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Thumbs up for Narmada schools!

Enter Vol.

From the green revolution through the white revolution to the cyber revolution, the nation has taken impressive strides in economic development. It is now the turn of an education Revolution-quietly brewing in the rugged tribal belt of Gujarat. Its architect is Milind Torawane, the dynamic district collector of Narmada district. “I come from the backward district of Banaskantha and in my present avtar as collector of yet another impoverished district, I felt that it is education that can change the future of the rural population, especially tribals,” says Torawane.

Gujarat’s IAS officers hold a chintan shivir every three years to identify problem areas to focus on and the last such shivir picked education. Teachers in government schools playing truant is a perpetual concern and Torawane laments, “No teachers, no improvement in literacy rate.” To tackle this problem, he is introducing-for the first time in the country-the biometric system of attendance for both teachers and students. This innovative system uses a biometric machine to record the check-in and check-out times of staff and pupils via their thumb impressions. The mid-day meal scheme will also be linked to this attendance system to avoid wastage of food.

Budget provision for this attendance scheme has been made and government approval obtained. Tenders will be floated soon and about 680 schools of the district are expected to be covered by yearend. Since power cuts are frequent, the biometric machines will be provided electricity back-up facilities.

And, since tribal families are reluctant to lose children to school because they serve as helping hands for work, Torawane plans to involve parents in incomegenerating projects by way of compensation.

Good doctor, good earth
After earning a medical degree, Prabhat Kumar topped the 1984 civil services examinations. Four years later, during a fivemonth stint as chairman, Lucknow Development Authority (LDA), the doctor-who-never-was became a social surgeon. In the face of opposition from the real estate mafia and other powerful vested interests, his crusade against encroachment freed 338.4 acres of government land worth Rs 540 crore. Construction work and development languishing for 15 years were restarted in Gomati Nagar Phase II, benefiting 1,000 impoverished farmers. The cases of 8,000 plot allottees were resolved.

Prabhat’s work was based on four schemes. These were Kalyan Kuteer, under which homeless rickshaw-pullers became house owners by paying daily instalments of Rs 10; Pradhikaran Mitra Divas, under which disputes were resolved on a particular day each week in the presence of the allottee and the concerned LDA employee; Nikshep 1988, which offered land allottees incentives to pay off all dues to LDA; and Smriti Van Yojana, which had citizens plant trees on memorable occasions after which LDA nurtured them. The last saw 100 acres of land along the Lucknow-Kanpur highway turned into a little forest with 5,000 plant varieties.

The officer, now director, International Crop Research Institute for Semi-arid Tropics, New Delhi, says, “Unyielding integrity of mind and purpose, and an intensity to win that includes courage and the conviction to take bold decisions as well as sensitivity to the people have been the driving force for me.”

Vol 1,Issue 1 | April 2007

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