සිවුමංසල කොලූගැටයා #105: මහ මග දිවි සුරකින ඉන්දියානු ව්‍යාපාරිකයා

India has the highest number of road accidents in the world: 15 people die every hour from road accidents, and 60 more are seriously injured. Yet, 80% of accident victims don’t receive any medical care within the crucial ‘Golden Hour’ — the immediate period following a traumatic injury when there is the greatest chance to prevent death with prompt treatment.

Piyush Tewari, a young entrepreneur, set up the SaveLIFE Foundation in 2008 to enable bystander care, or community driven emergency response, until more professional help arrives.

In this week’s Ravaya column, in Sinhala, I describe how one determined young man is making a difference for hundreds of people injured on the mean streets of India. Last week, I also wrote an English column covering the same topic.

Piyush Tewari

Piyush Tewari

ශිවාම් බාජ්පායි 17 හැවිරිදි ඉන්දියානු තරුණයෙක්. මීට වසර කිහිපයකට පෙර ඔහු මාර්ග අනතුරකට ලක් වුණා. මහ දවාලේ මහ නගරයක බරපතල ලෙස තුවාල ලබා ඔහු මහ මග වැටී සිටියා. විනාඩි 40ක් පුරා කිසිවෙකුත් ඔහුගේ උදව්වට ආවේ නැහැ. අන්තිමේදී අධික රුධිර වහනයෙන් ඔහු මිය ගියා.

අනතුරෙන් තුවාල ලද විගස ඔහු වෛද්‍ය ප‍්‍රතිකාරවලට යොමූ වූවා නම් මේ අකල් මරණය වළක්වා ගත හැකිව තිබුණා. එහෙත් මෙබදු අවස්ථාවක බොහෝ දෙනෙකු උදවු කරන්නට ඉදිරියට එන්නේ නැහැ. එසේ කළොත් පොලීසිය එම අනතුරේ වගකීම ඔවුන් මත පටවන නිසා. එමෙන්ම ඉන්දියාවේ නාගරික හා ග‍්‍රාමීය බොහෝ දෙනාට හදිසි අනතුරකදී මූලික ප‍්‍රථමාධාර දීමට පවා දැනුමක්, පුහුණුවක් නැහැ.

ශිවම්ගේ ඥාති සොහොයුරා මේ පවුලේ මරණය ඔස්සේ කම්පාවට පත් වී ඒ ගැන තව දුරටත් තොරතුරු ගවේෂණය කලා. පියුශ් තිවාරි නම් වූ ඔහු පෞද්ගලික අංශයේ මූල්‍ය සමාගමක ඉහළ විධායක නිලධාරියකු වුණා. සොයා ගත් තොරතුරුවලින් ඔහු මවිතයට පත් වුණා.

මාර්ග අනතුරුවලින් ලෝකයේ මුල් තැන ගන්නේ ඉන්දියාවයි. එරට වසරකට එක් ලක්ෂ තිස් දහසක් පමණ මාර්ග අනතුරු නිසා මිය යනවා. දිවා රාත‍්‍රී හැම පැයක ම 15 දෙනකුට මරු කැඳවන තවත් 60 දෙනකුට බරපතල තුවාල ගෙන දෙන මේ මාර්ග අනතුරුවලට හේතු රැසක් තිබෙනවා. අධික වේගය, බීමත්කම, හෙල්මට්, ආසන පටි හා ළමා ආසන භාවිතය අඩුවීම ඒ අතර තිබෙනවා.

ඉන්දියාවේ 15-40 අතර වයසේ පසුවන පිරිමි හා ගැහැණු දෙපිරිසේ ම අකල් මරණවලට ප‍්‍රධාන හේතුව මාර්ග අනතුරුයි. “මෙය අප නොදැනීම ජාතික මට්ටමේ වසංගතයක තත්ත්වයට පත් වෙලා,” තිවාරි කියනවා.

පොලිස් නිළධාරීන්, වෛද්‍යවරුන්, හදිසි සේවා සපයන්නන් ආදී බොහෝ දෙනා සමග කථා බහ කිරීමෙන් ඔහු සොයා ගත්තේ අනතුරට පත් වන අති බහුතරයකට (80%) නිසි කලට ප‍්‍රථමාධාර හෝ වෛද්‍ය ප‍්‍රතිකාර නොලැබෙන බවයි!

මිලියන් 16කට වැඩි ජනකායක් වෙසෙන දිල්ලි නාගරික ප‍්‍රදේශයේ 2008දී තිබුණේ මහජන ගිලන්රථ 35ක් පමණයි. බොහෝ වෙලාවට අනතුරට පත් වූවන් ළග ඇති රෝහලකට ගෙන යන්නේ පොලිස් හදිසි ආපදා මෝටර්රථවලින්. එහෙත් පොලිස් නිළධාරීන්ට වුව ද තුවාල ලැබූවකු ඔසවන, රැගෙන යන හා තාවකාලික සහනයකට පත් කිරීම ගැන මූලික දැනුමක් නැති බව තිවාරිට පෙනී ගියා.

