A people's participatory model in improving infrastructure

When the refurbished Village Office at Varapetty, a quaint idyllic village some seven kilometres from Kothamangalam town along the eastern suburbs of Ernakulam district, gets inaugurated later this month, it would mark an emulative model of people’s participation in improving public infrastructure.

Set up nearly half a century ago, the Village Office had a largely archaic infrastructure, except for a solid building, which slowed down the administrative machinery considerably.

Things started to move after Roy P. Elias assumed charge as Village Officer some two months ago. He took the intiative to give a facelift to the office and his experience of turning two village offices smart during his previous stint came in handy.

Shortly, a people’s committee was formed, drawing people from all walks of life, including panchayat and revenue authorities, to give a smart uplift to the Village Office.

The committee proved successful in eliciting public support for the renovation works as institutions and individuals alike made liberal donations for the cause, with Mr. Elias himself making the first contribution.

The building was given a fresh coat of paint and the old wirings were replaced. The long outdated computers and printers made way for new ones, a brand new invertor ensured that work will continue uninterrupted even in the event of power outage, the courtyard was beautified with tiles and chairs and fans were arranged, thus, turning it into a waiting space for the public.

The roof was further fortified with a tin sheet, a new gate was erected to regulate access, office space was split into cabins, new customised counters were set up for controlled access of the public, and public information boards were put up.

"The public participation was immense and it cost less than ₹5 lakh for the entire work. That the State government allocates around ₹44 lakh for smart conversion of village offices puts it in perspective. It could be a model for refurbishing offices, which don’t need investments in buildings," said Prashanth R., a clerk at the Varappetty Village Office. Mr. Eliyas was not available as he was away on leave.

The initiative has indeed been noticed by the authorities concerned as the district collector, Jafar Malik, came visiting and hailed the model. It even found a mention in his official Facebook page as well.

The renovated village office is likely to be inaugurated by Revenue Minister K. Rajan on October 16.

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