While most of my friends were grappling with the question of “what to be” after school, I was a young girl with a very convincing answer having decided to work as a development professional already. There were numerous reasons for as to why I was so resolute at this age, one of the strongest being our school voluntary service clubs that probably influenced me a lot. Being thus determined, I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Social Work from Visva-Bharati University. During these 5 years, I worked extensively with the rural masses. The experience then was more of a social activist, when the young mind was bent towards changing the world to make it a better place.
Reality dawned with the first job in Udyogini (a national level organization), which was working for the upliftment of rural women through promoting entrepreneurship and creating livelihood opportunities, with a belief that the world can be changed partly through constant efforts and partly through access to resources. Here I was an employee with certain roles and responsibilities and was no more an activist. I was doing quite well as a trainer there interacting directly with rural folks and trying to raise the socio-economic standards of women. I was involved in designing and developing a digital business literacy curriculum in partnership with the Intel Foundation and a lot of progress on computer literacy and business management was achieved.
Then PMRDF happened. I applied out of curiosity to explore how it would be like working with the government, with power and authority and most importantly access to resources to do good to people. Since then one year has passed and it has been like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes, receiving a kick when there are achievements while sometimes frustration at not being able to do a lot many things that the heart aspires to; for the vulnerable communities. One of the greatest challenges was the preparation of a report on a model panchayat. I had to travel to remote insurgency affected underdeveloped villages riding pillion on two-wheelers with local PRI members to collect primary data required for the report. However, this was also the most enriching experience. I realized the numerous struggles the villagers had to go through in order to access even the simplest of the government entitlements, sometimes without any idea to whom to approach in case of any in-justice.
However, there have also been highs, such as the approval and sanctioning of recently formulated state level guideline on convergence of MGNREGA with Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) by the Chief Secretary. The guideline, wherein a provision for building Individual Household Latrines was approved, was made possible only through support from very pro-active government functionaries. The guideline has helped address several doubts about implementation of the convergent schemes. My next plan is to work on converging three major schemes including NRLM, MGNREGA and NBA, involving SHGs in Solid and Liquid Waste Management and in production of sanitary items, which will be sold through Rural Sanitary Marts generating additional livelihood options for women.
As a PMRDF, I feel like a bridge, a neutral link between the defenseless people and the concerned government system as they both come together to reach out to each other, but a very small gap still remains somehow, which both parties are unaware of how to bridge. When this fissure is plugged, we will have a much better system and a much satisfied rural community.
Nilanjana Moitra is based at Ranchi Rural district in Jharkhand. She is Maters in Social Work from Visva-Bharati. She has been an enterprise development trainer and handled MIS, reporting and overall evaluation of all programs at state level in Jharkhand for around two years before joining PMRDF.