මාර්ග අනතුරු නිසා ඇති වන ජීවිත විනාශය හා තුවාලවීම් ලෝක ව්‍යාප්ත මහජන සෞඛ්‍ය තර්ජනයක් බව ලෝක සෞඛ්‍ය සංවිධානය (WHO) පිළි ගන්නවා. මාර්ග අනතුරු පිළිබඳව රටවල් 178ක දත්ත ඒකරාශී කර විග‍්‍රහ කරමින් 2009දී ලොව පළමු වතාවට WHO මාර්ග ආරක්ෂාව පිළිබඳ ලෝක වාර්තාවක් සම්පාදනය කලා. (Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2009).

ඒ වාර්තාව පෙන්වා දුන්නේ වසරකට අඩු තරමින් මිලියන් 1.4ක් දෙනා මාර්ග අනතුරුවලින් මිය යන අතර තවත් මිලියන් 20-50ක් අතර අති විශාල සංඛ්‍යාවක් තුවාල ලබා තාවකාලිකව හෝ සදාකාලිකව එයින් පීඩාවට පත් වන බවයි. මාර්ග අනතුරුවල අවදානමට වඩාත් මුහුණ දෙන්නේ පදිකයන්, පාපැදිකරුවන් හා මෝටර් බයිසිකල් පදවන්නන් බව WHO සංඛ්‍යා ලේඛන පෙන්වා දෙනවා.

විශේෂයෙන් අඩු හා මධ්‍යම ආදායම් ලබන (දියුණුවන) රටවල මාර්ග අනතුරු සිදුවීම වාහනවලට සාපේක්ෂ ඉතා වැඩි බව WHO කියනවා. අපේ වැනි රටවල් සියල්ලේ භාවිත වන මෝටරථ, මෝටර් බයිසිකල් හා බර වාහන සංඛ්‍යාව එකතු කළ විට ලෝකයේ සමස්ත වාහනවලින් එය 48%යි. එහෙත් මාර්ග අනතුරුවලින් 90%ක් ම සිදු වන්නේත් මේ රටවලයි. මෙයට හේතුව හුදෙක් වාහන සංඛ්‍යාව පමණක් නොව, මාර්ග සැළසුම, රියදුරු විනය, නීතිය ක‍්‍රියාත්මක කිරීම හා අනතුරු පිළිබඳ මහජන දැනුවත්කම ආදී සාධක රැසක් අපේ රටවල ඇති පමණින් නොතිබීමයි.

මාර්ග අනතුරු ගැන රාජ්‍ය හා ජන අවධානය වැඩි කරන්නට මාර්ග ආරක්ෂාව පිළිබඳ ක‍්‍රියාකාරී දශකයක් (2011-2020) WHO ප‍්‍රමුඛ කරගත් එක්සත් ජාතීන් විසින් ප‍්‍රකාශයට පත් කොට තිබෙනවා. Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020.

මාර්ග අනතුරු මුළුමනින් නැති කරන්නට අමාරුයි. එහෙත් නිසි සැළසුම්, විනය හා නීති හරහා එය අවම කර ගත හැකියි. එබදු පිළිවෙතකට සමාන්තරව අනතුරු සිදු වූ විට නිසි ප‍්‍රතිකාර ලබා දීමේ හැකියාව ද දියුණු කළ යුතුයි.

දියුණු රටවල අනතුරුවලින් මරණ හා සදාකාලික ආබාධ සිදුවීම අඩු වන්නේ මෙසේ පශ්චාත් අනතුරු ප‍්‍රතිචාර දැක්වීම ප‍්‍රශස්ත නිසායි. රටක් දියුණු වනවා කියන්නේ අධිවේගී මහාමාර්ග තැනීම හා නවීන වාහන ධාවනය පමණක් නොවෙයි. අනතුරකදී එයට පාත‍්‍ර වූවන්ට කාර්යක්ෂමව නිසි ප‍්‍රතිකාර ලැබෙන ක‍්‍රමවේදයන් ද අවශ්‍යයි.

තුවාල ලැබූවකුට හැම තත්පරයක් හා විනාඩියක් ම තීරණාත්මකයි. නිසි ප‍්‍රථමධාර ක්ෂණිකවත් හා වඩා විධිමත් වෛද්‍ය ප‍්‍රතිකාර ඉනික්බිතිවත් ලැබුණොත් අධික රුධිර වහනය හා කම්පනය නිසා මිය යෑමට ඇති ඉඩ අඩු වනවා. හදිසි ප‍්‍රතිකාර ක‍්‍රමවේදයේ මෙය රන් හෝරාව (Golden Hour)ලෙස හදුන්වනවා.

During a training course for police officers, Piyush Tewari (centre), teaches vital lessons in basic trauma care

During a training course for police officers, Piyush Tewari (centre), teaches vital lessons in basic trauma care

තුවාලවීමේ ස්වාභාවය අනුව පණ බේරා ගන්නට හා සදාකල් ආබාධවීම් වළක්වන්නට තිබෙන කාල ප‍්‍රමාණය අඩු වැඩි විය හැකියි. බොහෝ විට අපේ මාර්ගවල සිදු වන්නේ විනාඩි ගණන් තුවාලකරුවන් කිසිදු පිළිසරණක් නොලබා වැටී සිටීමයි. නැතහොත් හරිහැටි ප‍්‍රථමාධාර දැනුම නැති අය විසින් කඩිමුඩියේ රෝහලකට ගෙන යාමේදී කොදු නාරටිය හෝ වෙනත් අස්ථි බිදී ඇත්නම් ඒවායේ හානිය වැඩි වීමයි.

