With absolute ignorance I applied for the PMRDF program. Only thing in mind was to experience uncertainty and war like scenario within the Government frame work. Until my training I was not aware about the development sector and its myriad challenges. During the field training Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendra was my rendezvous where my curious mind experienced the rural India. The plans that were bubbling up were busted by scorching Sun and scarcity of water. For the first time I realised rural development is easier said than done. It needs a great deal of grit and gumption to get things done. The job at hand demands a high level of commitment and self motivation in order to bring even a tiny change. However the training program provided me the basic ingredients to start my journey in rural development.
After joining the district I found neither we have a place to sit nor any defined task. I had to negotiate with the District Magistrate and PD DRDA to find my niche. Initially I was asked by the DM to scrutinize the transfer list of the village level workers and rationalization of teachers posted across district. After spending a sleepless night I could delete 30 names from the transfer list who were either dead or retired. In the teacher rationalization process I learned that whatever paper one is to submit must be signed, otherwise the next morning a different set of papers will be found. The transition from a paperless office to a mess of files and fly leafs was enchanting.
Within a month of my joining both my District collector and PD got transferred. In the present context the entire district administration is Collector centric and things will move depending on his leadership capabilities. Fortunately my new DC was a very young and dynamic officer who believed in innovation and the value of human resources. Suddenly out of the blue I got a mentor and structured work. We analysed the district scenario and decided to focus on strengthening governance, improvement of health institutions, bringing in the resources from civil societies and corporate funds, covering the most vulnerable people like widows and aged people under the ambit of the social security and working for the Juangs, the most vulnerable tribal.
We conducted a base line socio economic survey in the Juang region with the help of NGOs. Then we trained key players and mobilized people to participate in NREGS work which provided them a guaranteed income and developed assets. Now everyday 3000 Juang people are working in NREGS and assets are being created which is a very heartening sight to witness.
Despite improving the health institution through various review and biometric attendance system people’s health seeking behavior was not getting improved. We invited all PRIs, ASHAs and ANMs to a health convention and made them realize how they should put pressure on public service delivery system in order to get better services for their own community. This significantly increased the number of foot falls in the hospital and health institutions. It shows with methodical and focused approach a lot of things can be streamlined. We brought corporate houses on board and requested them to plan their activities in coordination with the Government which will reduce redundant efforts and provide resources to the underserved areas. Now corporates are doing activities even beyond their area of operation which was not happening earlier. They are coming forward to provide staff support and necessary funds to develop micro industries and tools to provide efficient public services.
Promoting development in rural area is a slow and complex process. It requires simultaneous action in various sectors and from various agencies in a rapid and volatile environment. However with indomitable spirit and support from all stake holders if we can direct the available resources in the right direction we will achieve the breakthrough.
Chandrasekhar Bhuyan is a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) posted in Keonjhar of Odisha. Prior to joining PMRDF Chandrasekhar gathered 5.5 years of experience in IT and education sector. He spent more than 4 years in Infosys technologies in various capacities. After quitting from Infosys Chandrasekhar joined Teach for India where he taught in a low income school and worked in teacher training programs.