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Night camps to connect officials with villagers in West Bengal

In a novel way to reach out to people, the administration of Burdwan district in West Bengal has started a unique programme - "Night Stay".

Burdwan: In a novel way to reach out to people, the administration of Burdwan district in West Bengal has started a unique programme - "Night Stay".

From time to time, the district magistrate, along with other top administrative officials, spends a night at a randomly-picked village to study first hand the impact of various government welfare measures on villagers.

The team, comprising officials like ADMs, SDOs and BDOs, discusses with the villagers their problems and needs.

"All the officers, including myself, BDOs, SDOs, ADMs, and other senior officers, select a remote village where on a spot all important district and block level government functionaries and people congregate," Burdwan District Magistrate Saumitra Mohan said.

The meeting usually starts at around 7:00 pm and continues till around 11:00 pm, depending upon the nature of the interaction.

Meetings are held in the evening because by that time most villagers are back from work and are in a relaxed mood, Mohan said, adding the officers and people's representatives sit on the floor face to face with the villagers.

"We respond to their problems and try to resolve most of them there itself. Those entailing a substantial financial commitment are noted down to be taken up later with higher authorities," the DM said.

The problems dealt with are mostly relating to caste certificates, issue of ration cards, inclusion of names in the BPL list, social assistance programmes like old age, widow and disability pensions. 

Construction of roads, libraries and other facilities, scholarships, electric connection, ICDS or Mid day meal programmes, health services, land-related problems, agriculture issues, cattle and domestic animals related problems also feature among the topics.

A good number of problems are resolved on the spot to be followed by a special camp for the people of the gram panchayat for extension and facilitation of sundry services and government benefits.

"We all carry our own tiffins and dinner packets to such meetings. After taking a round of the village, we stay back and sleep in such places as schools or community halls made ready for our night halt," the DM said.

The DM said that they had already held around 500 such meetings across the district.

Mohan pointed out that the night interactions were in addition to regular daytime monitoring meetings and field visits.