So far in our segment ‘Indian Achievers,’ we had focused only upon compatriots from the business community, like entrepreneurs, academicians turned businessmen, corporate head honchos and the like. This month though, we take a break from this tradition of sorts that we seem to have set, to look at persona who has made life meaningful for millions through government service. In this piece, we turn the focus to governance and rural development, and feature an Indian Administrative Service officer who has dedicated his life to improving the lives of people he is to govern. Presenting to you Dr. Ravindra Pastor of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, whose forte is, simply put, the upliftment of the less privileged through extending to them social entrepreneurship development, mentoring, motivational speaking, regional and micro level planning, rural business development, rural marketing, skill development, organising job fairs & placements, nurturing producer companies/cooperatives, creating activity based SHGs, micro-finance and agri-business development …
When our editorial team met him at Ujjain, where he is the Divisional Commissioner, and asked him to put into a nutshell what he has come to be, he was pithy with words in describing himself: “I am just another simple civil servant who has been working for the last 34 years with the Government of Madhya Pradesh. I have made rural development and micro-level planning, entrepreneurship development, rural marketing, sustainable development and integrated natural resource management my primary areas of interest, as this is where a civil administration can render its best service to its populace.”
True to his description, he has indeed been an administrator par excellence, and has been the recipient of many an accolade for his path-breaking work. For instance, Dr. Pastor, while working as the Rewa Commissioner, was conferred the World Bank’s prestigious South Asia Vice-President Team Award for District Poverty Initiatives Programme (DPIP), for outstanding work in anti-poverty programmes while he was the Project Coordinator of the DPIP. There are many such citations that are possible, which we skip mentioning here, as almost all of them are already in the public domain – and the internet is your friend. So seek them out !
Dr. Pastor is a bit of an unusual civil servant, whose demeanour, body language and actions go starkly against the stereotypical image of a sarkari babu that prevails in the minds and visualisations of an amorphous public. Unusual in the sense that he takes his tasks very seriously indeed, and goes about his work with full dedication, firmly rooted in his belief that there exists no better platform in India for doing positive work for society than from within the government.
We asked Dr. Pastor to tell us how come he got into the fields he is today passionate about. His reply was as succinct and terse as his earlier responses: “It was in fact a carry-over from my childhood – the wish to work for rural development, skill enhancement and rural micro management. Seen in retrospect, it gives me immense satisfaction. I will explain it to you with the example of Tulsi Das ji. When he was writing out the Ramayana, someone asked him for whom he was writing it. Tulsi Das ji said – I write it for myself … but if anyone benefits out of reading, it isn’t really any of my concern … . So in exactly the same way, I am doing what I passionately feel about in the rural sector, as it gives me great satisfaction doing these tasks I have set for myself well. And yes, if people are benefiting, it is ‘sone pe suhaga’.”
“I have also worked stead fastedly for the development of opportunities for poor, uneducated village ladies. To turn them into earning hands, I had kick started a scheme called – ‘Akshar Agarbatti’ in the Panna district of MP. Under this scheme, we ultimately managed generate sustainable employment for more than 42000 women. Even today, if you go there you will find thousands of women earning their livelihoods from this activity.”
There is another side to Ravindra Pastor that his hobbies, other creative activities and his non-domain work tell us about. He has over time, evolved as a writer and poet, a script-writer, film director, editor and actor. He is also keen to connect with the youth, and takes time out to go to institutions of higher learning, where his inspiring lectures motivate tomorrow’s leaders of India.
His prolific writing habit has seen many of his articles being published in almost all major newspapers and magazines of Madhya Pradesh. His writings, reached to news agencies by his friends also have seen publication worldwide. On the film-making front, his much acclaimed documentary on the elections, called ‘SAHUJI CHALE CHUNAV KARANE’ was one in which he has written the script and acted.
Dr. Pastor, as the Divisional Commissioner for Ujjain, helms the administrative team set up by the state government to ready the city and execute all preparations for the 2016 Kumbh, called Simhasth. Ujjain is one of the four hosts for the Kumbh Mela, due to its location, its ‘kark rekha’ … prior to Greenwich becoming the prime meridian, 0° passed through Ujjain. Even today all Indian ‘panchang’ (almanacs) continue to consider Ujjain as 0° deshantar. The Great Simhasth Kumbh Mela event is based on the celestial line-up of planets and the signs of the zodiac, which occurs every 12 years. Simhastha is the great bathing festival of Ujjain. It is celebrated in a cycle of twelve years when Jupiter enters the Leo sign of the zodiac, known as Simha Rashi. Ceremonial bathing in the holy waters of Kshipra begins with the full moon day of the Chaitra month and continues throughout the succeeding month of Vaishakh, culminating on tenth full moon day.
At Ujjain, this will begin from 22nd April and end on the 21st of May, 2016. With estimations suggesting that around 5 crore people will converge on Ujjain during this month long Mela next year, the government of Madhya Pradesh has chosen to start gearing up for the event starting right away, and Dr. Pastor, as the Divisional Commissioner, is squarely in charge.
“We are aware of the magnitude of the event, and accordingly we have already started preparing everything. We have demarcated approx. 3500 hectares of land, with a budget of INR 2500 cr. At any given time, we will ensure that around 20 lakh people can stay, in reasonable comfort. CCTV cameras, proper transport, eateries, toilets, bathrooms, hospitals, water plants, temporary police stations, electrification, 45,000 dug-pit toilets and 1000 bio toilets, etc., are in the reckoning. We would like people to know that we are taking care of each and everything. Almost 8 km long Ghats are being developed. Work on widening of roads, building of flyovers, enhancing security, availability of volunteers, etc. is all in full swing. We are also taking every possible care that no untoward incidence happens and everything goes peacefully.”