Saturday, December 12, 2009

A few inspiring moments with Collector Ratnoo


Nina and Jean-Claude of Cuddalore Online blog had a few moments with the outgoing Collector Mr. Rajendra Ratnoo for a short interview at the juncture of himself getting relieved from Cuddalore..

We had met him at his camp office for this interview on Sunday 31-May-2009. He spared us nearly an hour to give us rich inputs on his personal side as well as his professional experience. Here is the interview for the readers...

Your moments with Cuddalore...

Cuddalore has been an excellent place where I started my career. In 2003, I joined as Sub Collector at Chidambaram and again came here to have my District Collectorship training in Cuddalore for two and half years. I have spent four and half years of my most valuable time of my career as a District Collector of Cuddalore. Both professionally and personally I have lot of memories attached to this place. I have worked a lot and learned a lot from the people here. On personal front, my children are growing in Cuddalore. So that way too, I have lot of attachment with this place.

Your childhood days…

I was born and brought up in a small village situated at Jodpur district in the state of Rajasthan.

My father was working in the Revenue Department. The village did not have a school, so I had to stay away from my parents for my studies. My sisters looked after me. Till Fourth standard, I studied in a school which had only one room and only one teacher. My father was an extraordinary student himself and lots of credit goes to him in shaping me up. He missed the opportunities to have higher studies. So he emphasized a lot on his children's education. We are a big family and I am the eighth child in the family. My father ensured that everyone in the family till the last child get the best quality of education. He was the person who truly believed in human resource development. He felt that rather investing in other assets, it is better to invest in children's education. He himself worked in a Collector’s office and so he desired that at least one of his children should become an IAS. I am very happy that I could fulfill his wish in his lifetime.

Your aspirations to become a collector.

Its an interesting incident. When I was in fifth standard, my father worked at the Collector’s office in Tonk district of Rajasthan. He used to take me to Collector’s office on weekends. That was the starting point when I was exposed to such an institution and service. Later on I discovered that my brothers were aspiring for the same job. I came to understand that with this capacity as collector we can do a lot of good for the poor.
Later on, after completing my MA, I felt that I should dedicate my life for uplifting the poor. Initially, I had a dilemma on whether to join a NGO or to join public sector. Since I had aspired to become a Collector, I felt becoming an IAS is the best opportunity to serve the people.

The inspiration to become a Collector.

My father was helping me to take right kind of decisions. After I completed my MA, to achieve my goal, I decided to go to Delhi. I was able to get an enriching environment in New Delhi. Especially my commitment to serve the people got a lot of inspiration from my socializing and from teachers in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. Students at JNU were having great commitment for doing good things for the society. We use to have a lot of debates like; What should be the responsibility of education? How we can make interventions to the society for betterment? That strengthened my conviction. If there is a single personality who inspired me to become a Collector, it’s my father. He is no more, but I like to dedicate my service to him.

You were serving in Cuddalore during the 2004 tsunami. Your experience during the disaster?

I am lucky to be associated with the pre disaster preparedness projects in Cuddalore. I first responded to disasters like tsunami and floods with relief activities like rehabilitation projects and long run livelihood projects. I was part of the team which started it. As today when I am leaving, the projects are almost in a concluding stage. That way, I have a lot of satisfaction. A recycled paper making unit was started in Killai today. These are the culmination of whatever efforts we have taken in past 4-5 years.

In IAS academy itself, I had lots of interest in disaster preparedness. Once I joined as Sub Collector, we started conducting mock drills in Chidambaram division. During October 2004, we did training on disaster preparedness at Saamiyaarpettai village. The entire village participated in the drill for 10 to 15 days and this really helped during the disaster. When the tsunami struck, lots of lives were saved in this village and that become an international success story added with lot of references about Saamiyaarpettai village in websites.
During the tsunami, I had the chance to be the first responder of the situation on the ground with rushing the people for providing the first aid, recovering the dead bodies, normalizing the water supply and sanitation, building up temporary shelters, identifying the land for the permanent shelter.
I was then, transferred as Project Manager of World Bank and ADB projects for tsunami rehabilitation for entire Tamil Nadu state in Department of Rural Development. At that capacity I was associated with livelihood projects and infrastructure development projects. Then for a short time I was again Sub-Collector and then came back as Collector.

