KOZHIKODE: An IAS officer in Kerala, who has often been in the news for his ingenious campaigns to improve public amenities and increase youth engagement, is back with a new formula.
Prashanth Nair, district collector of Kozhikode, managed the envious task of getting the public to clean a huge pond by themselves in exchange for: yes, a plate of tempting biryani. The young officer announced proudly on his official Facebook page that people coordinated to cleanse the 14-acre Pisharikavu pond in Koyilandy of water hyacinth and slush — a feat that he describes as ‘not that easy.’
In exchange, he got them stomach-full of sumptuous Malabar biryani, money for which was taken out of the drought prevention fund of the district administration. Prashanth had announced earlier on his Facebook page that water conservation and maintenance of ground water level were critical to prevention of drought in summers.
Crowd-funded campaigns like these are at the heart of what Prashanth wants to do in Kozhikode: building up a ‘compassionate’ population in the district which looks after one another. In an interview in September last year, Prashanth told IndianExpress.com, “I wish to see a compassionate population in my district, people who care for each other. Our focus should shift from structures and concrete to people.” Prashanth, who has an almost cult following in Kozhikode, is a social media darling with his Facebook page amassing more than 1,60,000 ‘likes’ in less than a year’s time. He is addressed by his followers as ‘collector bro’, a term they use with a lot of respect and admiration for his work. Perhaps the best proof of their love for him is this: a Facebook comment in which someone asks him, “can you become the collector of all the districts?” “The people are out there in social media, so we need to be there. It’s as simple as that. Pasting notices on the notice boards of the village office is no longer the way to reach out to the public. Social media as a platform makes administration more transparent, seamless, fast, publicly accountable, and ‘informal’,” said Prashanth in September. Before being posted as the district collector last year, Prashanth was secretary to the state Home Minister. In Kozhikode, some of Prashanth’s popular campaigns include ‘Operation Sulaimani’, a decentralised participatory project to address urban hunger and poverty. The IAS officer also takes special interest in organising cultural programmes and has written-directed a short film for the state government.
Author: Vishnu Varma