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Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Man Who Brought Social Inclusiveness to a Forgotten Village in Uttarakhand

Priya Krishnan Das recently visited Kalap, a small gram panchayat located 200 km from Dehradun in the Tons river valley. She was amazed to see how a once-forgotten village has been magically transformed – all thanks to Anand Sankar and Kalap Trust.

It was around three years ago that I first stumbled upon the website of Kalap. The home page said, ‘Untouched Garhwal’, and I knew that I had to visit this place. That wish came true in June this year when I got an opportunity to be part of a trekking group for the Nomad’s trail led by Anand Sankar, the founder of the Kalap Trust – the man who brought social inclusiveness to the otherwise forgotten village and its people. For the uninitiated, Kalap is a small gram panchayat with a population of around 500 people, located 200 km from Dehradun in the Tons river valley. The nearest road is an 11 km trek away, in Netwar. It takes around five hours of trekking in winters and about eight hours in summers to reach Kalap from Netwar. Lack of connectivity meant that the village lacked electricity, education and basic medical facilities until 2013, when Anand Sankar decided to adopt it and change the lives of the people for the better.

Visiting Kalap is like stepping back in time – with traditional wooden houses, cattle and sheep in every household, and smoke curling up above the roof tops. I asked Anand how he chose Kalap, a village far away from Bengaluru where he then lived.
The former photo-journalist said that he had first visited the village in 2008. The untouched beauty of the place and the simple people struck a chord with him. He ended up making subsequent visits and eventually fell in love with everything there.

But the more he visited Kalap, the more he realized how socially isolated the village was. On one of his trips he met an old woman burning with high fever. He gave her a paracetamol and when the fever came down, she literally fell at his feet. He then got to know that no doctor had ever visited Kalap, realizing that the many things we take for granted in the cities, are hard to come by in Kalap. He arranged for visiting doctors and set up the first ever health camp in Kalap in 2014. It was disturbing to know that many villagers were diagnosed with tuberculosis during the health camp.

That’s when Anand decided to do something more long term to improve the lives of people there. He set up the Kalap Trust in September 2014. And a lot has changed for the good since then. A free clinic has been set up to deal with two chronic health issues affecting most people there– tuberculosis and nutritional disorders. The clinic’s focus is on the vulnerable population – children, pregnant women and the elderly.

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