An IAS couple in Mizoram has been fighting malnutrition and helping improve the quality of education in their respective districts through their initiatives 'Kan Sikul, Kan Huan' (my school, my farm) and 'Kawng Kawhhmuthu' (our children, our future).
According to a report by The New Indian Express, Shashanka Ala had enrolled her son to an Anganwadi when she took over as the District Magistrate of Lawngtlai district, a remote and backward area of Mizoram. However, he would return home with packets of uncooked rice and dal.
"They didn't cook food for children. They told me that they couldn't afford to buy vegetables and pulses. Vegetables are expensive as these are brought from far-off places," Ala, who is currently the Additional Secretary of Labour, Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and the Director of State Training Institute, told the media.
This prompted her to ensure self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables in Anganwadis and schools and fought malnutrition by having nutrition gardens. By the time she left the district in May, several schools had these gardens.
"When I left the district in May this year, several schools had these gardens. The teachers and students were growing vegetables and fruits," Ala, who is from Hyderabad, said.
While Lawngtlai had 35.3 per cent stunted, 21.3 per cent underweight and 5.9 per cent severely-wasted (or low weight for height) children under the age of five years, the level of malnourishment has now come down to 17.93 per cent from over 35 per cent due to Ala's initiative.
Ala's husband, Bhupesh Chaudhary, who is from Panipat in Haryana, is the Additional Secretary, information and communications technology (ICT) and works in Siaha. Being a disaster-prone district, villages are cut off during monsoon, making the schools inaccessible. The ratio of dropouts and child absenteeism was also rising here due to lack of access to quality education.
Through a holistic programme that focused on improving the physical infrastructure of schools, Chaudhary tried to improve the learning outcome in Siaha's government schools.
"These schools did not have libraries nor did they have games periods and sports equipment. We got libraries set up with books in 20 schools, procured sports materials and introduced 12 smart classrooms with corporate social responsibility (CSR) and other funds. We worked on improving infrastructure of schools with the convergence of MGNREGA funds," Chaudhary said.
In recognition of the IAS couple's keenness to serve the people, the Mizoram government honoured them this Independence Day. While Ala received the Chief Minister's award in public administration for her 'Kan Sikul, Kan Huan' (my school, my farm) initiative, Chaudhary received the award for excellence in public administration for his initiative 'Kawng Kawhhmuthu' (our children, our future).