PM’s interaction with Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows

Press release from:  Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Prime Minister’s Office

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today interacted with over 230 youth who have been working in rural areas under the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows (PMRDF) Scheme of the Ministry of Rural Development.

11 young participants presented brief accounts of their work in remote, rural, and tribal, and Left-Wing Extremism affected areas, on themes such as women empowerment, maternal and infant healthcare, education, nutrition, livelihoods, Swachh Bharat, Ek Bharat – Shreshtha Bharat, and people’s participation in governance.

Later, in an interactive session with the Prime Minister, several participants shared their thoughts on themes such as development of the North-East, rural education, tribal development, organic farming, and welfare of the disabled.

The Prime Minister recalled the letter that he had written to all the Fellows, seeking their responses on the “Narendra Modi App.” He appreciated the extensive responses that he had received from the fellows, and especially emphasized that there was not a single complaint among the responses. The Prime Minister said that people’s participation emerges as a common theme among the presentations given today, as well as from the responses which he has received. He stressed that this can be the most important aspect of bringing about change.

Shri Narendra Modi appreciated the participants for working with dedication and devotion, in rural and backward areas of the country, often withstanding peer and family pressures.

The Prime Minister invited specific comments and suggestions to further refine the PMRDF initiative.

The Prime Minister released a book – Scripting Change – which visually demonstrates the essence of the work being done by PMRD Fellows across the country.

Union Minister for Rural Development Shri Chaudhary Birender Singh was present on the occasion.

What are the fellows doing after completing fellowship?

By Aditya Tyagi

The first cohort of first batch Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows will complete their fellowship in a few days, on 24th December 2015. They have been on the rolls for nearly three years and nine months. I thought it is a good time to study what those fellows have been doing who already graduated in the past.

Before there is any confusion, let me explain. The first batch of fellows had tenure of two years, after completion of their ten-week long orientation. There was however option for them to continue for another year. Many of the fellows opted to do the third year of fellowship while some decided to opt out. Again, just before the third year was over, Government decided to extend their fellowship by another six months. Many of the fellows decided to continue while some decided not to accept the extension and left.

To give a numerical estimate, a total of 151 Fellows joined in first batch in 2012 after completion of their orientation in two cohorts. 17 of them left the fellowship before completing two years. Therefore, these 17 are not considered as graduates of the fellowship programme. 13 fellows decided to opt out in 2014 after completing their two-year tenure while 121 fellows decided to continue the fellowship for the third year. On completion of third year, 40 fellows decided to opt out. The rest 81 are continuing through their further six-month extension. Among them nearly 50 (of the first cohort of first batch) will graduate on 24th December. The rest will graduate on 24th March 2016.

This study is about the 53 fellows – thirteen who graduated in 2014 after running a two-year tenure and 40 who graduated in early 2015 after completing their three-year tenure – to find out what they have been doing after completion of their fellowship.

A questionnaire was mailed to all the 53 fellows. I have received responses from 40 of them. All of them have remained engaged after completion of fellowship. 32 of those who responded are working with state and central governments, development organizations and initiatives across the country in a variety of roles. 6 of them have joined academics in India and abroad to pursue higher studies. The rest two are working in the corporate sector.

Break-up of the 32 fellows are as under:

• 3 fellows have initiated their own development initiatives

• 7 Fellows have joined CSOs/NGOs and are involved in skilling, health, sanitation and child development

• 7 fellows are working with Government of India, providing policy and implementation support to rural development programs like NREGA, Rurban Mission, Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) etc

• 10 fellows are working with governments of various states – either with specific departments like health, education, tourism, rural development or in the Chief Minister’s office

• 3 Fellows are working with multilateral organizations (like World Bank, UNDP etc)

• 1 fellow is with CSR of a corporate

There was no promise that Government would find the fellows a placement on completion of fellowship. No organized placement efforts have yet been in place. Fellows accessed their new engagements solely through their own efforts. It can however be assumed that learnings from the fellowship, the space that they could create for themselves through their work and the goodwill of Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship saw them through.

