These might not be the best days of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s eight-year tenure, but with the general elections just two years away, youngsters selected for fellowships named after his position are going to villages for ensuring efficient implementation of rural development programmes.
This Saturday, as many as 156 fellows — among them graduates from prestigious institutes such as the IITs and JNU — will be deployed in each of the 78 districts of central India. They will assist the collectors concerned and work towards ensuring better delivery of schemes, improving the planning process, refurbishing machinery and influencing government decisions for quick redress of problems.
The Prime Minister Rural Development Fellows, aged between 22 and 31 years, are selected from 8,560 applicants, and are paid a remuneration of R75, 000 per month. The tenure of the “development facilitators” is two years – close to the date for the next general polls.
“The idea is to provide rural India with unbiased and dedicated youngsters who are willing to work for the betterment of the other India. They will also provide much-needed feedback from the states,” said a rural development official.
Last September, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh announced the fellowships following a workshop on development activities in Maoist areas. It was done after taking into account the need to strengthen grass root structures – from block level agencies to panchayats – and reach out to people in these conflict zones. At Rs 75, 000 per month, and a 10% hike next year, the PMRDF is the top fellowship in the country.
“The unprecedented remuneration offered under the fellowship helped attract the best talents — some of them from abroad,” said an official.