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Gurdaspur’s AaBAD Initiative Transforming Lives On the Border

IAS officer Himanshu Aggarwal started AaBAD initiative to provide holistic development in the areas along the India-Pakistan border in Gurdaspur, Punjab As of now, AaBAD has three verticals: AaBAD camps, Hunar Hut and Sanjeevani Camps The officer plans to add three more verticals to the initiative - AaBAD Yellow Pages, Super 30 and Super Sports
Indian Masterminds Stories

Gurdaspur district in Punjab showcases the country’s rich history and cultural heritage, but faces challenges due to its proximity to Pakistan. Comprehensive development initiatives are needed to transform residents’ lives and boost security and prosperity.

It is in this background that the AaBAD initiative was envisaged by the Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur, Dr. Himanshu Aggarwal, an IAS officer of 2014 batch. Mr. Aggarwal grew up in another border district of Punjab, Ferozepur, and was previously posted as Collector in Fazilka, another border district, where he first had this idea of Mission AaBAD (Absolute Border Area Development) aimed at holistic development of the border areas. He replicated and scaled the initiative when he was posted in the Gurdaspur district last year.

The initiative comprises of 3 verticals – AaBAD Service Delivery Camps, AaBAD Sanjeevani Camps (Health) and AaBAD Hunar Haat (Skill Development).

AaBAD CAMPS

AaBAD Camps aim at providing public services at the village level in border areas. These camps are focused on creating awareness about government schemes among the local population and providing them with a platform to register their grievances.

Government officers visit border villages to engage with local communities, provide information on programs and services, and resolve issues. Over 20 departments participate, offering certificates of caste, pensions, health, rural development, job cards, and water supply and sanitation services.

“I myself visit these camps. Police personnel sensitize the youth for recruitment in police. BSF officials inspire youth of border villages to join the Armed Forces after their education and make people aware on how to report on drone and drug activities,” Mr. Aggarwal shared with Indian Masterminds.

For the villagers, it’s a huge opportunity to put their grievances in front of the administrative and political machinery without the need to go to the district headquarters and wait for their turns in government offices.

“That’s the whole point of these camps. At first, they were amazed to see such huge administrative machinery at their doorstep and thought it was some sort of fair or VIP function, but later on, they started realising that these camps are for them only and started participating in large numbers,” the officer said.

ACHIEVEMENT

On the specific achievements that came out of these camps, Mr. Aggarwal, who is an MBBS doctor, replied, “People of a village in Gurdaspur and one in Fazilka complained of zero to low mobile network range in their areas. When we came across the issue, we requested the mobile network companies and their range quality improved after some correspondence. People were so happy as they could use internet with ease now. It opened our eyes to the fact that people today consider mobile and internet as their basic right and amenity.”

In Gurdaspur, camps started in December 2022 and till now more than 50 villages have been covered personally by the DC himself, while more than 200 villages have been covered by his team. More than 25,000 people have benefited from these camps.

The administration has dovetailed various government schemes like MGNREGS, 15th Finance Commission, Swach Bharat Mission, local Panchayat funds etc., to fund the projects.

AaBAD HUNAR HUT

The idea originated from one of the AaBAD camps, when some women of the village approached the DC for jobs. “They told us that we want to do some job and earn money, sharing that they make pickles in their free time and sell in their village only. We encouraged them for a SHG formation and funded them under NRLM scheme, providing skill training with the help of our PSDM (Punjab Skill Development Mission) staff and assisting in packaging and branding products, leading to the creation of AaBAD Hunar Hut,”  Mr. Aggarwal said.

The Hunar Hut currently has products of 32 SHGs from different blocks of the district with more than 78 SKUs. The shop has been operational since February 1, 2023. It has generated a total revenue of Rs. 1,88,320 through the sales of products offered by the SHGs. All the sale proceeds went to the women members of these groups.

“We are thankful to the district administration for providing us with the platform to sell our products. We used to make our products earlier, the sale of which was limited to our own village but now after rebranding it as AaBAD, not only the product looks better but we are also selling it at higher value,” says SHG member Sukhwinder Kaur who make products like jute bag, Macrame products and phulkari.

Mr. Aggarwal has ordered for the procurement of products used in the DC complex to support the SHGs’ work. Officers are encouraged to buy from Hunar Hut. A product catalogue and social media handles have also been created to promote Hunar Hut’s offerings. Further, Central Jail women convicts have been motivated and trained to create household items and display products at the shop.

COLLABORATION WITH ESARAS PROJECT

The district administration also collaborated with the ESARAS project, managed by Foundation for Development Rural Value Chains (FDRVC), to assist the SHGs in becoming e-commerce vendors. The SARAS team visited Hunar Hut and ordered around 100 products, gaining nationwide recognition for the SHGs of Gurdaspur district.

AaBAD SANJEEVANI CAMPS

AaBAD Sanjeevani camps help to identify and treat illnesses at an early stage, reducing the risk of complications and hospitalizations. They are organized by the Health Department and Red Cross Society in border villages of the district to provide essential healthcare services to the people. The services provided at these camps include medical consultations, diagnosis and treatment of common illnesses, distribution of essential medicines, and referral services for more complex cases.

The services include medical check-ups, Covid-19 vaccinations, awareness about UDID certificate benefits, health and wellness centres, Aam Aadmi Clinic, Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram Programme benefits, free health check-up for government school children, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme, and NCD Programme by the health department.

Two ambulances have been stationed at different places along the international border. A team of doctors, pharmacists, Asha and Anganwadi workers visit the villages to provide healthcare services in the border villages. “As of now, a total of 37,950 people have benefited from the AaBAD Sanjeevani Camps,” the officer stated.

FUTURE PLANS

The administration further plans on adding another three verticals – AaBAD Yellow Page, Super 30 and Super Sports. All these initiatives are aimed at transforming Gurdaspur’s border villages into thriving centres of growth, resilience, and harmony. The initiatives implemented so far have played a crucial role in promoting development, providing public services, healthcare, and empowering the women and the disadvantaged communities.


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