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Bihar Inclusion Utsav

18 December 2015 Share: facebook share twitter share

The Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme celebrated its seven-year long journey of creating leadership and empowering socially excluded communities in Bihar by holding a three-day closing ceremony - ‘PACS Inclusion Utsav’ - in Patna on December 16-18 2015.

The three-day event was attended by eminent personalities from Bihar and experts from various fields. It proved to be an inspiring platform for community leaders, representatives from PACS partner Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), PACS programme officials and government officials to share their experiences gathered during the PACS programme in the State. It also gave the stakeholders an opportunity to discuss ideas, especially the sustainability of the campaigns initiated by PACS and the strategies of the CSOs and CBOs to continue their work with socially excluded communities after closure of the PACS programme.

PACS in Bihar: a summary

Continuing its fight against chronic poverty and social exclusion in Bihar, the PACS programme has impacted the lives of 2,254,454 people from socially excluded communities in the State in 4012 villages of 16 districts. Working with 33 CSO partners, 2887 CBOs were formed involving 45,209 people, 94% of whom belong to socially excluded communities.

Find out more about PACS work in Bihar.

Day 1

Session 1: Inauguration
The inaugural session of the event began with CBO members and community leaders presenting inspiring songs, poems and slogans to enthuse the gathering.

The first session was chaired by Professor Shaibal Gupta from the Asian Development Research Institute, while Ms. Manju Verma (Minister of Social Welfare Department) was the Chief Guest on the occasion.

 Chairperson Professor Shaibal Gupta addresses the inaugural session of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav, speaking about how PACS has been a “catalytic agent” in enabling the government to effectively implement welfare schemes.

Deliberating on the journey of PACS in Bihar the PACS National Programme Manager, Mr. Rajkumar, said, “Our model has worked very well in Bihar, especially in the areas of health, MGNREGA, education and FRA/Land Rights. We have created a huge social capital here and the network of CSOs and CBOs in 15 districts needs to be utilised by the government further.”

PACS State Manager for Bihar, Ms. Arti Verma, went through the journey showing a presentation on how the State team has been working with CSOs making communities stronger to eradicate social exclusion. She gave examples including how they identified 1200 families from one district still engaged in manual scavenging and how 650 families among them have been rehabilitated. She also highlighted how more than 67,000 women have been engaged in the PACS programme, over one lakh people have raised work demands under MGNREGA, 18,000 people have filed claims for land rights and hundreds of cases of discrimination have been identified.

During the discourse a video clip from Asha Devi – a video journalist from Jehanabad district, trained under the PACS Community Correspondents programme - was also shown. “I have gathered enough courage and encouragement to come out of home through the PACS programme. This feeling of liberation is wonderful. I will continue my work to uplift the lives of women in my community,” said Asha Devi.

Pratima Kumari (supported as part of the PACS Changelooms programme for young leaders) also came onto the stage to share her experiences: “I worked in the field to address the problem of gender discrimination. There was no equal enrolment of boys and girls in schools in my area. We made groups and taught the girls in the locality about their rights through games, video messages and books. Finally, the girls have started coming out of their houses, playing, studying and living a free life. Parents have also understood the importance of educating their daughters.”

Principal Secretary of SC and ST Welfare Department - Government of Bihar, Shri S.M. Raju, praised the work done under the PACS programme specifically commending the achievements in FRA/Land Rights and MGNREGA. Shri Raju said that communities need to use the legacy of PACS and work with the government with greater zeal to get the benefits of social schemes.

Bihar State Women’s Commission Chairperson, Ms. Anjum Ara, presented a vivid picture of women’s rights in the state as she said that it is still difficult to ensure right to equality for women due to the social set up: “Women’s issues should be the focus of our work. This is not a conclusion but a new beginning. With all the experiences of PACS, the social sector, government machinery and people at large must take the campaign forward to eradicate social discrimination and empower the poor and the marginalised.”

 Chairperson of the State Women’s Commission, Anjum Ara, addresses the inaugural session of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav, speaking about women’s rights.

SC Commission Chairperson of Bihar, Vidyanand Vikal, said on the occasion that the government needed informed and empowered citizens. “PACS has provided momentum to the government programmes and we have to take a resolve to lead the mission forward to start a new innings in the year 2016,” he said.

Social Welfare Minister of Bihar, Ms. Manju Verma, said, “I have gone through the immense struggle to reach this position and I know what it takes to be born in a socially excluded community... We have to understand that the need to work with civil society is greater in today’s context. I appeal to everyone to continue one’s work for the socially excluded communities.”