අධික වාහන තදබදය නිසා නාගරික ප‍්‍රදේශවල තුවාල ලැබූවන් රෝහලකට ගෙන යාම ප‍්‍රමාද වනවා. මේ නිසා අනතුර සිදු වූ තැන ම ඉක්මනින් ලබා දෙන මූලික ප‍්‍රතිකාර තීරණාත්මකයි.

මේ ජාතික උවදුරට ප‍්‍රජා මට්ටමේ ප‍්‍රතිචාරයක් දක්වන්නට තිවාරි පෙරට ආවා. බොහෝ මධ්‍යම පාංතිකයන් මෙබදු ප‍්‍රශ්නයකදී රජය එය විසඳන තුරු බලා සිටියත් ඔහු සිතුවේ පොදු අභියෝගයක් ලෙස සැමදෙනා ම එය භාරගත යුතු බවයි.

මේ අනුව 2008 පෙබරවාරියේ SaveLIFE Foundation (දිවි සුරකින පදනම) නම් ස්වේච්ඡ ආයතනයක් (ඔව්, NGO එකක්!) ආරම්භ කළා. එහි අරමුණ මාර්ග අනතුරුවලින් විපතට පත් තුවාලකරුවන්ට වෛද්‍ය ප‍්‍රතිකාර ලැබෙන තුරු ප‍්‍රථමාධාර හා වෙනත් සහන සැළසීමයි.

මේ සඳහා පොලිස් නිලධාරීන් මෙන් ම සාමාන්‍ය ජනතාව ද ප‍්‍රථමාධාර ගැන දැනුවත් කිරීම ඇරඹුවා. අතපය හෝ පිට කොන්ද බිදී ඇති කෙනෙකු ප‍්‍රවේශමෙන් ඔසවන හැටි, රුධිර වහනය අවම කරන හැටි, තාවකාලිකව නතර වූ හෘද ස්පන්දනය නැවත පණ ගන්වන හැටි ආදී පරිපූරක වෛද්‍ය (para-medical) පියවර ගැන 2012 මැද වන විට පොලිස් නිලධාරීන් 3,500ක් පමණ පුහුණු කර තිබෙනවා. ඒ නවදිල්ලි නාගරිකය, උත්තර් ප‍්‍රදේශ් හා මහාරාෂ්ට‍්‍ර ප‍්‍රාන්තවලයි.

තිවාරිට මුලින් ඕනෑ වූයේ දිල්ලි නාගරිකයේ සාමාන්‍ය ජනයා 10,000කටත් කෙටි කාලීන පුහුණුවක් හරහා මේ දිවි සුරකින දැනුම ලබා දෙන්නයි. එය ප‍්‍රායෝගිකව කිරීම අපහසු වූ විට ඔහු මෝටර් බයිසිකල් වලින් අනතුරු සිදු වූ තැනට ඉක්මනින් ඒමට සැදී පැහැදී සිටින 45 දෙනකුගේ ස්වේච්ඡ බලකායක් ඇරඹුවා.

අනතුරක් ගැන ජංගම දුරකථන හරහා ඔවුන්ට දැනුම් දෙනවා. ඒ වහා ම එතැනට පැමිණෙන ඔවුන් මුල් ප‍්‍රතිචාර දක්වන්නන් (first responders) ලෙස විවිධ ප‍්‍රථමාධාර හා තුවාලකරුවන්ට ආරක්ෂිත පියවර ගන්නවා. ඒ අතර රෝහල් හා පොලීසිය සමග ද සම්බන්ධීකරණය කරනවා.

මේ ප‍්‍රජා මූලික ක‍්‍රමවේදයෙන් දැනටමත් සිය ගණනක් ජීවිත බේරාගෙන තිබෙනවා. දිවි සුරකින පදනම හා තිවාරිට මේ ගැන දෙස් විදෙස් පැසසුම් ලැබෙනවා. 2010දී රෝලෙක්ස් සම්මානය ඔහුට පිදීම සමග මේ සංකල්පය ජාත්‍යාන්තර අවධානයට පත් වුණා. (http://tiny.cc/PTewari)

පදනමේ කටයුතු පුළුල් වීම නිසා එයට සිය මුළු කාලය හා ශ‍්‍රමය යොදවන්නට තිවාරි 2011දී තමන්ගේ ව්‍යාපාරික රැුකියාවෙන් අස් වුණා. දානපතියන්ගේ අනුග‍්‍රහයෙන් හා රාජ්‍ය ආයතනවල සහයෝගයෙන් ඔහු දැන් දිවි සුරකින ක‍්‍රමවේදය මුළු ඉන්දියාවටත්, ඉන් ඔබ්බටත් ව්‍යාප්ත කරන්නට ක‍්‍රියා කරනවා.

ව්‍යාපාරික ෙක්‍ෂත‍්‍රයෙන් ගෙනා ගැටළු විසදීමේ කළමණාකාරිත්ව හැකියාව මෙහිදී ඔහුට උපකාර වනවා. මාර්ග අනතුරු අවම කිරීමට ප‍්‍රතිපත්ති, නීති හා තාක්ෂණික මට්ටමින් ද ඔහු අවධානය යොමු කරනවා.

