Guwahati: Amid the ongoing pandemic situation across the country, a young IAS couple in Mizoram has been thrust into the limelight for fighting malnutrition and helping improve the quality of education in their respective districts through their initiatives 'Kan Sikul, Kan Huan' (my school, my farm) and 'Kawng Kawhhmuthu' (our children, our future).
Shashanka Ala, one half of the duo, told media persons that she decided to take a step in this direction when she came to know the children in Mizoram's rural belt were facing the problem of malnutrition.
The IAS officer had enrolled her son to an Anganwadi when she took over as the District Magistrate of the remote Lawngtlai district of Mizoram. However, concern immediately grew when she saw her son returning home with packets of uncooked rice and dal.
Ala, who is currently the Additional Secretary of Labour, Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and the Director of State Training Institute, told media that the school did not cook food for children. "They told me that they couldn't afford to buy vegetables and pulses. Vegetables are expensive as these are brought from far-off places," she said.
Buoyed by her motherly instincts, the woman began an initiative to ensure self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables in Anganwadis and schools and fought malnutrition by having nutrition gardens. Several schools had these gardens by the time she left in May. Teachers and students had started growing vegetables and fruits.
"When I left the district in May this year, several schools had these gardens. The teachers and students were growing vegetables and fruits," Ala, who is from Hyderabad, said.
Due to Ala's initiative, the level of malnourishment in Lawngtlaihas now come down to 17.93 percent from over 35 percent earlier.
Bhupesh Chaudhary is Ala's husband who hails from Panipat in Haryana. He is the Additional Secretary, information and communications technology (ICT) and works in Siaha, a disaster-prone district where the villages are cut off during monsoon, making the schools inaccessible. Because of these reasons, the ratio of dropouts and child absenteeism is surging in this remote area.
Through a holistic programme that focused on improving the physical infrastructure of schools, Chaudhary tried to improve the learning outcome in Siaha's government schools. Under his initiative, they got libraries set up with books in 20 schools, procured sports materials and introduced 12 smart classrooms with corporate social responsibility (CSR) and other funds. The officials worked on improving the infrastructure of schools with the convergence of MGNREGA funds.
Taking note of the couple's efforts to improve the overall quality of life, the Mizoram government honoured them this Independence Day. Ala was honoured with the Chief Minister's award in public administration for her 'Kan Sikul, Kan Huan' (my school, my farm) initiative, Her husband Chaudhary received the award for excellence in public administration for his initiative 'Kawng Kawhhmuthu' (our children, our future).