I am continuing my journey to development through a turbulent river on the boat of PMRDF

nehaNeha Gupta

I am Neha. I am presently working in Mandla (Madhya Pradesh) as a PMRDF.  I have done my under graduation from the College of Agricultural Engineering, JNKVV, Jabalpur. I was brought up by my maternal mother and maternal father. I started tuition when I was in 10th class which gradually became the main source of income for my family and with which I completed my college education. Even though I was studying agricultural engineering, I did not have any exposure to rural life and challenges of people residing at rural areas. So I was keen to start my career with work at the grassroots. Meanwhile through campus recruitment I got an opportunity to work with PRADAN. I joined PRADAN at Dindori as a Development Apprentice on 15th July, 2006. My journey in rural development started from this date. I continued to work in PRADAN till March 2012. In these 6 years, I worked with community in the role of a facilitator for their social and economic empowerment.  I continued my complete engagement in the sector mostly with one stake-holder of the development eco-system viz. the rural community. But somewhere I felt that I need to change my pitch, project myself to the larger domain and involve myself with the other important stakeholder of this ecosystem viz. the Government. I anticipated that this will broaden my perspective about development and I shall be able to provide some complementary strength to the government system. In the meantime, I came to know about PMRDF which addressed my felt need and fortunately I got the opportunity too.

I joined PMRDF programme with above aspirations and excitement to acquire them. Now that I have passed a year as PMRDF in Mandla, there are certain insights and experiences to share about. I think that to perform within or adjacent to the government system, one requires mastering the art of handling a network of dependencies involving public/community, higher authorities, subordinate authorities, politicians, private stakeholders etc. I would say, it is much easier to perform in the NGOs, much easier to implement the ideas there than to do the same here. I went through a lot of struggles, ups and downs, excitements and frustrations to adapt to the system and the system to adopt me.

If I talk about my initiatives or opportunities that I got, here are some that come to my mind first. With my previous experiences as well as from my experience here, I find that the government extension mechanism performs but its accessibility/availability is largely limited to the front sitters who are less vulnerable, more aware and powerful then the huge vulnerable folks who have lesser worth. So, to reach them by the service delivery outlet, the extension system needs to be mobile. This prodded me to take the mobile agricultural extension services to far flung areas of Mandla with the objective of reaching and teaching small and marginal tribal farmers at their doorsteps about the Good agricultural practices and provide the support services to implement in the farmer’s field.

I also exhibited my involvement with the foot soldiers of NRLM and engaged with them in the mutual learning processes. I do, they observe and then they do, I observe. This we do for community mobilisation and capacity enhancement processes of community especially with women. A special initiative as “District Knowledge Resource Centre” to engage with and handhold the youth is soon to be started in which counselling services, skill development, and village naukari portal will be the highlighted features.

The other thing I must mention is about convergence. As it is today, various government agencies are working with the same family of the same village to deliver their services, but in complete isolation from each other. I realise that to create convergence among schemes, an environment of convergence between the concerned agencies is a must. There is a lack of forum to share learnings, challenges, best practices among each other. All this tells me to promote a district learning forum. This is at a very nascent stage but I am hopeful we shall see the result soon.

To end, let me say that I am continuing my journey to development through a turbulent river on the boat of PMRDF. Let me see how many milestones I can cross.

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