While a graduate student at University of Maryland, Ravi Kuchimanchi founded the Association for India’s Development (AID) in 1991 with the vision “problems are interconnected, so must be the solution.” AID has matured into a volunteer movement for sustainable, holistic development with 50 chapters in USA, Australia and India. It brings highly skilled professionals such as the Non-Resident Indian community, to partner with the poor, and underprivileged so that there is a deeper understanding of causes beyond the mere symptoms of poverty.
In 1998, after his postdoctoral work in theoretical particle physics at University of Virginia, Ravi with his wife Aravinda focussed on development issues in India such as dams versus people and environment, rural electrification and integrated development. Working in 30 villages of Srikakulam Distrct, Andhra Pradesh, It became clear to Ravi that a poor laborer earning less than a dollar a day lived in darkness, not because s/he can’t afford the energy bill, but because they can’t afford to pay a large bribe of a months wage, to get the connection. In fact the kerosene for oil-lamps that poor use, is more expensive than electricity that could light their home. Such insights helped AID in the US, that raises $1 Million annually and mobilizes nearly a thousand volunteers, extend its support to tackle root causes such as corruption and exploitation rather than just treat the symptoms of poverty.
Passionately interested in pursuing appropriate technology to benefit the underprivileged, Ravi with his colleagues recently adapted the traditional haybox for Indian villages. The “Easy Cooker” that is both made and sold in Indian villages, conserves about 50% energy, saves time and creates livelihoods for bamboo artisans and women’s groups. It saves about 0.5 Kg in carbon-di-oxide emissions per use compared to electric rice cooker. With 600 million rice-eaters in India and billions around the world, and priced locally at Rs 70-100 in villages, it is not only a green technology but is affordable by hard-working rural people who earn $1-2 a day.
Ravi has a B.Tech in Civil Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai and a PhD in Physics from University of Maryland. Aravinda and Ravi have a charming daughter Khiyali who has made several friends in villages and cities.
Aravinda Pillalamarri has worked with people fighting for social justice in India since 1998. Raising awareness on fair trade and sustainable livelihoods, she works with tailors designing and marketing khadi (handspun) garments with a view to sustaining traditional living in modern times. Recognizing the role of natural birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, sleepsharing, natural hygiene and free learning in promoting maternal and child health and empowerment, she works with parents and teachers in better understanding the value of these practices, how they are already in use, and how they are threatened and resources required to sustain them. IN this context she also works in Srikakulam to promote programs that help people take control of their learning, food security, and health, such as village libraries, kitchen gardens, whole foods, and accountability in government services to mothers and children. She also serves on AID Publications Team, working to ensure that people who are marginalized by poverty, oppression or disasters appear as central and active driving forces for change rather than as victims or targets. Through this AID newsletters, calendars and occasional publications help urban middle class people to understand the perspectives and analyses voiced by the people central to the processes of social change, who are too often marginalized from prevailing development planning owing to poverty and oppression.