Meet ‘Aspirational District Fellows’ Who Are Helping Transform Indian Districts With Innovative Ideas
We often forget to acknowledge the efforts of those who are actually the agents of change. Far away from the bling of limelight, often in rather small and lost districts of India, the unsung heroes of today in their own bid are changing the face of the country. It’s true, India is a country that dwells in its little lanes and shines in the eyes of its people. Aspirational district Fellows (ADF) are those who in their pursuit to conserve the glint of ‘Good Governance’ in as many as 115 districts have far alighted their high horses and continue to serve the nation in a style that is rather sarkaari. Monitored directly by the NITI Aayog and Home Ministry at the Centre and District Magistrate and District Collector at the district, the key focus areas of Aspirational District Fellowship are Health, Education, Social Welfare, Infrastructure, Financial Inclusion and Skill Development. While they assist the district administration in implementing NITI Aayog’s Transformation of Aspirational Districts Program, which also happens to be the brainchild of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi; they also assist multiple departments of the district administration through ideating, innovating, implementing and monitoring several interventions.
In conversation with The Logical Indian, three Aspirational District Fellows from Ranchi, Simdega and Dantewada talk about the significant changes that they have been able to bring about in their respective districts.
Satwik Mishra (ADF, Ranchi, Jharkhand) was earlier in Simdega
Hailing from Purnia, Bihar, Satwik started his sojourn at Simdega district in Jharkhand and moved to Ranchi as an ‘Aspirational District Fellow’. Concerned primarily about Health and Education, Satwik Mishra started by the most impending issue gripping women, Menstruation. Through ‘Garima Abhiyan’ for which Satwik won the ‘3M CII Young Innovator Challenge Award 2019′, he locked horns with various stigmas attached with menstruation through the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) awareness campaign. In collaboration with a United Nations Agency, ‘Water Sanitation Supportive & Collaborative Council (WSSCC)’, Garima Abhiyan addressed the issue of menstrual hygiene, sensitised both men and women and also trained women to make indigenous sanitary napkins at home. Simdega, with a population base of 6,00,000 under Garima Abhiyan, became the first district of India, to sensitize the entire population base of the district through an awareness campaign.
Other than that, Mishra under guidance of the then Deputy Commissioner Dr. Jatashankar Choudhary, also spearheaded several health awareness campaigns like ‘Bhag Filaria Bhag’, ‘Khabardar Malaria Abhiyan’ and ‘TB Bhagao Abhiyan’ out of which the ‘Bhaag Filaria Bhaag’ model got a larger National Level recognition more so that the Ministry of Health (GOI) accepted it for getting it replicated at the National level. In the field of education, Satwik Mishra, on his front foot helped the administration roll out technically equipped classrooms called the ‘Smart Shaala’ in as many as 93 schools to improve attendance and learning standards of the children. Besides, in pursuit to make young students computer smart, ‘Mission CompLit’ was introduced in 60 government schools of the district. Another thoughtful proposal by Mishra that culminated into transformational reality was ‘Operation Whiteboard’. Launched in Simdega, ‘Operation Whiteboard’ was to replace blackboards across schools to a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and human-friendly alternative, the whiteboard and assure ‘Freedom from Chalk Dust’ to the students and teachers.
Currently, Satwik is working for implementing similar projects i.e. ‘Operation Whiteboard’, ‘Sahuliyat – Saving women from UTI’, ‘SmartShaala’, ‘Poshaandolan Abhiyan’ etc. in Ranchi district of Jharkhand, under supervision of the DC Rai Mahimapat Ray.
Biswambharnath Naik (ADF, Simdega, Jharkhand)
Bishwambharnath is a name who redefined the way we look at sustainable development. The first example that truly justifies his all-inclusive practices is the “Wall of Hope”. Through the wall of hope initiative, a wall at the block office was dedicated for donation and collection of clothes in a unique way. People willing to donate clothes need not find a person who they can donate it to instead simply drop off the donation items at the ‘Wall of Hope’ and people in need can collect them at any point in time. On the Water Conservation front, Naik ideated the concept of low-cost household level soak pit to conserve the greywater coming from each household and use the same to recharge groundwater through these pits that are also called the ‘Magic Soak Pit’.
Biswambharnath believes that any change can catch undefeated momentum only if people are educated. To promote the culture of education in Simdega, Naik assisted the administration to realise the dream of having a community library in the district. As a result, the library was set up in every single cluster of the district dedicated to the martyrs of Uri and Pulwama. What sets the community library apart is that it is not just confined to the students but as the name goes, is accessible to the entire community of people of all age groups. Apart from that, Naik also spearheaded the ‘Moy Heko Simdega Campaign’ which translates to ‘I am Simdega Campaign’. The primary agenda of this project was to increase voter turnout through awareness at the booth and Anganwadi level. The compelling message of the campaign was “ Each person belonging to the six lakh population of Simdega is equally important to complete Simdega, hence they should proudly say I am Simdega and prove it by voting.”
Prakash B Rao (ADF, Dantewada, Chhattisgarh)
Prakash B Rao an ADF from Dantewada has a lot on his canvas. From Land Enrichment & Community Farming to Local Production of Sanitary Pads, he has left no stone unturned to ensure development that is all reinstating. His first project, ‘Mehrar Cho Maan’, he promoted the production of sanitary napkins. Under this programme, a big number of 14000 tribal women and girls got benefited. Not only that, but the programme also employed 106 women. The tremendous success of this campaign garnered the appreciation of senior officials and evaluating prospects of the same to be implemented in all the other districts of Chattisgarh.
On the education front, he got Smart Classroom installed in two schools out of sponsorships. Rao via his third project, community farming rejuvenated 125 acres of barren land and promoted multi-cropping that included Ragi, Sesame and also Sericulture (production of silk).
Aspirational District Fellows, being the foot soldiers of the administration not only identifies these immediate areas of improvement but also ensures that the administration is able to successfully implement its policies. The Logical Indian duly acknowledges the unparalleled efforts of these young aspirational district fellows who ensures that no district lags behind in achieving its development goals.