BELIEVE ME YOU ARE…

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Lalit Pankaj, PMRDF from Korea, Chhattisgarh pores his heart out in his deep creation, Believe me you are.. 

Occasionally, 
While wandering,
I come to such places,
Where poor people live.
Mangoes and blackberries,
Fall from the sky,
People pick them up and eat,
Just like that.
Limpid streams,
Bring virgin waters,
Animals and people drink,
From the same shore.
Tranquility of atmosphere,
Music of countless birds,
Omnipresent soothingness of nature,
Lit up my eyes.
Looking down upon all this,
I tell them,
You are disgustingly poor,
Believe me you are…
They ask me,
How so?
How much do you earn?
I explain.
Less than a dollar a day!
That’s why!
Earn for what?
They retort.
Don’t you want,
Formal Education for your children?
Too much is happening around the world,
Don’t you want to watch it on a flat screen TV?
We are not convinced,
What would we do with all that stuff,
We have all we want,
Happiness and peace, they say.
My anger grows,
These people, don’t even know,
What is good for them,
I must intervene.
They must become the beneficiaries of,
Sustainable rural development scheme,
Designed by,
Uber sophisticated intellectuals.
Otherwise some insecure pedantic pirate,
Would venture,
In their naïve unsuspecting society,
To plunder and pillage.
They must be protected,
From rest of the greedy world.
If not now,
It would be too late.
Take this card with your name,
Now on,
You will be bestowed with,
Funds in your direct beneficiary account.
Leave us alone, they said,
O educated shallow bum,
Don’t rub the ointment of your injuries, on us ,
In the name of our development.
“No no” I said
We are genuine development workers,
We really care for you,
We feel your pain of poverty.
We think, they said,
You’re feeling it better than us,
More pain, more gain,
More salary, which you can’t refrain.
We all know about,
Your covert plan,
Leaking pipeline of development schemes,
To feed your insecure overweight clan.
Just that we haven’t been able to publish,
But, you have, for us the theory of entrapment,
In the vicious cycle of,
Poverty-Illiteracy-and-Malnourishment
All along you are the one who is vulnerable
Enough to be in captive starvation,
In the vicious cycle of
Bad Education – Insecurity – and – Dissatisfaction.

PMRDF: My experience so far!

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(Arpit Asthana is undergoing training as a 2nd batch PMRDF. He sums up his experience at TISS, Mumbai here..)

Education and Career Background

My engineering degree helped me in getting a decent enough job in one of the IT giants. Colleagues, friends, peers, money etc. etc. was on the rise. Everything except my work. I felt that my work was not inspirational and in this way neither I can show my mettle nor can I contribute anything towards the society. It was not motivating and ultimately the mundane processes made me feel weary. I got through Rural Management Program in Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar. The decision to quit my job and the shift to Rural sector was not a radical one but a gradual process with lot of introspection and self-assessment.

Reasons for choosing PMRDF

During my XIMB days (2011-2013), I was following PMRDF very closely and was glad to hear about the admission notification last year. With a Rural Management degree and a desire to build a career in development sector, PMRDF for me was the next logical step on the ladder. I was highly impressed with the nature of work that the fellows are expected to fulfil. In addition to the broad spectrum and scope of work, the fact that a Fellow has to act as an interface between the district administration and people at the grassroot level was the thing that excited me the most. For me, this proved to be an opportunity of not only interacting directly with the people but also closely observing the district administrative machinery.

PMRDF: Why is it so special?