උදාහරණයක් හැටියට අනතුරක් දුටු විට තුවාලකරුවන්ට පිහිටට එන හොඳ මිනිසුන්ට (Good Samaritans) නීතිමය ව්‍යාකූලතා මතුවන්නට ඉඩ නොතබා ඔවුන් ආවරණය වන පරිදි එරට නීති සංශෝධනය කරන්නට ඉන්දියානු බලධාරීන් එකග කරවා ගත්තා. මේ අනුව පොලීසි හා උසාවි ගානේ රස්තියාදු වීමේ මෙතෙක් තිබූ ක‍්‍රමවේදය ළගදී ම වෙනස් කෙරෙනු ඇති බව පසුගිය නොවැම්බරයේ නව දිල්ලියේදී තිවාරි මට කියා සිටියා.

තුවාලකරුවකු රෝහලකට ගෙන ගිය විට ඉන්දීය වෛද්‍යවරුන් ද මුලින් ම කරන්නේ නීතිමය ෆෝර්ම පිරවීමයි. ලෙඩාට ප‍්‍රතිකාර කරන්නේ ඉනික්බිතිවයි! හේතුව රෝගියා මිය ගියහොත් වෛද්‍යවරුන්ට වගකීම පැවරෙන නිසා.

“අප හදන්නේ වෛද්‍යවරුන්ට නීතිමය ආරක්ෂාව දෙන අතර සමස්ත ප‍්‍රතිචාර ක‍්‍රියාවලිය කාර්යක්ෂම කරන්නයි. හැම තත්පරයක් ම තුවාලකරුවන්නේ වාසියට හරවා ගන්නයි,” තිවාරි කියනවා.

දිගු කාලීනව මාර්ග අනතුරු වැළැක්වීම සඳහා නීතිමය, අධ්‍යාපනික හා ආකල්පමය වෙනස්කම් කිරීමට ද දිවි සුරකින පදනම ක‍්‍රියා කරනවා.

දැනටමත් පදනමේ ආකෘතිය නයිජීරියාවේ අත්හදා බලනවා. ළගදී ම තවත් රටවලට තම අත්දැකීම් බෙදා ගන්නට කැමැති බවත්, ශ‍්‍රී ලංකාවටත් 2013දී එය හදුන්වා දෙන්නට සැදී පැහැදී සිටින බවත් තිවාරි කියනවා.

“රියදුරන්, මගීන් හෝ පදිකයන් හැටියට අප සැවොම මාර්ග අනතුරුවලට දිනපතා නිරාවරණය වනවා. අපේ පොදු ආරක්ෂාව අප එකමුතු වී ක‍්‍රියා කළ යුතුයි. මේ අනතුරු වසංගතය පාලනය කර ගන්නට එක ම ක‍්‍රමය එයයි.” තිවාරි අවධාරණය කරනවා.

ඉහළ මධ්‍යම පාංතික පසුබිමකින් එන, විදෙස් අධ්‍යාපනය ලැබූ පියුශ් තිවාරි වැනි දක්ෂ තරුණ තරුණියන් පොදු උන්නතිය හා සමාජ ප‍්‍රශ්න සඳහා කැප වීම දැන් ඉන්දියාවේ ප‍්‍රවණතාවක්. අධ්‍යාපනය, සෞඛ්‍යය, පරිසර සංරක්ෂණය, ළමා අයිතිවාසිකම්, කුල භේදය තුරන් කිරීම වැනි උතුම් අරමුණු සඳහා ඔවුන් මැදිහත් වෙන්නේ ආවේගශීලීව නොව තාක්ෂණය, කළමණාකාරිත්ව දැනුම හා පර්යේෂණාත්මක ප‍්‍රවේශයකින්. අපේ සමාජ ක‍්‍රියාකාරිකයන්ට ඉන්දියාවේ මේ නව පරපුරෙන් බොහෝ දේ උගත හැකියි.

Rolex Awards 2012: Celebrating innovation and excellence

News feature published in Ceylon Today newspaper, 29 November 2012

Rolex Awards for Enterprise celebrate innovation and excellence
By Nalaka Gunawardene in New Delhi

Five extraordinary individuals from as many continents came together in New Delhi on November 27 to be saluted and felicitated for their innovation, determination and pursuit of excellence.

At a gala awards dinner at Delhi’s Taj Palace Hotel, before an audience of leaders and innovators from all over the world, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise were presented to the five 2012 Laureates. They are: Sergei Bereznuk (Russia), Barbara Block (United States), Erika Cuéllar (Bolivia), Mark Kendall, (Australia) and Aggrey Otieno (Kenya).

The Laureates each received 100,000 Swiss francs and a Rolex chronometer. They will also gain substantial recognition and global publicity for their work.

They join 115 other individuals from 42 countries in a growing worldwide community of explorers, researchers and entrepreneurs.

During the two hour ceremony, each winner was profiled in a short video, and invited to make a brief acceptance speech. Their words illustrated how they simply refuse to accept the status quo in their respective fields of work – and strive to change it in different ways.

“Frustration has been a key motivation for me,” said Mark Kendall, a bio-engineer who is developing a ‘Nanopatch’ to replace needles in vaccination. “There are many big problems out there waiting to be tackled. They don’t come neatly packaged. We need to work across cultures and disciplines to solve these.”

