The COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in the partial or complete closure of many businesses, while others have adapted to working from home. This new shift has also prompted many people to move away from the city, their place of work, back to their hometowns.
Golakh Parida, a 45-year-old CA-turned-businessman, who had been a resident of Chennai since 1999, decided to do the same, and moved back to Jalahari, Odisha, to stay at his parent’s home.
But, apart from spending time with his family, he also wanted to do something for the betterment of his village.
“I grew up in that village, and I have spent more than 22 years using the resources of that land. After I moved to Chennai, I started a CA firm along with my wife and settled down here. But, I have always dreamt about doing things such as building roads, playgrounds, and providing for my village’s development.”
Helping people in need
Apart from the CA firm, Golakh started two new ventures — a jewelry store named Aurum Jewels, and Prince Hallmark and Refinery, an organisation that indicates the standard and purity of gold before it is distributed across markets — five years ago. In fact, the second venture has expanded to 14 states across India. However, when the lockdown was announced, he had to close all his shops and businesses, as they came under the category of non-essentials.
But, instead of being idle, he decided to take this as an opportunity to spend time with his family, and implement some of the plans he had for his village.
“I approached some officials in Chennai, and on the third or fourth day after the lockdown was announced, we received permission to travel across borders. With that, my wife, two children, and I drove to Jalahari to stay at my parent’s home along with my brothers, and cousins.”
For the first few days, Golakh noticed many villagers did not have access to groceries like dal, rice, or atta. Since his home was well-stocked, he wanted to share the essentials.
“We distributed a total of 10,000 dry food packets consisting of chapatis, and other local dishes to people in my area. We did this only for one week because once the word spread, people from neighboring blocks decided to come here seeking help. This worried the people of my village, as many positive cases were identified nearby, and I was forced to stop,” he says, adding that he agreed to stop serving food as the safety of his villagers was the main concern.
Rural development project
In the mid of May, he took up the first development project — constructing a road.
“There are more than 100 households in this block, but no concrete roads — some were uneven cement roads, and the others were mud. Once the restrictions in the village had eased, I approached a local architect, struck a deal and began work. I do not wish to mention the exact price but the expenditure was more than Rs 50 lakh. With the architect’s help, we sourced raw materials like sand, cement, and stone.”
Within four months, a 1.5 km long road ranging from 20 ft width to 40ft width, was constructed. The concrete was also laid over small gullies that earlier had no pathway. Alongside, Golakh also started the construction of a ‘Clubhouse’ which could be used for recreational purposes by the youngsters.
“It is only a 1000 sq ft space, and I plan to install games like carrom, and table tennis to keep the youngsters engaged. Apart from this, there is also a plan to build a mini-stadium with a tennis court, badminton court, and more. I have also undertaken a project to install a playground for which the land-laying work has already begun,” says Golakh, adding that the development projects are being undertaken on spaces ear-marked by the government for the same.
Ranjan Kumar, a resident of Jalahari and Golakh’s neighbour, says that it is not only development work that the man has undertaken — he also helped people who were in dire need of financial assistance.
“Once he reached the village, with the help of the panchayat heads, he identified families that were struggling financially. Some villagers needed help to fix their house and some who needed money to complete the construction. Golakh would help them out by taking a look at their problem, identifying the best solutions, and providing them with money for the same. He has given Rs. 30,000, and sometimes more for the families with no income. After fixing the roads, he also replaced light bulbs in streetlights which were left unattended for many years.”
Golakh who still resides in his village in Odisha says that he plans to return with his family to Chennai in the first week of September, but the construction work will continue in Jalahari with his brothers in charge.
He concludes by saying, “My motto in life has always been to give and receive. It does not matter how much I have to spend from my savings, but giving back to the land where I grew up is only a start.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)