The Government of India’s fellowship when combined with the academic expertise of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) makes the program highly attractive. Personally, the mix of office-field work and the tie up with District Collector and various line departments will help me in understanding many intricacies minutely in administering and in development of a backward district. The multi-dimensional work scope covering project monitoring, implementation and research aspect is the most unique proposition for me. As per the website, the work of a fellow ranges from capacity building of SHGs, designing innovative projects, assisting in better implementation of poverty alleviation programs like NREGA, NRLM, SSA, ICDS, IWMP, NSAP, IAP etc. and providing feedback on rural development initiatives. The liberty to undertake action research to discover more appropriate ways of program delivery as well as to conduct socio-economic analysis of the local areas at Block level broadens the horizon at a new level which I think no other opportunity can provide at the entry level point. To top it all, TISS will also be awarding an M.Sc/M.A. degree in ‘Development Practices’ after two years of fellowship.

PMRDF: My experience so far!

The last one month has flown like wind. 3rd April, 2014 was when I reached the TISS Campus, Mumbai for training. Past one month we are having rigorous and back braking classes with subjects like Indian Society, Land Reforms, Economic Theories, Development, Development Interventions, Poverty, Social Exclusion, Social Research Methods, Socio Economic Analysis, Communication Skills and Leadership Workshops. The two hour long classes starting sharp at 9 in the morning till 6 in the evening with the scorching Mumbai humidity were not easy to withstand by any stretch of imagination. But at the end of day, there were always some food for thought that all of us took back from the classes. Be it the dining hall or a nearby beer bar or TISS campus, the discussions were wide and varied covering topics from Caste discrimination, Reservations, Rights based Approach, Naxals, North East, J & K, BJP versus AAP, Indian History, capitalism versus communism et cetera, the later always being the hottest of all. Though most of the times I remained a silent observer, I loved the way people came forward and expressed their heart out. Perhaps, TISS further helped me in inculcating the habit of listening to other people. Unfortunately, in the discussions that we had, the reciprocity was seldom maintained.

Training of IInd Cohort started this week and though I didn’t have much interaction with them, but I have heard that they are a talented bunch. Rural Practicum of Ist Cohort will be starting this week and I am eagerly looking forward to it.

More to follow…………

Livelihood Initiatives in North Bastar, Kanker, Chattisgarh

I priyanka Yadav, PMRDF- kanker, chattisgarh , have been largely involved in skill development and livelihood activities in my district. Following are some of the major developments which have taken place in the last 1.5 years, in the field of livelihood and skill development

The district of Kanker has taken Many Initiative in Skilling of youth leading to better livelihood opportunities for them.

The two Initiatives namely Rural BPO and Livelihood College stand out among all others for their uniqueness and novelty factor.

Rural BPO/ Call Centre

 As the name signifies a rural BPO is Business Processing outsourcing centre which is functional in a rural area like kanker. This is similar to the BPOs/ call centers operated from the big cities like Delhi and Mumbai in all its operations.

In this model Business (Both Voice and Non Voice) are being outsourced to this centre and operations are being dealt here. A typical example of the work here is the outsourcing of the Customer care centre operations of companies like Airtel, Idea etc in Chhattisgarh to this centre. Thus people sitting in kanker are  able to reply to the client of any of these organizations from any part of the chattisgarh or the entire nation for that matter.

Zila Panchayat Kanker Has partnered with Rural Shores, a Bangalore based organization that has pioneered in the area of setting up Rural BPOs around the country.

The BPO is operational since August 2013 .

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The objectives of the Rural BPO

  •  Employment for 200 Youth: Rural BPO will provide employment to around 200 people in various capacities in its full operation. At present 40 people are working in Rural BPO
  •  Skill Enhancement of youth: Rural BPO will upgrade the Skill set of the Youth of Kanker and make them more employable
  •  Reducing Migration: It will reduce levels of migration of rural youth to cities for better opportunities.
  •  Creating Employment opportunities for Women: It will create alternative means of employment for the women  who are not able to go outside in search of employment 

The Rural BPO is an attempt to create alternative means of livelihood for the rural youth of Kanker, thereby channelizing their vast energy towards positive and constructive avenues.

