This is one US-educated girl who is not driven by big bucks and fancy titles. Armed with a postgraduate degree in professional studies from the US’s ivy-league Cornell University in New York, Pratibha S. Roy has chosen to work among the poor in Gumla district, Jharkhand.
This is the Oriya girl’s second stint in the region’s Naxalite-infested Palkot block. Before she left for the US, Roy, was a project executive with the NGO Pradan, active in the region. She helped set up over a hundred self-help groups, inspiring them to take to tomato and paddy cultivation through improved agricultural practices.
It was during her time there, with husband Nirmal Beura Ashok Kumar and team leader Ajit Nayak, that Palkot became a major exporter of tomatoes, not only to nearby districts but to Ranchi, Rourkela and even distant Patna and Kolkata. Naturally, her team’s efforts have been a boon for hundreds of local Palkot farmers.
“It was while I was in Gumla in 2005 that I was selected for the two-year course by the Ford Foundation. As soon as I was through, I decided to return to Palkot to carry forward the work my team and I had initiated,” Roy told Hindustan Times.
Roy hopes to use her US learning to a refine techniques and marketing strategies. “It hardly matters whether I am in a village or a town,” Roy said, adding that her objective was only to work with commitment so as to better the lot of poor tribals.
Roy’s husband Nirmal is doing the same course in the US and is currently on a study tour of Uganda. Roy’s director and advisor in the US, Professor Norman Uphoff too is engaged in promoting the System for Rice Intensification in third world countries.