Abhishek Chakrabory (left) and Prashant Pathak of Whiz Mantra at their Dhanbad office on Wednesday. (Gautam Dey)
They teach youngsters about circles and squares by asking them to spin a top. In case of simple mathematics, like addition and subtraction, they tell children to collate runs scored in a cricket match.
Meet Whiz Mantra, a group of professionals who have chucked up lucrative jobs to work out out-of-box teaching solutions for youngsters. Earlier this week, Jharia Rehabilitation Development Agency (JRDA) zeroed in on the group for conducting a survey of residents of underground fire-ravaged areas.
For JRDA, the socio-economic survey — of nearly 20,000 residents — is crucial. Its findings will give a fix on the number of families to be rehabilitated and determine the quantum of compensation to be paid to each.
The Mantra men are reasonably excited about their latest assignment. “We will try to engage local people in survey work in order to provide some financial support to them,” said CEO Abhishek Chakrabory, a financial analyst who left his Tata Consultancy Service job to launch Whiz Mantra in 2009.
JRDA chose Dhanbad-based Whiz Mantra after inviting tenders on December 12, 2012. Ranchi-based Xavier Institute Social Studies (XISS) was the other bidder. According to Gopal Ji, JRDA’s rehabilitation and resettlement in charge, Mantra was finalised on Monday after a scrutiny of the technical and financial bids.
Mantra VP (operations) Prashant Pathak (24) said they had completed all formalities and had even of submitted a bank guarantee. Now, they were waiting for a work order,expected to be issued after an agreement was signed with JRDA.
Mantra isn’t new to surveys. “We have conducted various kinds of surveys across the country. Therefore, this social economic survey will not be a new thing for us,” said Pathak, an IIT Roorkee alumnus.
For the last tow months, Mantra scouts have been busy touring various panchayats of the state to find out about drinking water facilities for the state sanitation department on behalf of IIM-Ranchi.
“We also conducted a 15-day survey, again for IIM-Ranchi, on the ‘autorickshaw density’ of the state capital last month during which time we also identified the busiest zones of Ranchi,” he added.
But the scale of the JRDA survey is bigger than anything Mantra has done so far. JRDA has said the survey would cover around 19,551 families but that the actual number could be more.
As of now, a survey of 35,684 families out of the 54,159 families settled in 595 fire-affected zones have been completed. Among the many areas where survey work was yet to be completed were Bastacola, Lodna, Sijua, Katras and Kustore.
Pathak is sure Mantra would pull off the job. His confidence stems from the kind of teaching initiatives they have successfully implemented.
“Our mission is to educate children through unconventional methods, like teaching youngsters about circles through spinning a lattu (top). We teach addition by asking kids to work with runs scored in a cricket match,” he explained.
For JRDA, the appointment of Mantra is a boon. But the agency has a lot more to do.
“So far only 24,076 fire affected families have been provided with photo ID cards. So we will have to make and distribute ID cards for the rest,” said Gopal JI, adding that Mantra would have to complete the remaining part of the survey and the distribution of cards within six months.
A lot hinges on Mantra. For, the Jharia survey has had several hiccups ever since it was started in 2006.
Could Jharia rehabilitation efforts have been fast-tracked?