The story of how the aspirations of a young mechanical engineering student towards a change brought about a wave of youths coming together to become one for welfare.
“The aim was never to be an organization, it was never to form an NGO. It has always been about bringing together people who genuinely care about lending a hand and truly wanting to do something to help the ones who need it the most. That is where ‘PEOPLE FOR PEOPLE’ started and that is how my team plans on proceeding.”
Tucked in the corners of upper Assam is the small town of Duliajan, its glory in being surrounded by lush green tranquility but above all, being the headquarters of OIL India Limited. Rohit Saikia, originally hailing from the historic town of Sivasagar spent his childhood in Duliajan. He led a carefree childhood, the mischievous streak in him the brightest. He also carried a brilliance in chess, having represented Duliajan in the All Assam Chess Championship twice. “Looking back, children in Duliajan are swarmed with opportunities in an environment that remains unmatched.”
Rohit is a graduate of Jorhat Engineering College. Just as the cheeky boy was stepping into adulthood with the advent of being a college student, a lot changed in a miniscule amount of time for him. “Entering my twenties was tough. A naive and clueless trouble-maker like myself suddenly had boulder heavy expectations on my shoulders while still not knowing what I truly wanted to do with my life. However, with the Baghjan oil field well being set ablaze, everything changed for me.”
The 2020 Assam Gas and Oil Leak was a disastrous time for the inhabitants of Baghjan as well as OIL India Limited. Hundreds of people watched their homes burn down in flames. With Covid-19 caes marching towards an unstoppable peak around the time and masses being left homeless, the situation was catastrophic. Meanwhile, OIL India Limited faced losses in crores as well as workforce to the fire and severe backlash on social media by netizens, who blamed the industrial giants for the disaster, although the fire was a result of a gas leak combined with natural conditions in the area.
“Being a mechanical graduate, I was aware of the technicalities of the situation. With that being said, I was oblivious of the intensity of harm caused to the surrounding by this blast.” Rohit said. He wrote on Facebook, addressing the issue and saying that OIL was doing it’s best to normalise the issue. He urged people to stay patient as these atrocities needed time to cool off. “Many people sent their prayers to the families affected, many prayers to OIL India employees as well. However, a comment by a lady named Subhakshi Baruah challenged my stance with a plea to take an actual initiative as a youth with privilege and knowledge. That is what changed everything for me.”
Rohit was infuriated with the happenings and the comment was his last straw. He knew he had to do something. He, along with four of his friends, namely Kalpajeet Sonowal, Kasturi Phukan, Kaushik Gogoi and Prinjee Baruah, a small group of young minds cumulated ideas to help the people of Baghjan who had lost their all to the flames of Well No.5. The five started out penniless but went on to collect over 5,000 rupees for the families affected and provided them with clean drinking water, masks, food etc. The successful drive was only the beginning for Rohit.
News spread of his deed and as the seasonal Assam floods rolled around, people reached out to him and his team to take initiative. Every year, lakhs of Assamese are affected by the monsoonal floods. Rohit, having gathered a workforce of passionate youths, along with the help of social media reach, managed to collect a whooping 17.08 lakh rupees for the flood-hit masses, “Being an Assamese is my ground identity and by hook or crook, I will always stay a step ahead for my motherland.” he said, about the responsibility he felt towards his identity as an Assamese. Rohit, along with his team, traveled all across Assam to the worst affected areas, from Sadiya to Jonai, from Kaziranga to Lakhimpur and finally, Dhemaji, providing aid to over 3000 families.
“It was not the least bit easy.” says Monjit Gogoi, a volunteer for PEOPLE FOR PEOPLE during the 2020 Assam floods. “However, Rohit is extremely strong minded. He has qualities of a true leader and he knows how to get the job done, no matter the ups and downs. It was a learning experience, as much as it was a massive reality check of how different conditions can amount to people leading such different lives. I learnt to understand them and I credit that to Rohit and seeing him interact with people the way he did.”
“Me and my team are thankful to so many people for contributing towards a change, for meeting on the same page with us no matter which part of the state or the country they belonged to. We received donations from Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru aside from the donations collected within the state. A lot of famous personalities like Assamese musical sensation Papon also contributed and helped share our cause. We are also very thankful to the community of BTS ARMYs (Fandom of Korean-Pop sensations, BTS) for coming together to help raise over 5.9 lakh rupees for the cause. The power of social media contributed immensely towards making our vision come to life, especially amidst a pandemic.” Rohit said, acknowledging the influence of the age’s social media in helping people with different stories connect and come together for goodness. Bhavna Barman, a student at Dibrugarh University and a fan of the pop sensation emphasized the same saying, “ The response of the fandom towards the cause was overwhelming. We created a group chat on whatsapp to curate the donation drive. We had more than two thousand donors from all over the world. The donation drive link crashed due to traffic of people trying to access the link. The fandom raised over 5.9 lakh rupees in two days. It is incredible how a small initiative towards a better world can resonate to people from all over the globe and bring people together to change lives.”
PEOPLE FOR PEOPLE, a group that started out with one person reaching out to a friend developed over time to more than hundred youngsters coming together for a cause, each with their own uniqueness. The vast number of people involved also had a flip side. “We all come from different backgrounds, we all have different views on issues and there is no escaping that. We fought, at times, even fell apart .However, as we moved forward, I realized that our differences were the strongest pillar of our team work. We debated issues, we had arguments, we are a fearless group of individuals putting forward our viewpoints and that is where great ideas emerge from.” Rohit said, emphasizing that the strength of the team is in the individuality of everyone involved in the process.
“If a hundred people will think of mankind and take an initiative, a hundred more places will shine. There is power in every dream and if you are fearless enough to run towards it, you will make it come to life.”
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Hello! I am Sudrisha. I am a daughter, a friend, a student or a mere passer-by on the street. My mind is a cauldron of ideas, imaginations, dreams and values imbibed in me through everything I have been in the past twenty years.
Fictional and non-fictional characters from the glossy pages of Vogue to Austen’s exquisite Pride and Prejudice are my travel guides through life.
There is nothing more thrilling to me than a warm cup of cocoa (with extra marshmallows) paired with a book that makes me explore beyond the four walls of a room.