5 IIM-A students opt to intern with Bihar scheme for poor

Bihar's growth story and an eagerness to work with "neglected marginal farmers" and "the bottom of the pyramid" are some of the unanimous factors cited by five students from IIM-Ahmedabad's Agri-business Management (ABM) programme who opted out of this year's summer placements process to intern for about two months with the state's Jeevika project, a rural livelihoods initiative, next year.

In email interviews with The Indian Express, all the students — Kamala N Kalavacharia (24), Harsh Nautiyal (25), Naveen Kumar (21), Rishabh Bansali (23) and Nishit Kumar (26) — said they came to know about Jeevika from the institute's placement committee itself, which invited an official to come looking for recruits at the campus.

"A quote by Verghese Kurien, the father of the white revolution in India, has greatly inspired me. He said that we should go to places where our talent is required than to places where it is rewarded," said Kamala, who hails from Visakhapatnam. "The rural poor and women...are the managers of the institutions that they build during this entire process (Jeevika). To see such an institution at work will be the biggest learning experience for me," Kamala added.

Incidentally, Kamala is among four of the five who are not from Bihar. Harsh is from Nainital, Naveen is from a small town in Rajasthan's Sri Ganganagar district and Rishabh is from Jodhpur. Nishit Kumar, who is from Bettiah in Bihar, has spent time studying in Chennai and worked with Life Insurance Corporation and a US-based multinational. He, Kamala and Harsh said they have had some prior work experience before joining IIM.

Asked what he hoped to gain from the internship, Harsh, who has a degree in agricultural engineering, said, "In the long run, I would always cherish my decision that I had worked for and had been part of a project which completely changed the lives of marginal farmers of Bihar."

His batchmate Naveen Kumar has slightly different hopes. "The internship would be helpful in the long run since most of the big agri companies are moving towards sustainable growth and for which it is required to have the knowledge of grassroots."

All five agree that Bihar's changing reputation from a lesser developed state to one that has been undergoing rapid economic transformations is a factor in their choice to forego a chance to temporarily work with one of the more than 20 firms, including multinationals, that recruited students this year.

"Fighting all odds such as climatic irregularity marred by floods and droughts, naxalite issues etc, Bihar has managed to make a visible effort towards inclusive growth... Such radical transformations cannot be the whim of one single person, but a collective desire of the entire socio-political and administrative machinery," says Rishabh.

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