Bhawanipatna, October 9 (LocalWire): The Mother Goddess is worshipped for nine days during Navratri that came to an end with Dussehra festivities yesterday.
While the story of Goddess Durga and the war she waged to kill the demon Mahishasura is well known, there are several superwomen amongst us who are silently and relentlessly trying to usher in the good in society with the powers bestowed on them.
One such woman is Orissa Administrative Service officer Rumana Jaffri who was least-versed with rural life prior to her posting as Block Development Officer in Madnpur-Raipur block in Kalahandi, has defied adversities including threats from Maoists to slowly become the darling of the masses in the perennially-backward block of Kalahandi district in the last one-and-a-half-year of her dedicated service.
During a time when Odisha government has embarked on citizen-centric 5 Ts charter of administration for service delivery to reach the people’s doorsteps, 31-year-old Jaffri has embarked on a tireless initiative to reduce the gap between the governed and the government and win appreciation from several quarters.
Madnpur-Raipur block is home to around 84,000 people with 35,000 of them being tribal setters living in far-flung hilly tracts.
The region is a virtual treasure trove for nature lovers as it is covered with lush-green forests with mountainous terrains, springs and waterbodies.
But although the area has the bounty of nature, people languish in poverty and backwardness with 19 of its gram panchayats virtually cut off from the mainstream.
Several eligible beneficiaries did not receiv the old age / widow / disability pensions even after submitting the required documents at block office. With government agencies looking the other way, several villages portray scenes of hunger and poverty is too glaring to escape notice.
With the authorities concerned doing precious little, the implementation of social security and pro-people welfare schemes and development plans has taken a backseat here.
‘She has established a bond with local residents in her short tenure as BDO here. The officer has tried to address the problems faced by the poor people and has set a benchmark of good governance,’ said a local scribe Bijoy Dwivedy.
To gauge the pulse of the people, their plight and problems in their day-to-day life, Jaffri embarked on a mission to extensively travel across the block.
The young bureaucrat, who lived most of her life in the bustling capital city of Bhubaneswar and for whom the trials and tribulations of rural life in backward clusters of the state was something foreign, has covered all the 19 gram panchayats within the block that exposed her to the people’s needs and the required impetus for development of the backward block.
‘I preferred travelling to villages for better and improved service delivery. Accordingly, I chalked out the programme to reach the people’s doorsteps. My visits paid dual dividends as I could win their confidence. Besides, I also gathered firsthand knowledge of their living conditionand what plagued the people living on the fringes,’ Jaffri told LocalWire.
‘The practical difficulties of rural life were unknown to me as I was born and brought up in Bhubaneswar. The poor economic condition of people here deeply saddened me when I was posted as BDO in 2018. From day one, I pledged to make the lives of the people better. Our Chief Minister’s resolve for the state’s growth and development inspired me. Besides, I also got ample support from the district administration,’ she added.
‘I found that the social security scheme benefits like monthly pensions eluded the people despite being eligible. To bridge the gap between the people and the administration, I made it a point to do the official work formalities like filling up the forms right at their doorsteps. After crosschecking the documents, the beneficiaries who were left out are being covered under the pension scheme in phases,’ Jaffri said.
She said she was shocked to find several deserving beneficiaries like octogenarians and physically-challenged people not covered under the monthly Madhubabu Pension Scheme.
There were cases of eligible people travelling from pillar to post to get their names enlisted.
After working tirelessly, many bogus beneficiaries came to light and their names were eliminated and eligible beneficiaries were covered in the vacancy created.
‘Jaffri is perhaps the first bureaucrat who tried to bring about a change here,’ Dwivedy told the LocalWire.
Octogenarians Damani Rana and Jasoda Rana of Nunpur gram panchayat had approached the block office several times but could not get their pension sanctioned. This time Jaffri saw to it that they received it at their house.
Bamani Naik from Damkarkhunta gram panchayat was knocking the block office for five long years to receive her pension. Only recently did Jaffri help her to be covered under the scheme.
‘My area of focus is on effective and foolproof implementation of monthly pension scheme, strengthening labour-intensive MGNREGS, government-sponsored housing scheme, Mission Shakti and Odisha livelihood mission.
Distress migration of people from these parts to neighbouring Chattishgarh is a permanent feature in at least seven gram panchayats of the block.
I have tried to address the issue by engaging the people in MGNREGS. Distress migration has been largely reduced in these villages with support from the labour department personnel and sensitization by voluntary agencies.’
‘I am doing my duty as a government employee so I am duty-bound to execute the government policies and programmes in a proper way.
People, regardless of caste, creed and religion are showering their unflinching love and affection on me. I am overwhelmed as elderly people embrace me out of gratitude for the sanction of monthly pensions. I will treasure this love for the rest of my life,’ she said.
The young officer has received threat calls from suspected Maoists warning her not to enter into their operational areas.
‘I have received calls from suspected red ultras but that has not deterred me. I have ventured into areas where Maoists are said to have their base. With God’s blessing and people’s love, I have not encountered any untoward incident so far,’ Jaffri added.