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Ajit Kumar Naik
Ajit Kumar Naik

Holder of two post graduate degrees- M.Tech from IIT Kharagpur and MSc in Applied Geology from Allahabad University- left PRADAN after struggling with a new position in the team, but returned after seeing his role in the new organization in a new light-one that energized and motivated him.

Ajit Kumar hails from Rengalbedha village, Jharsuguda district, Orissa. His family was uneducated, and great emphasis was placed on the accumulation of wealth. The youngest of five children, Ajit was sent for higher education to achieve this goal. Upon graduation from IIT, he applied for a government job. While waiting for the results of the examinations, he joined PRADAN, whose professionals he had observed working in his village. He was inspired by the way they toiled for the villagers. One other factor that drew him to PRADAN was his family’s orientation to spiritualism, which gave him the confidence to go ahead with what one sees as the right thing to do. He did have doubts about fulfilling his family’s aspirations; yet he joined because, “I could see that the people working in PRADAN had good educational backgrounds and had good careers. This told me that there is something good in it.”

Ajit began working in March 1994 in Lohardaga, Jharkhand, and enjoyed his initial experiences. “I was appreciated and accepted in PRADAN,” he remembers. “It became a home away from home or society. My initial 4-5 years were very enriching. At that time, we were all bachelors staying together. The organization was quite young, so whatever we did in the village was almost new and there was nothing we could do that was wrong. There was no one to say what the right way was. We developed it ourselves.”

After 2½ years in Lohardaga, he was transferred to nearby Gumla, where he spent several more years initiating projects, similar to what he had been doing before, with the team. He got married and continued to pour his life into his work.

Difficulties started for him when developmental activities became diversified. Instead of concentrating on a few projects, he had a wide range of duties. His role was no longer just in the village. It stretched out into the community where he was also responsible for influencing others, by approach, communication and articulation. He accepted the position of Team Leader (TL) at the location and his difficulties continued. “When I became TL,” remembers Ajit, “I had to become a facilitator, not actor, and had to influence people around me such as banks and the government. I knew that my abilities were limited.” At the same time, he found constraints with the HRD’s evolving programmes for new recruits. When new people came into the team, motivating, challenging and developing them was a challenge for him on its own, but he found it more difficult when directives came from the HRD. He also felt overwhelmed at the wide range of duties expected of a TL such as finance, HR management, environmental management and program development. This made him wonder if he had the qualities expected by PRADAN. His challenges intensified when he and his supervisor were not able to relate to each other. He began to wonder if there were other ways of developing his capabilities. He felt that since he was from a geology background and not social sciences, perhaps higher studies might help him. He explored scholarships but none of them came to fruition.

By 2005, he thought he was not contributing to the team and needed a break. He perceived an ambiguity in his position and he did not know what was going on. His confidence level was low; he wanted to escape, so he took some time out to do whatever occurred to him, to just be free and enjoy whatever he was doing for six months or so. He remembers this period as one of relief: “I was full of joy. Really I was just releasing pressure.”

During this leave, he joined another organization to explore options other than PRADAN. He became aware of the differences between other places and PRADAN. “When we are in an organization, it is difficult to understand what we have. When we see it from a different angle, you can make a distinction about the good and bad points.” He became aware of his own level of responsibility from this experience and returned to PRADAN in April 2006. He took up the responsibility of a TL and initiated a new location in Rayagada, Orissa. Today, he is much happier. “After joining this project, I have regained my lost energy and motivation.”

Ajit says that PRADAN practises what is written in textbooks; it translates theory into action. PRADAN recognises, appreciates and leans towards those who do good work. PRADANites understand each other very well as compared to people in other workplaces. “This is an extremely supportive environment. It is an excellent place for unfolding and developing oneself to do good things. We are able to relate to each other and offer support on a daily basis. I realised this because, in other organizations, I felt socially and emotionally uprooted.”

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