Here is the news paper coverage of the initiative

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/raipur/Chhatisgarh-gets-its-first-rural-call-centre-in-Kanker-district/articleshow/21836310.cms?intenttarget=no#.UoMeQgCJ-tk.facebook

 

Utkarsh Skill development centre  – Kanker

The district of Kanker is one of the LWE affected; four of its blocks namely Bhanupratappur, Antagarh, Koylibeda and Durgukondal are highly LWE affected areas.  Growing unemployment in this area is resulting in youth getting attracted towards naxalism. There is a great need to divert youth from such anti National activity by engaging them constructively in nation building.

Keeping in line with the national mission on skill development, Kanker is also focusing on its young population.

 Utkarsh Skill Development Centre  

 Utkarsh Skill development centre  is functioning as a centre for training exclusively for MES (Modular employability skills) courses Under MukhyaMantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna  and skill development initiative scheme( SDIS)

It is a skill development centre for a wide range of skills.  To begin with, it will impart skills in the area of ICT, Fashion technology and Electrical Repair along with Personality development with a focus on soft skills development.

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Originally 100 students were selected for a module of MES courses for the duration spanning 5 months in ICT and commerce.

Along with the regular students part time MES courses are being run in the morning and evening batches.  The total number of student trained in MES courses was 550 in the year 2013- 2014.

USP of the Utkarsh Skill development centre 

Placement linked training: Utkarsh Skill development centre has partnered with Pratibha syntax Pvt. Limited – an Indore based leading organization in Garment Making. The organization will provide customized training to the youth and give them 100% placement in Pratibha Syntex Pvt. Ltd.

Also Shiza Foundation has partnered to impart placement linked training in information technology, soft skills and Bussiness and commerce, they have designed a specific five month module taking different courses from the above sectors

Focal Center for skill development under Mukhya mantra Kaushal Vikas Yojna( MMKVY): The centre is  a focal point for providing training Under MMKVY and SDIS Using NCVT approved MES courses and modules. Other Governmental Trainings are also being imparted through this centre.

Career and Guidance centre: The centre functions as a career and guidance centre for youth across the district, they are provided guidance by the staff about various career opportunities.

The centre aims at providing standardized and quality training to the youth of kanker leading to better employment opportunities.

Since its beginning in August 2013, Utkarsh Skill development centre has provided employment to 80 youth, both men and women in the field of garment, IT and Business & commerce.

 

Priyanka Yadav, PMRDF Kanker, Chattisgarh 

 

 

The Uprising of the Silent Women!

Priyanka Yadav, PMRDF- Kanker, Chattisgarh 

It was a usual slow and lazy afternoon in one of the  small block of North Bastar kanker- Narharpur .

This day of January 1, 2014, finally turned out to be the most eventful  day in my life, for the event that followed. I am narrating a small incidence which might be trivial for some but for me that was a live social revolution taking place! Something I can never forget in this lifetime

We had organized a workshop on livelihood opportunities for Self Help Groups (SHGs). We invited all the stakeholders there; the participants included different govt. departments and the banks as well.

Much to my surprise and prior experience in other blocks, around 600 women SHG members from 28 Village organizations formed under NRLM  turned up for the event. Fortunately all the bank mangers of the blocks were present, as the CEO zila panchyat was also expected in the event. There were many problems with the bankers in the block and women had complained to me regarding the same during my regular field visits earlier. SHGs complaint of improper and rude behavior by the bank staff specially the field officers, unnecessary delays and formalities in account opening, withdrawal and passbook updation etc. The NRLM loan to SHG was a task to be achieved! We tried to solve these issues earlier on different platforms but the manifestation of the same was invisible on the field.

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After all the discussion on livelihood opportunities by departments was over, I invited bankers to the forum. I chanced upon the occasion to be a good platform to confront the errant bank officials in public.  I made it a direct face to face interaction between the women and the bankers.

We asked bankers one by one to Introduce themselves and present their work and schemes etc. In the end I started asking the women about what issues are they facing with the bankers? Initially they were hesitant to say anything against “the Shahibs”, but when coaxed further they started with their long list of grievances. The complaints escalated into angry accusations and chaos! The bankers obviously had no answers to the genuine questions posed by the women; it was more of their attitudinal issues rather than systemic issues. The bankers (not all, some of the errant  ones) had no place to escape!!

