18th August 2012: All bags were packed and I was suddenly traveling to a district whose name i had only heard a couple of days back - the Surajpur district in North Chattisgarh!
The train route to Surajpur is mesmerising - and no less so than the Rayagada - Koraput Route or even the Konkan route sans the tunnels. Bright green paddy fields with dark green trees dotting the landscape meet the eyes for as far as they can wander. And you immediately fall in love with the place that invites you to its fold with such a view early in the morning.
I landed in Surajpur on Sunday morning with nothing much in hand to show except for a letter from the State and a few phone numbers. The travel from the railway station to the guest house was made completely hassle free by my CEO who had arranged for a vehicle to pick me up and also my accommodation in the guest house.
Having settled down and with two days to spend before I could meet my DC and CEO, I decided to wander around the town and see what I could find.The district of Surajpur was formed in 2011 after breaking away 6 blocks of the greater Sarguja district. Thus the place is still in transition and though you do get all items of daily needs, it has little to show in terms of a proper market. The best part of living in a small town is the lack of congestion and pollution and Surajpur is no different. The people are extremely friendly and anyone would find it very easy to build a bond with the place. However, there isn't much to go around in town (except for a currently running Jadugar show in a tent house) and the loneliness of the place started striking me in just the first two days!!
By Tuesday, I was desperate to meet some people and get some work. I first met my CEO who is a very friendly and approachable guy. He then later introduced my to my DC who seemed to be very active but much less approachable. Anyway, in the short time that the DC addressed me, he asked my CEO to work out the logistics for my training and also gave me a hint of the kind of work I would be required to do in the next two years.
The next few days went by with quite a few ups and downs. Visiting a government department is like opening a secret chamber - you never know what you may find. Some officials were very friendly and provided me with all the information while others were quite obstinate and wouldn't bulge a bit to provide any information. Particularly insightful were the interactions with my CEO. Just observing the kind of issues that were raised in the DRDA (corruption, improper monitoring of NREGA work, false records) and how they were handled indicated the difficult terrain i was going to get into. Also useful was the block officials' meeting with the collector where problems in implementation of various schemes (convergence and coordination issues, HR issues, financial issues) were discussed and possible solutions were worked out.
So, its all been a mixed bag till now. I have gained valuable information about how some of the schemes are implemented at the district and block level but there is also this feeling that there is a lot more to understand.With this little bag of knowledge i ll move into the next part of my training - the village immersion from tomorrow!! :)