 Social Welfare Minister of Bihar, ManjuVerma, addresses the inaugural session of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav, speaking about the need to work with socially excluded communities.

Professor Shaibal Gupta from the Asian Development Research Institute in Patna talked about the government’s role as a provider, while he called PACS an enabler. “The PACS programme in Bihar and other states has been a very strong step towards professional enabling…the process of enabling has worked as a catalytic agent to enable government to effectively implement welfare schemes,” he said, adding that the work of social enabling must continue with collaboration between communities and government in Bihar.

Session 2: Health
The inaugural session was followed by a session on PACS work in the field of health in Bihar. The session was chaired by Shri Prakash Kumar, Head of Bihar Technical Assistance Team, attended by Dr Shakeel from PACS partner CHARM and Shri Bhaskar Mishra from PACS partner Yatharth, among other dignitaries.

 Speakers on the health panel release a report on Verbal Autopsy during the second session of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav.

During the discussion speakers talked about how access to health services has been a challenge for socially excluded communities and how the PACS programme has been helpful in making needy people aware of their rights to basic health services.

Shri Prakash Kumar said that access to health services has improved but not as much as they expected. He cited instances of how a SC community woman was ill treated by doctors at a health institution during her delivery. “The communities that have been made aware of their rights need to spread the word to make others enlightened,” he said.

 Head of the Bihar Technical Assistance Team, Prakash Kumar, speaks at the health session of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav, reiterating about the importance of making socially excluded communities aware of their health rights.

Shri Bhaskar Mishra talked about the PACS work in making people aware of RSBY and how thousands of beneficiaries have been benefitted during the last 4-5 years. “PACS gave us a very good issue to work on. We have to stay attached to the cause even after the project concludes,” he said.

Kulwanti Devi, a CBO member from Nalanda district came on the stage to share her story. “We had no idea of reproductive and child health, vaccinations, hospitalisation, RSBY or JSY. Moreover, dalit women were treated badly at health centres. PACS made us work in groups as we started holding meetings to spread awareness. Regular meetings and efforts have been really fruitful as we can now get better health facilities and are also aware of the schemes that are meant for us,” she said.

Session 3: Education
The last session of Day 1 was chaired by the renowned educationalist and Principal Secretary for Vigilance - Government of Bihar, Shri Vijay Prakash.

It began with a presentation on inclusive education in Bihar by PACS partner Deshkal Society, focussing on how there was low enrolment and high dropout rates of Dalit kids in schools and how PACS community mobilisation with CSOs has done wonders in the field. Spreading awareness about Right to Education, government schemes for students ultimately resulted in lower dropout rates and high enrolment figures.

 Speakers on the education panel release a report on inclusive education at the third session of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav.

Mridula Prakash from the Association for Promotion of Creative Learning said, “This is not the closure of the campaign but the beginning of a new journey. We have to continue working for the people who need us most and with a greater energy and enthusiasm.”

Shri Prakash concluded the session with a pat on PACS’ back: “Developing social leadership is very important and you [PACS] have done it very effectively. Everyone attached with the programme has to understand that this is a social revolution. And, revolutions never end. They continue from one person to another.”

 Agriculture Production Commissioner cum Principle Secretary of the Vigilance Department, Vijay Prakash, addresses the audience at the education session of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav, talking about the legacy of PACS.

Day 2

Session 4: Land and Forest Rights
The session on FRA and land rights began with singing of inspirational songs by CBO members setting the right environment for discussions and sharing of ideas.

PACS State Manager for Bihar, Arti Verma, summarised how PACS has worked on FRA and Land Rights in the State, sensitising communities and government officials in 1153 villages of 10 districts. Arti informed the gathering that 18,272 households had filed claims after PACS intervention out of which 10,009 families have received ‘Parcha’ and ‘Parwana’ of their land rights.

Shri Sanjay Kumar from PACS partner Deshkal Society showed a presentation highlighting how 480 villages from 4 blocks in Gaya district were covered during the programme, enabling 10,426 people to file applications for land rights. “Bihar was second after West Bengal in terms of homelessness,” he reflected. “It is still a grave problem here… but the CBOs have worked very well on their own to address the problem.” He then added, “Even after the end of the PACS programme we can provide momentum to the work going on. The knowledge given by you [PACS] stays with us and the communities.”

