For his compassion, his determination, his hard work, and his belief in positive outcomes – Suromani Boro is remembered for all this and more. A PMRD fellow who crossed many tough hurdles to complete his education, this is how he impacted the education of several students in Chhattisgarh.
He was only 33 when Suromani Boro, a resident of Jonai village in Dhemaji district of Assam, lost his life in a road accident. He was posted in Balrampur district of Chhattisgarh as a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) at the time.
Today, all his colleagues and those who were associated with him and his work, remember him for his incredible service and the remarkable impact he made while working with the education department in the district.
“Suromani dedicated his fellowship tenure of 20 months to streamlining the education sector under my mentorship. We set out on an ambitious journey in this border district known for its demotivated staff and officers, along with notoriety for teacher absenteeism and school dropouts. Suromani, though from a law background, could instantly grasp the needs of the education sector in the district and stood firm with the team in finding solutions for the problems plaguing us,” Alex Paul Menon, the District Collector of Balrampur wrote in a letter to the Joint Secretary in Charge of PMRDF Scheme.
Suromani was working under his guidance and was often called the Collector’s blue eyed boy, famous for his inspiring passion and determination to give his 100% to every task he took up.
The PMRDF scheme is an initiative by the Ministry of Rural Development – the Fellows work closely with the District Collectors of their assigned regions for two years, trying to bridge the gap between the needs of the people and the facilities provided by the government. After two years, the Fellows are also required to spend a year in public service in the states they have been assigned.
Suromani joined as a Fellow in July 2014 and was put in charge of the COSMOS project – Chhattisgarh Online School Monitoring System – which is an IT-based solution designed to check teacher absenteeism and school dropout rates in the district.
The project involved installation of biometric devices in every school in the district to keep track of teacher attendance – an issue that was very close to Suromani’s heart. He believed that if teachers start spending their time in classrooms, half of the education-related problems will be automatically solved. While the project was initiated by the District Collector, its complete responsibility was on Suromani’s shoulders and he ensured that all the devices were properly installed and the attendance of every teacher was recorded twice a day.
His efforts led to an 80% increase in teacher attendance in the schools of that district.
Additionally, he was also involved in the development of a child tracking system that generates a unique identification number for every child, which helps identify a total of 20,000 duplicate enrolments in schools.
Now, a database of all the children has been created and if a child is absent for more than five days, the teachers get an alert either on their mobile phones or in person, following which they can take the required actions. This project was honoured with the National e-Governance Award.
During his tenure, Suromani started the Pehal initiative with the aim of educating children in Classes 9, 10 and 11 so they have the chance to reach a level playing field before the competitive exams. He used to visit the students personally, listen to the issues they were facing, and try to address them. Moreover, the district administration had decided to create model school campuses in at least 10% of the 2,000 schools in the area. As a part of this plan, every officer had to adopt a school and convert it into a model school with infrastructure development and other facilities.
With the support of Suromani, the officers were able to transform 25% school campuses into model campuses.
A lawyer by education, Suromani completed his BA LLB from North Eastern Hill University in Shillong and worked in the corporate sector for two years as a legal associate. Not satisfied with the work he was doing, he quit his job and joined the fellowship programme. His father used to work as a wage labourer till Suromani started earning, but the young man did not allow the financial condition of his family to come in the way of his education. He took a loan to pursue LLB and repaid it with his earnings.
Since Suromani was aware how hard it was to get an education in his village, he always wanted to return one day and teach the children there.
He was proud of his culture back home and his Bihu dance steps were a major hit among his colleagues.
Another thing his colleagues never heard him say was that something is impossible. “My driving force is that if I don’t do it, who will do it then? If I don’t do it now, when will I do it then?” he used to say. Even on the Sunday when he met with the accident, Suromani had been working since 4 am in a nearby village and was returning from there.
Anshuman Gupta, another PMRD fellow in Balrampur, has some very sweet memories of the time he spent with Suromani while working closely with him:
“Boro always acted like the understanding big brother and was the first one to give me advice, even when I did not ask for it…In fact, he was the big brother to everyone around – our driver, household help and even children playing on the street outside our house. He always had some philosophical answers to mundane everyday issues that we faced! In our initial days, we wanted a household help to cook food for us. One day, Gautam (another PMRDF) brought home a young lad named Mahesh who was staying in a nearby hostel and was studying in Class 11 at that time. Mahesh was willing to cook food for us just to earn some extra income. Boro, concerned that the work would hamper Mahesh’s education, asked him to bring his books to our home every day and study under his supervision. Even after I shifted rooms and we hired another help to cook, Mahesh continued to study with Boro. It is because of him that Mahesh, after taking his Class 12 exams, is now preparing for his pre-medical entrance test.”
Suromani is survived by his parents, a younger brother, a sister-in-law and a 5-year-old nephew. He has also left behind his dream of revamping the education system in Balrampur, and his colleagues have taken up that challenge now. They have started by establishing the Boro scholarship for the best performing students in the district.
You can contact Anshuman by writing to him at email@example.com.