Gramvikash
Access to Services Award by Bihar Innovation Forum-II awarded to Gram Vikas on 31st January 2014   
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titlepointMANTRA - Experiences of Gram Vikas

“Our village is better than the town. We have 24*7 piped water supply to all families, without exception. Every family has their own toilet and bathing room as well. When we seek marriage alliances, our daughters ask us – ‘ would there ...
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Inception

Orissa - A Development Snapshot
The Pre Gram Vikas Days
Gram Vikas - A Brief Overview
Evolution of Interventions

 


 

Evolution of Interventions
The core activities of Gram Vikas have been carried out under the Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP), Biogas Programme, Housing Programme, Rural Health and Environment Programme (RHEP).

Subsequent to the formulation of a Strategic Plan in 2004, Gram Vikas will realise its mission through the programme and process of MANTRA (Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas). MANTRA envisages the integration of all programmatic interventions of Gram Vikas under one umbrella, working towards a common goal.

The Integrated Tribal Development Programme
The Parallel Stream : Biogas
Housing Programme
RHEP : Towards an Integrated Approach
MANTRA : An Integrated Habitat Development Programme

 

 

The pre Gram Vikas days
The Young Students Movement for Development (YSMD) was formed by a group of students from Madras University to initiate development activities for the underprivileged. In early 1971, a group of 400 student volunteers, led by Joe Madiath, the then President of the YSMD, set up relief camps and coordinated efforts to return/ resettle the people affected by the war for independence in Bangladesh. The war had resulted in the influx of a large number of refugees from Bangladesh to India.

Six months later, on October 30 of 1971, a cyclone stirred up in the Bay of Bengal, causing a huge tidal wave to hit coastal Orissa. Nearly ten thousand people were killed and over a million rendered homeless. The devastation was enormous. Resources with the government were inadequate, the attention still being on the refugee crisis. Over forty volunteers from the original group rushed to Orissa, led again by Joe, and began relief work in Kendrapara district. "We stayed for over a year, helping the people rebuild roads, desalinate agricultural land and get their lives together again. During this time we became acutely aware of the poverty and underdevelopment of these people. There were no NGOs or other development agencies, except for some missionary and Gandhian groups working mainly in the area of health, in those utterly poor and backward areas. So much needed to be done," recalls Joe about that period.

"We decided to start by helping the people with their agricultural practices, their main source of livelihood. The rivers had plenty of water, but cultivation was dependent on the monsoons. Lift irrigation seemed to be the answer. We tried to introduce collective farming. The idea was that the community as a whole would work to improve irrigation facilities, and the landed farmers would set aside some land for the landless people to cultivate. Agreements to this effect were made. But when yields improved following irrigation, the agreements were broken. All the hard work only resulted in more land and more income for the landed class," Joe goes on to say.
"It was time to rethink strategies to work towards social equity. An opportunity presented itself when the District Collector of Ganjam invited the group to initiate a dairy co-operative for the adivasis of the Kerandimal region. The Berhampur Milk Producers Co-Operative offered land in Mohuda to set up camp. They started working from here, in the foothills of Kerandimal in 1976. It did not take long to realise that dairying was neither feasible nor what was needed urgently for the people of the area. There was no infrastructure or any kind of veterinary support. More significantly, they were faced with the tribal people's belief that cow's milk was not meant for human consumption," says Joe.

"We were beginning to understand the people and their needs. We started talking to people, especially women, trying to gain their confidence. The first thing to strike us was the abysmal health conditions in the villages. Malaria was rampant. No one understood the relevance of safe drinking water, healthy food or hygiene. And of course there were no dispensaries or clinics within accessible distances. We began to set in place a rudimentary health care service in the villages. The initial strategy of using health as the entry point was good in terms of creating goodwill for the group. We realised that forever giving palliatives would not solve the problem. We therefore started an intensive programme for training village health workers. In the early 80s we had one of the best programmes in community health, but our level of inputs was still very high. Soon after, when the emphasis shifted, the health programme began to suffer and never regained the lost ground," says Joe.
"The tribal people had a strong distrust for outsiders. And justifiably so because the outsiders they knew were only interested in occupying their land and denying them access to the meagre resources they had. Slowly, the people began to trust us. They began to discuss their problems with us. Most of them had no land. If they did, it was mortgaged to moneylenders. All of them were bonded labourers. They had no way of paying back the money they owed and what was sad was that most of them did not know how much money they owed. The liquor merchants made sure that they spent what little they had on drink, which made them further indebted. The tribal people were aware of the injustice. But they had no way of protesting", says Joe.

