India People

This IAS Officer transformed a Naxal District through Education

Dantewada is a Moist hotbed in the tribal Bastar region of Chattisgarh. On 31 March 2011, Om Praksh Choudhry was apponted the district collector of this region. On his arrival he noticed that all the projects in the area where put to a halt because no one from outside wanted to come and work there and the locals lacked training. The district did not have enough doctors, engineers, or even teachers in the schools. Om Prakash then took it upon himself to change the dynamics of the district completely.

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He bought the district-wide science based intermediate level education under one roof at the Dantewada Education City. This improved the prospects of Dantewada’s 400 science students. He hand-picked the best teachers, renovated and painted an existing campus, and named them J C Bose house, C V Raman house, Kalpana house, and A P J house, after prominent Indian scientists and mathematicians.

This project, called Choo Lo Aasman, allowed children to come to the district headquarters and get post classroom special tutorials for entrance exams by teachers from reputed private institutions from Kota! The students, who were majorly tribals and lived below the poverty line, were prepared for professional courses. Global audit major KPMG had selected the Dantewada Education City as one of the 100 most innovative urban infrastructure projects in the world!

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Mr Choudhry also revived the residential cabins called “Pota Cabins” that were set up in 2009 by the district administration for children of distant areas. Students of class one to eight are now provided free stay and food in these campuses. Over a 1000 students have re enrolled in these campuses. Also the condition has improved, all the Pota Cabins now have LCD TVs, DTH connections with learning packages and inspiring personalities from across the country are asked to come on volunteer basis and teach the children. Students enrolling in class 9 are also given bicycles under the Shiksha Savari Yojna. Due to these efforts the dropout rate has decreased from 50% to just 13% in just 2 years!

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Another project that Mr. Choudhry started was Project Tamanna where a science museum, a district library, and a state of the art audio visual theatre was set up with a view to broaden the horizons of the students. Tamanna Film Festivals were conducted  and over 30000 students from far off villages visited the district headquarters every day in the buses deployed by the administration. Not only did it increase the exposure of the children, it also helped bridge the gap between the citizens and administration.

He launched 2 more initiatives, Livelihood College and Nanhe Parindey. Livelihood College is a college for the unemployed youth who don’t have formal education. Nanhey Parindey was launched to ensure the admission of deprived children in schools that provided opportunities for the holistic growth of a child without any fee.

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O P Choudhry was given the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration for the year 2011-12 for his extraordinary efforts to develop the Naxal affected area.

He strongly believes that children will not take up the side of violence if only they are educated enough to distinguish right from wrong. We totally agree! We need more such people like him who actually take a step to bring about a change.

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