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Techies crowd PM fellowship

New Delhi, April 2: For a two-year-old, the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship has done rather well.

The scholarship scheme, launched in 2012, has been getting a good response, with nearly 21,000 candidates applying so far for the fellowship.

Another interesting trend was the domination by candidates with an engineering background, like in the civil services.

The PMRDF scheme, started on the lines of the While House Fellowship of the US, gives young professionals the opportunity to work in difficult areas on proper implementation of government programmes. The second batch of fellows will be inducted next week.

Although a written test was introduced this time, the response from candidates has increased for the scholarship programme conducted by the Union rural development ministry. While 8,500 candidates applied for the scholarship in 2012, the number of applicants increased to 12,493 this year and 160 cleared the written test and interviews.

The ministry had selected 156 fellows last time, through interviews only.

Of the 160 candidates selected this year, 108 have an engineering background. Last time, 50 per cent of the fellows were engineers.

The civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission is also dominated by candidates with an engineering background. Nearly 50 per cent of successful candidates in the civil service exams are engineers.

“The engineers are finding the PMRDF another lucrative career option. Unlike the civil services, the PMRDF provides the opportunity to work for a short period of three years on public issues in difficult areas,” a senior ministry official said.

The duration of the fellowship has been increased to three years from two years.

The fellows of the first batch were sent to Maoist-affected districts only. This year, the government has decided to send them to Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast apart from Maoist-hit areas.

Of the 160 fellows, 30 will be sent to north-eastern states and 20 will work in Jammu and Kashmir. The rest will go to the 84 districts covered under the Integrated Action Plan, aimed at developing Maoist-affected areas.

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) will provide initial training to these fellows after which they will be sent to the districts.

A TISS official said the scheme, when launched, was limited to Maoist-affected districts in Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

T. Haque, director, Council of Social Development, an NGO, said the reason the scheme has been getting a good response is it helps a person work and understand public policy issues on the ground. “This experience would help the person later, no matter wherever he works.”

A ministry official said the 160 people selected include 113 who have experience in working in public sector or private companies. While 62 persons have postgraduation degrees, eight are qualified doctors and three have a legal background.

The fellows will have to spend a year giving skill training to people under the National Rural Livelihood Mission. After the three years, each will get a master’s degree in Rural Development Practice from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

The degrees can be used for further academic pursuit or other career objectives.