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Waking Up Dadenggre

As a first step, this IAS officer posted in a far off, non-descript village Dadenggre of Meghalaya knocked repeatedly on the door of search engine giant Google to have the place duly recognized. Then he went about the much bigger task- of providing public lighting to the place. For all practical purpose, people here were content to live in darkness till the time Ramkumar S stepped in.
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Imagine moving from a city into a village, and that too, one that does not have any ATM, shopping complexes, petrol pump or even streetlights. And also, the place remains unrecognized by Google! It might sound like travelling back into time when all these things didn’t exist. But when IAS officer Mr. Ramkumar S of Assam-Meghalaya Cadre entered into the vicinity of Dadenggre to find it covered in the cloak of darkness, he knew what he had to do, and ultimately gave the residents of the village the change and light they needed.

The Transfer

Mr. Ramkumar was working in the Department of Social Justice, Delhi when he was told that he was being transferred to Cherrapunjee, as the Sub Divisional Magistrate. But suddenly his posting changed and he was asked to move to a village called Dadenggre in Garo-hills, a place neither him nor the courier guy from the state itself had heard of! Even Google showed no signs of the village.

“I landed in Guwahati and on my way to the village asked the driver, ‘What’s there in Dadenggre?’ and he said ‘kuch nahi, sir’(there is nothing there, sir). Whenever I asked him any question, he replied with the same words, which felt very weird. There was no human being and no vehicles on the stretch. At one point in time, I thought I was being kidnapped (says, jokingly). There wasn’t any cellular network, either. And then suddenly, he exclaimed that we’ve reached. When I looked around, I realized that this place literally had ‘kuch nahi’!” (nothing), he told Indian Masterminds.

The village of Dadenggre

Darkness Engulfed Dadenggre

Mr. Ramkumar saw that the village did not even have a single streetlight, and residents were not even bothered by this. It was so dark and silent as soon as the sun set. “Sleeping in the darkness, hearing only the ticking of the clock became so annoying that I removed the batteries one night to sleep peacefully. Unfortunately, my phone did not get charged that night and in the morning it was dead. I had to walk almost 4.5 kilometers in search of time because nobody there owned a clock,” recalled Mr Ramkumar.

The village had no source of electricity

The First Change

In Dadenggre, nothing had happened for the past 30-40 years; as a first step, Mr. Ramkumar decided to bring light in the life of the people. It was a challenging task to accomplish as SDM. He pitched in the idea in the right way by making use of the proposal by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, which sanctioned solar lights wherever needed.

What bewildered Mr. Ramkumar was that nobody complained about the lack of electricity. People accepted the situation as a way of life. One reason could be that owing to the militancy in the region, people shut themselves indoors after the sunset. “I applied for the proposal in January and by March it got approved. We began with the work by summers and by next winter it was complete.” Due to Mr. Ramkumar’s efforts, the village received 700 streetlights.

“Now, Dadenggre is the only village in Meghalaya that’s fully lit up,” says Mr. Ramkumar.

The village now has 700 streetlights

Going Solar

Mr. Ramkumar wanted to inspire young people through his endeavours. “I wanted them to think rationally, take up science, and see how solar lights turn off as soon as sun goes up and turn on as soon as it goes down.” He put solar panels in the offices, power plants and the health centers. He even got his entire office solar powered.

One of the challenges that he had to face was getting solar materials into the village of Dadenggre. There is only one timber bridge through which the trucks have to pass by in order to get into the village, but the truck driver was quite reluctant. He was afraid the bridge might break. Mr. Ramkumar had to drive all the way to the bridge to convince him that nothing will happen and he can cross the bridge easily. After a little persuasion, the driver finally came through, along with the material.

The village is fully solar powered

Bringing Dadenggre into Google

Mr. Ramkumar chuckled while telling us how he literally had to hack into Google to get Dadenggre on the map. He appointed a number of people and asked them to keep on Googling ‘Dadenggre’ and go to a particular link and click on it multiple times. They kept on doing it for quite some time when someone from Google called him to ask what was happening and once he told her the whole story, she got on board with it too and finally, Dadenggre got a place on Google!

Best Part of his Life

Mr. Ramkumar believes that living there was the best part of his life. “It is an amazingly comforting place and has some kind of a natural healing capacity. These kinds of places teach us that we don’t really require all those modern advanced technologies to live. We can make do without them. The only thing you require is your sanity, and these things only make you more insane” he told Indian Masterminds.

At present, Mr. Ramkumar is appointed as the Joint Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Shillong. But the stint in Dadenggre will remain the biggest feather in his cap!


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