Working for the system and within it to benefit the masses is something the Indian Civil servants are continuously trying to cope up with. Vijay Amruta Kulange, IAS, now posted at Ganjam, speaks about how the district is proactively participating and coming up with new-age innovative ideas for rapid development undertaken by the Odisha state administration, along with battling Covid.
Maximum and minimum governance:
Interpreting the phrases of maximum and minimum governance, Amruta Kulange mentions that running the system, abiding by all rules and regulations, along with usage of force is what maximum governance comprises. He attributes more of community participation for the sake of development to minimum governance. Community participation is the key to success in ensuring support from people because all developmental works are for the public interest. Optimum community participation is the key to good governance that shall lower down the need for maximum governance as an application of force will not be necessary to maintain rules and regulations.
Meeting the public’s expectations:
Experts believe that changing the expectations of the general public will impact future governance. Agreeing to this, he says changing the demands of the public in a positive manner is very important. In village areas, villagers shall ask for remuneration for temple building rather than developing classrooms in the school. Hence, there is a need to give them world-class exposure so that they can place similar demands. This taste of exposure with the help of digitisation and advancement in technology will help them to flourish.
Ganjam district has a strong agriculture-based economy. However, the literacy rate of the region is stuck at 60 per cent. Kulange says they are focusing more on school dropouts. Instead of literacy levels, they are attempting to work effectively to eradicate the problem of school dropouts that will automatically help in increasing the literacy level. They are trying to raise their expectation level so that they can put their demands properly and channelise their desires into the right demands.
Farmers’ fate by 2022:
The government has decided to double the farmer’s income within 2022 by maximising the production of foodgrains. Speaking about the specific steps initiated to back the farmers of this district, Kulange shares that more than 80 per cent of people are dependent on the rural economy. So, a convergence of all things that support agriculture — from MGNREGA, agriculture, horticulture, fishery etc have been taken care of. They are trying to converge all the facilities, keeping farmers at the central point so that related works get done. He shares information about one convergent platform called “TARA — Transformation of Agriculture in Rural Areas”. It’s a convergence of all old and existing schemes so that farmers get benefits under a single roof. Under this project, for every Gram Panchayat, 10 entrepreneur farmers have been selected who shall come up with their ideas and their success stories will be highlighted and promoted through various media platforms, including social media, to inspire the entire community.
The government has also launched the multilingual mobile app ‘CHC-Farm Machinery’. It helps farmers to rent farm machinery and implements through a CHC in their area. Speaking about how digitisation can create agropreneurs, he mentions that mobile apps should be more user-friendly. Apart from this, he points out that there are many underutilised schemes that shall be completed fruitfully with 100 per cent efficiency so that output can be widely harnessed. There had been developments of 5,000 dug wells that helped the farmers to enhance their income apart from their staple crop remuneration by cultivating different crops on the same land during other times of the year. Also, more than 2,000 cowsheds and 1,000 goat sheds have been developed and many such projects are coming up as well.
The district administration is aiming to connect the local farmers with the expanding global market. Mentioning the steps that the Ganjam district administration has undertaken to encourage best practices and sustainable farming habits amongst farmers of the region, IAS Kulange shares that they are now looking at meeting local market requirements and then gradually move towards the borders of Andhra Pradesh and other towns and cities of Odisha. They are also trying to get updated with the standards of digital platforms like Amazon.
Rural tourism in Ganjam:
Planning to exhibit the picturesque district on a global canvas and developing rural tourism, he says two beaches — Sonarpur and Gopalpur — have been recognised as ‘Blue Flag’ beaches by Sweden-based agency and hence can be highlighted at the international level. They are also working for the beautification of Beach Road and in the coming years, the district administration is also looking forward to setting up eco retreats, including places like the Konark retreat.
Robust infrastructure and good governance play key roles in wooing tourists. Tapping the global market post pandemic, he adds that infrastructure is absolutely pivotal. Good transportation and proper road connectivity are important for the proper relaxation and entertainment of tourists. Further, a hassle-free enjoyable recreational holiday can only be facilitated through good governance. They are also working seriously on building unique innovative ads to attract more tourists, generating a huge revenue cycle.
Ganjam during Covid-19:
Handling a crisis like the pandemic in a district like Ganjam had been a tough call. Sharing his experiences, Kulange adds that more than 4 lakh returnees from areas like Hyderabad were witnessed. Ganjam received the highest number of trains and bused with more than 700 Covid cases. Ganjam tackled it smartly and even Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik praised the Ganjam model, which was community-based. Ganjam built Covid-care centres at Gram Panchayat levels and two Covid hospitals at the district level. The district faced the crisis with community-led monitoring that ensured its success. From ambulance services to Covid ‘Bandhus’ who counselled the pandemic patients by eliminating fears, especially women from SHGs in door-to-door awareness campaigns, Ganjam successfully battled the Covid odds.
As a bureaucrat, the pandemic has inflicted a lot of stress on the mind and body. A tiring three months from April to July, sleepless nights with a huge number of migrants coming in — Kulange was on alert 24×7. He mentions around 1,700 people from each train and bus per day have been sent to quarantine centres and then to their districts under strict monitoring, abiding by all the necessary Covid protocols. They also had to sensitively deal with media management, especially social media.
Speaking about his journey since the time he joined his service, he says that it’s more of a teamwork that encourages him. He believes that it’s a people’s post working in the public interest. One has to work as a trustee where there is no sense of ownership. This automatically empowers the people to support the Civil servants, which gives positive energy and a healthy work ambience.
A fan of Spiderman, he’s a believer in superheroes. However, as an IAS officer, he can’t actually often break rules often for the greater good! He says rules give speed to progress but some do’s and don’ts need to be followed, generating fresh opportunities for a better tomorrow.