While I was studying at IIT Madras, I felt that I would want to be in roles where I could help people make their lives happier. Doing a degree in public policy is one of the paths, which I chose and accordingly pursued it after my stint in the private sector. While private sector provides one with reasonable amount of satisfaction with an objective sense of purpose and a fair amount of command on the business environment to achieve one’s goals, it does not match the offering of a role in the developmental sector.
My public policy education introduced me to the sheer complexity of formulating and implementing policies to achieve the developmental goals. In fact, it is after graduating with a Master in Public Policy degree that I realized I had been saying, “I don’t know about these policy issues” a greater number of times than I used to, before embarking on my degree. With a long-term objective to influence the policy space in Indian governance, I worked with an influential state legislator after my education and this experience helped me understand the nuances of drafting legislations and the processes that shape the discussions in our august legislative bodies including the Parliament and State Legislature.
However, these experiences only helped me grasp the macro picture to a certain extent, leaving me with a massive void of understanding of the people, their aspirations, the policies at work at the ground level and the problems that occur in everyday implementation. Therefore, I applied for Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship to fill this very gap. The last one-year in this fellowship has been exhilarating to say the least. Stay in the far-flung tribal areas in a mandal/block in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh has exposed me to the various interlinked challenges that sort of explain the lack of development in the region. Starting from the aspirational deficit amongst the population perhaps owing to their low levels of exposure, to the motivational deficit amongst the government functionaries and the governance deficit in ensuring adequate infrastructure levels, one would find the right recipes for lack of development in these regions. Unraveling these deficits and trying to understand the rationales behind existence of such deficits created by our complex political, social and economic systems is an everlasting exercise I am engrossed with on a daily basis.
Beyond my epistemological pursuits, this fellowship also provided some unique opportunities to shape the thinking of policy makers. A study carried out by our state PMRDFs helped us suggest some innovative policy options for improving the outcomes of youth employment in the state which were duly acknowledged by the key bureaucrats, with a potential to impact the fate of 10 lakh youth in the state. I also presented a study on total sanitation campaign in the district on the occasion of Asia Water Week 2013 at Asian Development Bank, Manila, where the drafting team of the Future Developmental Goals, the next edition of Millennium Development Goals from the UN family sought inputs based on my study. Such experiences make this fellowship a truly satisfactory experience. Besides, the exposure to the sheer logistical nightmares of Indian public administration is a thoroughly enriching learning experience which I would have been totally deprived of, if it had not been for this fellowship. Overall, I feel this is the best role I could be in at this juncture in my life.
Rajendra Kondepati is based at East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. He is a Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and a Master in Public Policy from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at National University of Singapore. Rajendra worked for 4 years before joining PMRDF in thematic areas like project management, business development, policy analysis, drafting legislation and electoral reforms.