I applied for the Prime Ministers Rural Development Fellowship with a high hope of contributing to the development of rural people in remote areas of India especially the Adivasis. I believed this fellowship would provide me an opportunity for working with people who have been neglected for ages and yet to taste the fruit of trickle-down development t. I was also excited that this fellowship would give me a chance to understand the structural problems of tribal communities about forest, land and ownership over other natural resources from their perspective.
I was born and brought up in a village surrounded by forest closer to the famous Shimilipal National Biosphere. The area I belong to is one of the remotest and most backward ones in the entire district of Mayurbhnaj. So since childhood I have seen and experienced all forms of poverty, exploitation and discrimination very closely. I had to move out of the village for my studies and stayed in residential schools run by Government for Schedule Tribes and Schedule Castes because of non availability of good schooling in my village. Since childhood I have decided to work for the toiling masses of rural background. My studies at the two premier social science institutes of the country, especially TISS, has provide me with different perspectives to rural poverty and sensitized me more to work for elimination of all from of exploitations.
Since the day I have been posted in Sundargarh District of Odisha I am involved in various Government programmes and innovations in the District. Initially I was involved in conceptualizing District and Village Resource Centre in order to create permanent structure for information dissemination of the various Government programmes and policies at the district as well as village level. The idea was to empower rural communities through providing all necessary information regarding their rights and entitlements. After that for a short time I was involved in conceptualizing and implementing Model Gram Panchayats. In the initial phase District Administration decided to make 2 Gram Panchyats in each Block as Model Gram Panchayats making all the information available to the rural masses. People would demand for their rights and entitlements once they are equipped with sufficient information.
Later on, as per the instructions of the PR department Government of Odisha, like all other fellows in the State I was instructed to report to Project Director, District Rural Development Agency Sundargarh and engage myself in the Flagship programmes of the Government focusing on Employment, Livelihood and Housing Schemes. The major activities I am involved now is planning and monitoring of National Rural Livelihood Mission, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employement Guarantee Scheme and Indira Awas Yojana. My activities also include talking to different stakeholders in regular field visits and suggesting small creative ideas for better implementation if any.
Working in this fellowship has been a great learning experience so far. It has sensitized me a lot about the issue of development in the rural areas especially of Schedule Tribes. At personal level I am able to make good relationship with community leaders, PRI members and civil society organizations which helped in the growth of my personality.
Laxmidhar Singh is based at Sundargarh of Odisha. He is a B.A(Honours) in Chinese Language from Jawaharlal University, New Delhi and an M.A in Social Work from TATA Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Laxmidhar worked with Department of Rural Development, Government of Andhra Pradesh as Programme Manager in charge of grievances redressal of MGNREGA and other PR Schemes for 10 months before joining PMRDF.