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Engaging women in mask-making paid off for Telangana IAS officer Hari Chandana Dasari

Hyderabad: At a time when the economy was staggering under the weight of the pandemic, Narayanpet Collector and District Magistrate Hari Chandana Dasari saw a business opportunity, and engaged 4,000 women in a mask-making endeavour. In just a year’s time, the enterprise made a profit of Rs 50 lakh.

Hari Chandana’s foresight is perhaps one of the many reasons why she had bagged The Social Impact Award by the British Council last week. She was chosen from nearly 1,500 alumni nominated for the honour, which acknowledged her exceptional contribution to creating positive social change.

“When the pandemic hit us all in March, 2020, Narayanpet was faced with a unique challenge. The district is dominated by traditional handloom weavers, and they were left with no work and dead stock. It was a depressing scenario, and I wanted to engage them in a project that would benefit them and the handloom industry.

Making handloom masks seemed like the right thing to do. Nobody knew how to make a mask, but we all managed to figure it out,” she says.

She attributes the success of the project to MAUD Minister KT Rama Rao and his new-age thinking. “Even when I was in Hyderabad and had proposed novel ideas like the Dog Park in Gachibowli, KTR garu was supportive. He gave me the thumbs-up when most others would have asked me why there was a need for a Dog Park in the first place. He has been my pillar of support and a good boss,” Hari Chandana says.

She is happy that KTR is sporting the Narayanpet mask for public events as an endorsement of the work by the women in the district.

Hari Chandana says she has gotten many new insights about recycling during her time in the UK from 2005-2006, and that they help her think on her feet when it comes to matters of environment, which incidentally was her research topic when she was there.

“We created several sculptures made of recycled materials when I was in the UK. There are several sculptural elements in different corners of the country, and I learned how to reuse and repurpose things that were beneficial to the environment. I applied the same logic to match the State’s vision for a Green Telangana and for projects like Haritha Haram,” she says.