Fortunately when the time was ripe, Mr. Bhim singh, CEO Zila panchyat( IAS) arrived in the hall and was surprised to see the situation. We explained to him why women were angry and why bankers were hiding! He was apprised of these issues earlier as well and he was himself angry on the bankers for repeatedly engaging in such behavior.

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He listened to the women carefully and when he was convinced that the bankers were at odds with the public, he supported the women and said that he himself will sit on a protest outside each bank if the banks did not amend their ways! This got a thunderous applause from the women and they were assured that their complaints will be taken care of.

At this point of time, the regional office staff and the lead bank manger interjected and assured strict action against the errant bank staff at the block.

Now things are moving rather smoothly in the block and bankers are aware of the power of the Tribal, illiterate rural women!

This is the power of silent women, I smiled to myself!

 

[Priyanka Yadav is a fellow at District of Kanker in Chattisgarh. She is focussing on livelihood and skill building related programs and initiatives.]

Divorced to Sustainability [Puns Intended]

Aman Bhardwaj, PMRDF

Note: Those who have promised themselves not to listen to others’ private affairs may avoid reading this or can read it after chanting Hanuman Chalisha 108 times.
 
 
One of the few terms I heard and started using too often after joining this scheme is “Sustainability”​. No, I shall tell you the truth. Actually, I heard this in 4th year of my Graduation when after three years of teaching “how greedily to take out as much minerals as possible from ground underneath?” the same professor taught us to leave some of mineral down there, not out of generosity or the self-discipline stuff but enough to let the ground stay where it is or it may subside and fall into the hole. 
 
But, my definition of sustainability received a severe blow after I joined Coal India; blow, the kind you received while spending first evening in your district’s guest house. There, sustainability was like Harry Potter, just a fictional character. People talked about it and knew he existed, in stories of school of Magic. To become sure of his existence, they looked around and asked their brethren if they had seen someone selling pots or earthen vessels, but all of them denied. (To those who don’t know Harry Potter: Harry is anything but a Potter.) Most of them believed in their hearts that Harry Potter didn’t exist, but due to an important need to look intelligent, publicly they acknowledged that Harry Potter existed. Some of them, in fact said they even had had dinner with Harry Potter in Paradise, the Biryani Moghul in Hyderabad. Some even went lengths and produced vessels in front of public to show Harry Potter had sold it to them. But in their hearts they knew, they didn’t know him. 
 
Let me get straight to the point now. “Sustainability” was like childhood sweetheart, who would come along, whenever I am thinking something important, knock on mind’s door and would shout with a contorted face “Hey! You better not forget me.”. I felt trapped and even cried without tears. Trapped in ‘Sustainability trap’. She didn’t stop coming to me until I got her married to someone else (Yes. You’re right. I, in my mind, have married her off to someone in our current batch, 2nd Batch.) Now, I don’t think of her. 
 
Sometimes, I missed her. Sometimes. But I stopped missing her after I got a new girlfriend. Now, everyone must be wondering who the hell she be to replace sustainability. 
 
Must be some kind of greatsustainmanagexistecologyfriendlytimeless-bility. 
 
God’s promise!! She is not that. 
 
One of my mentors introduced me to her (better her to me). She is called “relevance”. Now, she doesn’t act as a pain in the ass; rather she helps me by enabling to ask questions like:
 
“Would the intervention, you’re planning to take, aims to make some positive contribution in lives of people?”
“Would the people involved like/love/benefit it? If yes, how many are those and how resourceful are they. if no, what powers and resources they have to stop that.”
“Still haven’t started, eh? Go on field.”
“Are there groups (Youth, NGO, Elderly etc.) who realize the intervention is relevant for people out there? Engage them and make them feel its relevance. Bring inasmuch as you can.”
 