“It’s a tragedy that so many women still die giving birth to children in this day and age. I am going to fight this in my own community,” said
Aggrey Otieno of Kenya, who is building a telemedicine centre in a large Nairobi slum to provide women with a lifeline to obstetric medical care.

Conservationist Erika Cuellar of Bolivia is training indigenous people in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina to conserve the biodiversity of one of South America’s last truly wild environments, the Gran Chaco.

She said: “Conservation today is highly political, and it’s a constant fight. But hard work and persistence can still make a difference. Nature needs all the allies it can get!”

“We know more about the soils of Mars than about the oceans of our own planet,” said oceanographer Barbara Block of United States, who is tracking marine predators (tuna and sharks) off the North American coast with a series of underwater listening stations.

She added: “By wiring up the ocean and making the data available online, we are hoping to make a personal connection between ordinary people and these lions and tigers of the sea.”

For Sergei Bereznuk of Russia, the biggest conservation battles are fought in the minds of people, especially of children. He is using technology and education targeted at younger people to protect the last Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East.

“I salute the brave wildlife rangers and teaches and other public educators in all tiger countries across Asia who are leading this battle at two fronts,” he said.

Celebrating Excellence

The original idea of the Rolex Awards, launched in 1976, was simple: to provide financial help and encouragement to outstanding projects that seek to break new ground and capture the spirit of enterprise. It is a prospective award that supports on-going work, selected from an open and competitive process.

“Anything in the world is possible with the right kind of passion and determination,” said Bertrand Gros, Chairman of the Board, Rolex SA, speaking at the Delhi ceremony.

He added that the Rolex Awards have a special place in the company because they reflect the ethics on which the company was founded — quality, excellence and performance.

The 2012 Laureates were chosen from more than 3,500 applicants from 154 countries by an independent jury of international experts drawn from around the world and across disciplines.

“Our task was a difficult one – we had to assess which ideas could best transform dreams into tangible results,” said jury member Subramaniam Ramadorai, Indian IT specialist who founded and is now vice chairman of Tata Consultancy Services.

The master of ceremonies was the celebrated Indian director Mira Nair, who said she was delighted to be back in the city where her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding is based.

At the end of the ceremony, former Indian tennis star and actor Vijay Amritraj – who served as a global juror for 2010 Rolex Awards – announced five more Young Laureates who will be felicitated in early 2014. They are all young activists or entrepreneurs below 30 already blazing new trails.

This was the first global Rolex Awards event held in South Asia. Previous Rolex Awards presentations have been held in Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland, and in New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris and Dubai.

Sri Lanka has produced two Rolex Laureates. Consultant surgeon Dr Wijaya Godakumbura, inventor of the safe bottle lamp, was a Laureate in 1998. Conservationist Rohan Pethiyagoda became an Associate Laureate in 2000 for his efforts to protect Sri Lanka’s biodiversity by reclaiming tracks of land to support endangered species.

Rolex Awards 2012 presented in Delhi - Ceylon Today, 29 Nov 2012

Rolex Awards 2012 presented in Delhi – Ceylon Today, 29 Nov 2012

Rolex Awards 2012: Social and technological entrepreneurs shaping a new world

News feature published in Ceylon Today newspaper, 28 November 2012

L to R - Margaret Lowman, Rodrigo Jordan, Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli & moderator R Sukumar

L to R – Margaret Lowman, Rodrigo Jordan, Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli & moderator R Sukumar

Social and technological entrepreneurs shaping a new world
By Nalaka Gunawardene in New Delhi

A new wave of social and technological entrepreneurs is reshaping our world, blending the best of enterprise, innovation and compassion.

The old divides of for-profit and non-profit are fast blurring in this brave new world where emerging economies of Asia are taking the lead, a global gathering of change-makers heard this week.

The Rolex Leadership Forum, held at the New Delhi Municipal Council Convention Centre, was convened by the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. It heard from inspirational innovators, scientists and adventurers – all of who shared their personal journeys and passions as they discussed their views on leadership and enterprise.

The core values identifies by these remarkable individuals as guiding and sustaining themselves were passion, integrity, resilience and a sense of humour.

“Follow your passion, think outside the box and seek solutions,” was how Margaret Lowman, pioneering US canopy ecologist summed it up. “Early on, I realized that you expend the same amount of energy to complain as to exclaim. I’ve chosen to do the latter, making things better as I go along!”

She emphasised that solving problems is far more important than simply gathering and analysing data or publishing technical papers. As head of North Carolina’s new Nature Research Centre, she is heavily involved in taking children and youth back to nature, and in public engagement of science.

“I would recommend that we try not to blend in, but stand up and stand out,” said Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli, Swiss economist, media and technology transfer specialist.

Rodrigo Jordan, Chilean social entrepreneur, educationist and mountaineer, who in 1992 led the first Latin American expedition to Mount Everest, has been applying team building skills to business, education and social development. His recipe for successful teams: right proportions of passion, expertise, a sense of purpose and generosity among team members.

“It is imperative for good teams to have members with a good match of technical and personal skills,” he said. “I climb peaks not with climbers but with human beings.”

