Banda district in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh has some unique challenges owing to its topography, climate and other factors, which in turn give rise to developmental issues such as water scarcity, low agriculture production and malnutrition. Krishna Karunakar Pandey, Deputy Commissioner, National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), in conversation with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN), offers a unique perspective on the challenges faced by the district and the ways to solve them.
As the Deputy Commissioner, National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), Banda, which major schemes have you implemented in the district?
As the Deputy Commissioner of NRLM, I have been posted in Banda for the past four months. After taking charge, I have prioritised certain things on personal level. As per the departmental requirement, we constitute groups of women in rural areas to encourage them for savings by imparting them skill training and inspire them to take up self-employment. When I took rounds of the district, I found three types of women. The first were those who were educated and wanted to work in a corporate like setups. The second group constituted those women who did not want to leave their home but they wanted to engage in some form of employment. The third group includes those women who want to work near their home. We have worked with all the three groups.
Those women who are educated till Class 5 are trained by the engineers from IIT Bombay, with which we have tied up. Under an agreement with the Government of Gujarat, we supply the components of solar lamps to the group of trained women who then assemble them into finished products. The Government pays Rs700 per lamp and after paying Rs600 to each worker, we provide the solar lamp to school going children on the basis of their Aadhaar card in just Rs100 so that they can use them while studying during power cuts.
For those women who are uneducated but want to be employed, we have created a mother unit of Kuroiler chicken under the Backyard Poultry Farming scheme. This breed of chicken is used for both eggs and meat in Africa, Sri Lanka and other nearby countries.
For the third group of women who want to work near their home, we have started the Bank Sakhi scheme by tying up with various banks. These women help create awareness about the facilities offered by banks. We have created a specific course in collaboration with bank managers to train this group to digitally transfer, deposit or withdraw small amounts of money for customers.
Can you tell us that how many women or self-help groups have been trained under these initiatives?
Those women who belong to Below Poverty Line (BPL) are made members of our groups. Till now we have created 4,436 such groups. The parameters adopted by the department to analyse the self-employed status of a woman is based on whether she has paid back the bank loan within the stipulated time and is able to earn her livelihood after that. Under this mission, approximately 8,000-10,000 women in the district have been able to run their self-employment units successfully.
What are the major challenges of Banda district and how is the district administration trying to find solutions for them?
If you want to get acquainted with the problems faced by Banda district then you don’t need to do an in-depth research about them. All you need to do is to go around the Bundelkhand region. You’ll find so many cattle on the roads that you’ll realise that Anna Pratha is the biggest issue impacting the entire region. Besides that, you’ll see the hilly and barren terrain where it is not possible to store rain water due to physical limitations. Therefore, water runs off to the river streams after rains without recharging the natural ground water reservoirs. Since the water table is not recharged, it further impacts the availability of water for irrigation in Banda despite large tracts of land available for agriculture. Due to the water scarcity, the production of wheat and paddy is pretty low in the district and our farmers majorly depend on the farming of pulses and oil seeds to earn their livelihood.
When the agriculture is not so good, its impact is seen in the form of the prevalent malnutrition situation in the district, which is the second biggest problem of Banda. The third biggest problem is, of course, the scarcity of water.
“If you want to get acquainted with the problems being faced by Banda district then you don’t need to do an in-depth research about them. All you need to do is to go around the Bundelkhand region.”
During summers, the situation comes to such a pass that water scarcity creates major chaos in the district and the district administration has to arrange for water tankers to fulfill the demand. Besides that, Banda faces problems like industrial backwardness and lower levels of education among people.
Also Read: Banda Gets New Wings of Hope
As far as our biggest problems are concerned, no single department, officer or organisation can find solutions to them through conventional methods. In view of this situation, under the visionary leadership of the district magistrate of Banda, we have decided to use innovations to find solutions to the local problems. Therefore, we had organised the Innovation and Startup Summit 2019 in the premises of Government Medical College, Banda where deliberations on new ideas to find solutions to the challenges of Bundelkhand in general, and Banda in particular took place. The summit hosted big scientists, educated people and common people from across the state to deliberate on the issues being faced by Banda and Bundelkhand with the help of technology.