Alex Paul Menon writes about Suramoni

Alex Paul Menon, who was district collector of Balrampur and supervisor of Suramoni since he joined the field till about a week before his demise has written to Dr. A. S. Mathew, Joint Secretary in Charge of PMRDF Scheme at Government of India. We reproduce the letter below.


Dear Sir,

I write this mail with immense grief, informing you about the sad, untimely demise of Shri Suromani Boro, PMRDF, posted in Balrampur District of Chhattisgarh. A young soul has departed, leaving behind deep imprints of his commendable work in this remote, backward , naxal-affected district.


Sir, Suromani dedicated his fellowship tenure of the last 20 months in streamlining education sector under my own personal mentoring. We set out on an ambitious journey in this border district known for its demotivated staff and officers along with notoriety for teacher absenteeism and school drop – outs. Suramoni, though from a law degree background, could instantly grasp the needs of the education sector in the district and stood firm with the team in finding solutions for the problems plaguing us. Jointly we decided to work on the following fronts:
1. Motivating officers and staff to get the best out of them
2. Using IT-based solutions to tackle teacher absenteeism
3. Creating an IT-based platform to track every child’s educational progress
4. Setting up Model School Campuses that be an inspiration for other
schools and could be replicated across the State.
5. A novel Initiative to find out best brains of the district and to
train them for PMT and PET right from 9th Std


In Spite of being from the Northeast and facing challenges of language and culture, Boro swiftly adapted himself in the new setting. He turned out be an innate leader and to all our astonishment, he could pick up the difficult administrative Hindi in a short span of time and prepare reports in Hindi as well as English, and was of immense support in preparing and finalising tender documents, RFPs etc, because of his sound legal knowledge, a skill which even the best district officials lacked .


With around 1400 school campuses and 2000 schools, we decided to create at least 10% of campuses as model campuses with locally available resources. Every officer would adopt a school and convert it into a model campus in terms of physical infrastructure and other amenities. What started as 10% ended up with 25% campuses being transformed into model campuses with the support of this energetic soul, who was the Collector’s blue eyed boy and could actually drive it with lot of passion and doing lot of personal inspections and course corrections.


Boro single handedly managed implementation of COSMOS (Chhattisgarh Online School Monitoring System) – a powerful IT solution designed to check teacher absenteeism and school dropout rates. This humongous task entailed installation of biometric devices in each and every campus to capture daily login details of teachers and attendance data of students in a virtual attendance register coupled with mobile apps for leave management and real-time reports of teacher attendance. As a result of the initiative, the teacher attendance improved by 80% in 80% of our schools and the child tracking system with its 16 digit unique id provision helped in identifying 20,000 duplicate enrollments, bringing enormous savings to the exchequer. Boro’s passion for the project fetched the highest recognition of the country, National e-Governance Award, for Balrampur.


The novel initiative “Pehal” to identify best brains and give them the right foundation to be at level playing field for competitive exams was Boro’s brainchild. He was personally involved with the children and motivated them to achieve great results in 9th and 11th standard this year.


Sir, words fail me to describe the shock and grief which inundates the entire Balrampur team at the moment. This little leader, from a far off village of Assam, with his innocence and charm,created a big room in all of our hearts. He died on a Sunday, while returning from work, which itself is a statement enough to advocate for his dedication to the cause. In his entire tenure as a fellow, he had been completely devoted to Balrampur and its children, while his own people at Jonoi (Dhemaji, Assam) waited eagerly for their son to return. He is indeed an epitome of commitment to the cause of PMRDF scheme and people of Chhattisgarh.


