After leaving my corporate job, I joined Indian Institute of Forest Management to change my field of profession. During that period I got a chance to work as a volunteer with a small NGO working in Kanpur for changing the pathetic condition of the Ganga in the city. For the entire period, I stayed in a small village named Bithur on the outskirts of Kanpur, at the banks of river Ganga. This later refined my choice for a specialization, which was Development Management for me, at both major and minor levels. I was enthusiastic to work in Development sector and fortunately got a chance to work in one of the most under developed districts of India, by getting selected as Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow among a few others. As PMRDF I was posted in district Koriya, situated at the top, in Chhattisgarh state map. As soon as I set foot in the district, various types of vulnerabilities of such areas which I had heard earlier during my training period, actualized in front of me.
During the last one year as PMRDF, I involved myself majorly in livelihood and vocational skill development related activities. In one year I have understood that providing a diverse portfolio of livelihood activities to the rural people could be the most effective strategy to bring them out of the vicious cycle of poverty & vulnerability. In the last one year we have been able to form two new cooperative institutions namely Amritdhara and Pahinawa in the district. Greater women participation has been ensured. Amritdhara has been doing the work related to silk, which is abundant in the district. Right now it is reeling the silk yarn and we are planning to scale it up to weaving level. Pahinawa has been doing the work of stitching and making the uniforms of SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) students on world-class JUKI machines. We have established a small unit for manufacturing of sanitation napkins under the brand name of Sahaj. We are providing support and hand-holding to help it to grow as another cooperative in the district.
Working with the Self Help Groups taught me that the foundation of all good work is trust. When SHGs come to me directly for the resolution of concerns and voice them without any hesitation, it shows trust. They have realized that concerns raised to PMRDF will be conveyed to higher authorities of district administration and is more likely to get some solution. It fills your heart with an immense amount of satisfaction and happiness when SHGs count you as one of their own and invite you in their family functions, ceremonies and festivals.
Working with district administration as well as local people has opened several new doors for my learning. I am able to hone my leadership skills while working with local people and alliance skills while working with different departments of district administration. After completing the one year as PMRDF in district Koriya, I can surely say one thing about myself – I have become more insightful and empathetic than before.
Lalit Pankaj is based at Koriya, Chhattisgarh. He is a B.Tech in Computer Science and Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati and a PGDFM with specialisation in Development Management from IIFM, Bhopal. After his graduation from IIT, Lalit worked for two years in Software Development.