Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things”. When hope meets an informed plan and an urge to #ImpactAtScale, then there’s action and even a hope for transformation. This is what I witnessed first-hand during my field visit to Jind.
After two days of interacting with people on Whatsapp groups and calls, the field visit was a welcome break even if it meant the day extended for over 16 hours. It gave me a chance to interact with a lot of people, see the district administration in action and gain new perspective on the power dynamics in the government system. During the day, I visited the DC office at Jind, a public library being reviewed by an SDM, the Tehsil office, Antyodhay Bhavan, CM Window applications and the new Saral centre. I also visited the Sanitation park, DRDA in the city and the DEEO office and interacted with various officials over there. I felt at home when I visited a Senior Secondary School in Ghimana village and couldn’t help comparing it with my classroom and school. At Ghimana, I also visited an Aanganwadi centre and interacted with members of the local panchayat committee. All these visits were possible with the help of Shubhi Kesarwani, CMGGA at Jind and the careful planning of Ankit Jain.
After a couple of days, If I sit back now and think of what this visit did to my beliefs and world-view, four major themes stand out to me. These themes give me renewed hope that change is possible, and we need to get our hands dirty to make it possible.
Empowering women and youth
Spaces such as the Library, schemes such as Saksham Yuva, and initiatives such as CMGGA have been instrumental in shifting the male bigotry in a very subtle but definite way. The way the SDM wanted Renuka, apprentice at the library to be seen as an authoritative figure for all the youth in the library so that respect for her and the library increases; the way Anju, an employee as part of Saksham Yuva with the help of three other friends ran survey campaigns and other tasks far from their homes all by themselves; the way the response to Shubhi, CMGGA changed from “What can a women do, Madam” to “Madam, you give suggestions to the CM, you’ll get things done for sure”. Though these are a few instances, I’m sure these will create ripples.
State-of-the-art delivery of Govt. services
If analytics firms can provide the best packaged solutions to complex interconnected problems for private businesses, why can’t Governments provide similar solutions to its public? The answer I think lies in the conceptualization of Saral, making it easy, transparent and quick for all citizens to avail all Govt. services or schemes in one place on one portal. There was a different feel to the aura in the recently renovated space for the Saral Centre, it looked professional, meant to remove the unorganized queues and the long waits of the public outside the present day Antyodhay Bhavan, Tehsil office and the likes.
For someone who has always seen and heard the severe lack of infrastructure in Govt. Schools across India, it was a pleasant surprise to visit Government Sr. Secondary School at Ghimana which as its Principal, Mr. Krishna Singh Nehra proudly claimed has won the most beautiful school award Twice in the last four years! I wonder how they missed the award the other two times! With a fully functional science lab, computer lab, a well-stocked library, clean toilets, running water in taps, RO purified drinking water and a huge, huge playground, it looked like a place that I would want to go to for studying or teaching. All this was possible with the help of generous donations from the locals, retired teachers and other concerned people. If this can be done in a tiny village in Haryana, imagine what can be done if people came together in all of India.
Shift in mindsets
From conversations around infrastructure or lack of it, lack of funds, resources, teachers etc., maintenance of records, admin work and focus on rote learning, the leadership in the district education boards have shifted conversations to focus on learning outcomes, honest assessments, prioritizing remediation and achievement of grade level competency, skill-based holistic learning and student choices. My conversations with Mr. B.P.Rana, Dy DEEO of Jind and Mrs. Sudesh Siwach, BEO for Alewa felt like a page out of a fairy tale themed in education. If one block, one district, one state can be transformed a time, truly, one nation is not far away.
There was no doubt an inescapable aura of positivity and hope throughout the day. However, observing how things get done in a government set up, how compliance is achieved and how new initiatives and delivered, I could not but help go back to a few burning questions in me – Is fame, name/shame the way to work within the Govt. system? Can we empower all the stakeholders across the hierarchy and build in ownership and accountability? Is there a way to make everyone feel important and respected and then make them love what they do? Or is sometimes brute force absolutely necessary?