It took Suresh Lakhavath, Joint Commissioner of the Income Tax Department, ten years to convince officials to build a 3-km road in the Sarvapuram hamlet of Andhra Pradesh. “I wrote letters to the district collector, ministers, and officials of concerned government departments, every year for almost a decade. It was hard for them to believe that a learned and well-groomed IRS officer was from a place that had no motorable road in the 21st century,” he recalls in a conversation with The Better India.
In 2010, Suresh was inducted in the Indian Revenue Services, at the income tax office at Masabtank in Hyderabad. After taking charge of the position, Suresh began writing to concerned officers to bring their attention to and improve the infrastructure of his hamlet.
“The officials could not believe that an IRS could qualify from a village that had no electricity, government water supply scheme, roads for people to drive vehicles on, or even a public transport system,” the 33-year-old says. He adds that he organised trips with officials to the hamlet, and showed pictures to those who could not pay a visit, to highlight the conditions. To convince them, he also narrated his personal story.
The untiring efforts of the officer have brought Sarvapuram hamlet its first-ever concrete road. The new road, which connects the hamlet to the railway station, also brings connectivity to urban parts of the district. Suresh’s efforts have also introduced the village to an RO water supply scheme, LED street lights, libraries and a school, in 2020.
“It is difficult for a government officer to aid the development of the remotest parts of the country,” Suresh says adding, “I was never of the belief that my village should get top priority among others. But the motive of bringing infrastructural development to the hamlet was the sole reason I became an IRS officer.”
‘Expressing my gratitude’
Suresh says that earlier, the only way to commute to Hyderabad and urban areas was a 3-km walk along the railway track, from his village to the nearest railway station in Tadlapussally. “The same journey, from my village to Hyderabad, is what brought me a fortunate life. And bettering the lives of these villagers is a way to express my gratitude,” he adds.
At the age of five, in 1992, Suresh led the same life all other kids in his neighborhood did. He roamed around the streets, played through the day, and attended a few classes conducted by a visiting teacher under a makeshift school.
However, his life changed when a landlord offered to take care of him. “I often tagged along with my grandfather, Akya Naik, who toiled on the farm of a landlord. The landlord knew me, and one day, proposed to my grandfather that he leave me with him for household chores. In return for my work, he offered to finance my studies and healthcare,” he recalls.
Suresh’s grandfather agreed, and the former began working at the landlord’s home. “The landlord tutored me alongside his two children. But when the academic results came, his children had failed the examination, and I had passed,” he says. Upset with the outcome, the landlord discontinued his support.
Suresh’s father Shankar, a farmer, started looking for people who could guide him in his son’s education. “After learning about a scholarship and a reference letter, my father took me to Hyderabad to apply for the same. After a month of running from pillar to post, and even sleeping along the road near the tribal welfare office, we managed to apply for the Best Available Tribal Scholarship of the state government. The scholarship funds the education of tribal children after assessing their eligibility through a series of tests,” he says.
A friend in need
Suresh qualified in 1993, and graduated Class XII in 2005 from Hyderabad Public School. “The school is rated as one of the best schools in the country. I excelled in academics and athletics. I scored over 250 medals in sports, and also earned the role of a head boy,” he says. The school also led him to Udaycharan, who he met in Class VIII. Suresh says he found a friend for life, and Udaycharan played a vital role in pushing him to achieve his career goals.
Suresh was determined to pursue civil services and improve the lives of those in his community. “In 2005, I returned home and started looking for a job at a call centre. Udaycharan, meanwhile, told me he was planning to study in Delhi. His father, who I was equally close to, offered to fund my education, and asked me to stay with and pursue my studies alongside his son. I took a train from Tadlapusally without a confirmed ticket. I stood for the entire journey to Delhi — 38 hours!” he says.
Once there, Suresh sought admission in a university to pursue a bachelors’ degree in arts, and made plans to prepare for civil service examinations.
Coming full circle
In 2008, Suresh aced his academics, and began preparing for civil services. “I cleared it in the first attempt. The next year, I completed training and returned home. I got a posting in Masabtank, right next to the tribal welfare office in Hyderabad where I slept and made rounds to avail scholarship money,” he says.
“It all came back full circle. I drew my first salary in January 2010. Being the eldest son, I financed the education of my younger brothers, and supported my parents. I realised that at every stage of life, I had people helping me at the right time. Udaycharan stood by me like a pillar,” he tells The Better India.
Suresh decided to be that friend for villagers in his hometown, by using his position to help them. “Because the government supported me via the scholarship, I can live a dignified life. I wanted to make use of the same system to improve the villagers’ lives,” he says, adding that through consistent efforts, the authorities completed the construction of the road in November 2020.
“Getting the road built was a challenge, but a dream come true. Sarvapuram is now connected to ten other hamlets, and about 5,000 residents will benefit from the infrastructure. There will be an increase in traffic, and business and economy will thrive. The school and RO water plant will be operational by February 2021,” he says, adding, “The newly built road connecting Tadlapusally runs parallel to the railway line, and I get a feeling of accomplishment when I drive along the railway track.”
Suresh says that 28 people from the hamlet have already received employment in government departments through his support. “If I could excel in life, there ought to be more talent in these hamlets,” he says.