Lalita Nijhawan, who works for the underprivileged and has done commendable work in educating women and children, has countless received honours from the Vice-President of India in the field of arts and also from the education minister in academics. The face of Nijhawan Group and president of CKRDT Foundation, Lalita also received the “Ojaswani Award” as a woman entrepreneur in October 2008 and Award for “Top Best Talented Ladies” from Bharat Nirman in 2005 and also the Amity Excellence Award.
A member of FICCI, she is supporting an orphanage and education projects in Rajasthan and the North-east. She was also among 100 women nominated for the Women Achievers’ Award, an initiative by the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry.
Excerpts from an interview with SheThePeople.TV:
How did you begin working for the underprivileged section of society?
Right from my younger days, I used to feel a lot about the weaker sections of society although I came from a very well-off background and got married into an affluent family. My heart has always remained with people who were under the clutches of hunger, poverty and disease.
What’s the inspiration behind ‘CKRDT Foundation’ and why did you decide to set it up?
I had gone with my father to visit Banswara in the late ’80s. He had always wanted to do something for the poverty-stricken population of that region. The people in that area were so poor that if a family had three children, the third child would get to eat only on the third day. That child would have to wait for his turn and stay hungry for two days. This touched my heart and I thought of doing something for the benefit of the people in that area. People over there didn’t have clothes to wear. They would cover themselves with leaves and barks of trees.. Drinking water was also not available to them and the water that they used to consume caused a disease known locally as naaru rog: a condition wherein thread-like worms used to come out from their bodies. The only crop that grew there was corn and the locals would only eat that.
You only have to have a golden heart and be sensitive to the emotions of a human being. If God is kind enough to give you a lot, you need to give back to the underprivileged. I believe that I earn money only so that it can benefit somebody young sitting somewhere in a village.
What problem does it solve?
There are 346 schools with 42,000 children in Banswara and 345 schools in the North-East where 12,254 children are studying. The children in the village receive education and the whole village community is actively involved in educating their children. Once these children have been educated and are grown up, they go back to their village to teach younger children. The school becomes a centre point for everybody to socialize. This brought in betterment of the entire village.
What were your deepest ambitions with ‘CKRDT Foundation’?
We managed with our own funds. I wish we can channel in more money and improve upon the infrastructure of the existing schools. I also desire to set up science labs in the schools where girls now want to take up medicine.
I have had a very successful career and was extremely industrious. But then I decided to give back to society, and luckily I have been able to do something for the nation.
What were the initial days like — what kind of challenges you’ve faced and are still facing?
It was very difficult to work in Banswara initially. The rocky terrain of the region was a major hindrance as nobody was willing to come to the school from their homes walking miles. In Banswara, once our school was set up, we had to hire teachers but then they were not willing to reside in that area. With a great deal of difficulty, we finally got one teacher and asked him to stay there. The space for the school was given by a person who used to store grains there. And that is how the first school started.
We started the second school by requesting a person who gave us a place which doubled up as a shelter for goats. When I wanted to work in the North-East, my family was apprehensive about my decision because of terrorist-infested areas in those states. There was a time when my family for once thought I was dead! This happened because of poor mobile reception in those areas and nobody was able to get in touch with me.
Winning an award or not, one has made no difference to the work I am doing. However, the media has kept me very busy. Nowadays, I meet people who get encouraged and want to join me in my endeavours. Even university students want to follow my footsteps and contribute to society.
What words of advice would you give to others who are doing good for the society like you?
My only advice is to feel for your nation. Our culture tells us that we should be kind to others.
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