I walked into my new office full of excitement. It was my first day of work with a senior member of parliament. To give you a little background, I am working with Dinesh Trivedi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) from the All India Trinamool Congress party, representing Barrackpore, West Bengal. He is a highly respected parliamentarian who has held several key positions, including Member of the Rajya Sabha (1990-2008) and former Union Railway Minister. Many questions whirred through my mind that day. I wondered what it would be like to work with a person with his background and expertise. What kind of a person was he? How much work would actually get done?
Fast forward to a month later and I can confidently say that I am working with a parliamentarian who really wants to make a difference. In my first meeting itself he came straight to the point… ‘I want to develop Barrackpore and it should be done in a well-planned manner. Let us start with the areas that are predominantly rural and poor, and focus on schools and healthcare there. We must also work on a sewage network system and Sewage Treatment Plants for Barrackpore town. The Ganga which runs through it is polluted due to contaminated wastewater discharge. Besides, the town could really be transformed into a beautiful riverside destination.’
Needless to say I was overjoyed. This was exactly the kind of work I wanted to do and why I had joined this programme in the first place. Having worked in the area of environmental law before this, I was excited to be able to work on water related issues as well. A great start indeed!
The first step to implementing sustainable solutions is developing an understanding of the current situation and problems in the area. Over the past month I have combed through sheets and sheets of numbers and percentages to figure out the coverage of health and educational facilities in Barrackpore constituency, the water and sanitation situation, the demographics and the problems faced by people in the area. I have spoken to various officials from the District Magistrate of North 24 Parganas, to the Sub Divisional Officer of Barrackpore, the Block Development Officer (Amdanga), the District Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Officer and so forth, who have all been extremely co-operative and sent up-to-date data to support my research. This has formed the basis for mapping solutions. I am now trying to find out the extent of funds that have been used, and that are still available to initiate development projects in Barrackpore. This will help in identifying areas where we can approach the central government for more funds. I am also looking into CSR funding to take projects forward. Through all this I have found Dinesh Trivedi to be driven, focused and committed towards taking things forward in his constituency.
The next exciting phase of my work will begin when I go to Barrackpore. Having already spoken to several officials over the phone and received and analysed data on various sectors, I will be able to hit the ground running so to speak. This was something that Dinesh Trivedi had also wanted. He said to me one day when I asked about going to the constituency – ‘we will go fully prepared and meet the key officials with the data on our fingertips.’ Indeed, a data driven approach is the future of good governance.
I have learnt a great deal while working with Dinesh Trivedi. He is calm and balanced, never taking decisions in a hurry and thinking deeply about all angles before deciding anything. He speaks kindly and gently with everyone, whether a gardener or a senior official who has come to visit him. Seeing these qualities in a person of his stature is a great inspiration. I am also very sure that we will be able to put in place some very good projects to improve people’s lives, which motivates me to work harder every day and make this a reality.
Tarini Mehta is a SPARC Associate working with Honourable Member of Parliament from Barrackpore Parliamentary Constituency, Mr. Dinesh Trivedi.