I am happily dating her on some of the small drinks (read ‘ideas’). She neither asks me to think of the marriage propositions nor she hides the fact too long that she has deserted me. She is ruthlessly frank but simple and precise. Friends, she is one to be desired for. 
 
Now, I think I’d rather have better fallen for greatsustainmanagexistecologyfriendlytimeless-bility than falling for sustainability. 
For two benefits: 1. I’d have added this large word in my memory and would have sounded intelligent in front of you and others and 2. I’d not have been heartbroken so many times. 
But anyways, who knows? You know, fate, destiny…. fatalistic stuff. (We all secretly believe in this God-staged-drama story thing. Don’t we.)
 
(Friends…Regarding the first evening.. I know some of you had awesome evenings when your pious feet touched the motherly soil of your districts and your district collectors opened their arms like Shahrukh Khan of DDLJ and hugged you tightly like you were their long forgotten lost love. Please don’t reply with that story. Because in my part, I was like miserable Mr. Biswas of V S Naipaul’s “A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS”. I had to wait for five hours to have a look of my holy grace. The condition also didn’t turn better than Mr. Biswas, later on.)
 
Dare  you not ask me who has been married to sustainability? )

‘Simple, Innovative Solutions Keeping In Mind Constraints’

Chintan Raj                                             Image

Working as a Prime Minister’s Fellow, I’ve observed that a critical root-cause of various developmental challenges and conflict is in-efficient utilization of public funds on account of serious issues with the processes and current manpower.

Top-management is most of the times in-efficient, over-burdened & sometimes improficient.  Processes are over-complex and become even more challenging to implement on account of ad-hoc target approach instead of planned/realistic approach by states/districts. Grass-root teams continue to remain understaffed, shoddily-trained and without proper incentives leading to promotion of fraudulent practices. Silos work is prevalent and win-win collaborations, both within and with external organizations are still at a nascent stage. Further, endowing people with information and functionaries so that they can take up need based projects is infinitesimal, while the top-bottom movement continues to be capacious. To illustrate, vital initiatives such as empowering executive committees of gram panchayats with funds &functions, financial inclusion for NREGA beneficiaries and SHG status mapping are rolled out in-a-flash without a plan or stakeholder co-ordination and with unrealistic timelines. NREGA work types are often pushed from top and imperium command is utilized to subjugate the gram sabha/panchayats to approve what may not always be needed/be priority creating disaccord. Mandatory compliance letters instructing tasks and demanding reports are issued at an extremely high frequency. Most of these letters create superfluity, add complexity and garble what is already mentioned in the pre-arranged comprehensive NREGA Operational Guidelines.

The aforementioned governance aberrations have resulted in a permanently perturbed state of affairs at district level ensuring that most tasks become execution checkmates! Hence, staff gets little time to respond to needs of people and delivery of schemes doesn’t meet expectations. Adding to misery, ithas given rise to an un-written, mutually-beneficial arrangement between the grass-root staff and elected-representatives. By quickly utilizing the funds, staff meets targets and representatives extract short-term benefits. Well-intended representatives, interested in useful community projects, too have Lilliputian choice on account of no skilled functionaries (engineers/agriculturists).Therefore, people see public funds as a tool for ‘immediate benefits’ which creates short-term gratification but no long term, sustainable community empowerment which could reduce dependency. This also signifies the need for a paradigm shift in the practiced communication from government to its people.

I’m able to spot these issues because of my background of working in diverse environments (multi-nationals, start-ups, collaborative-initiatives) and hence the ability to analyse relatively.  On a lighter note, if this is how Samsung, Microsoft, L&T, BHEL and counterparts would be managed then computers, mobiles, metro-rails and power-plants would continue to be dreams and would have sunk all shareholder money! We can debate on capitalism-v/s-socialism and workfare-v/s-welfare later, but first let’s get the basics right!