"Meanwhile, the Indian government declared a Moratorium on Rural Indebtedness in 1978. This policy provided the legal support to launch a campaign to mobilise the tribal people around the issue of land mortgaging. The Kerandimal Gana Sangathan emerged as a strong organisation of the tribal people. In what came to be known as 'people's courts', the tribal people arbitrated every case of mortgaging in the presence of moneylenders. This was accompanied by social boycott of the exploitative people and organised demonstrations at the district headquarters. By the end of 1979, nearly every case in the Kerandimal region was settled in favour of the tribal people. The tribals had tasted victory for the first time", recalls Joe.

By the end of 1978, we began to realise that we had very little in common with the YSMD back in Madras. Living in a remote village, witnessing the perils of relentless poverty and indebtedness had given us a perspective that was essentially different from any theoretical awareness. Support from those who remained with the mainstream was negligible. It was time to set up a new organisation. Gram Vikas was born on January 22, 1979 and registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

30 Years of Development Journey
Gram Vikas - A Brief Overview
Evolution of Interventions

 

 

The Integrated Tribal Development Programme
The campaign to recover mortgaged land was a major step both in the history of Gram Vikas and in the tribal people's life. Though a significant milestone was reached, very soon, the movement reached a plateau. Long decades of bonded labour had eroded tribal initiatives. To the adivasis getting back all that they had was bigger than life, but this also meant having to own resources, protecting it for all times, and behaving in a responsible manner. This was lacking and there was always a tendency to go back to assetlesness. We realised that winning the battle was not enough; we had to consolidate and bring them to a level where they would be able to handle their own affairs, and prevent them from slipping back into disruptive ways. We began to think about a programme that would break this pattern and help the tribal people move towards a more productive lifestyle. Immediate attention needed to be focused on education and awareness, secure sources of income, health and living conditions. The seeds of the Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP) began to germinate.

Over the years, the ITDP attracted the attention of government officials across the state. In addition to interventions in education and health, we started a campaign for Community forestry, encouraging people to plant fuel, fodder, fruit and timber species over all private and common wastelands. In collaboration with the National Programme for Wasteland development, over 10,000 acres of wasteland were regenerated between 1985-1996. Gram Vikas assisted communities to obtain legal titles over the revenue wastelands regenerated and protected by them.

Following the drought and reports of starvation in parts of Kalahandi, the District Collector invited us to expand the programme to Thuamul Rampur in 1985. Verrier Elwin, renowned anthropologist had once referred to this, quite appropriately as the 'poverty basket of Asia'. In 1988, the programme spread to Koinpur and Rudhapadar and in '90s, Tumba and Karadasing. By the beginning of the '01, Anandapur and Bafla were also under the project.

Education remained one of the biggest problems in the areas we worked in. Government schools were largely dis-functional and failed to cater to tribal children from remote and isolated villages. In 1982, a residential school was started at Konkia, Ganjam, to bring some of these children to school. Today the school caters to 533 children and provides education upto high school level. Three more school were set up in Koinpur in Gajapati (1992), Thuamul Rampur in Kalahandi (1998) and Rudhapadar in Ganjam District (2002). The four schools together cater to over 1331 children.

At the village level, we provided non-formal education for children in the 6-14 age group. In retrospect, we realise that this was one of our biggest mistakes. The tribal people do have special needs, but non-formal education was only reinforcing the divide between marginalised and mainstream culture. The focus now is on formal education with contextualised pedagogy.

In 1991 we were again in the midst of a people's agitation, this time in Thuamul Rampur, Kalahandi, to stop the government from giving away tribal land to private companies for tea plantations. The people's movement was able to put up a resistance and thwart the efforts of the government and the companies.

