“Breaking Barriers in Administration-Citizen interface”

by Akankshya Mahapatra

Amrit Ruturaj, Collector, Kendrapara

Amrit Ruturaj, the recently chosen collector of Kendrapara, broke free of the archetypal bureaucratic mould when he recently visited Baradanga, Baulakani and Ramnagar gram panchayats of Mahakalpada block. He interacted with SHGs and Producers’ Group doing Bamboo Crafting, Mushroom Farming and Fish Cultivation. The collector assured that Skill upgradation and advance equipment will be provided to them. Also, he supervised anganwadi centres and School transformation work. Ramachandi High School, Ramnagar and Jagamohan High School will be transformed with Smart Classes, E-Library, Science Laboratory, Internal Lane beautification, Model MDM Hall.

During his tenure as a young IAS officer of Rayagada, Ruturaj set new benchmarks in good governance. As the Project Director of District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) in Rayagada, he took up the administrative cudgel under bureaucratic parameters prescribed by the Government. To be visible in person in the most inaccessible areas, where Adivasis of PVTGs (Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups) like Lanjia Sauras of Gunupur and Dangaria Kandhas of Muniguda, K. Singhpur & Bissam Cuttack reside, he uses a motor bike scooty to mingle with the tribals, Dalits and other weaker sections of the society, listens to them patiently and solves most of the problems at the spot. While government officers, in the plea of Naxalites, avoid visiting villages, Amrit has proved that will power can override any kind of bottleneck.

An alumnus of Ravenshaw University and JNU, it helped Amrit to get into this coveted civil service without any formal coaching. After a short stint as Assistant Secretary in Ministry of Culture in GOI, he joined as Sub-Collector in Gunupur Sub-division of Rayagada district. He left his footprint of several achievements during his regime as sub-divisional magistrate. According to him, “The magistrate has to apply his mind with respect to law and human rights. Convergence of learning and action by law keepers, prosecutors is a befitting step in this regard.” Very successfully he was instrumental in conducting Chaiti-Idital, a cultural extravaganza in the sub-divisional level. This has established his love for Odia and tribal culture as a true Odia.

Breaking barriers in administration- citizen interface

Though there is a government order that the top bureaucrats must visit, review and have overnight stay in the field, it is hardly adhered to; but Amrit is an exception. He made frequent visits to most interior villages in Chandrapur& Kashipur, where issues are galore. He made night stay mandatory for himself in these areas, which are infested with ultra-left activism. It is not in BDO office or a PWD bungalow where he stayed; but in a residential school hostel (Ashram School). “Each villager is unique and bears a special character. A responsible officer needs to walk with the characters in the village to know, quickly assess its socio-economic dynamics and act upon it. By having a night stay in the field, one still comes closer to the community”, says Amrit. The methodology adopted by Amrit, in fact, is actually termed as “Transect Walk”, which is a part of Rapid Rural Appraisal or Participatory Rural Appraisal used recently by development planners. He does not boast the technique’s jargon. Neither has he thrust the methodology upon his colleagues working under him. He conspicuously applies it for himself and then the officers follow him. He never uses his official vehicle for his personal use thus being a model of personal-professional divide.

Being born at Umerkote of Nabarangapur district and lived in most interior districts of Odisha like Koraput, Malkangiri and Gajapati, the development of KBK districts has always been a driving force for Amrit even before getting into IAS. Thus he has taken sides: the sides of poor and needy, who require his service most.

“Amrit does all this silently without any hue & cry. He is not also very media saavy. By going to poor people, listening to them and staying amidst them pacifies their agonies and anger upto a greater extent. A coordinated action thereafter suffices the cause. The expectation of the people for service delivery from him is in a rising trend and this proves his pro-people image in the district”, said Sri Rabindra Patakhandal, Convenor of District RTI Campaign

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