Sir, Suramoni’s father, Shri Sukram Boro worked as a wage labourer till Suromani started earning and had moved from his village on the Arunachal Border to Dhemaji just to educate him.Despite his humble beginnings, Suromani maintained his grit and took a loan to pursue LLB from North-Eastern Hill University. He was a meritorious student throughout, displaying outstanding leadership qualities as a prefect and secretary of his hostel for all 5 years. He leaves behind his parents, younger brother, sister-in-law and a 5 year old nephew. Due to old age and medical conditions, his parents were rendered without work and his younger brother is working as a small time garage mechanic in the village itself. The entire financial responsibility for his family was on Boro’s young shoulders. With this sudden loss, his family has plunged into an abyss of grave shock and financial uncertainties. Hence, it is only right that we do our bit in providing some solace to his distressed ones. It is in this regard,that we may seek kind support and assistance from all possible sources for his family. Any help – in cash or in kind – may not fill the void created, but will go a long way in helping the family to bear the cruelties of this unfortunate incident.



Alex Paul Menon.

My Story

DSCN6043Suramoni Boro

(Suramoni wrote this in 2014 immediately after joining the field at Balrampur, Chhattisgarh in response to a call for personal profiles)

Hi, my name is Suamoni Boro. I am allotted the district of Balrampur, in the state of Chhattisgarh. I am a lawyer by profession. I completed my B.A. LL.B (Hons) from North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong Campus, Meghalaya.
After my graduation and prior to joining the fellowship (PMRDF), I was working in corporate sector as a law professional for more than 2 years in the capacity of Legal Associate and senor Legal Associate. My aim was to work in the field grow up as a professional. However, at the end of the day, I was not satisfied as to what I was doing. Time and again, I was questioning myself if I was contributing to any change for good!


The phrase “Change for good” is very close to me. I was born and brought up in a village called Lakhi Nepali Basti, Jonai. It is located within the district of Dhemaji in the state of Assam. It is the place where the railways have stopped running for the last 3 years or more. It is a place perennially affected with flood and remains out-off from rest of the world for one to two months at a stretch. At that point, the entire place seems to survive hanging from a thin string of hope.


However, the place was not this way earlier. It all happened after the Supreme Court of India banned the business of timber in the neighborhood of Arunachal Pradesh. When I was growing up as a kid, there used to be a thriving timber business in the region. The entire population, most of them being settlers, used to depend on this business. However, after the Supreme Court ban, the entire population was left without any alternate earning source. Slowly, but surely, poverty dawned in the once prosperous region. Whatever schemes were there were literally captured by those who knew it all. I have seen the hopelessness in the eyes of the peoples, my parents.


Then came in my life Mr. Swargiary. He was a teacher and a Christian missionary. In this state of utter hopelessness, he was the one to push us, encourage us to attend school and stand. In spite of severe lack of resources, he was always there to tell us to move on. He was hopeful that one day or the other, we can achieve our goal of achieving higher degree.
At that point, I always thought of “Why” of the situation, but never had the understanding of “How” to move out of the situation, as prevailed. Now, it is almost a full circle for me. I was from the side of why of the situation. I am now in the other side – of “How” to move out of the situation. I believe experience teaches one that. I can use this experience of mine to understand, and working with people, solving their problems.


The poor people, from my own experience, are not lazy nor that they don’t want to change their economic status. It is just that there is lack of facilitation, gap of understanding between the needs and the meets. They used to be quite hopeful. So, my main focus is to drive this hopefulness. My areas of work will be mostly related to livelihood, water management education and health. Children and women will be my main focus group. I have known the pain of losing one’s childhood. It is not only the individual’s loss, but also the entire society has to suffer and pay for it.


PMRDF is this beautiful opportunity for me to bring a little change in the society, in one’s individual life. It will definitely give me the platform to address the issue of poverty, discuss poverty related issues in more practicable ways, and help me to keep the flame of hope alive.


To conclude, my driving force is that if I do not do it, who will do then? If I do not do it now, when will I do then?



