Unsuccessful attempt at admission in rural development course did not de-motivate my zeal of serving rural people in underdeveloped areas. I am privileged enough to get an opportunity to work with the Sabar & Birhor (primitive tribes in Jharkhand), among the poorest of the poor as defined by the Government.
A flash back of my childhood…I was born and brought up in a middle class family and got an opportunity to travel many places (both urban and semi urban areas) because of my parents’ transferrable job. This led me to realize the real differences of rural and urban India. These experiences unconsciously pushed me towards rural India. While working on education, employability, women empowerment and livelihoods at corporate social responsibility for three years, I felt sustainability would only be obtained when there is synergy between government welfare programs and other welfare programs run by NGOs or other organizations because of government’s advocacy capacity and resources. This motivated me to opt for Prime Minister Rural Development Fellowship. The fellowship gave me an opportunity to reach people in a broader purview and ensure availability of resources to the needy.
The district Ramgarh where I am placed is surrounded by Hazaribagh, West Bengal, Bokaro, Ranch i.e. a passage of Naxal activity. So there is no frequent naxal disturbance. I spent first three months in learning how the district administration functions, needs and problems of the people. The main problems that I found are awareness gap among the people and the stakeholders, women suppression and defunct Panchayati Raj. So in the first year, I planned to be in field and tried to develop a link between people and district administration. My efforts were to work on pull strategy rather on push strategy, which my district was working earlier on. My first step was to create awareness among people and stakeholders on government welfare schemes and their accountability. I saw a ray of hope when large numbers of women turned up for social audit and raised their voices for their rights.
Women suppression is really disheartening for me. So I planned to mobilize and form women’s groups so that they can understand and support each other. The best practices I observed were that groups themselves started forming other groups and started sharing the important information and now the groups want to move a step further i.e. to work on enhancing livelihood sources. During my one year tenure as PMRD Fellow, I came across very sad news about an old lady who died on her way to post office to collect old age pension. This incident made me to think that the development does not only mean visiting fields but it also means making the people’s accessibility easier. To solve this sort of problem, we (along with district administration) are implementing payment at door step through business correspondent model.
I consider myself privileged to be a PMRD Fellow as it gave me an opportunity to reach people, understand their problems and empower them and to channelize their voices into the existing government system for better policy and implementation. I hope with my sincere efforts, innovative ideas, technology and support from district administration, I would be able to make some difference in the lives of the people specially women at the end of my second year and my efforts would go on……
Sweta is based at Ramgarh district in Jharkhand. She has a Post Graduation in Entrepreneurship Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur. She has worked on the issues of education, entrepreneurship, women empowerment and livelihoods for more than three years before joining PMRDF.