Time is an important dimension and constructive improvements need to happen soon. It is therefore important to acknowledge, take responsibility and focus on systemic improvements that can improve the core. Hence, ‘simple, innovative solutions keeping in mind constraints’ has been my approach in all initiatives that I’ve taken as a PM-Fellow. After showcasing results, we move to scaling/recommending various improvements. To illustrate, we have focused on supporting need based creation of self-sustainable livelihoods for small/marginal farmers through horticulture works on private-lands using NREGA. We’ve partnered with agriculture specialists, given power of information to people through marketing brochures and made processes simplified and self-motivating for staff. The farmers are excited that their income is going to multiply in the limited land! The pilot project is also approved for scaling-up across district!

Our district is fish eating but most fish now comes from AP/WB because many ponds have become defunct and fishermen migrate in search of work. We worked with fishermen groups to refurbish government ponds using NREGA. The immense success of pilot has created a wave and all government ponds will be refurbished before 2014 monsoon! Many panchayats had mammoth (e.g. Rs. 57lakh) NREGA liabilities built-up since 1-2 years and Rs. 3/5/6/10lakh allotments from state would get used towards past dues, leading to slowdown in current work, delayed wage-payments, loss of faith in NREGA and constant protests. Special camps were organized where data was collated scheme-wise, records certified and entire liability cleared (some panchayats done, others in process). Training for timely MIS-updating and uniform physical record-keeping was conducted. The benefits of the latter are immense when it comes to improving delivery & transparency. Many other NREGA initiatives such as panchayat-wise monitoring, need-based convergence, partnership with civil-society, asset use-mapping, micro-planning and social audit pilots have been tried out success fully. Policy papers on process/HR improvement have been co-created and presented to state.

In community-led total sanitation, in partnership with MeghPyneAbhiyaan, a tola has been made nearly open-defecation-free using ‘Ecosan-toilet,’ an innovative concept where human waste is segregated at source and both urine and faeces are used as organic fertilizer. Since it has direct linkages with livelihood (less fertilizer input costs and better crop productivity) farmers instantly connect! ATMA funds were also used to educate farmers across the district and we will soon promote Ecosan-toilet construction under NREGA too!

Honey bee keeping in forest areas has high potential, but never took off because the boxes are distributed by KVIC/Horticulture Dept. without any technical training. Boxes were becoming threats since bees would sting children! We used ATMA funds to provide training and create farmer-interest-groups leading to happier farmers and some initial honey produce. Focus is now on dedicated training & community enterprise creation.

A district disabled rehabilitation centre and soil testing laboratory have also been setup and pilot results are encouraging.

Going ahead, planned is a ‘rural business incubator’ to support our small/marginal farmer groups to innovate and at the same time create a productive, systematic channel for utilizing massive funding available from NABARD/PMEGP/Agriculture-Dept.  Additionally, the north-Bihar floods disaster problem has been understood and community-led mitigation plans are being made. NREGA and external technical assistance will play a big role. I would like to thank my mentor and boss, the current District Magistrate Mr. Sridhar Chiruvolu for encouraging various initiatives, utilizing my competency regularly and helping me understand the system’s challenges better. I’ve seen positive change when I use the ‘simple, innovative solutions keeping in mind constraints’ approach and would like to continue working on innovatively implementing various ideas/policies/5-year-plans, recommend constructive policy changes and a move to simplicity.

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Chintan is placed in West Champaran District, North Bihar. Prior to joining the PMRD Fellowship, he co-founded a Social-Enterprise and was a Manager in Enterprise Risk & Sustainability at Larsen-&-Toubro. He has also spent time as Fellow at Foundation for Universal-Responsibility of HH Dalai Lama, as Journalist at Education-Times and as a Researcher at Greenpeace. For achievements in embedding Environmental-&-Social Risk-Management in Core Operations at L&T, he was invited as a speaker by The Project Management Institute. His Social-Enterprise GreenAdd was incubated twice by Unltd India. He is an Engineer by qualification and recipient of the ‘International Award for Young People’ for all-round achievements during school & college.