The insulation

Rohan Katepallewar, PMRDF, Kawardha (Kabeerdham), Chhattisgarh

Its been almost two years since I am in this so called ‘backward’ district of Chhattisgarh. I have been visiting so many villages. I keep meeting immensely interesting people and I do try my best to understand their stories. I don’t have access to TV (by choice). Social media and internet formulate my windows to look at the outer world. And after spending whole lot of time in taking efforts to resolve several issues; after becoming a part and parcel of this amazing world here, at times it gives me goose bumps to realize that I stand at the margins of great divide.

At one end, I see my ‘literate’ and ‘aware’ friends, constantly commenting and talking about several debates, topics ranging from ‘intolerance’ to ‘nationalism’. I do realize at times, several of the incidences / events are taking place in the ‘outer world’, which are initiating a kind of ‘churning’ processes in broader political domain. I do understand that the shouting / yelling of different reporters/media professionals/ intellectuals etc are occupying the ‘national’ psyche. But I see, these channels of information are so limited yet so strong that many of my friends believe, only these are the grave questions of today’s times! The idea is getting stronger that what happens in the capital, is something which is defining the fate of all the people of this nation.

I see the other end and I see people around me, busy in their own spheres, where-in surrounding physical world occupies maximum space of their collective consciousness. I see them worried for several daily exigencies. For me, they seem to be busy in getting benefits of schemes for their food requirements, wage employment, toilet construction and many more. Particularly speaking, this being a drought year, many communities around me seem to be ‘jobless’ owing to lack of availability of water in their lakes and pumps. Yet, I see these people channelizing their energies in several community driven social affairs, festivals and many more. Though, they are not completely insulated from outer world (they posses TV), they seem to be less involved in the questions of ‘outer’ world. What are these ‘questions’?

I understand the debate regarding the ‘nationality’ is something, which almost everyone seems to be talking about. So much so that, if one has no opinion about it, he/she might risk themselves to be called as ‘anti-national’! But may be I am slightly insulated from the greater world, I am quite non-serious about the issue. May be this insulation is taking me away from the debate regarding what the national and anti-national is. Then I see, people around me are very much part of, what we call ‘nation’, yet their issues are completely absent from the mindset of the debaters! Theoretically speaking, these people around me, who seem to be least bothered about the ‘national’ level debates, are equal part of what Rousseau calls – ‘general will’. Opinions / perspectives of these people should be given equal weight when we aim to decide the dimension of the word ‘nation’. Question of these communities must occupy equal space in the forums which claim to be ‘national’. But it is not the case. Take a simple example. I have around 80% farmers in this district, and no media house today (national/regional), give due space to ‘weather information’ which is of prime concern to these communities!

Who is insulated?

Then I realize the fact, it is not me who is insulated. But, my friends and the extended family seem to be insulated from the reality. They are surrounded by so many channels of information, which are offering limited ‘worldview’ and only few aspects of the reality. This ‘outer world’ is so strongly grappled by these channels that, they are becoming progressively blind to the questions of several communities which formulate my world, today. And if at all I could raise questions of people in the rural areas in any discussion, I get strange reactions. Members of this outer world seem to be trapped in an unique imagination. They feel that ‘charity’ is a magic bullet to resolve all these problems. It reminds me of Prof. Slavoj Zizek, who talks about the dangerous trend of ‘charity’ being the inevitable part of ‘economy’ as if it can resolve all the structural and deep rooted issues.

I believe, the debate regarding what the ‘national’ / ‘antinational’ is, seem to be taking us back to the modern world (we are now in post-modern era) and to the questions of erstwhile generation. It is not taking us in forward direction which requires us to invest whole lot of energy in devising new values and new ethos which in turn can rule out numerous structural inequalities. We must admit that, such inequalities are very much part of our collective existence and they are not being ruled out for several reasons. We must take efforts at broader as well as micro level to make this world socio-economically stable and sustainable for all the diverse communities to coexist in peaceful manner. But for this to happen, we must realize about our respective ‘insulation’. Only then we can expect that we raise ‘relevant’ questions!

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.



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

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,
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!



(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 .


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


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.



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.


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.


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? )