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Arnab Chakraborty
Arnab, a postgraduate in Agriculture, fights to improve the economic conditions of India’s rural poor as a member of PRADAN

Arnav Chakraborty
Arnab was a leader during his college days. He was a frontrunner in sports, excelling in cricket, volleyball and bridge. He won many competitions and awards. For three consecutive years, he held positions in the students’ union—as literary secretary in the first year, cultural secretary in the second and general secretary during his final year. His friends expected him to excel in the corporate sector and lead a team to high financial success. He, however, leads a team of a different sort.

Financial success—not necessarily his own—is Arnab’s goal. Arnab is a Programme Director in PRADAN. When he joined, he did not intend to stay on for such a long time. “I had just passed my Masters and wanted a job. PRADAN was to come for campus recruitment. I had submitted my bio, but had gone home when they came. My friends later told me that PRADAN was interested in meeting me and suggested that I call.” Arnab recalls,. “I was on my way home to Lucknow when I remembered they had an office there. So I stopped by. They asked me to give an interview in Purulia, and I thought, ‘Ok, at least I will get some money.’

” Today, Arnab leads a couple of teams in West Bengal, where he also resides (in Purulia district). He mentors his colleagues, sharing what he has learned in more than 10 years with the organization and, essentially, as he says, “inculcating the values that, as members of this organization, we cherish. This is a very honest organization. Members are hard working and have a passion to work for the poor.” The organization was founded on the idea that educated people, who have empathy for the poor, should work at the grassroots level to fight the poverty that plagues rural India. PRADAN places value on qualities such as trust, teamwork, cooperation, ingenuity and dedication, for the betterment of one’s fellows. He describes one of his duties as “helping my colleagues to identify their potential, and to be at their best.”

Arnab was a project Executive, just like those whose work he coordinates now, for many years before he accepted the position of a Team Leader. He did not find the transition to rural life during his apprenticeship to be as smooth as he had hoped. “My first impression during my first Village Stay was that this would be very hard, very difficult for me. I had doubts about my ability to do this. I came from the city and here things were very different. I had never used a natural toilet before, and did not for three days, but necessity is the mother of invention! I am also a food lover and found it difficult to eat the food there. When I got more involved with these people, this problem faded, maybe not physically but mentally.”

Arnab remembers drawing strength from his colleagues. “All of them are of high calibre. I respect them.” It was this strength, and his interaction with the people in the community that convinced him to continue. “I am a challenge-loving person. The plight of these people, whether it was on a conscious or an unconscious level, influenced me. I had read about these people’s struggles in books, but seeing it firsthand was most powerful. Interacting with the villagers brought me much joy.”

These early feelings have faded little in Arnab, and he continues today with PRADAN’s team in Purulia, working with his colleagues and the villagers to eradicate the chronic poverty that plagues the area. “What makes me continue? Joy. Joy while interacting with this community. At times I feel that my presence is a win-win situation. They feel joy to be with me and I feel a lot of joy being with them.” He believes that, through PRADAN, he can make a lasting contribution to these impoverished people. “I can see the difference between myself and others in the private sector. PRADAN is not prey to consumerism. We are not obsessed with money.” Arnab is impressed by the calibre of fellow PRADANites. “There is excellence in my colleagues. I cannot think of a single example where one has undermined another.”

His work is not easy. “At times I think I neglect my family. It is difficult to find a balance between the office and my family. Earlier, I was a very social person. I took part in plays, debates and quiz competitions. Now there is very little time for my daughter and my wife.” Despite this lack of time, Arnab receives backing and encouragement from his family. “Without their support, I probably would have perished,” he says with a smile. He adds that one of the main problems in PRADAN is that it is constantly understaffed. “A higher retention percentage would have made it easier on everyone in the organization.”

PRADAN has challenged itself to reach out to 1.5 million poor people in the next 10 years as part of its vision, PRADAN 2017. Currently, PRADAN’s ranks are filled with professionals from numerous streams, including engineering, agriculture, social work, psychology, veterinary science, horticulture, geology, biophysics, management and economics. There is a need for new members from all streams so that PRADAN can achieve its goals.

Arnab encourages empathetic and knowledgeable people to join PRADAN. PRADAN upholds values and inculcates tem in its members. It is a very noble profession. “I have seen a huge growth in me just by being in PRADAN.”

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