When IAS officer Bharati Hollikeri was posted as a District Collector for the newly formed Medak District in October 2016, it was like a homecoming for her. “I started my career as Sub-Collector in this district, so it helped me understand the topography of the place,” she shares, adding, “This is an agricultural district and people are very warm and innocent. Despite being just 100 kilometres away from Hyderabad, the two major issues plaguing the district are health and education.”
Since Medak was in the Phase-1 districts that had to implement the Open Defecation Free (ODF) programme, she battled against all odds. “Despite educating people about hygiene, toilets were their last priority. Constructing a record 58,000 toilets to make the district ODF was an uphill task, especially during demonetisation. There was a delay in funds, logistics issues, space constraints, difficulty in building toilets in rocky areas, etc. But over time, I realised that we also had to bring a behavioural change in the mindset of the people. One of the biggest challenges lies in making the beneficiaries use the toilets,” says Bharati.
Her efforts to provide lunch to the pregnant women who visit the primary health centers (PHCs) are worth mentioning. “When women visit PHCs for treatment, they usually skip their lunch as they come from far-off places and have to undergo tests. As a result, they go back to their homes starving. So I have collaborated with the local Anganwadi centres to supply food to the women in the health centres. We are also educating them on nutrition, diet, etc. at no extra cost to the exchequer,” explains Bharati, who has also brought innovative changes in the educational curriculum to ensure that learning is fun for the children.
“Primary education is very important as it’s the foundation for any child’s development. We altered the syllabus and made sure that children enjoy learning by introducing Multi Grade-Multi Level (MGML) digital classrooms, 3D materials for learning, books, blackboards, chairs and even spectacles for kids with poor vision. All this has ignited great interest among the children to come to school,” she says. A native of Belagavi district in Karnataka, Bharati says that challenging assignments have brought out the best in her. “Serving the people as Collector is a great opportunity and my passion too. My personality has changed and my thought process has widened. Every new assignment has been challenging yet a learning experience,” she says as she ascribes her success to her family. “Without their support, I would not have come this far. They stay in Hyderabad and I catch up with them during the weekends. My husband Shankar Reddy works as Assistant Director (AP and Telangana), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India,” she explains.
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