Destiny plays a big role in shaping anybody’s life, career and dreams too. So happened in my case. A journey from a struggling student to state coordinator for Unicef, then to a PMRDF was never a part of my planning towards my life. Being the child of a government officer I have some other dreams; something like pursuing some courses abroad, or working as civil servant etc. But I did not know why a sense of dissatisfaction was always there in my conscience. Perhaps I was in search of something else. Things changed so rapidly in my case that I even couldn’t understand whats going on. One advertisement in newspaper brought a revolutionary change not only in my life but also in my mind and that was entry of PMRDF in my life. As an Economics postgraduate, I was not unknown to various topics of social development sector like poverty, unemployment, effect of Naxalism on youth etc – but just as chapters of my book. I read them as just part of my course and to pass examination. But after selection as pmrdf, those topics which were part of my course have become part of my life. Honestly speaking now, they are not part of my course but I am a part of those topics. And after spending one year as pmrdf, I can say changes are not always bad, sometimes they are awesome and I am experiencing this.
I always wanted to do a kind of work, which includes a blend of field exposure as well as office work. As pmrdf, I got both of that. During my village immersion at Kara village (Aurangabad) I, for the first time, witnessed what is rural life, what are the hardships they bear to spend a simple life, how it feels when even basic amenities are not available to them. There are a lot of schemes for them by the government but they are known to only officials, some rich people of the village and local level panchayat members. Real beneficiaries are completely unaware about schemes which are absolutely for them. Those 10 days of village immersion laid a big impact on my mind and I felt I am perfectly at the right place – this was the kind of work I was searching for. As a pmrdf I have access to both district administration and the lowest strata of society. It s the best part of my job – I can directly coordinate with district administration, can discuss with DM for making things better, make plans on how to help the persons belonging to lowest strata in the mainstream. I am absolutely free with great power and I can utilize this power according to myself and my wisdom to make life a little bit better in rural India.
As a pmrdf when I joined at my district, the first thing I was asked by my highest authority at district was to observe what the scheme status in the district is – are they really working successfully in the remotest area of the district or everything is on paper only? Secondly, is there any lacuna that can be corrected to make things better? We got 7 schemes from district to observe. I was asked to randomly select blocks and make surprise visits for having real status of the schemes and this assignment proved a great learning experience for me. Field visits are the best part of this job. Meeting with people, knowing about their idea, their expectation, are they really getting scheme benefit or not – these are certain vital questions the answers of which I got after field visits. I used to go to the remotest area of my district, interact with especially women and youth and found every young boy was eager to work. They have great dreams; they are not Naxals; they do not want to go outside. They want to work, earn money for their family and stay here.
In the context of achievements I can say, first of all my biggest achievement is my experience. Today I can say I know what is really needed at village level, what people want. I know the direction where they want to go. But on official part, my achievements are different. My regular surprise visits and written report submission have infused terror (which I didn’t want but this terror is attached with surprise visits) in officials responsible for scheme. Actions by DM sir are also very admirable on our reports. When I joined at my district I got NRLM (one of the schemes which I got for monitoring) . Under this, SHG mapping was in slowest pace; figures were also very poor. But if you see today, it is almost done. To raise women participation in MGNREGA , we held meeting with SHG members and MGNREGA staff. Very soon we will have the fruits.
After working as a pmrdf for the last one year I found things are not so negative as I had in my mind – about system as well as rural people. But people like us can make huge difference in their lives. We are actually a need for them. I can say this because I am seeing my worth at lowest level. Who is there to listen o them and their problems? A government official will never do this because it may be his lapse. Even if it is not so, they have no power to take it to the highest level to get the work done. But as a pmrdf I enjoy my freedom. I can do 3 works at a time – first, interact with the person, second, interact with the official responsible, and thirdly can directly take this matter to DM sir for further action or make some changes. So I am so fortunate that I am in this post and have capacity to help poorer sections of the society.
Issues, which I found during field visits and in last one year were firstly and firstly, lack of awareness about schemes among people. In the remotest area they may know the name of scheme, but are completely unaware about what are the actual guidelines. This plays a great role in becoming a prey to middlemen. Second is the indifferent attitude of government officials. It is the other big problem, especially at block level. Thirdly, inefficient work. I found many assistants at block level do not know how to use computer. This is also a big cause for slow work. Bureaucratic cobweb is the fourth and a very dreadful problem.
Finally I can say, I am very pleased to work as a pmrdf, thanks to Ministry of Rural Development for providing me this opportunity.
Namrata Vilochan is based at Aurangabad of Bihar. She has an M.A in Economics from Patna University. She worked for two and a half years in social development sector before joining PMRDF.