Sunday, July 17, 2011

An account of experiences with government departments/officials in Gurgaon

An integral part of the project work has been constant visits to different government offices such as office of HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority), Irrigation Department, Agriculture Department, Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), office of local Block Development Officers etc. As a new visitor to these offices, one slowly gets to learn the precepts and work dynamics associated with them. Irrespective of all the offices visited so far, a common observation has been that of existence of ‘Hierarchy’. On one hand where the higher official will have an air-conditioned room to himself, a junior level officer, on the other hand, will have a common workplace. Another common phenomenon is the repeated number of visits made by junior officer to the office/room of senior official of his/her department. This seems like an everyday phenomenon! An important observation in these offices has been virtual non-existence of women, especially at the posts that require specialization in a particular field of engineering.

Howsoever banal these observations may sound; they do speak a lot about functioning of these offices in general and also about their work culture. The action/intervention part of the project requires closer association/interaction with these departments. The aforementioned observations simply add to and are part of interacting with them. Active participation of PHED officials in the Gurgaon Stakeholders’ and Capacity Building (CB) Workshop, are evidences of a fruitful association in the making. Recently, when the Gurgaon team approached a higher official from PHED for permission to film an interview with him, the permission was granted very easily. This again points out towards an increasing level of confidence and camaraderie that has been built up with the department. Experiences with other departments have also been good. When the irrigation department was approached with the issue of ‘flooded fields in Budheda’, the official agreed to share with us the data/maps on the reasons behind flooding of the fields. He also showed his willingness to do away with this issue before the next rainy season. Similarly, when a superintending engineer from HUDA was approached, he became very interested in the project conceptualization and approach. Although he could not attend the CB Workshop organized by the Gurgaon team due his busy schedule, he wanted a copy of the workshop proceedings to be handed over to him. This only shows willingness on the part of these government offices to share and contribute to the objectives of the project. Considering that this is an action research project, cooperation from government departments, harbingers well, not only for the project but also for the peri-urban communities.

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