Thursday, Oct 02, 2014

Down to Earth: Working and learning in India’s villages

Nukala at a mini-apparel unit in Karimnagar Nukala at a mini-apparel unit in Karimnagar
Written by Mihika Basu | New Delhi | Posted: August 17, 2014 1:00 am

Two years of working in rural areas to implement welfare and development schemes has taught them a thing or two — about how small steps can help bring about big changes in the lives of those hidden from the mainstream. The challenges for young professionals, chosen under the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellows (PMRDF) scheme, are varied — from bureaucratic hiccups to overcoming scepticism to winning the trust of the people they are working with.

Here are the experiences of three of the fellows from remote areas they were assigned to work at. Sponsored by the ministry of rural development, the scheme has been implemented with the support of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai.

Vamsi Krishna Nukala I 28
Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh
After completing his engineering degree in 2007, Nukala started working with Wipro Technologies as a software engineer in Hyderabad. He later moved to Chennai and then to Bangalore. “While I was working at Wipro, I used to engage in activities like visiting a school for the visually challenged. The more I engaged with them, the more I started disassociating myself from machines,” says Nukala, who belongs to Nandyal in Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh.

In 2010, he quit Wipro to pursue a master’s degree in social entrepreneurship at TISS. The rural fellowship programme followed.

Initially, Nukala was asked to develop livelihood programmes with a budget of Rs 1.5 core, under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP), a centrally-sponsored scheme that allocated a total of Rs 30 crore for the entire Karimnagar district. The activities included establishing a tussar cocoon bank, mini apparel units, development of a vegetable hub and deploying livestock units in interior areas.

“The tussar cocoon bank was established in March 2013. It aimed at eliminating middlemen and providing a fair price to tussar farmers, ensuring year-long work and better prices to weavers, besides regular income to silk reelers,” he says. Soon, a weavers’ society and a common interest group of reelers was formed, and cocoons were purchased from farmers using IAP funds. “The cocoons are released to weavers and reelers based on demand, with the condition that they have to give the final product back to the society,” he says. After the sale, the profit is paid to individual members.

He also works to create opportunities for women trained in tailoring under various government schemes. “Mini apparel units were set up to serve as a platform for women to utilise their tailoring skills. Initially, we were just getting government orders, now we are getting even private orders from nearby areas,” says Nukala.

In his spare time, which doesn’t come by easily, Vamsi likes to cook. When not cooking, he likes to update himself on current affairs.

Aditya Tyagi I 32
Jamui, Bihar

tyagi-story Tyagi with villagers in Jamui

A master’s in computer application from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) later, Aditya continued…

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