Shri Anindo Banerjee from Praxis said that the PACS programme had focussed on inclusion during its work. “The focus was not only on talks and paper but was also on deeds, which led to prominent results. Certainly, the programme is not at end but has actually begun afresh,” he said.

Shri Vyas Ji Mishra, Principal Secretary of the Revenue and Land Reforms Department - Government of Bihar, praised the PACS programme for taking forward the work on land and FRA at the grassroots level. He went on to say that, “PACS has supplied oxygen to CSOs and CBOs. But the agenda of land reforms is an unfinished agenda and a lot of work is yet to be done in the State so the show must go on.” Indeed, Shri Pradeep Priyadarshi from PACS partner PGVS noted that over six lakh families are still homeless in Bihar.

 Principle Secretary - Department of Revenue and Land Reforms, Vyas Jee Mishra, addresses the gathering during the land rights session on the second day of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav.

Professor K.B. Saxena, Former Union Secretary - Government of India, has been attached with PACS since the beginning of the programme and said, at first, he was deeply concerned that it was concluding: “The vaccum that will be created after the withdrawal of PACS for CSOs and CBOs will be very difficult to fill.”

However, he gave very useful suggestions to CSOs, CBO members and government officials: “For the first time in Bihar I can see some sort of congregation among government officials, NGOs and political organisations. The PACS aided organisations should not abruptly withdraw from their works. Core committees should be formed at the district and block levels and these committees should be institutionalised so that CSOs and CBO members get stability, support and confidence. This institutionalisation will take place only with legal and administrative support and provisions should be made for the same in the Land Bill itself.”

 Chairperson and former Union Secretary, Professor K.B. Saxena, speaks on land rights at the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav. He talks about the importance of forming land rights core committees in the State.

Professor Saxena also advised Panchayati Raj Institutions to be included as an active part of the rights awareness programme, training revenue department officials for speedy dispersal of cases, capacity building of forest rights committee members and simplifying processes to remove bottlenecks in claim filing.

A kit including documents portraying work on FRA and land rights in Bihar was released by the dignitaries on the occasion, followed by CBO members like Sohan Ram and Hemraj from West Champaran district talking about their fight to secure land rights.

Session 5: MGNREGA
The second session on MGNREGA was chaired by Shri Anindo Banerjee from Praxis and attended by dignitaries including the Social Audit Officer from the Rural Development Department, Shri Subhendra Sanyal, Shri Gurjeet Singh from NIRD and Smt. Archana Tiwari from JEEVIKA, along with a number of community leaders who shared their experiences of the programme.

 Gurjeet Singh from NIRD addresses the gathering during the second day of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav. Joining him on the MGNREGA panel is Shubhendra Sanyal (Social Audit Officer), Archana Tiwari (State Project Manager - Social Development from JEEVIKA) and Anindo Benerjee (from Praxis).

Mr. Vivek from the PACS Bihar team showed a presentation summarising the work of PACS on MGNREGA in the State. The programme has worked in 2142 villages in 83 blocks in 11 districts of Bihar, engaging 10 CSOs with key interventions of work demand generation, social audit campaigns, enhancing participation of people in grass-roots planning and ensuring gender equity in MGNREGA work.

The presentation revealed that lakhs of people have benefitted through the programme and thousands of assets have been created for socially excluded communities. A huge social capital has also been created, including women mates, social auditors, master trainers and social audit volunteers. During the 4-year journey, 1128 CBOs have been formed and around Rs.25 crore has been earned as MGNREGA wages by community members.

Speakers shared how intensive training and awareness programmes have helped communities to claim their rights, how women’s participation has increased as a result and inclusive social audits have ensured less corruption by authorities involved in the work. CBO members also shared their stories focusing on the benefits of the programme and the challenges they have faced, especially hurdles such as influential people in their locality threatening them and lodging cases. But they told how they have fought back bravely and won the battle against discrimination.

Anil Paswan of PACS partner PGVS said, “The villagers are empowered now. Even after the end of the programme they know that their voices will be heard. So they will continue to work for creating awareness.”

Akhtari Begum from Bihar MGNREGA Adhikar Manch said, “Wherever the PACS programme was working, people got their rights. Today there is a huge force of women working in villages across the State.”

Speaking as an expert on social audit, Shri Gurjeet Singh from the NIRD said, “I believe that the PACS work will be taken forward with more vigour and enthusiasm as the people of Bihar are enlightened and are capable of carrying the legacy of the programme. However, we need a new energy to take the mission ahead.”

