Indian American businessman Sanjeev Rajoura was presented with the Uttar Pradesh Apravasi Bhartiya Ratna Puraskar award Jan. 22 for his work in building public toilets for Dalit girls throughout the state.
Eight NRIs received the prestigious award that honors people with roots in Uttar Pradesh who have achieved excellence abroad in their chosen field or profession. Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik bestowed the awards during the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which was attended by more than 5,000 Indian NRIs from around the globe.
Rajoura, a resident of Fremont, Calif., told India-West he has built 80 toilets over the past three years for Dalit girls, largely with his own funds. “I have been inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.
Before he took office in 2015, Modi pledged to construct 111 million toilets across the country for universal sanitation throughout the nation by October of 2019. After he took office, the prime minister allotted $20 billion to the scheme. As of September 2018, 80 million new toilets have been built, according to The Independent newspaper.
The lack of a toilet is one of the key factors contributing to the school dropout rate for low income teenage girls.
Rajoura has been living in the U.S. for the past 14 years with his family. His ancestral village is Khandoi in the Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh.
Rajoura told India-West he is actively involved in helping and sponsoring education for under-privileged kids.
The social activist has met with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to discuss the prospect of building a bridge across the Ganges River that would connect Bulandshahr to the Amroha district, drastically shortening travel time and bringing development to both areas. The bridge — which will be named for Army sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh, a native of Bulandshahr who lost his life in 2017 in Kashmir — has been approved by the state, and construction is expected to begin soon, according to Rajoura.
Press Trust of India journalist Yoshita Singh, who reports from Washington DC, also received the Uttar Pradesh Apravasi Bhartiya Ratna Puraskar award. “Humbled by this recognition from my state for my work in journalism,” she tweeted.