Mumbai: Inspired by the Gandhian values of self-reliance, social activist, environmentalist and classical Kathak dancer Arushi Nishank of Uttarakhand supported and trained thousands of rural women in Uttarakhand to take up sui dhaga (needle and thread) to make reusable khadi and sutee masks for free distribution to the army personnel, police, rural workers and frontline COVID warriors. So far, over a lakh of such masks have been distributed in Delhi, Mumbai and cities and towns of Uttarakhand.

Left to Right: Arushi Nishank and Nilisha Agarwal

“Khadi is a symbol of Gandhiji’s self-reliance and is environmentally friendly and in tune with the spirit of Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Thousands of rural women who made these masks developed skills and are gainfully employed,” said Arushi at an EkMulakat webinar in conversation with Ehsaas Women of Kolkata member, Nilisha Agarwal.

The webinar was organized by Kolkata-based NGO Prabha Khaitan Foundation. Over the years EkMulakat has become a popular forum for free-wheeling discussions with eminent personalities and achievers.

Social and Cultural Activist, Sundeep Bhutoria, Trustee, Prabha Khaitan Foundation said, “It was great to have a young achiever to share her ideas, life experiences and dreams with us. Arushi, who is proud of her Indian heritage, is a source of inspiration for thousands of poor women and others. At present, Arushi connects with thousands of people through the Sparsh Ganga campaign to promote awareness of Ganga and its biodiversity,

Social and Cultural Activist, Sundeep Bhutoria, Trustee, Prabha Khaitan Foundation

Arushi started a environmental awareness project “Beautiful Valley” in 2009 and drew in the support of the Dalai Lama and Hema Malini, MP, and others. Her father, Ramesh Pokhriyal, the Hon’ble Education Minister of India, is a great source of inspiration.

A votary of circular economy and the live wire behind Sparsh Ganga’s various social initiatives, Arushi has trained and engaged over 800 rural women to be gainfully employed for making masks, incense sticks from waste flowers and environmental-friendly biodegradable jute bags as substitute for plastic. A classical Kathak exponent, Arushi has performed in over 15 countries. Her Kathak ballet “Ganga Avataran” has been much appreciated the world over. “The ballet gave me an opportunity to fuse my two passions – environmental awareness and dance,” she said.

Replying to a question “What can we do from our homes during COVID times to support the environment? Arushi said, “First we should keep our families and the country safe by staying indoors and by maintaining social distance protocols. Second we should conserve water. There is a water crisis looming over 22 cities in the country. About 70 per cent of water used is wasted which we should find ways of conserving and utilising in a proper way like watering plants and so on.”