Through community organisation, education, and promoting secure livelihoods, ITDP is helping communities to become self-reliant and adapt to the changing conditions of their environment.. The ITDP is the older programmatic intervention of Gram Vikas. It has been the experimenting ground for development strategies and orientations. Over the years it has seen a shift from being welfare driven and service oriented, to one where people's ownership and stakes are defined and withdrawal strategies are gradually finding acceptance and measures for sustainability are being adopted. Since 1998, there has been a strategic re-orientation of the programme, in various sectoral interventions as well as operating strategies. The programme is still in the process of stabilising the changes introduced, especially in the areas of education, livelihoods and infrastructure development. The approach is rights based and the search is for sustainability of the interventions when Gram Vikas withdraws.

The Parallel Stream : Biogas
Housing Programme
RHEP : Towards an Integrated Approach
MANTRA : An Integrated Habitat Development Programme

 

 

The Parallel Stream : Biogas
Parallel to the ITDP is the other significant programme intervention of Gram Vikas Biogas. The two programmes were conceptualised, managed and implemented as different, a divide which is reflected within the organisation even today. But in the beginning, Gram Vikas came to do biogas almost by accident. When we first established base at Mohuda in 1975 there was no access to electricity. All cooking, heating and lighting needs depended on firewood. With the dung produced at the demonstration dairy farm we began using biogas for our own needs. The forests in the vicinity were threatened by indiscriminate felling of trees, both by the locals and by timber traders from the plains. This is when we decided to take the biogas technology to the villagers as a cheap alternative means of energy. Initially, it was taken up mostly in the non-tribal villages where people had more cattle heads.

By 1983, the government took up the promotion of biogas through the National Biogas Development Programme in a big way. By the end of that year, we had developed our own models of biogas plant, and that was the beginning of the expansion of the programmes on a large scale. Between 1984 and 1994, we constructed 54,047 plants in over 6,000 villages spread over 13 (undivided) districts of Orissa, including the tribal dominated districts such as Ganjam, Koraput, Sambalpur and Mayurbhanj. These plants, during the period accounted for about 80% of the biogas plants in Orissa and about 4% of the plants in India.

From 1994 we started the process of spinning off the biogas programme. Our expectation was that it would be possible for our supervisors and trained masons to turn into independent turnkey operators and entrepreneurs with little difficulty. They could facilitate interested farmers to access loans and subsidies for constructing plants, provide the necessary technical support, and work as independent turnkey operators. The large pool of skilled and experienced personnel would work independently or with other local voluntary organisations, to promote biogas all over the state. We encouraged the supervisors and masons to take up entrepreneurship either individually or in small groups or in association with other local bodies. Gram Vikas would continue to provide the technical backup support and the necessary credibility to establish their enterprise. We also made an offer to each one of them that they could return to Gram Vikas, should they fail in their effort. At the end of two years, out of the 500 supervisors who left at the time, only six came back.

In 1997, Gram Vikas conducted a survey of the biogas plants constructed. 82% of the plants constructed by us were still in operation.

The Integrated Tribal Development Programme
Housing Programme
RHEP : Towards an Integrated Approach
MANTRA : An Integrated Habitat Development Programme

 

 

Housing Programme
Gram Vikas provides financial and technical support for building permanent, disaster-resistant houses. In the plain regions, houses are made of brick and cement, with filler slab concrete roof. In inaccessible areas where cement cannot be transported, GCI sheets or tiles are used for the roof. In hilly areas houses are built with locally available stone. As a rule Gram Vikas supports construction of houses with at least 45 square metres of plinth area. Each house has two rooms, a kitchen space and a veranda. The houses are designed such that toilets and bathing rooms can be built alongside each house.

Loans accessed from Housing Development Finance Corporation, Mumbai and Stichting DOEN Foundation, Netherlands have been given by Gram Vikas to selected families for the construction of the houses. The average cost of each house is Rs.45,000. The quantum of loan depends on the type of house being constructed and ranges from Rs.10,000 to Rs.40,000. Gram Vikas also provides training, technical guidance, masons and support for bulk purchase of building materials.

The intervention by Gram Vikas has had an impact on rural housing in the area, both self-financed and government supported, as people are now more conscious about design, costs and quality of construction. The housing finance activity has evolved over the past two decades from a full grant approach to a full loan approach. Experiences have been varied in terms of people's involvement, ability and attitude to repay. Establishing the loan-based approach has been slow as most government housing schemes operate on a full grant approach. The process of accessing government grants is however ridden by bureaucratic concessions and there are very few allotments each year.

