How the Gram Ahar Raksha Dal (GARD) works foodgrain.“Earlier we were not told why we are getting less grain.Now we know that the supply to the pds shop itself is less, and that the pds shop owner,in order to ensure everyone gets something, ends up giving a little less,”say the women at Madhudinda.
gard members meet once a month.Holding meetings more often is difficult due to coordination and work schedule of the villagers and the functionaries. Discussions range from getting a hand pump installed at a primary school to planning cropping patterns for a patch of land that has been left barren. In Kordaha village for instance,gard members have planned to plant mahua and other fruit trees along with traditional millets like kodo on a patch of wasteland. Moreover, gard has helped mainstream women.
gard members decide upon a course of action with consensus for community problems. If an issue requires government intervention,a letter is drafted and sent to the officers concerned. On some occasions, gard members have filed Right to Information (rti) applications.“Drafting rti is a part of the training to all gard members,” says Verma. In Sariahat village for instance, they filed an application under rti for an electricity connection.Though there was no response to their application, the electricity department installed a transformer in the village.
“In some places there is a fear that gard members would form a coterie and control decision-making. These are real fears, that’s why we are encouraging more people to join the meetings,” says Verma. Though gard is envisioned to be an inclusive experiment, there have been few cases of exclusion that have come to the fore.In Kordaha village for instance,a few households,belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group category, could not join the meetings due to the distance from the school,where the meetings are held.“We are addressing such problems,” says Verma.“We need gard by our side when we visit child development project officers or the bdos (block development officers). We need them to supervise our rti applications. We are sure we can take this initiative forward on our own,but we will need some more time,”says Rai.