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Padhe Balrampur, Badhe Balrampur

As I look outside the window of my office, I recollect my conversations with young Dinesh, whom I recently met during my three-day visit to Balrampur district of the ‘Balrampur Cheeni’ fame. My visit was part of a performance-evaluation exercise for the aspirational districts.

A Craggy Start to a Smooth Ride

A six-hour drive from Siliguri, through bumpy roads in the hills, lies West Sikkim. Since I have always lived in the plains, when in such places, I always wonder how people stay in such remote locations with such poor road connectivity? In fact, the long drive made it clear to me as to why West Sikkim was selected as an aspirational district. However, my perception changed once I visited some of the public institutions of the district.

Dynamic Darrang: Transforming Last-Mile Delivery in Education

Nestled in a narrow strip of fertile plains, between the mighty Bramhaputra and the breathtaking Himalayas, lies the bustling town of Mangaldoi, at the heart of Darrang district in Assam. A mere hour and a half by road from the Guwahati Airport, the town, distinct with its robust workforce and newly paved roads, represents the aspirations of a growing population of nine lakh people.

Addressing School Dropout in Tribal Dominated Aspirational District of Odisha

Naturally rich but economically poor, Malkangiri in Odisha, a neighbour of Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, has been majorly impacted by left-wing extremism that has acted as a major roadblock for development in the area. The hilly terrain and dense forests have also proven to be a safe haven for the Naxalites. In last few years, over 150 people, including 80 policemen, have been killed in gunfire and landmine blasts. Despite this, various interventions made by the district administration have enabled Malkangiri to grow and flourish.

Diversifying Skill Training and Livelihood Opportunities in Kupwara

One thing that really struck me during my visit to Kupwara, apart from the scenic beauty of this district—situated at an average altitude of 5300 feet from the sea level and bound by the line of control towards the north—is the amazing potential its rural economy possesses. As a village elder pointed out during my interaction with the youth and progressive farmers in Kuchloo, ‘Youth in the region feel strongly connected to the local ecosystem.’ In Gulgam, where I participated in the inauguration of a honey processing unit, the district administration, led by the district development commissioner, was working on labeling and marketing ‘Kupwara honey’ for national and international markets.  The beekeepers were encouraged to register themselves with Farmers’ Producer Organisation (FPO) so they could be provided identity cards to enable easy movement outside the district and the state.

How the Khawa Cluster in Osmanabad Is Changing Lives En Masse

One of the perks of working in the development sector is gaining steady exposure to intricate, yet localised, problems that require a nuanced understanding of the complex interplay of state policy, environmental conditions and socio-economic practices prevailing in the area. A field visit to the Osmanabad district of Maharashtra provided me one such opportunity. Located in the parched Marathwada region of southern Maharashtra, Osmanabad is in many ways a slave of its geography. Comprising eight blocks, more than half of its geographical area lies in the lap of the Balaghat mountain range. The forest cover of the district is merely 0.81% and can be categorised as a mix of dry mixed deciduous and thorny open scrub types. Major tree varieties found here include neem, peepal, banyan, mango, tamarind, etc., among which, afforestation drives have focused disproportionately on planting neem saplings as they are not relished by stray cattle. The Bhoom tahsil is particularly blessed with attractive geography which, at times, resembles the undulating green pastures of Switzerland. Therefore, the local population has gravitated towards animal husbandry as a financially viable alternative to traditional farming dependent on vagaries of monsoon rains, which are rather erratic and almost invariably, deficient.

Wills of Steel

“Do you mean to say that Indians can produce Steel rails as per British specifications. If they succeed in making it then I will eat every pound of that steel” remarked Fredrick Upcott, the Chief Commissioner of Indian Railways and taking up the gauntlet TISCO supplied 1500 miles of Steel Rails to the British Railway during WWI and then Sir Dorabji Tata famously said I think that Mr. Upcott would have suffered slight indigestion.

In Bihar’s Alleys: Transformation at Grassroots

"Beta, where is the tiger?" One of the kids excitedly holds my hand and indicates towards the alphabet ‘T’ which has a tiger painted below it, while another one points towards ‘L’ with a lion painted. "That is a lion, sher, tiger is baagh."
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