Nandan Nilekani speaks at Rolex Leadership Forum 2012

Nandan Nilekani speaks at Rolex Leadership Forum 2012

“Giving people a purpose larger than themselves usually leads to extraordinary results,” said Nandan Nilekani, the Indian techno-preneur best known for co-founding and building the IT giant Infosys Technologies.

He described challenges involved in his current public sector assignment as chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) – which is building the world’ s largest digital identification system that is web-based. When completed, it will store information on all 1.2 billion Indian residents.

Young change-makers

The forum also heard from three outstanding young Indians who have pursued their own passion for excellence, innovation and service.

Piyush Tewari, who was a Rolex Young Laureate in 2010, has left a lucrative corporate job to devote all his time to SaveLIFE Foundation that trains police officers and volunteers in roadside trauma care. His group responds to the highest road accident fatality rate in the world – an average of 15 deaths every hour. Yet, 80 per cent of victims don’t receive any emergency medical help within the first vital hour after injury.

Deepak Ravindran founded and heads Innoz, a tech company that runs SMSGYAN which serves 120 million users to access several Internet functions from simple mobile phones through text messages. By making every mobile phone smart, he aims to bring Internet within reach of more people in a country where Internet use is currently around 10 per cent.

Ishita Khanna is a social entrepreneur who runs EcoSphere that promotes community participation to achieve sustainable development in remote Himalayan communities through eco-tourism, renewable energies and indigenous wild produce.

These three mid-career professionals epitomise the new generation of Indians who are combining modern management methods and technologies with age old values of caring, sharing and taking on responsibility.

As Rebecca Irvin, director of Philanthropy at Rolex, asked: “The choice for today’s young people is: do you just want to do well in your lives, or do you also want to do good while pursuing your passions?”

The Rolex Leadership Forum 2012 in New Delhi was attended by over 300 people who came from all parts of the world and all walks of life. The distinguished gathering included past winners (laureates) of the prestigious award and its past judges along with journalists, activists and researchers.

Dr Wijaya Godakumbura, inventor of the safe bottle lamp and a Rolex Laureate (1998), was among the invitees.

Rolex Leadership Forum in Delhi, Ceylon Today 28 Nov 2012

Rolex Leadership Forum in Delhi, Ceylon Today 28 Nov 2012

Romulus Whitaker: Mixing films and conservation in India

A young volunteer gets to know a snake at Agumbe research station - photo courtesy Rolex Awards

Romulus Whitaker introduces a young volunteer to a snake at Agumbe research station, Tamil Nadu, India – photo courtesy Rolex Awards

“I haven’t had to do a nine-to-five job ever in my life, and that is a very envious situation to be in if you like the wild. Life has been much like a river in that it picks you up and carries you along. I have got into things as they come towards me.”

That’s how Romulus Whitaker, reptile and amphibian specialist, conservationist and filmmaker sums up his long, eventful and illustrious career. At 65, he is full of zest for life, ready to take on new challenges in protecting India’s forests and wildlife.

His current ambition, for which he has just been selected as an Associate Laureate in the 2008 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, is to create a network of rainforest research stations throughout India.

I caught up with this American-born, naturalised Indian citizen a few days ago when he and fellow Indian Moji Riba were presented with their Rolex awards at a ceremony in New Delhi.

Of course, I’d heard about Romulus (Rom) Whitaker for years and seen some of his natural history films. In some ways, his style was a bit like that of ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin — putting himself in the picture, sometimes in daring encounters with potentially dangerous animals…all in the name of bringing nature a bit closer to us in our living rooms.

But such similarities go only so far. Rom takes a less dramatic and more philosophical approach to humans’ relationship with Nature. For him, television is only a means to an end. As Rolex award profile put it, “the combination of a foreign name, mildly Viking looks inherited from his Swedish mother, an unexpected fluency in local Indian dialects and a thoroughly irreverent attitude” makes him “a highly unconventional yet effective conservationist in a country far from his birthplace”.

To catch a glimpse of this remarkable man, watch this ‘Incredible India’ PSA featuring Romulus Whitaker:

Rom was the founder director of the Snake Park in Chennai. The park was established in 1972 ‘to preserve the endangered reptile species in the sub continent’.

Rom’s career in film making was a byproduct of his life-long desire to bring people and Nature closer. He chronicled his venture into the world of television and film in a chapter he wrote for a book published by India’s Centre for Environment Education and TVE Asia Pacific in 2002. In that book, titled Wild Dreams, Green Screens, eight leading Indian film-makers shared insights about their careers, including how and when they decided to get involved in this field. They also talked about some of the exciting — and frustrating — experiences they have had while filming nature and wildlife.

From dreams to screen...

From dreams to screen…

In the early 1970s, Rom worked with a Russian film crew who turned up to do a sequence on snakes for a film based on the famous Kipling story, Rikki Tikki Tavi. “It was fun for me to help them figure out how to film a snake stealing an egg from a bird’s nest – and it took a whole week to do it. I was impressed by their patience and persistence,” Rom recalled in the book.

After that, every few months, some film crew would show up to do either a short news story on the Snake Park, or a short film on Indian snakes for foreign audiences. India’s stereotyped reputation as a land of snakes and snake-charmers partly fueled this interest.

