convince donors to fund their education, thereby providing them a sustainable future.
With an engineering degree and an MBA, Ajeet’s education initially took him to the Indian Railway Traffic Service, where he worked as a civil engineer. However, he made a jump to civil services which brought him to Chennai, as an Additional Secretary.
It was here that he saw the light in this dark spiral of farmer suicides, and where he was robbed of his peace. With the help of the Sewagram Ashram, Maharashtra, founded by Gandhi in 1936, Ajeet Saxena took the call to travel to Vidarbha and meet the affected.
These personal meetings exposed him to the crippling realities farmers had been facing, forcing them to see suicide as the only way out. Brought about by an unstable source of income, it left their children with empty pockets and struggling even for a single meal, eventually sending them to the same fate. This seemingly endless cycle of financial difficulties and their consequences had Ajeet Saxena tear-up in front of curious children.
“I had two options, watch these stories on TV in private, or stop crying and do something about it,” says Ajeet, recalling the day his cards had been reshuffled, giving him a whole new path to look forward to.
While farmer suicides are being swept under the carpet, Ajeet Saxena has provided aid not only by educating children, but also by providing them a sustainable source of funds.
“See, I am very bad at money and money matters,” he says, explaining why he reached out to banks to help these children. Upon gaining the trust and faith of the families of these children, Ajeet steered them towards their respective interests, establishing the importance of college for financial stability. He fondly recalls the story of Rajani Patil, the first of many such children who are now under his umbrella of protection. The 23-year-old had admitted to Ajeet her desire to pursue nursing, but did not have the finances to do so. “I was shaken by her complete faith, trust, surrender and confidence in me,” he reveals, prompting him to enrol her in a nursing college. That was just the beginning. Soon, a string of children travelled out of Maharashtra to pursue their higher studies, as it was the only way to keep financial troubles at bay. Ajeet quickly became a father figure and protector to these children.
“It is all a matter of priority. If you were in a hostel and fell ill, would your father not visit you?” asked Ajeet, making the effort despite his government job posing constraints of time.
Ajeet Saxena also speaks to us about hurdles, memories and more. “What touched me the most was a phone call from a girl whom I used to teach. It’s been eleven years since I left Bombay, and suddenly last year I got a call from this girl who is now an airhostess in an international airline. She told me that she had been searching for me, and broke down over the phone. I remember she said “Saab ji, you had taught us a mantra to ward off fear, and even today, in a new place, when I am scared, I still recite that mantra.”
Ajeet says, “This is how beautiful these relationships are. Once the children depend on you, you can’t let them down. They love me. I often joke about what would happen when I get older, to which they promise to look after me.”