Arati Devi, a 28-year-old MBA graduate, who quit her job as an investment banker at IDBI Bank in Berhampur, Odisha, to become a sarpanch in a backward panchayat of Ganjam district in 2012, will represent India in the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) on State and Local Governments in the US next month.
She was selected through a series of interviews by US officials. The programme involves visiting places in the US and conducting group discussions from February 18 to March 7. Arati will participate in a meet on “state government functions, government transparency and accountability” at Springfield, Illinois. She will converse with representatives from Israel and Malaysia.
“I am happy to be selected for the prestigious programme. The participants are also scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama,” said Arati.
IVLP is one of the US’ most prestigious professional exchange programmes. Many prominent Indian politicians have participated in the event in their earlier years. They include former prime ministers Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former presidents K.R. Narayanan and Pratibha Patil.
All expenses related to her travel will be paid for by the State Department. In addition to Washington, she will also visit a few other US cities to observe the country’s diversity.
“When I took charge as sarpanch, I found many villagers were not aware that a public distribution system exists. I created awareness and now all are availing wheat, kerosene and other items at subsidised prices. I have started an adult literacy programme for women by diverting a small amount of panchayat funds. We are appointing one educated youth in each village ward to teach adult women how to read and write,” she said.