People spend a considerable amount of time collecting materials and contributing labour towards construction of the house. During this period, the income of an entire household is only nearly enough for them to eke out a subsistence. Hence, they are unable to service the loan for the initial two-three years. This is where the ‘credit-cum-subsidy’ of the government fits in. Under this scheme, a subsidy of Rs. 12,500 would be available from the government for a BPL family, which accesses a housing loan from formal financial institutions. The subsidy that the government proposes to give to the households can actually go towards alleviating their burden of loan repayment for the first two to three years.

After persistent efforts in lobbying with the state and para-statal institutions, Gram Vikas has presently been recognised by the state government as the nodal agency for propagation of the ‘credit-cum-subsidy’ programme. With this, Gram Vikas also shoulders the responsibility of not allowing this to become just another target-oriented programme and making sure that high standards are maintained in the quality of construction and the processes followed during and in the run up to the programme.

The Integrated Tribal Development Programme
The Parallel Stream : Biogas
RHEP : Towards an Integrated Approach
MANTRA : An Integrated Habitat Development Programme

 


RHEP : Towards an Integrated Approach
In the early '90s, we began to take stock of where we were and what we wanted to do. Through the biogas programme, we had started working with poor non-tribal communities as well. The overriding problem here was health. Unless every family in the village had healthy living practices, there was no hope of total development. This conviction formed the backbone of the Rural Health and Environment Programme. Started in the early '90s, RHEP is an effort to find a way in which the community as a whole has a stake in development. We began by dealing with the immediate problem of hygienic sanitation practices. A process of total development, based initially on building toilet and sanitation units, was a difficult concept for anyone to accept. Many of our staff were disbelieving, the communities we approached had their reservations, and no donor agency would believe in it. We started in a small way in five pilot villages covering 337 families, building on the contact we had established during the biogas programme in 1992. In 1998, we expanded the programme to include 40 more villages covering 3,078 families.

By the end of March 2013, 60,739 families in 1043 villages have been covered (from the year 1992 to 2013). The characteristic features of RHEP are that, it involves every family in the village without exception, and the initiation of the programme is subject to the generation of a corpus fund by the village, to which every household contributes Rs.1,000 on an average. Other norms for the implementation of RHEP, which is a time bound programme spanning 3-5 years, are listed out and a formal agreement is signed by the village executive committee (with representation of men and women) and Gram Vikas prior to programme initiation in the village. The defined systems of financial and institutional management at the community level has other spin-offs in revitalising education, health, strengthening leadership, improving the status of women in the villages, improved access to development resources from the government, etc.

The RHEP is designed in such a way that it enables the community to be self-reliant. In its evolution it has drawn on the strengths of both ITDP and the Biogas experience, and there is every effort to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated. The experiences of Gram Vikas in development over the past two decades have made us believe that people realise their power and believe in their abilities when a threshold quality of life is reached. Sanitation or water or housing is not an issue in itself; it is a small step towards a larger goal. It is a part of the process that will enable the people to decide their own destiny. It is the journey out of a life as victims of circumstances, to one where they are the makers of their own destinies. We are convinced that our role is to help communities, bogged down by decades of neglect, reach that threshold quality of life. After that, it is the people who decide, direct and manage development. This conviction has helped us to remain partners or facilitators and not agents or administrators of development initiatives in the rural villages.

The Integrated Tribal Development Programme
The Parallel Stream : Biogas
Housing Programme
MANTRA : An Integrated Habitat Development Programme

 

 

MANTRA : An Integrated Habitat Development Programme
MANTRA defines the strategic orientation that Gram Vikas has chosen to adopt, seeking to unify the parallel approaches being followed in the Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP) and the Rural Health and Environment Programme (RHEP).

ITDP was started in 1979. It is coordinated from six project offices in three districts of Orissa – Ganjam, Gajapati and Kalahandi. The programme operates in adivasi regions in remote and inaccessible habitations, where there is an acute shortage of even the minimal government infrastructure and basic services.

