"Service is the Highest Form of Gratitude" - Sharan Desai

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1. Tell us more about yourself and your life.

I am from Gulbarga City, my dad was an advocate and also an MLA from Afzalpur, Gulbarga district. After completing my Master's Degree, I worked for 10 years. Later, I worked as a consultant, busy with projects working from online and offshore. Like they say passion drives your profession, I believe that you can't be passionate about just one thing in life.

I am an Architect by profession but I work towards the betterment of society. I feel that any particular title and position doesn't really matter. I just try to be a better human being. I tirelessly work for people and society with zero expectations. I learn a lot when I work with all kinds of people and it gives me immense satisfaction. 

I have not only addressed the social issues at a local level but also fought at the High Court of Karnataka by filing a PIL (Public Interest Litigation). I fight these cases as Party In Person, present them before the Chief Justice of Karnataka myself and not with the help of any advocates. I have won as many as 25 cases with positive orders and implemented successfully.

I have filed a PIL on fire safety measures in government buildings including MS Building, City Civil Court, Vidhana Soudha, and Vikasa Soudha. High Court directed the authorities to install all the fire safety measures. 

And PILs regarding the improvement of the Kalaburagi, then Gulbarga General Hospital and the garbage mess in Kalaburgi. The HC directed the state government to take the issue seriously and had more than Rs 20 crores sanctioned to address both the issues.

Also, I have filed a PIL to open a Passport Seva Kendra in Kalaburgi as people have to travel all the way to Bengaluru. HC directed the authorities to open it immediately. And I filed a PIL for illegally occupying the Gulbarga fort. There are nearly 400 residents living inside the Gulbarga fort, HC directed the authorities to demolish the illegal structures and vacate the Gulbarga fort - this matter is still pending before the High Court.

2. What led you to be an active citizen?

People in our cities and villages are still struggling with basic amenities and proper infrastructure including clean drinking water, proper roads, proper government schools and government hospitals. I believe that complaining won't really help because it is a negative approach. I try to work with solutions, involve people, administration and anyone. 

As a matter of fact, my focus has always been with issues and not who created them. So far, it has been a very successful model, I have brought lots of changes to my City. I am very courageous, I continue to fight for what is right, for the people and society.

3. What is that one cause you care deeply about and why?

The cause I care about deeply are many, but one cause I still struggle with is the Rural and Urban Sanitation, and Clean drinking water. As I said earlier, I focus on solutions. I have worked with people in villages to build individual toilets. I am against community toilets in villages.

Almost all community toilet projects have failed due to lack of maintenance and lack of creating awareness among the users. It is very important to make people understand why they need to use the toilets, and I involve them in building toilets. I do periodic checks on my projects.

4. If one wants to contribute and make a difference in social causes, how can one do it?

Change starts with you, as Mahatma Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in the world. I follow three things, initiate and participate in the social events that address the cause, and involve others including the local administration departments, like city corporations, forest department, and water departments.

They provide you with the tools for social events like posters, banners, and other help that are required to conduct these events.

5. Who is your role model and why?

Selfless volunteers who participate in our social events are my role models. They come and work with us on event days. I learn a lot from them. These volunteers come with no expectations, they just want to help and be part of our social events.

6. What are some of the challenges and roadblocks you have faced along your journey?

Any new social initiative is a challenge. Mainly the subject area that we want to work with and the planning, we need lots of help in coming up with ideas with these initiatives. So far, I am blessed with lots of support for my social initiatives, support from local people, advocates, doctors, businessmen, students, and local administration.

- Sharan Desai, Master of Architecture (M.Arch), USA-based Architect, Active Citizen - Works towards the betterment of society.

- Interviewed by Agatha Coutinho

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