How this duo is trans­form­ing lives of women in ru­ral In­dia

An am­bi­tious civil so­ci­ety ini­tia­tive is try­ing to plug the state’s fail­ure in some of the most back­ward parts of the coun­try

Business Standard - - ECONOMY - ANJULI BHAR­GAVA

On dep­u­ta­tion from Pradan, a Del­hibased NGO where they worked, to a Tata Trusts ini­tia­tive called Trans­form Ru­ral In­dia, Anish Kumar and Anir­ban Ghose were tour­ing Jharkhand when they met a mid­dle-aged woman in Til­ladih in Gumla district. Thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of wa­ter har­vest­ing and in­ten­sive agri­cul­ture, the 70-odd house­holds in the vil­lage had seen their av­er­age in­comes shoot up from ~40,000 to al­most ~300,000-4,00,000 a year. When Kumar, who was ac­com­pa­nied by Tata Trusts man­ag­ing trus­tee R. Venkatara­manan, asked the woman what else she wanted, she gave them an as­ton­ish­ing re­ply: She said that she wanted her chil­dren to be like them.

The woman ex­plained that though she had more money now, she could not en­sure a bet­ter qual­ity of life for her chil­dren be­cause her vil­lage did not have the nec­es­sary health and ed­u­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture. The vil­lage school was al­most dys­func­tional. A se­ri­ous ill­ness could not be treated lo­cally and of­ten re­sulted in death.

“Your chil­dren do not die of di­ar­rhoea, but ours do.Your chil­dren speak, con­verse and think in a cer­tain way be­cause they have ac­cess to good ed­u­ca­tion. We want our chil­dren to be like you,” she said.

The sec­ond en­counter oc­curred closer home — in Delhi’s Hauz Khas. Kumar and his col­league Ghose met a sweeper em­ployed by the Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion of Delhi and got chat­ting with him. The man, who was from Karouli, Ra­jasthan, said that he led a wretched life sweep­ing the city roads even though in his vil­lage he had land, three buf­faloes, and could af­ford to eat ro­tis with ghee. But he had made the trade-off for the sake of his chil­dren. Though his vil­lage of­fered him a bet­ter life­style, it had neg­li­gi­ble med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties and no school to speak of. At least in Delhi, he had a bet­ter chance of keep­ing his chil­dren alive and giv­ing them an ed­u­ca­tion.

That’s when the penny dropped for Ghose and Kumar. They re­alised where NGOs like Pradan, which work to em­power the marginalised, came up short. While they could cer­tainly make an im­pact on im­prov­ing liveli­hoods, food suf­fi­ciency, cre­ate in­come op­por­tu­ni­ties for women and so on, they could not en­sure that the chil­dren of TRI was launched in 2016 as an in­de­pen­dent civil ini­tia­tive

It aims to col­lab­o­rate with the gov­ern­ment to work to­wards rais­ing in­come lev­els, im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion, health and san­i­ta­tion in its project ar­eas It iden­ti­fies an NGO, which has vast ex­pe­ri­ence in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor to work with a gov­ern­ment school to in­crease ac­count­abil­ity and tone up de­liv­ery

Map­ping of vil­lages by the govt in 2011-12 found that 100,000 vil­lages were “stranded”

TRI will fo­cus on this back­ward area, goal is to raise house­hold in­comes

these com­mu­ni­ties would get proper med­i­cal care or would speak, think and be­have like city-bred kids.

“Our stud­ies showed that a girl born in ru­ral In­dia is 80-90 years be­hind a girl born in an In­dian city. Com­mu­ni­ties’ as­pi­ra­tions re­gard­ing ed­u­ca­tion and health were sim­ply not be­ing ad­dressed,” says Kumar.

And this is where the Trans­form Ru­ral In­dia (TRI) mis­sion comes in. Launched in 2016 as an in­de­pen­dent civil ini­tia­tive, TRI aims to col­lab­o­rate with the gov­ern­ment to work not only to­wards rais­ing in­come lev­els, but also im­prov­ing the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion, health and san­i­ta­tion in its project ar­eas. For in­stance, it would iden­tify an NGO which has vast ex­pe­ri­ence in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor to work with a gov­ern­ment school to in­crease ac­count­abil­ity and tone up de­liv­ery.

A map­ping of vil­lages done by the gov­ern­ment in 2011-12 found that 100,000 vil­lages, mostly in cen­tral In­dia, Jharkhand and Bi­har, were “stranded”.

TRI will fo­cus on this back­ward area, and the goal is to raise the in­come of 80 per cent of the house­holds from the present $1,200 per year to $3,000 per year. TRI also plans to en­sure that all house­holds have proper drink­ing wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties and that school dropout rates are re­duced so that 80 per cent of the girls study till the age of 14. There will also be an ef­fort to cre­ate vo­ca­tional skills and op­por­tu­ni­ties for the stu­dents.

To be­gin with, TRI will con­cen­trate on Jharkhand and Mad­hya Pradesh. But even­tu­ally, it hopes to ex­tend its work to 40,000 vil­lages in the coun­try’s most back­ward re­gions. Em­ploy­ing a clus­ter-based ap­proach, the mis­sion has so far reached 25 blocks and 1,600-odd vil­lages while the tar­get out­reach is 3,200 vil­lages.

The work is ex­pected to cost ~6 mil­lion per block for five years. Both the MP and Jharkhand gov­ern­ments have been re­spon­sive to the project and ~1bil­lion has al­ready been lever­aged from them.

The aim is to even­tu­ally im­pact the lives of 100 mil­lion peo­ple.

Kumar and Ghose, whose dep­u­ta­tion ended in 2016, have now im­mersed them­selves full-time into TRI’s work. And though it’s early days, Kumar says that progress has been dis­cernible. The ques­tion is, what the state has not been able to do in over 70 years af­ter in­de­pen­dence, can a civil so­ci­ety ini­tia­tive with cor­po­rate back­ing achieve in a frac­tion of that time or even at all?

TRI’s jour­ney prom­ises to be a telling one.

Kumar and Ghose, have im­mersed them­selves full-time into TRI’s work. They aim is to even­tu­ally im­pact the lives of 100 mil­lion peo­ple

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.