Swades beckons: NASA scientist to contest local polls

The nanotechnology scientist left his cutting-edge work when conscience beckoned him to help change and improve things in his deprived Parda village in the Vidarbha region

He lived in the US for over a decade. But the nanotechnology scientist left his cutting-edge work when conscience beckoned him to help bring development to his remote village Parda in the Vidarbha region.

Treading the heat and grime of grassroots politics is 28-year-old Balasaheb Darade, who is contesting as an independent candidate from the Pangradole constituency in the Buldhana district council polls scheduled for February 7.

"I am focussing on three key aspects -- rural development, youth empowerment and changing the attitude of people -- if they want to see change, they must change themselves," said Darade, who came back to India last year.

Born in Parda village, Darade was educated here and in other parts of the state before joining the University of Cincinnati, US, from where he completed his masters in nanotechnology.

"I had always been keen on research, especially nano in solar cells. My work got me a consultancy assignment with  NASA and I worked on the Mars Rover Project on nano solar cells," he said.

Darade always longed to return to his town and do something for people's upliftment -- almost like Shah Rukh Khan in the movie Swades.

During his stay in the US till August 2011, Darade keenly watched and drummed up support for social activist Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade. He also came in contact with spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in the US and met former president APJ Abdul Kalam on several occasions.

He even formulated plans for a revamp of villages partly by incorporating Hazare's Ralegan-Siddhi model village principles.

"I launched the Shankar Rural Transformation Project (SRTP) in 20 villages in the Vidarbha region, plagued by farmland suicides, huge unemployment and consequent problems, and depression among the people who feel they have no future," he said.

Initially hoping to contest the state legislature elections in 2014, it was barely two weeks ago that Darade decided to take the plunge into the local body polls -- which he said would enable him to study and understand deeply the problems afflicting the rural, agro-based state economy and people's plight.

Darade has been allotted a 'cup and saucer' election symbol, but says he is not bothered about 'token symbolism'. Instead, he wants to involve the masses in a big way and put them on the path to progress and prosperity.



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