IIM Indore's Rural Immersion Trip to Khandwa district

January 23, 2010

For the first time, I have experienced the real power of an IIM degree. Every single day over the last 5 days I have told myself - " Ok. Taking the CAT was a smart decision........ and not quitting IIM Indore(yet!) was even smarter!"

I do not attach too much importance to the change in people's attitude towards you once you get into an IIM. Nor does it give me any pleasure to know that overnight 100s of companies start thinking that you are employable. I mean 40-50% people across IIMs get placed in spite of any value having been added to them (read:summer placement process)

What I learnt and did in the last 5 days was real stuff. Things that seemed challenging. Things that seemed significant. Things that affect lives of millions in this great country. And mind you I am not talking about social service or NGOgiri. I am not very fond of the way NGOs function in India or for that matter in a lot of areas in the world. We'll keep that discussion for a later date though. I would like to thank my institute IIM Indore for giving me this opportunity and experience. Special mention of our director Prof. Ravichandran must be made . It was his baby.He was the one who made it happen. I would also thank Prof. Ganesh and the PGP Office for having worked round the clock to ensure this went ahead smoothly. Finally, former President APJ Abdul Kalam who was the inspiration behind this concept.

So what is this Rural Immersion programme?

It was a 5 day trip to a district of Madhya Pradesh. We were hosted by the Collector of that district. The idea behind the programme was to sensitise MBA students towards rural India. Also, get an idea about the government machinery in place in the villages. We could use the concept of PURA to analyse and suggest measures that could make a difference to the state of villages.

200 of us were divided in groups of 10-11 and we visited 18-19 districts in all. (Lucky 50 of the 260 strong batch(including FPM students) had gone to 3 Border Security Force (BSF) camps! They actually visited 3 Indian borders!)

We are all supposed to make a report on our experiences, findings and suggestions soon. Some groups also submitted an interim report to the collector before returning.

You may visit the following page for detailed write-ups on all other districts and the BSF camps that were visited by the students of IIM Indore


You might find more exciting stories of groups who went to places like Khajuraho, Bandavgarh, Bhedaghat etc. (even though they did not lie in the districts alloted to them). The story of our trip is mainly the story of the farmer and the government machinery. There wasn't too much tourism involved. I was very clear why I was going and fortunately had at least 4-5 other group mates who had similar objectives. We can go to these tourist places anytime we want. But this opportunity to learn and understand especially with help from the local administrative bodies may not happen again.

We did have a lot of fun though as you shall see but the focus of this trip was not tourism.

So where did I go?

I was alloted Dewas(only 45 kms from Campus) but we had the option to swap our groups so that we could go with participants whom we knew. I chose to go to Khandwa simply because of 8-9 of my closest friends on campus were getting a direct swap to Khandwa! And trust me the trip becomes more fun if you are with people you know. Especially these kinds of trips where a dysfunctional group can make the entire learning and experience difficult.

Khandwa is about 135 kms from the IIM Indore campus. Its a primarily agrarian district with very few industries. In fact there are not too many small scale industries either. It has a population of about 12.15 lakhs as per the 2001 census (wow! Thats almost a decade ago. But its the only official figure available)

The all important Narmada river flows through the district. A 520 MW hydel power plant has been set up at Omkaleshwar while facing stiff opposition from the 'Narmada Bachao Andolan' . It is a very crucial project for the state of Madhya Pradesh and I shall talk about it more later. One of the '12 Jyotirlingas' in India is situated at Omkaleshwar less than 1 km from the dam where the hydel power project is based.

It might interest you to know that the legendary Kishore Kumar and his great brother Ashok Kumar alongwith Anoop Kumar were brought up at Khandwa before they moved to Bombay to make their mark in the film industry. Even popular singer Shaan was born in Khandwa. For more information on Khandwa you can visit the following site: Khandwa: The gateway to south India

Who was in the team?

All very good friends!! See the following photo

(From Left to Right: Bhoomika Goyal, Arvind C, Swapnil Sirsikar, Kunal Shah, K.Greeshmanth,Harshil Adesara,Anusha Jayanti and Mitesh Gursahani. Samir Khandelwal and Ankit Doshi are missing from the photo. No one remembers the reason :P)

Where were we based?

Forest Department Rest House at Khandwa town was alloted to us. We had the option of 4 out of the 10 staying at another place close by but we decided to be together as the rest house was big enough anyway. 3 big bedrooms, 1 hall and a dining area. Even 15 could have easily fitted in. No complaints on this front.

The house had a distinct 1980S feel. My uncle at Kolhapur used to have a similar house. The thing is that in Mumbai one is not used to courtyards and gardens in the house with separate guard rooms and servant quarters! I must confess that I quite enjoyed my stay for the 5 days. Plus, we had rented cycles for 4 days! I made it a point to use them wherever possible in the city. I had never cycled so much in the last 8 years!

Forest Department Guest House

Front view of our house

The porch and the courtyard. Garden sadly not visible in this picture. And cycles!

Bonfire in the courtyard. Whattey fun!

Getting back to the main focus, I have divided the experiences day wise. Certain themes will be recurring. But I could not think of a better way of presenting it. I shall summarise if necessary at the end.

So here we go : Day 1 and 2 - Meeting at ZP, refreshing experience at high school and the story of Pukhral

Tags: IIM Indore, Rural India, Khandwa, CAT, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Collector of District, APJ Abdul Kalam, PURA, Jyotirlingas, Kishore Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, NHDC