Tuesday, May 05, 2009

An activist with a public conscience

I have written about him before and here again I go… When you call him on his mobile phone, what you get to hear first are strains of Vande Mataram. It’s not surprising because A. Narayanan has been consumed by a love for the country and a willingness to serve the community ever since he started going to school in Tirunelveli. The Loyola College graduate who has a diploma from the Loyola Institute of Business Administration worked for a while in sales and marketing before turning entrepreneur 15 years ago – his firm manufactures scientific instruments. However, taking up social issues and advocating change remains Narayanan’s first love.

Narayanan believes in working for change. Through INFORSE (Innovative Network for School Education), Narayanan works for the setting up of libraries, laboratories and lavatories in schools. And through Paadam, he has been fighting against alcohol and drug abuse and against all forms of manual scavenging. He is also against admitting destitute children into orphanages, juvenile homes or dormitories. Adopting a child or encouraging a family to sponsor a child’s education, he feels, is the way forward.

Thinking out-of-the-box to enthuse underprivileged children in Chennai’s Corporation schools, Narayanan started a mobile library last year with his own funds, complete with a team of volunteers who would closely interact with children. The mobile library (in a Tempo Traveller) was launched with the local body’s help and now caters to children of 10 Corporation schools in North Chennai. The library has 3,000 Tamil books for children, audio-visuals, a laptop and an LCD projector. While Monday to Friday, the van visits the schools, during evenings and weekends it goes to community schools and tuition centres in slums. The response has been overwhelming.

It was Narayanan’s public interest litigation that led to the Madras High Court banning in November 2008 the entry of humans into sewers and septic tanks to clean them. Narayanan is convinced that alcohol is India’s No. 1 social enemy. “The WHO says that alcohol will be the third biggest contributor to death, disease and disability in India. Sixty percent of road accidents are caused due to drunken driving and government should bring stringent laws to control this. A person who drinks and drives is a killer on the road.” Running a spirited campaign the past two years, Narayanan has been sending public petitions to the office of the director-general of police seeking severe action against drunken driving and the prevention of employment of juveniles in bars and liquor shops in TN.

The next item on his next agenda is to file a PIL seeking a ban on the production and sale of plastic bags and cups in TN. “Ours is supposed to be a progressive state. Then why are plastics not banned? They block water bodies, drains and canals. The result is mosquitoes and malaria.”

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