Buddha Fellows at NSDC

“Make Development a Paying Sector”: Secretary of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship tells Buddha Fellows.
On 24th January 2018, Ministry of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship invited Buddha Fellows to present their experience at National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) office in Delhi. SRIJAN had launched the Buddha Fellowship Program in May 2017, in order to infuse talent in the development sector, targeting graduates of IIMs and IITs. SRIJAN is a national level N.G.O having almost two decades expertise in promoting self – reliance through grassroots action projects aimed at enhancing livelihoods, SHG Federations, water resource management and advocacy for pro-poor policies.

Dr. K.P. Krishnan (Secretary – Ministry of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship), Mr. Manish Kumar (Managing Director and C.E.O. of NSDC), Ms. Jyotsna Sitling (Joint Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship) along with other senior members from the management team NSDC were also present to hear about the work of the Buddha fellows.

Sushil Ramola, Chairperson B-ABLE an advisor to SRIJAN, made an opening remark on the importance of Buddha Fellowship in the Social Sector. He said “The best of talents from IIMs and IITs go to the corporate sector. But social sector needs better people as the problems are much more complex here.”


The Buddha Fellows, a batch of 8 IIM graduates, from presented their work. Aditya Saxena (IIM, Shillong) and Ravi Reddy (IIM, Udaipur) have exponentially increased production of custard apple pulp production in tribal areas of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Uday Deogam (IIM, Ahmedabad) has turned loss making Maitree Dairy Producer Company in Tonk, Rajasthan into making modest profits. Shubham Patel (IIM, Ahmedabad) is linking Zari Zardosi women artisans of Budaun, Uttar Pradesh with bigger cities to get them double income. Shubhangi Tribhuvan (IIM, Udaipur) is working in Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh – a part of the Bundelkand region – to mitigate migration through pomegranate orchards using MGNREGA funds. Priyanka Barre (IIM, Raipur) is reaching 21,000 pregnant women in Anuppur, Madhya Pradesh – where Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) are twice the national average. Subhodeep Saha (IIM, Shillong) is working with 1700 tribal farmers in Koraput, Odisha to double their income from Ginger farming and trading. Akram Hameed (IIM, Raipur) is training women into “Kasht Kala” – a traditional wood-craft made from Shesham wood – so that they can earn Rs 300 per day.


Ved Arya, Founder and C.E.O. of SRIJAN, said that mentorship is a key element of this fellowship. He said “Without mentors, fellows cannot survive in field. Fellows, on the other hand, are necessary for mentors to revive and grow professionally.” Bharat Bangari, who mentors Aditya Saxena, said that his biggest challenge as a mentor was “To make fellows understand the value of communities over that of the financial bottomline.” Mohd. Zahid, a mentor to Ravi Reddy said “At the peak of Custard Apple season, Ravi challenged me – what good is our social mobilization work if we can’t convince 350 local women to do night shifts for pulp processing.” Ashwini Yadav, who mentors Uday Deogam, says “My biggest learning was that one can’t mentor without deeply immersing himself in the same conditions that the fellows experience, emails and phone calls from Delhi Office are of little help”.

Dr. K.P. Krishnan said that he is heartened to know that Buddha Fellows made this choice to work for reducing inequalities through working with Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), exploring value chains and other such interventions. Quoting an essay from Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Krishnan said “Growth and inequality are antithesis to each other. If inequality is not addressed, the growth will soon stop.” He added “Interventions to address inequalities should not aim at eliminating middlemen, rather improve the community’s ability to negotiate with the middlemen”.


Manish Kumar said that 30% Indians coming from privileged background in India should not decide for 70% Indian living in rural India. He emphasized that India’s “Window of Opportunity” with a favorable demographic dividend will only last for around thirty more years, and we need to skill India now so that its economy can race ahead”. Reflecting from his experience from the Indian Administrative Services (I.A.S), he said “Money is never a constraint in Development. The real challenge is in creating social capital structures to make those investments effective- an aspect that is aptly reflected in the Buddha Fellowship Program.” Jyotsna Sitling suggested that experiences of Fellows would enrich the Government of India’s Social Enterprise Policy.
Summing up, Manish said that the Buddha Fellowship is a promising program and that NSDC would be keen to see it achieve the desired skill development and entrepreneurship goals.

-Kunal Ranjan


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