I have been associated with the Vulnerability Reduction program which was designed to make the coast free of disasters. I have a great satisfaction that I have been associated with various stages of tsunami rehabilitation work.
I also had the chance to manage the flood situation ever since I was Sub-Collector here. During October 2004, two months before tsunami, there was a heavy flood in Chidambaram area. We had come up with the concept of community kitchen; today the entire state is following this. Subsequently there was heavy flooding in March 2007 and again in November 2008. Cuddalore has made me a disaster management expert in such a short service period, I have learnt a lot of things from Cuddalore. Disaster Management and Disaster Mitigation is one area in which I contribute at much larger level because of my experiences in Cuddalore.

You got to be there at a town in Rajasthan, then at New Delhi the nation's capital and now in Cuddalore. People in these places could be different. Any uniqueness you come across the people of Cuddalore.

I don’t grade cultures. But I could say in certain ways Cuddalore is different. Demographic profile and occupational pattern makes it a very different kind of district. It has primitive tribes; it has agriculturists; it has wetlands; it has dry lands; it has seashore areas; it has fishing communities; it has the industrial base also. That way it is a very divergent district. Generalizing and homogenizing the people of Cuddalore will be ignoring their multi faceted character and their plurality.

I am extremely happy to be allocated Tamil Nadu cadre. Me, my wife and children are very happy to be in Tamil Nadu. I got lot of love and affection from the people here. Cuddalore is one of the oldest places where British Raj started. The foundation of the bureaucracy has a lot of association with Cuddalore. That is one of the reasons, how people here know the strength of the administration. People here have a tremendous faith on the district administration. I guess it must be true of entire Tamil Nadu. The institution of Collector enjoys a lot of legitimacy here. People have so much of faith in you, you have to perform and you have a lot pressure on you to perform. I did my best to live to their expectation.

Whenever the people of Cuddalore have a problem, they do not go to the elected members, instead, they approach the District Collector. This is natural tendency of the people here.

Well, in today's democratic setup, politicians are very much accessible. It is the policy makers who are doing a lot of contribution. People must make a distinction between executive and legislature. Legislator's job is not to execute things. Their work may be less visible, but is a very important. They are the people who represent the aspiration of the people in the assembly. Only based on that, schemes and important programs are drafted. But the visible face in that of a District Collector. So, both are equally important in their own aspect.

About the Cuddalore Online blog…

This portal can go beyond from just being an informational platform; it can be made functional for the youth. There are lots of organizations which are in want of skilled man power. On the other hand there are educated unemployed youth. This blog can provide a platform to link both of them. This is a possibility to explore if it falls under the objectives of your blog.

This blog was started with an intention of creating a platform for everyone to contribute. We are planning for a fully functional website. Once, we are ready with it, we will be able to accomplish this.
You can have citizen journalists like we have in other electronic media or you can have membership drive where educated people, faculties of social sciences and humanities from Annamalai University, members from NGOs can join and contribute to the blog. As people from different section of the society joins, the perspective will be widened and more issues can be covered.

We have opened around 250 community service centers. You can make partnership with these people. If guided properly, it can lead to rural IT revolution. The benefit of your blog can reach the people in rural area.
You can also have a membership campaign drive in colleges and universities in Cuddalore. In each of these institutions you can have one coordinator who in turn will bring mores members to contribute. Farmers are also IT savvy. They have a lot of interest in doing these things. This way the blog would reflect the interest of diverse sections of the society.

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We would like to thank collector Mr. Rajendra Ratnoo on behalf of all readers and people of Cuddalore for sparing time with us despite his busy schedule.

3 comments:

raghunandan said...

It's heartening to see the commitment from DC.The disaster preparedness is good examle of how lives can be saved with some foresight and thoughtfulness.Thanks to Jean-Claude and Nina for this interview.

david said...

love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer that should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.


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