How many of us would prefer to spend their precious years of life in a small village surrounded by jungle? There are no roads, no market, no malls, no clubs, and no internet connectivity.The nearest bus stand is 3 kilometers away, the nearest railway station is 36 kilometers away, the nearest airport is at a distance of 220 kilometers. The nearest hospital is 36 kilometers away. There is no habitation within a radius of 2 kilometers. Wild animals like leopards…are roaming freely in the area, posing a threat to human beings and domestic animals.
Can you believe it that an Army Officer after serving for 31 years decides to settle down in a little known village ‘Savarvani” near the hill station Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh? The one thing that attracted him to Savarvani was his love for nature and his passion for bringing about a change in the lives of local villagers of Savarvani, Karer, Savan, Imlidhana,Taldhana, Manakwada. It is my proud privilege to present before you, Col Bappaditya Dhar.
Born in Bolpur, Shantiniketan to a teacher couple, he was fortunate to be instilled with values during his childhood. His initial dream was to become an actor and singer and was taking training accordingly. He was a disciple of Swami Vireswarananda( Prabhu Maharaj) who was an ardent disciple of Sri Ma Sharada, sadhan sangini of Sri Sri Ram Krishna Paramhans Thakur.’ Bappa’ as he is fondly called by his friends, has great faith in God.
After doing double post-graduation, one from esteemed TISS, Bappa was involved in social work with Bhopal gas tragedy victims and riot affected victims in Mumbai. Unfortunately, after the sudden demise of his younger brother, he was under tension and depression. He was advised to take up a job which kept him so busy that he would have no time to think about his family issues. That’s how he landed in the Army. His interest in adventure activities shaped his career. Commissioned in the Army Educational Corps, he volunteered for para jumping, Hot Air Ballooning, Ocean sailing and participated in the Kargil war.
He purchased a plot of land in Savarvani in 2008 and built his house. When asked about the choice of Savarvani, he said,” I have a great love for my Alma mater, Army Educational Corps Training College and Centre, Pachmarhi and the serene environment here.” His cow fell prey to a wild tiger frequenting the area. The electricity supply in that area was intermittent. Col Bappa contributed Rs 51,000 from his pocket along with Rs 31,000 contribution from the villagers, to get regular electricity connection to the village. A BSNL tower has been installed to provide 2 G connectivity to four neighbouring communities. It will be upgraded to 3G in the coming years. He has been running from pillar to post to project the demand of the villagers. When asked about his plan for the next five years, he said:” I want to get a College, hospital, internet services and potable water for the villagers.” His desire to do something for the villagers can be gauged from the fact that he utilized the money meant for Diwali celebrations to buy blankets and sarees for the locals. Because of the non-existent medical facilities, he organized free medical camps for them. During the last decade, he helped to make the barren land fertile. Seasonal vegetables and fruits are grown in plenty. A ‘galla mandi’ (a local market for selling grains) has been sanctioned in the village where they can sell their produce at government rates.
He has met the chief minister twice and given thirteen point demands aiming income generation for the belt converting the villages as rural and Eco-tourism centre bringing required infrastructure, training the villagers through forest officials of Satpura Tiger reserve and home stay at each house through MP tourism department.
A work of this magnitude requires the help of a dedicated team. A family and a group of three are helping him in the project. As there is no financial help from anywhere, Bappa pays them a salary of Rs 13,000 every month from his pocket. In addition to this, they can sell the vegetables to earn some incentive.
It is said “behind every successful man, there is a woman “The woman who deserves all the credit for changing the lives of residents of Savarvani is Mrs. Sanchita Dhar-the better half of ‘Bappa.’ She did not choose to settle down in a posh colony in a metro city. She is a teacher, a beautician a homeopath, and a homemaker –all rolled in one. She is an ardent nature lover, and her passion is to bring about a change in the lives of villagers. She teaches their children, four of whom topped the exams. She encourages the ladies to make pickles and cook a variety of dishes. She is so much attached to the locals that she calls them by their first names and they all irrespective of their age call her Ma in reverence.
Col Bappa had to face humiliation at the hands of the lower staff of the Chief Minister during his work. They used to misguide the locals by telling them, “not to trust an outsider.” But this did not deter him from his mission, as he had the full support and confidence of the villagers. Such people doing selfless service to society are rare to find. They leave a legacy for the coming generations, and are remembered for the sacrifices they make .May their tribe increase.