On May 1, 2020, WOTR brought together a diverse range of stakeholders including policy makers, government officials, researchers, corporate donor representatives, and development practitioners for a half-day virtual workshop in order to reach a consensus on Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) for building resilience to COVID-19 in rural Maharashtra.
Romit Banerjee has been with WOTR since 2010. He has joined WOTR as Social Officer and is now Assistant Manager at our Regional Resource Centre in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. A graduate of XIDAS Jabalpur, he shares with us his story in our 'WOTRian of the month'.
"I was born in the city of Jabalpur in 1985, in a middle-class Bengali family. I grew up in a cosmopolitan milieu, with people of different communities: South Indians, Marwaris, Punjabis, Bengalis and Maharashtrians to name just a few. From a young age, I always wanted to stay and work in Jabalpur as I love this city.
On the whole, I would say that I had a happy childhood. I was an average student, except for Mathematics where I excelled. I consistently did well in Mathematics and genuinely loved the subject. I was even selected for the Madhya Pradesh Kendriya Vidyalaya cricket team but due to illness, could not attend regular practice and so got dropped.
After graduating from Class XII in 2003, I knew that I didn’t want to do a B.E. as it would take 4 years. I had also decided that I would do an MBA later, and felt I would save a year through doing a B. Sc. I took up B. Sc. in Electronics from St Aloysius' College (Jabalpur).
Here in college, unlike in school, I was more of an extrovert and actively involved in sports competitions, both inter and intra college level. I was a regular class bunker and notorious for it. It was only in my final year, that I became serious about studies. I had tried for admission into the well-known Institute of Rural Management Anand but was unable to secure admission. I also tried for admission through the MP Entrance Test but couldn’t get a good college through that either.
So I took a year off for preparation. I came to know about XIDAS in Jabalpur and decided to get a seat there itself. It was in 2007 that I got a seat in XIDAS, and topped my course in rural development. While at XIDAS, I did a summer placement in WOTR, where I met Harish Daware. He strongly recommended that I join WOTR. In 2010, I joined WOTR.
After a decade in this organization and sector, I have come to observe many plus and minus points of this non-profit sector. The first plus point is that one can be independent and have scope for creativity. You are free to implement your ideas, provided you can get people on board. Second, this sector has plentiful opportunities for people of all levels of experience-senior, junior and middle-level. Third, there is tremendous personal growth and satisfaction, to work with the people at the ground and see the impacts of your work.
Coming to the negatives, the clear career path that one sees in other sectors—from entry to senior level—is not as clear here. Second, roles are also not clearly defined so one person can end up being involved in multiple areas/sectors. This makes work challenging. Attracting people to the sector, in view of these issues, can sometimes be dfficult.
From a professional point of view, I have had the privilege, of witnessing and being a part of expanding WOTR MP from scratch to now where we work in multiple districts. This is a matter of pride. I have also learned a lot.
But as against this positive scenario, the future has now become challenging for non-profits. This gives me cause for concern. Funding sources are not as plentiful as they used to be; companies are setting up foundations and not giving that much assistance to NGOs. On the other hand, companies who do want to fund CSR activities do not always understand that developmental work does not necessarily fit neatly in pre-defined categories. Their goals do not always match with our objectives. We will have to devise plans to deal with these issues.
On a personal note, my family has been very supportive of me from the beginning, be it my parents or my wife. We had an arranged marriage; ironically, we grew up in the same colony but somehow we never noticed each other. She is a great source of support. My father himself does farming and therefore always supported my choice of occupation.
Not surprisingly perhaps for a Bengali, I am quite a foodie. I like non-veg food, especially prawns (chingri maach), mutton (kosha mangsho) and fish preparations in a Bengali style. Growing up in a cosmopolitan city like Jabalpur, I relish the delicacies of this city, like the famous mawa jalebi, chicken samosas, Chinese food near the clock tower and poha jalebi. I like listening to songs, in particular, Kishore Kumar.
In conclusion, my wish for WOTR is that we now work on scaling our models to a much larger area. We now need to work on agriculture and making commercial agriculture more profitable. Governments are also working actively in agriculture; we have to find ways of supporting them. At a personal level too, I wish to work actively in agriculture in the times to come. This is my main wish, for me and this organisation.’