Rom continues: “By the 1980s, I started thinking I knew something about making wildlife films – even though I didn’t have a TV, and there weren’t really very many such documentaries screened anywhere in India. I was aware that films could show and teach people about my beloved reptiles like nothing else. Surely the Snake Park with nearly a million visitors a year could make good use of such films, and I knew the visitors would go away with a new awareness of how beautiful, graceful and interesting reptiles are. A single broadcast on a TV channel and 20 million people would be able to see it all at once!”

Determined to do his own films, Rom teamed up with two school friends John and Louise Riber, and Shekar Dattatri, to make a film on India’s snakebite problem. They had a tiny budget (Indian Rupees 50,000, which is approximately US$ 1,000 today), an old Arri camera and ‘a lot of enthusiasm’.

One thing led to another. “‘Snakebite’ turned out to be a good little half-hour film which was translated into several Indian languages… Amazingly, this little film won a first prize at a festival in the United States, and was awarded the Golden Eagle by the American Movie and Television Federation. Lo and behold, I was a filmmaker!”

‘Snakebite’ (1985), made on 16 mm film, also launched the career of Shekar Dattatri, a multi-award winning Indian filmmaker who worked as an assistant director on this production. Coincidentally, Shekar was an Associate Laureate of the Rolex Award in 2004 for his ‘Wild India Project – Changing Hearts and Minds through Moving Images’.

Vikram Akula (left) presents Rolex Awards certificate to Romulus Whitaker in Delhi, 22 January 2009

Vikram Akula (left) presents Rolex Awards certificate to Romulus Whitaker in Delhi, 22 January 2009

We missed Shekar at the Delhi event – he couldn’t make it due to scheduling difficulties. But as Rom has written, the Whitaker-Dattatri partnership continued for several years while they struggled with ‘very crude equipment’ and tiny budgets. Films like ‘Seeds of Hope’ (on tree planting) and ‘A Cooperative for Snake Catchers’ followed.

Rom further writes in his chapter: “We worked hard on these films, learning as we went along month after month, working with really good people like the tree planters of Auroville and the Palni Hills Conservation Council, and, of course, the fantastic Irula tribals. We did have a few narrow escapes with snakes, but we always felt we were in much more danger driving down National Highway 45, than from any of our venomous subjects!”

Rom’s film making in the past two decades has taken him not only to the far corners of India, but to other biodiversity hotspots of the world – such as Indonesia. As the years passed, his enhanced reputation attracted big names in wildlife films, such as National Geographic, Discovery/Animal Planet and BBC Natural History. Combining his conservation knowledge with public education skills, Rom has also been presenter of several films.

The King (Cobra) and I

The King (Cobra) and I

These multiple involvements have earned him a string of awards – his documentary King Cobra made for National Geographic won him an Emmy award, considered the television equivalent of the Oscars.

Despite the rigorous demands of film making (and the occasional lure of television medium), Rom has remained active in conservation circles both within India and at global level. While many conservationists in India focus their attention on charismatic megafauna like tigers and elephants, Rom has stayed faithful to his chosen field of reptiles and amphibians. Years ago he realized that his beloved species cannot survive unless their natural habitats do. So, like many others, he evolved from naturalist to conservationist.

“A lot of us get wrapped up in our own little special animal and then we wake up and start thinking it has got to be habitat and it has to be eco-development that involves people and, now, in my case, it has crystallized into the whole idea of water resources,” he says.

Read his detailed CV for details on his conservation, publishing and film making accomplishments.

Rom’s colourful career has itself become a subject for other filmmakers. In 2007, he was featured in a critically-acclaimed documentary produced by PBS, under their “Nature” banner, on “super-sized” crocodiles and alligators, which was filmed in India, East Africa and Australia.

And in January 2009, Whitaker returned to the small screen in another “Nature” documentary on real-life reptiles such as Komodo dragons and Dracos that inspired tales of dragons.

Extract from The Dragon Chronicles, which premiered on PBS in January 2009:

Read the PBS/Dragon Chronicles interview with Rom Whitaker

The man who turned to moving images in the 1980s to move people’s minds towards conservation is still engaged in that business. He is a conservationist who puts a premium on public engagement, and especially on working with children and young people.

He says: “We are doing a lot of work with young people, bringing them to the forest and showing them what happens here and why it matters. It can be very difficult to change adult attitudes, but with the young, it is easier to get across the knowledge that what we are doing to the forests we are doing to ourselves.”

In Romulus Whitaker's hands, snakes become educational tools for children and icons of nature conservation. Photo courtesy Rolex Awards

In Romulus Whitaker\’s hands, snakes become educational tools for children and icons of nature conservation. Photo courtesy Rolex Awards

Moji Riba: Capturing oral history in moving images

Moji Riba has been working since 1997 to document Arunachal Pradesh's rich cultural heritage. Image courtesy Rolex Awards

Moji Riba has been working since 1997 to document Arunachal Pradesh's rich cultural heritage. Image courtesy Rolex Awards


“I like to think of our heritage as an elastic band. I want to stretch this as much into the future generations as we can – till it reaches its edge and snaps. Each day I wake up and hope that this never happens. But that is sadly a finality we have to stare at – unless of course, there is a revolution of some kind!”

That’s how Moji Riba, Indian film-maker and cultural anthropologist, sums up the raison d’etre for his work.