Assessment Process for selection as PMRD Fellow:

Selection involves a three tier assessment process, which includes:

I. All India Competency Assessment Test (AICAT) (Online): 28th December 2013,        from 2-30 PM to 4-00 PM

AICAT is an assessment of the applicant’s understanding, orientation, and problem solving abilities in a positive manner. Applicants will be shortlisted based on their performance in the AICAT.

II. Written Test (Issue based, narrative) of shortlisted candidates: 16th January 2014

III. Personal Interview: 16th & 17th of January 2014

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Framework for AICAT Paper:

AICAT is an objective type test. The test aims to assess the competency on the following aspects:

– Reading Comprehension

– Data Interpretation & Inference

– General Awareness

– Logical reasoning

– Knowledge about National Programmes and Schemes

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AICAT duration: 90 minutes

Number of questions: 90

Sections: 5

20 marks for each section

1. Reading Comprehension: 2 passages with 5 questions each

2. Data Interpretation & Inference: 4 Data Sets

3. General Awareness: 20 Questions

4. Logical reasoning: 20 Questions

5. Knowledge about National Programmes and Schemes: 20 Questions

Each question is for 1 mark [For Reading Comprehension each question is for 2 marks]

Negative marking:   – 0.25 [No negative marking for Reading Comprehension]

Each question to have 4 options

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For more clarity, try the mock test at http://www.digialm.com/EForms/Mock/Template/index.html?164@@138

“The rural poor are the best entrepreneurs – across diverse geographies”

SWASTI PACHAURI                                        

PMRD Fellowship has been the most satisfying professional and personal journeys, thus far because not only has this Fellowship offered me the platform to apply management & social research to community contexts, but has also encouraged me unleash my creative potential in the context of rural development.

My corporate/management consulting experience revolved around strategy, impact assessment projects, and different global discourses on development. An amalgamation of all these convinced me that in addition to process improvements required for effective program delivery, a focused community demand driven approach was imperative for successful translation of developmental goals. PMRDF appealed to me primarily because I wanted to implement these very managerial and social research applications with communities in focus. Additionally, I wanted to travel the unexplored territories of India, and consequently contribute in my own capacity.

At the onset, therefore as a PMRDF, in addition to my work with various stakeholders & beneficiaries at the grassroots, I have been working in the rural marketing space.

Till date, my work has included conceptualization of a product catalogue titled ‘Indigenous Talents’- for urban consumers. The central idea was to reveal the ‘invisible hand’ behind the aesthetics and crafts that the rural households of hinterlands make.

Towards this I have undertaken several initiatives on product promotions strategies for handicrafts, forest herbs procured and developed by  SHG women and artisans. Additionally, I am working on diverse projects such as understanding the Mahua economy, convergence with CSR, and livelihood diversification plans for villagers.

My work for SHGs at the moment, supported through DPIP/SGSY/SRLM includes the development of an e commerce driven portal for the Government of Madhya Pradesh which would provide a one stop shop for tourists, online shoppers and customers thereby taking Madhya Pradesh arts and crafts to the global map of art and craft. 

Individually speaking, as a PMRDF I have had several moments of personal realizations and reflections. At the inception of this esteemed Fellowship Program, I felt that it marked a watershed in one of the most significant areas of human capital enrichment. The field and ground experience offered by this fellowship serve to hone the demographic dividend which India boasts of today, while also addressing developmental constraints in micro & macro-economic contexts. The multi stakeholder approaches and perceptions one unravels while also understanding implementation related challenges through an administrative and a grassroots lens are the defining attributes of this program.

Most importantly, however, I feel that PMRDF has provided me with greater depths of humility, patience and other daily life skills thereby adding hues of depth to my personality.  I would recommend PMRDF as a life changing experience to every young professional looking forward to making a difference!

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Swasti Pachauri is based at Seoni in Madhya Pradesh. She is a gold medalist in Economics at graduate level from Hindu College (University of Delhi) and a post graduate in Development Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Swasti worked for five years in social sector consulting before joining the PMRD Fellowship