This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Prakash Sahoo. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Inspiring Story Of A Man Who Fought Corruption And Bureaucracy In A Naxalite District

More from Prakash Sahoo

By Prakash Kumar Sahoo:

I am currently a Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF), posted in the Gajapati district of Odisha. Being a fellow was quite an exciting moment for me, as I belonged to a  developed part of Odisha and was going to enter an entirely different zone, where many connotations were used before talking about the people and district as a whole, such as poor people, tribal people, Naxalite district, red zone/conflict zone, deprived communities, lethargic bureaucracy, remote/cut-off areas and many more, which are debated on many forums.

first visit to garadama
Heading to Garadama Panchayat in my district. 

During my training in Hyderabad as a PMRD fellow, I was given a lot of insight as to how basic rights and entitlements are not reaching people in Naxalite-affected districts. Many eminent people, including academicians and bureaucrats, shared their experience on working for issues related to tribal people during those two months of training.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me when I actually figured out that there are such Panchayats which remain inaccessible where I was posted, and the surprising fact was, that one such Panchayat was known as the most remote as well as Naxalite-affected Panchayat. There were many incidents of violence that had occurred between CRPFs and Naxalites in that Panchayat and due to fear, neither the block administration nor the district administration was able to actually start developmental works for the Garadama Panchayat and its people. Issues such as a road to the Panchayat, water supply, health, education etc. were not being  addressed as it was perceived to be a conflicting zone.

Where To Start Was The Big Question

How to put your foot in a Panchayat about which there is so much negative news in the air? The BDO of Mohana Block himself told me once, “Sir if you want to go to that Panchayat, please go at your own risk, but I cannot allow you to go to that Panchayat.”

I undertook the journey on three bikes, on one bike sat the lady sarpanch and her husband, another the Gram Rojgar Sevak and ward member, and one villager and I on my bike. That was the first journey of 110 kilometres from the block headquarters to the remotest panchayat of the block. There was so much of hope among villagers about my visit to their Panchayat. But I never told them that I was there to solve all their problems, and they were quite confused about my approach and style of working when I told them that I am part of you people, let us work together. Generally no Government babu does it in this way. I was told during my training (which was essential for me to apply), that never to give false hope or false promises to solve their issues, because being close to the collector sometimes brings that kind of expectation that perhaps PMRDF can solve everything. I decided to meet all the ward members inside the panchayat office which was a good way to start with understanding why their Panchayat had been left untouched. Many suggestions and problems came up and a few ward members became very emotional while sharing their story of struggle so far both with Naxalites and with the government system.

With villagers to monitor the road project in Garadama district. Credits: Prakash Kumar Sahoo
Villagers monitor the road project

Priority was to have a road to the Panchayat with the shortest route possible which would cost less to the government.  Under the IAP (Integrated Action Plan), Gajapati district has received around 30 crore rupees every year for the last five years which was supposed to be given for important infrastructural needs of difficult Panchayats like Garadama, but it remained in the hands of politicians who made money out of this at the block level. Block administration generally asks block level politicians to suggest important projects for the most needy villages and Panchayats, but it ended up with a lot of useless road projects in which politicians took huge cuts from contractors and were partial in sanctioning projects to only those villages which supported such politicians.

Among all these difficulties, I had to approach my collector through my report and also told villagers to meet the collector during Block level grievance redressal day. After listening to their grievances, my ex-collector Basudev Bahinipati sanctioned around 20 lakhs to start work for building a road, and further directed a concerned junior to assess how much extra funds were required to finish the work.

Panchayat, Odisha
Cutting a road through the mountains to reach Garadama Panchayat.

Ghat cutting for the proposed road to Garadama Panchayat started after this initiative. The junior engineer and Block Development Officer visited the project site once to give direction through which ghat cutting would start. It was a huge mountain through which the road was to be constructed. After the 20 lakhs finished, another 25 lakhs was sanctioned by the new collector, Manshi Nimbhal, which made it possible to construct the road on two huge mountains.

Impact Of The Road Project On District Administration, And Other Initiatives

The road to this Panchayat  became news both at block level and district level administration through the ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency). Because of the road, health camps were organized once in every two months in the Panchayat and health checkups were done on a regular basis as there was no primary health centre in this Panchayat. Many credit-linked SHG’s also gave loans to make business activities.

An electricity proposal was also sent to the state government for approval as it needed more funding and once approved, Garadama Panchayat can finally have electricity for thousands of its villagers. Villagers have already started constructing toilets under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which will stop frequently happening diseases in this Panchayat like cholera and diarrhoea, etc. After the ghat-cutting road project, completed under the Integrated Action Plan, a Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) project work has started. Now Garadama panchayat will have an all-weather accessible road which itself is a big achievement of these villagers.

Road of hope in Gajapati. Credits: Prakash Kumar Sahoo
Road of hope in Gajapati. 

This Panchayat and its people have seen a lot of violence by Naxals and CRPFs, seen extreme poverty and beyond all these, a helplessness attitude of the administration. So making a road for them is not at all the end of everything but it will certainly change the mindset of the district administration to treat every Panchayat equally and give emphasis its overall development. Lastly, the construction of the road made it easy for me to go this Panchayat. Now I do not have to walk for six kilometers crossing two big mountains to reach Garadama.

Image source: Prakash Kumar Sahoo

You must be to comment.
  1. Sintu Chakma

    Excellent. Keep up the good work.


    Dear Sahu, Please do not quote Gajapati as “naxalite District”.You need you know about Gajapati district more.The Naxalite and Maoist concept are different than each other.


    Dear Sahu, Please do not quote Gajapati as “naxalite District”.You need to know about Gajapati district more.The Naxalite and Maoist concept are different than each other.

    1. Prakash Kumar Sahoo

      my apology . Things are very different now though .

More from Prakash Sahoo

Similar Posts

By Ashraf Nehal

By Susmita Monali

By Ananya Upadhyaya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below