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Best Bengal: This is how Naveen Chandra an IAS and his Project Magic is empowering lives of women


IAS officers have busy schedules, as they fulfil their duties in a bureaucratic system. Meet Naveen Kumar Chandra, an IAS officer who still found a way to give back to society. This bureaucrat was instrumental in founding ‘Project Magic’, to empower women in the North Bengal district of Malda and encourage them to have a better life, away from society’s backward mindset of child marriage.  

Naveen Kumar Chandra IAS

Your journey to IAS:

Civil Services have always been a part of my life. Since my young days, I had seen how badly my father wanted to pursue it, but there were a lot of financial constraints due to which his dream of getting into civil services was cut short. However the fire of desire to be in the civil services had already been instilled inside me. While I was pursuing science in my higher secondary level, most of my friends already had plans of getting into medical and engineering. But I somehow remained glued to my passion.

Once I got into IIT Roorkee, I got several chances of doing internships with big companies, working with start ups and many more which would definitely give me a more secure life. But a point came in life where I decided to follow my passion since my dream of working for the welfare of people and society was there at the back of my mind. Pursuing UPSC and then becoming a bureaucrat was my dream. I definitely faced a lot of challenges but at the end of the day it was indeed worth it all.

Duties of responsibilities of the citizens to usher in good development:

As a bureaucrat, our job is to ensure that the right kind of development is taking place in society. Society is made up of it’s citizens. Therefore, citizens must know their duties and responsibilities . They should be aware of their rights and responsibilities towards society.  Whenever I am transferred to a new place, my duty towards my people is to ensure that they can judiciously make their decisions and not rely on anyone for their needs while being completely aware of their rights and entitlements. The duty of the bureaucrats is to create and maintain transparency and help people maintain transparency with them. Only then a society can work well and function properly.

Women in bureaucracy:

It is impossible for a society to perform, if they do not deploy 50% of the workforce in society which consists of women. Women should be empowered and given due recognition and importance so that they are able to progress as well. Dr. B R Ambedkar said that he measures the progress of a society by the progress of it’s women and that is exactly what the ideal situation should be like. In the 21st century, it is very important that women are placed on equal footing and should be given chances in possible avenues, so that they can prosper like men. As a bureaucrat, it is wonderful to see that many women are breaking their glass ceiling and proudly making their way into prestigious positions in the armed forces, bureaucracy and police. Even the history of India has witnesses many great leaders and politicians.  Society will progress only when women will equally take part in it and our progress will be multiplied overall.

Project Magic”- Malda girls go coding:

I still remember the time, when I was posted at Malda town in North Bengal and I had very little knowledge about the place. Initially, I went through a lot of books and research in order to understand the culture and history of Malda. I gradually got to know that it is a beautiful place with lots of historical sites, famous for mangoes and so much more.

However, there was one disturbing problem I came across which was child marriage being prevalent here.  The initial problem lay within families, since they were living with orthodox ideas that it is important to get girls married off at a young age, since they were not financially stable and had to be dependent on their other family members for a long time. I wanted people to get rid of this problem.

In West Bengal schemes like Kanyashree and Rupashree has been doing really well for many girls. I too wanted to implement a plan by which the girls would be economically empowered and financially independent. The main focus is to give them skill development training, which would be relevant in the modern age by which they could find employment not only in the district but even outside. Therefore I came up with this coding programme, which is a modern concept and very globalized. There is a course conducted at the Harvard University of the Coding, where any student can enroll themselves and learn the coding system. I followed that curriculum and initially trained a couple of teachers who further trained many girls here in Malda and the response was brilliant. When students took an interest, I decided to boost this programme more. Now even Google has partnered with us and will provide adequate training as well. We are looking forward to this development.

Child marriages in Malda: The root problem-

The term child marriage is a known concept in India and it is still happening in many remote areas of India and not only in Malda. The reasons are very complex and complicated, not just restrained to rigid ideas, but much more than that. Firstly, child marriages have become more like traditions. People have accepted it as a way of the society and many people are not just ready to give up those ideas. They have accepted it as a part of their culture and it is very evident here. In fact for a certain strata it has become mandatory to get children married off by a certain age.Secondly, there is a concept deep rooted in the minds of the people, that if girls are not married off at a young age then the amount of dowry decreases. The more they will wait, the more the dowry becomes. Thirdly, the main reason is that if the girls are not married off, then who will take care of them since they themselves are not financially independent. Thus even girls have no choice most of the time.

Another culture is that many boys they move outside their towns to earn more money and come back to their hometowns. This lures many families and urges them to get their daughters married off to these boys since they are financially secure.  The entire concept is a vicious cycle and this is why I am forcing women to develop and empower themselves so that their livelihoods will improve. Once they are empowered, they will fight for their rights and this will automatically solve the problem to a huge extent.

Advent of Digital technology during Lockdown:

Digital Technology is paving its way into our lives

Bureaucracy is such a responsibility, which requires people to go to the field. Inspections, physical interaction with people at the grass roots and taking care of their needs cannot be done digitally. Our meetings, conferences and other things can be done over zoom and video calls. However, we are not able to go fully digital. Many people who are of the lower strata of the society cannot earn their livelihood due to this critical situation. So we have to meet them and understand their needs. However, like everyone else, we are ensuring social distancing and taking all possible precautions.

Other prospective projects in Malda:

Being the Assistant Collector of the Assistant Magistrate in Malda, I have been given a lot of freedom to experiment in certain aspects. The District Magistrate(DM) himself has been very supportive towards all people in Malda and a lot of prospective developments have already taken place here. I have started ‘Project Magic’ to impart the idea of coding to all girls. Also there are many UPSC aspirants here. I have started an academy called “Maldacademy” here, where the officers who are posted in Malda take regular classes for all UPSC aspirants, since it is impossible for people here to go to Delhi and spend lakhs of rupees to learn courses.

The model Brick Kiln set up in Malda

We also set up few model brick kilns .This definitely is one of the most prospective projects since there are many kilns where a lot of workers are exploited. Also there was lack of hygiene and sanitation which caused a lot of problem for many workers. Therefore we provided them with proper hygiene, water facility, toilets, solar lights, proper paperwork and other details, along with first aid kits. The DM has extended a lot of support in the construction of the Brick Kilns.

Books and Bureaucracy- passion and job:

There is a popular saying which says if you have time for yourself, only then can you find out time for others. I am an avid reader and I always have 3 -4 books with me all the time. That is my passion which I like to follow, just like I passionately do my job. I enjoy reading apart from my work. That is the only way I keep myself busy in between my busy schedule.

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