RHEP was initiated in 1992, with the goal of improving the living conditions and economic opportunities of poor rural communities, and creation of sustainable habitations though convergent community action. The programme uses water and sanitation as the entry point activity, mobilizing communities to come together across social barriers to plan, build and manage water and sanitation systems through an innovative set of integrated social, institutional and financial processes. Further interventions are undertaken on the basis of the improved well-being and greater cohesion of the community fostered by the water and sanitation intervention.

MANTRA is the evolution of the participatory, equitable and replicable approach of RHEP combined with the lessons learnt from ITDP as well as the experiences of staff and the organisation in working with rural communities in Orissa for more than a quarter century.
MANTRA facilitates the united and capacitated communities to undertake development activities based on a combination of the following focal areas:

  • Self-Governing People’s institutions
  • Health
  • Education
  • Livelihoods and Food Security
  • Enabling Infrastructure


Gram Vikas’ responses are context specific, based on the needs and priorities of the communities covered by various programme interventions. Given the diverse social and economic situation of the communities, the relative importance of the sectors varies across regions and communities.

MANTRA is undertaken with clear sustainability mechanisms established from the outset facilitating systematic role transformation and the incremental transfer of responsibility to the communities themselves. A typical programme cycle is between 3 to 5 years after which Gram Vikas withdraws from the habitation and the community takes full responsibility for the management, operation and maintenance of all systems thereafter.

Gram Vikas aspires to work with 1% of Orissa’s population, approximately 100,000 families by 2015, or roughly 500,000 people, covering 1% of the total projected population of Orissa (for 2015). Towards forming ‘critical masses’, Gram Vikas will attempt to reach 20% of the population in each of the Gram Panchayats that become a part of MANTRA. Similar efforts will be made for aggregation of critical masses at the block, district and eventually at the state level.

In addition to its own engagement with communities across 22 districts of Orissa, Gram Vikas is increasingly working with other NGOs in Orissa and other states across India. The aim of these partnerships is to draw on the experience and capabilities of Gram Vikas to enhance the capacities of partner organisations and enable them to implement similar systems in their operational areas.

 


ORISSA - A Development Snapshot
National statistics indicate that Orissa is the poorest state in India. In each of the decades since 1970, the rate of growth in Orissa has lagged behind the national average. The gap has been the worst in the 1990s, with Orissa's rate of growth at 4.3% compared to the national average of 6.7%. The key area of weakness has been the agriculture sector, with agricultural production, which accounts for 32% of gross state domestic product and 64% of employment, stagnating in per capita terms.

According to the census data available (2001) Orissa has a population of close to 37 million, of which 88% live in rural areas. Despite its natural advantages, average per capita income is only 73% of the national average, with 47% of the population, around 17.8 million people, living below the poverty line. Poverty is significantly worse in the western and southern districts of the state, which have a higher proportion of adivasis and dalits. Health and education facilities function poorly, communication and transport are underdeveloped, and local resources are grossly under-utilised.

Adivasi and dalit communities together form about 39% of the total population (Scheduled tribes - 22.5% and Scheduled castes - 16.5%). Constitutionally bracketed as 'scheduled', people belonging to these sections of the society have been deprived for centuries and even today find themselves at the bottom of the rung in economic and human development indicators.

Through its direct outreach programmes Gram Vikas works in 943 villages across 23 districts covering 59,132 families of which 39% are adivasis, 14% are dalits and the remainder are from general castes, mostly poor and marginal farmers. The work is concentrated in the South and South Western parts of the state and two districts in the north.

Disasters - natural and man-made frequent Orissa. Droughts, cyclones, floods and even minor earthquakes ravage people's lives periodically compounding the situation of poverty. The western parts of the State, where monsoon failure and crop destruction is almost an annual feature, a large number of families - mostly landless dalits - migrate to cities and towns outside Orissa.

Literacy rates in rural areas is 58% (71% for males and 44% for females) as compared to the state average of 63% (76% males and 50% females). High rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality contribute to the image of being a poor and backward state.

80% of the instances of morbidity and mortality cases in rural areas are caused by water-borne diseases. Less than 7% of rural households have access to safe sanitation, less than 20% of rural population has access to protected water and no more than 1% to piped water supply. Orissa has less labour opportunities for female population – the total women workforce representing only 31%. More than 70% households have no electricity connection.