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In collaboration with the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and on behalf of all development partners, WHEELS Global Foundation, an initiative of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) alumni, organized the Aravalli Project Inception Meeting on Tuesday, 23rd March 2021 at Shri Shamlaji Arts College. The National Institute of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR) has been implementing an Action Research Project for creating Model Gram Panchayat (GP) Clusters in Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra from 2019 with support from Mission Samridhhi. Now, in further collaboration with WHEELS Global Foundation and Sarjan Foundation, this project extends to one Cluster of seven GPs (Shamalpur, Bhavanpur, Waghpur, Devin Mori, Dhandhasan, Shamalaji, and Ode) covering about 21,000 population in Bhiloda Taluka under Aravalli District of Gujarat.
Mr. Yogesh Andlay, a board member from the WHEELS Global Foundation (WGF), mentioned that this inception meeting, bringing the Government, development partners, and community, is an important milestone as WHEELS strives to develop Bhiloda taluka as a model of development, converging all major sectors, Water, Health, Education, Energy, Livelihood and Sustainability. Mr. Andlay presented the WHEELS Foundation’s SMART village development framework.
“There is wonderful work on various technologies going on in US universities and India, especially at the IITs. While we started work on connecting these various technologies to NGOs and grassroots communities, our approach has evolved over the years where we have realized the importance of working on the ground walking shoulder to shoulder with rural communities, and ensuring that these technologies are tailored to the local context, and suited to the needs of the local people. This is the approach we are bringing to this initiative too.” – Yogesh Andlay, WGF India.
The event also witnessed strong community participation. Dr. Dilip Pal, Project Lead, National Institute of Rural Development, and Panchayati Raj, Hyderabad, facilitated a community dialogue with the participants to appreciate the positive deviations in socio-economic development and to improve efforts based on lessons learned from across the Gram Panchayats. NIRDPR representative, Mr.Dilip Pal, went on to say that this model has the scope of national replicability.
“We will be creating 11 clusters across Gujarat and we have chosen this cluster as the starting point. This is a very unique multi-partnership model, where we are working with more than 18 development partners. Such a collaborative is a very unique public-private development model being tested out for the first time in the country.” – Dilip Pal, National Institute of Rural Development, and Panchayati Raj.
The active and open participation of the villagers, and the rural community, including Sarpanches and Gram Panchayats, was very encouraging. They expressed their willingness to collaborate with the other stakeholders to make this project successful. The partners in attendance were, Mission Samridhhi, working in deepening decentralized governance and strengthening institutional structures, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE-ISV) in Energy, Entrepreneurship and Education, Sarjan Foundation, BOSCH Foundation, and I-Create for skilling, re-skilling, and upskilling of the youth and entrepreneurship development, SEVAK Foundation and EVOLKO in health care service delivery, Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs) in Rural Development, and Piramal Foundation in Water Security.
“We are very thankful to have this opportunity to work with the community and all the other development partners. Mission Samriddhi’s Community Development Framework is based on the Personal, Social, Economic, Ecological, and Institutional Development of Gram Panchayats to achieve Holistic and Sustainable development. This model is operationalized through a young fellow, but we urge all of you to provide full support to the young fellow. All of us are going to take this journey together to make Bhiloda into a model development cluster.” – Ram Pappu, Mission Samriddhi. Mr. Ajay Patel, Principal, Shri Shamlaji Arts College, emphasized that concerted efforts are required to support the Aravalli district to improve human development indicators.
Shri A K Rakesh, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary (Chief Guest) emphasized the use of technology for rural development to reach the last mile, the most vulnerable and marginalized sections of society. Mr. Rakesh alluded to the Government of Gujarat’s various programs, schemes and policies to improve holistic development. The ACS suggested all development partners support strengthening institutions at the GP level facilitating the convergence of all sectors, chiefly, Agriculture, Health, Nutrition, Education, Water and Sanitation, and livelihood to have a cumulative and multiplier impact on the overall development.
Other dignitaries, who spoke at the event are the District Development Officer, Shri Anilbhai T. Dhameliya, IAS, Aravalli District, Gujarat. Shri Anilbhai presented the development Aravalli district. He emphasized and requested partners to focus on three major areas, Training and Capacity Building, Women Empowerment through Self-Help Group, and Technology for Agro-based Industries. The consortium partners also presented their plans for the Aravalli District. There was a dialogue among and verbal support expressed for, the cooperation and collaborative operation by all public and private stakeholders.
The meeting concurred with a joint plan of action to support the Gram, Taluka, and District panchayats, district administrations & relevant state departments to develop Bhiloda Taluka as a model development taluka in India.
WHEELS Global Foundation(WGF), “An Initiative of IIT Alumni, USA” with the mission of Technology Enabled Philanthropy. WHEELS has also been selected by NITI Aayog, Govt. of India as a member of the committee for Innovation and Technology Transfer. WHEELS has also signed an MOU with the Ministry for Panchayati Raj for a technology partnership in Rural Development.