Bihar State Social Audit Officer, Shri Shubhendu Sanyal, expressed his gratitude towards the people of the State for their engagement in the programme: “Bihar got a huge labour budget passed last year. It was possible only because of you. The social audit campaign gained momentum because of PACS,” he said. “I expect all of you will continue giving energy to the work. Although the PACS umbrella may not be there, you have to remain together and work well to achieve the goals.”

 Social Audit Officer - Rural Development Department, Shubhendra Sanyal, speaks at the MGNREGA session on the second day of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav, talking about the momentum that PACS gave the social audit campaign.

Anindo Banerjee of Praxis summed up the session saying, “The PACS programme has worked well collaborating with CSOs and the government to ensure that the socially excluded communities get their rights. The interventions will be really helpful in pushing the MGNREGA programme further.”

Day 3

Session 6: Conclusion and Celebration
On the concluding day of the Inclusion Utsav, over 600 CBO members gathered to celebrate their journey of inclusion at Rabindra Bhawan in Patna. It was a day of celebration as people sang songs, raised slogans and cheered for the success of community leaders as they shared their stories on the stage.

The session started with a welcome song by community members followed by success stories of community leaders, including Indradev Paswan from Van Adhikar Manch, Manju Devi from Bhoomi Adhikar Morcha, Roshan Kumar from Bihar Viklang Kalyan Parishad, and Devendra das Akhil Bhartiya from MGNREGA Mazdoor Union. They shared their stories about how they defeated the fear inside them and raised voices to get their rights. The leaders got a very enthusiastic response from the audience.

The Director of PACS partner CHARM, Dr Shakeel, spoke about the social exclusion of the Muslim community, especially of Muslim women. “Every 7th person in Bihar is a Muslim and, according to the Sachar Committee report, the condition of Muslims is even worse than dalits. We have tried our best in the last 5 years to curb social exclusion and have been successful to a great extent. PACS has been successful in ensuring access to rights for the people living on the edge.”

Speaking on the occasion, the Chairperson of Bihar Minority Commission, Abdul Salam, commended the work under PACS and assured that he would make the issue of social exclusion a priority in his work: “I assure you that whatever work you have given us to review will be taken care of. A survey will be conducted to understand the status of Muslims in terms of health, education and access to livelihood resources.”

 Chairperson for the State Minority Commission, Abdul Salam, addresses hundreds of community members on the third day of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav, assuring the audience that the Commission will review all issues.

PACS Country Director, Mr Anand Kumar Bolimera, welcomed and greeted community leaders saying, “We are meeting here not just to conclude the programme. We are begging at the end for you to take forward the journey of empowerment. The PACS programme has taken thousands of people ahead. The empowered communities and persons are in no way going to end their journey. This is the celebration of the process of empowerment not the end of the programme.”

The celebration then continued with stories from community leaders like Ramapati Devi from Nalanda district who worked in the field of education to ensure the education rights of dalit children. Usha Devi from Katihar told her story of awareness about land rights, while Roshan Kumar from Viklang Manch shared his story of being aware of his rights and making other people aware of the rights of the disabled.

Anita Devi, a CBO member from Kishanganj district said, “It feels bad that PACS is concluding but even if PACS is going I feel so empowered today that I can raise an army of hundreds of informed women who are working for ensuring rights to people.”

The Chairperson of Bihar State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Smt. Nisha Jha, said that PACS has strengthened the voices of people in Bihar. “Panchayati Raj Institutions should also be empowered to fill the delivery gaps,” she said, adding, “After every conclusion there is a beginning. Even if the name gets changed the voices will be the same.”

 Chairperson for the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Nisha Jha, addresses the gathering on the final day of the Bihar PACS Inclusion Utsav.

The Joint Secretary of Bihar Legal Services Authority, Manoj Tiwari, and Chairperson of Bihar State Commission for Scheduled Castes, Vidyanad Vikal, recognised that the work of PACS in producing leadership among socially excluded communities has been exemplary.

A group of school students, who were part of the PACS extended family presented a beautiful cultural programme at the end of the session getting a standing ovation from the audience.

The seven-year-long journey of PACS in Bihar ended with a feeling of contentment and invigoration among communities. As Mr. Kumar Bolimera said in his closing remarks, “Only the project is ending today but the journey will continue in Bihar with empowered citizens.”

 School children perform a cultural dance at the end of the final session of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Bihar.

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