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Individuals Can Make a Difference: A View from India

We turn to the Streetsblog Network for a little inspiration this morning, courtesy of Robin Chase -- author of the blog Network Musings and former CEO of Zipcar. Chase shares a story from a friend in India, Vinay Jayaswal, who believes that meaningful change on the most overwhelming issues can, and must, begin with the actions of individuals:

my_india_flag_child.jpgJust think what he could accomplish if he put his mind to it. (Photo: Network Musings)

The moral of the story for Vinay is that people want to help, want to do the right thing, want to improve society. They just don't have the confidence to act and take the first step. They can't figure out the first step; they think the process will be complicated and difficult. They think no one will follow. They expect government to be the enabler.

Just do it, says Vinay. Think globally. His most pressing issues were environment, sanitation, and health -- intractable issues for the common Indian. Act individually. Vinay isn't going to wait for government. He believes individuals can work together to help themselves. His budding idea will include a website and hope to spur Indian youth to take action on issues that affect their daily lives.

Many people in India are making those individual efforts. In the nation's most populous city, Mumbai, they've organized a Car-Free Day for February 21st. It's the first such effort in Mumbai, which suffers from some of the world's most chronically congested traffic conditions.

And in the small town of Ferezopur, on the India-Pakistan border, temporary street closures for a festival inspired a few individuals to push for a permanent car-free zone. Local merchants were skeptical at first, but have been happy with the results, and the zone may eventually expand.

These are just a couple of examples of how, even in a nation of 1.17 billion people, individuals can take responsibility and drive progress -- if they just choose to act rather than wait for someone else to take the lead.