The general perception about the government is very often centered around is inertia – that it doesn’t do anything. Many young citizens say they have great ideas to solve problems plaguing their city, state or their country and often feel that they are unable to do anything about it. Or they feel that if they knew how things worked in the government, they might be able to help. So far, the only way for them to do so was to be part of the government machinery itself, which meant spending a lifetime in public service. The Maharashtra government, however, has been running a novel programme that allows the youth of the country to participate in policy making, governance and development without necessarily making a career out of it.
The Chief Minister Fellowship Program of the Government of Maharashtra, an initiative by Honorable Shri Devendra Fadnavis, was conceptualised as a platform to get the youth in the state to contribute towards policy making and use their abilities to bring a fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking to the table. In return, the CM Fellows, as they are called, get a ringside view of how the government of India’s industrial powerhouse functions.
[If you’d like to be part of the CM Fellowship Program, apply here now.]
What the CM Fellowship Program wants to achieve
The 11-month Program has inducted nearly 150 Fellows over the past three years, with more than 4,000 youngsters applying each year. Applications for the fourth year are currently open till 12 midnight today, 24th May 2018.
Says Smt. Priya Khan, Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister, “This experience is very blissful and satisfying. Through the last three years, I have been in contact with about 150 fellows and these young people are socially aware, more vocal, hardworking and creative. These children will leave no stone unturned if given the right opportunity.”
Today’s tech-savvy youth are eager to learn and ready to step outside their comfort zone if only provided the opportunity to help improve life for the citizens of India. They can help in suggesting and implementing new technologies that otherwise might not have been adopted by a government. The program aims to channel their zeal in the right direction to bring about changes such as eliminating redundant policies, updating old ones and putting together new ones. It is no surprise then, that the Maharashtra Startup policy announced in January 2017 was undertaken by the CM Fellows of the 2016-2017 batch.
When selecting Fellows, one of the things considered is their past experience and education, based on which they are asked to work with the various government departments. Each Fellow has a mentor, usually an IAS or IPS officer, whom they report to. The kind of work they carry out differs depending on the department.
What’s in it for the Fellows
There are both direct and indirect benefits that chosen Fellows experience. For one, they get to experience the ins and outs of how the government machinery functions. They also get to spearhead projects and policies. Their perspective is broadened and no longer limited to their neighbourhood. Past Fellows have also had a chance to interact with celebrities known for their work in the public sector, such as Aamir Khan, Ronnie Screwvala, Anand Mahindra, and so on. Visits to specialised institutes are also arranged. In addition, they also interact with the Chief Minister on many occasions. They can ask him questions, propose solutions and engage in meaningful discussion.
Fellows also help in drafting policies that have a statewide impact. They gain a better understanding of the processes involved in the government’s work and are able to play a role in suggesting how such processes can further be improved. All of this, along with their unique ideas, form the ‘big picture’ for this Fellowship.
Indirectly, the Fellows get exposure and experience, which helps them when they want to pursue further studies in Public Policy or aspire to join the Civil Services. Some Fellows have also gone on to start their own companies.
CM Fellows have even worked in the CM War Room, which heads major infrastructure projects in Maharashtra, the CM’s Office, CIDCO, the Forest Department, the Finance Department, PMRDA, and other departments across districts such as Chandrapur, Solapur and Kolhapur. Once assigned a particular department, they also have the flexibility to pursue research projects beyond their designated tasks and beyond their department.
Says Manasi Bharti, a Fellow, “Undoubtedly, this is one of those experiences that have the capability to change your life orientation! I don’t think there is another prospect out there that allows to utilise your skills and knowledge by being an outsider to the government while working inside it!”
Every year, a new component has been added to the Program. This year, the government plans on tying up with various institutes in and around Maharashtra for research projects which can be institutionalised.
In the past, CM Fellows have played a big role in some of the major initiatives undertaken by the State Government. They have implemented various e-office tools in the Collectors’ offices and helped improve processes. Within their respective departments, they have helped in implementing new technology and in overhauling existing technology. For example, the CM Fellows played an important role in the Chandrapur and Ballarshah Railway Stations being adjudged the most beautiful in the country.
This year, CM Fellows worked collectively on research projects in areas of government that were of interest to them. Many have started researching internationally acclaimed government policies and how they can be implemented in Maharashtra.
The Chief Minister himself takes a personal interest in the Program. According to Shri Fadnavis,
The experience of last three years of fellowship has been very encouraging. Fellows have contributed immensely in various programmes of the government. They will get the opportunity to contribute directly in government policies and programmes.”
A glimpse into the impact
According to the government, some brilliant ideas have come into fruition with the Program's help. This year, the Chandrapur Collector’s Office undertook an initiative to ensure that social security schemes reach the LGBT community, sex workers, and HIV-positive and sickle cell patients. It further helped in getting them voter ID cards, ration cards, opening bank accounts and in getting them employment.
Remarks CM Fellow Kunal Chhajed: "There is no better feeling than actually changing people's lives and being within the system just makes that easier"
The Forest Department of Maharashtra has undertaken programmes like planting 50 crore saplings in three years and developing eco-tourism where Fellows are helping to converge the efforts of Forest Department with private sector organizations to deliver the projects efficiently and sustainably.
The Fellows also helped BEST in Mumbai obtain a subsidy to procure 40 electric buses, which will soon be deployed. The Fellows also helped organize and scale the Women of India Organic Festival 2018 conducted by MAVIM (Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal), the nodal agency for Women and Child Development in the State. With 300+ participants across 20 states, the event was a success and our fellows at MAVIM contributed to that success. The Chief Minister’s War Room spearheaded the establishment of the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence (WIAI) which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India Shri. Narendra Modi. They were helped in setting up the partnership by a team of CM Fellows.
Additional Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister, Shri Praveen Pardeshi, sums it by saying, “To explore and mine the question, ‘your life is answer to which question’, the Fellowship serves as a golden opportunity.”
Adds Fellow Amit Kothawade, “A lifetime opportunity to answer and act on. What better can I do to serve my society than keep asking what Government has done for it?”
So if you’d like broaden your horizons and make a positive contribution to governance, apply for the CM Fellowship Program now.