“Development” arouses different connotations. The debate on “What is development?” is not fully settled. I doubt if it will ever. However deep the meaning of ‘development’ may be, the stark reality is that there are vast sections of population deprived of ‘sadak, bijli, pani’ and ‘roti, kapda aur makan’. Only development agency that can fulfill these basic needs is ‘Government’. Here I find the relevance of what I am set out to do and what I am doing.
Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows Scheme was the platform I could not afford to miss – an opportunity to take governance where it matters the most, though I have always had my own share of skepticism – if nothing has worked as envisaged, would this scheme work?
Last 1 year has been a period of immense pleasure, satisfaction, frustration, learning and un-learning. As part of job responsibility I have worn different hats. As a catalyst, I could get things stuck for a long time moving. I, along with my co-fellow searched land for landless/without building schools and anganwadis (accommodating children of 1-8 grade in one classroom, operating under ad-hoc roof for as long as more than half a decade in some cases) in some of the most interior Panchayats of the district. We could find land in more than 70% of the cases which was a huge success. I hope more than 500 children will be able to get education without having to face the scorching heat of the sun, shivering cold, heavy rainfall in the open anymore. As an initiator, we took initiative to collaborate with Jeevika, the nodal agency to implement NRLM in Bihar and brought it to Munger much before its scheduled arrival. We organized job fair in collaboration with Jeevika and could place 150 rural tribal youth in the mainstream organized sector. I wish they continue with their jobs and never have to see the ugly face of poverty ever again. As an ambassador of government, we took the message of communal harmony to conflict prone regions. We organized cultural festivals at Panchayat level to bring various communities together and give children and local artists an opportunity to showcase their artistic talent. As people’s representative, we are taking villagers’ grievances to the administration and getting them redressed as much as possible. And as a professional manager, we are working with administration to overhaul implementation machinery of some flagship schemes like MGNREGA and bring technology like GPS mapping to reduce corruption and increase transparency.
The stint with bureaucracy has been fascinating but not without challenges – of sluggishness, of winning trust of various actors and bring them on common platform to get the ball rolling, of at times getting bogged down with too much operational formalities, and of continuously establishing yourself in the system. I learnt things will happen if there is strong will. No program design can be strong enough to work, if there is vacuum of governance. And no program design can be weak enough not to run if there is good governance and system of feedback to re-design. I learnt how many un-sung heroes keep the things going, not praised, not recognized but making the difference each day with their integrity. At the end of 1 year, I am again sceptic how the next year will be.
I am not very sure if I can keep the pace intact but will always keep on trying. I also don’t know where this road will take me to, but I wish wherever it will, may it be more meaningful and exciting than any journey on any road can ever be. The opportunity to do things for people to whom it matters the most and achievements whatever little have been, will keep me going.
Prior to PMRDF, I worked in the capacity of Unit Manager with BASIX, a microfinance and rural livelihood promotion company. The key responsibilities included managing a branch at district level with the portfolio of Rs.14 crore, forming Self-Help groups/producer companies and providing professional management to these institutions, establishing market linkages and providing other business development services.
By education, I am a post graduate in rural management from Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) and a graduate in Economics (H) from Hans Raj College, Delhi University.
Ravi Dhanuka is placed at Munger, Bihar.