‘Any adventure has risk, but I had faith in success of Project Shaurya’

It was while watching the Hindi feature film, Poorna: Courage has no limits, at Kolhapur last year that , district collector of Chandrapur, thought about replicating the theme with tribal youths in his district. “The film made by Rahul Bose was about Malavath Poorna, a tribal girl from Nizamabad district of Telangana who scaled Mt. Everest at the age of 13 on May 25, 2014,” Salil said. He talks to TOI about how the feat of this young girl and how she was helped by the district administration to achieve it left him feeling emotional. Excerpts from an interview…
What made you think that you could do it too?

I realized that it was people like us who had made it possible for Poorna to achieve what she did. I had a discussion with Raja Dayanidhi who was then project officer of Integrated Tribal Development Project at Chandrapur. He hails from Telangana. It was around midnight when I dropped a message to Manisha Verma, principal secretary of tribal development department, about this plan and she promptly messaged back saying let’s do it. Then Dayanidhi got in touch with people in Telangana who had trained Poorna. We got Shekhar Babu, who is an expert of such expeditions, and mountaineers Avinash and Bimla Negi Deoskar on board to provide basic training and the plan was on path.

How difficult was it to select youths to take part in this adventure?

We picked up three ashram schools — Borda which is a girls only school, Jiwati which is very remote, and Dewada, closer to Chandrapur. In the first phase, the Deoskar couple and Shekhar Babu visited these schools and picked up 50 youths with parental consent after testing them. The final ten were picked up after a series of training and endurance tests conducted at Chandrapur, Wardha, Hyderabad, Darjeeling, Leh and Ladakh.

Did you get a budget for this expedition or you had sponsors?

The entire expedition was government funded and we had a budget of Rs2.5 crore. 95% of this came from the tribal development department. This was a first-of-its-kind project but we could convince the persons concerned and managed to get everybody on board. The entire district administration including the forest, sports and medical departments rallied around to make this a success.

Where there any apprehensions that this expedition could go horribly wrong?

I would be lying if I said no. Any adventure has risk. The only thing that could go wrong was the weather. Otherwise, I had full faith in the success of Project Shaurya. I believed in it.

In what way will this expedition help these ten tribal youths?

The idea was to send across the message that there is tremendous potential in the youths studying at these ashram schools. Now, the government has announced jobs for them. Tata Sports Academy has decided to do their counselling to identify careers for them. It will not stop here.

Have you formed a model which can be replicated by others who could be interested?

It is still early for this but our Manisha Verma feels we should institutionalize it. The principals of these ashram schools and the hostels where these youths stay are getting a lot of inquiries.

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