A decade ago, Pradeep Lokhande, an entrepreneur from Pune was given the sobriquet of ‘Postcard Man’ by a friend in the media. Lokhande, who helps develop villages across Maharashtra and several other states, kept in touch with his people through the simple communication tool — the postcard. Yes, believe it or faint, the postcard still exists.
And, postcards addressed to Lokhande only read Pradeep Lokhande, Pune 411013 — that’s it, nothing more. And they reached because of the sheer volume of traffic!
Anyway, even as that aspect of his life continues, Lokhande has now been nicknamed, India’s Library Man. In 2010, he took on the onerous task of setting up libraries in secondary schools in rural Maharashtra. This is the world’s largest rural reading initiative. His objective was simple — “A person who reads is an enlightened mind.’’ He says, “Reading is a habit everyone of us should encourage. Be it, your own child, all school children, your domestic help or even the rickshaw driver, if all of us pick up a book to read, our lives will change.”
With this objective, Lokhande encouraged various patrons to donate books and before he knew it, his Gyan Key initiative had spread across 3,910 libraries in Maharashtra. However, the buck never stopped. He has replicated the same in seven other states including Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan. “The project has benefited 10 lakh students in the eight states and I’m hoping this number is constantly on the rise,’’ says Lokhande. “Till date, we have received 8,50,000 postcards from students who have read the books and written to the donors. Almost 2,65,000 responses have been laminated,’’ says the book-man pointing to neat piles of the communication that has been preserved in his Rural Relations office in Pune.
The Gyan Key initiative has succeeded in donating 9,40,000 books, worth Rs 3,91,00,000 (30 million+) till date.