He has reasons to worry. He lives and works in India’s north-eastern Arunachal Pradesh, which an isolated remote and sparsely populated part of the country that is home to 26 major tribal communities,. Each one has its own distinctive dialect, lifestyle, faith, traditional practices and social mores. They live side by side with about 30 smaller communities.

Today, a combination of economic development, improved communications, the exodus of the young and the gradual renunciation of animist beliefs for mainstream religions threatens Arunachal’s colourful traditions. “It is not my place to denounce this change or to counter it,” says Moji. “But, as the older generation holds the last link to the storehouse of indigenous knowledge systems, we are at risk of losing out on an entire value system, and very soon.”

Can anyone capture culture – a dynamic, hugely variable phenomenon – and preserve it in a museum or lab? Not quite. Preserving the communities as a living reservoir of culture is the best method. In addition, modern communication technologies can be used to record the myriad practices and memories – the indigenous knowledge and oral history of a people.

This is just what Moji Riba has been doing for over a decade. He founded and heads the Centre for Cultural Research and Documentation (CCRD) in Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh. The non-profit centre, established in 1997, focuses on audio-visual documentation of the folklore, ritual practices and oral histories of the diverse tribes that inhabit the north-eastern states of India and how the indigenous people are adapting to the processes of rapid change.

Moji, who holds a masters degree in mass communication from the prestigious Mass Communication Research Center (MCRC), Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, could easily have joined the exodus of talent from his state to the metropolitan centres in India. But he chosen to return to his roots with his enhanced skills and expanded worldview.

Over the past decade, he and the centre have made 35 documentaries for television stations and for government and non-governmental agencies. But the centre is more than just an archive or library: it is also a platform offering the tribal people an opportunity to voice their concerns and share experiences.

In 2004, Moji was instrumental in creating the diploma in mass communications at Itanagar’s Rajiv Gandhi University, to augment understanding of cultural values and local customs. He currently divides his time as head of the university’s communications department and running CCRD.

“CCRD has been using documentary films as a tool to document and understand the transitional tribal society and to share that experience through the medium of television,” says Moji. “In these 10 years, we have primarily produced television documentaries on linkages between issues of culture, environment and development and how one cannot be seen in isolation from the other.”

CCRD films have been showcased on Doordarshan, India’s national broadcaster, and various other national and international forums.

Riba teaches Hage Komo the basic camera skills that will allow the young Apatani to film an interview with his father and an animist priest, thus recording his tribe's oral history (Photo courtesy Rolex Awards)

Riba teaches Hage Komo the basic camera skills that will allow the young Apatani to film an interview with his father and an animist priest, thus recording his tribe's oral history (Photo courtesy Rolex Awards)

Years of hard work and quiet persistence are beginning to pay off. Moji has just been selected as an Associate Laureate of Rolex Awards for Enterprise, a prestigious global honour. He is being recognised for ‘helping to preserve and document the rich cultural heritage of India’s Arunachal Pradesh tribes’.

He is among the 10 winners of the 2008 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, which for more than 30 years have supported pioneering work in science and medicine, technology and innovation, exploration and discovery, the environment and cultural heritage.

Read the full profile on Moji and his work on Rolex Awards website

I have known Moji for half a decade, in which time my admiration for him has continued to grow. We first met during a South Asian TV training workshop TVE Asia Pacific organised in Kathmandu in October 2003. Since then, Moji worked with us as a freelance film director and producer. In 2005, he directed Deep Divide, a half-hour, three-country documentary on the state of environmental justice in South Asia. In 2006, he filmed stories for TVEAP series Digita4Change (in Bhutan) and The Greenbelt Reports (in three locations in India).

Moji’s films have drawn the attention of film festivals and reviewers. My friend Darryl D’Monte, one of the most senior journalists in India, wrote in 2006 about one film titled When the Mist is Lifted: “As an insider, he (Moji) is able to draw out the contradiction between old and new lifestyles and practices. In remarks after the screening, he spoke about the difficulties of making films in the northeast, and understandably expressed his reluctance to make another film on Arunachal, which has been his staple over the years.”

rolex-awards-logoWith support from the Rolex Award, Moji and CCRD plan to implement in 2009 the Mountain Eye Project, an unconventional and ambitious initiative that aims to create a cinematic time capsule documenting a year in the life of 15 different ethnic groups. They will select and train young people from each community to do the filming. This gives him access to enough film-makers as well as access to people with an intimate understanding of village life.

According to Moji, the Mountain eye Project is the result of the learnings that have emerged from about a decade’s work on documentation of the folklore and cultural heritage of the tribal groups in northeast India. It seeks to involve local communities in extensively documenting the disappearing cultural practices and traditional knowledge and to build an audio-visual archive of this data.

It also proposes to activate a vast network of outreach activities through museums in order to inculcate in children and youth, an appreciation of traditional heritage and creating respect for cultural diversity.

Watch this space.

Hage Komo gets video instructions from Moji Riba, who is enlisting local young people to capture the oral histories, languages and rituals of their tribes for his project. Komo films his father gathering bamboo in a grove outside Hari Village. (Photo courtesy Rolex Awards)

Hage Komo gets video instructions from Moji Riba, who is enlisting local young people to capture the oral histories, languages and rituals of their tribes for his project. Komo films his father gathering bamboo in a grove outside Hari Village. (Photo courtesy Rolex Awards)