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Chhattisgarh Inclusion Utsav

12 February 2016 Share: facebook share twitter share

The Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme celebrated its five-year journey of creating leadership and empowering socially excluded communities in Chhattisgarh by holding a two-day closing ceremony – PACS Inclusion Utsav - in Raipur from 11-12 February 2016.

The Inclusion Utsav in Chhattisgarh was a celebration of community leadership, showcasing the impact of the PACS programme and its partners in the State. The Utsav provided a common platform for PACS and its stakeholders to share their voices with the decision-makers present.

PACS in Chhattisgarh

With thematic coverage across five areas – MGNREGA, Skill Development, Education Rights, the Forest Rights Act and Health and Nutrition - the PACS programme in Chhattisgarh has successfully impacted 1,250,762 people and reached 9 districts, 47 blocks and 1890 villages.

Over the course of the programme more than 1900 trainings and workshops have been held, strengthening the 1645 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) that have been formed, 91% of whom are led by people from socially excluded groups.

Find out more about PACS work in Chhattisgarh.

Day 1

Session 1: Inauguration
The inaugural session of the event began with a dance performance by the Bastar tribe, followed by some community leaders from PACS partner Rachna Manch presenting inspiring songs to enthuse the gathering.

The first session gave an overview of the PACS intervention in Chhattisgarh. The session was presided over by Shri Sharad Behar, Ex-Chief Secretary - Government of Madhya Pradesh. Shri Amarjeet Bhagat, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) – Sitapur, obliged as chief guest.

Shri Sharad Behar, Ex-Chief Secretary - Government of Madhya Pradesh, inaugurates the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Chhattisgarh with the traditional lighting of the lamp ceremony.

State Manager for PACS in Chhattisgarh, Ms. Rebecca David, elaborated on all thematic interventions. She highlighted some strategies that PACS has used as a means to create impact including organising trainings and workshops for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and CBOs, engaging with the relevant government departments, using media as a tool to disseminate learning and carrying out research to understand the root cause of the problems. “It is a moment of pride for us at PACS to see all our stakeholders on one platform today to discuss the way forward,” she said.

To reflect on the work done by PACS on skill development, Rupesh from IndiaCan took to the stage to share his experience. IndiaCan have partnered with PACS since 2011 and together as part of the PACS programme they have trained 1800 youth from socially excluded groups. Out of these, 1450 are successfully placed in jobs today. “PACS brought out people who had been left far behind in the society. PACS allowed these citizens to see themselves as empowered, strong and independent people who can contribute to the economy,” he said.  He applauded PACS’ effort to bring women into the mainstream, stating that 70% of their students are women.

Balraj and Nipen Shukla from another skills partner - Don Bosco Tech Society - familiarised the gathering about their work with PACS. Of the 814 youth trained by them, more than 600 have so far been placed. They elaborated on their model of working, which mobilises young people to enrol themselves and also generates awareness and motivation among parents to encourage their children to acquire skills through training.

CBO Leader and Sarpanch (Village Head), Naval Kujur from Surguja district, shared his story on the fight for forest land rights. He attributed all that he knows today to PACS. “It is PACS’ continuous engagement with us that has made all the impact. Of the 200 claims filed in my village, 98 have been accepted. We will continue our work in this direction,” he said.

Amarjeet Bhagat, MLA - Sitapur, shared the government’s perspective. Acknowledging PACS’ contribution in the field of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) he reflected, “PACS has taught people to speak by making them aware of their rights. However, a lot of work still needs to be done. Leadership and support is still required.” He mentioned that the Act has been in place since 2006, but the lack of implementation has been due to lack of will. He concluded that the government is continuously working towards effective implementation of FRA.

Minister of Legislative Assembly, Amarjeet Bhagat, speaks about the need to continue improving the implementation of the FRA.

Rajpati is a CBO leader who has been supported by PACS partner CARMDAKSH. She reflected on her journey to make Mid-Day Meals better. She stated that PACS explained the importance of a union to them. She created a cluster of 100 women in her village as a means to represent their demands in the Gram Sabha (Village Meeting). Their voices are heard today and this cluster is now a district-level federation of 3000 women.

Director of PACS partner Samarthan, Dr. Yogesh Kumar, detailed his experience of working in villages impacted by the PACS programme. “I can assure you that PACS work will continue through its partners. Their strength is inspiring and formidable,” he said. However, he also posed certain challenges that still exist. For example, while CBOs have been built at the village-level, the federations are not strong enough at block and district level. In addition, people in the villages need to rise above the issues of caste, gender and religion to work towards development.

Sharad Behar, Ex-Chief Secretary - Government of MP, closed the session and shared his thoughts. “As community leaders, CBOs and CSOs should now identify a model towards self-sustainability and independence. Furthermore, you should identify other smaller organisations and support them like PACS has supported you,” he said. He made a critical point that PACS has done its job - the CBOs and CSOs are now empowered and aware enough to identify the issues in their regions and address them. He stated that the need of the hour is an aware set of citizens who fight for their rights with honesty and principles.

Ex-Chief Secretary - Government of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Sharad Behar, closes the inaugural session of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Raipur, urging CBOs and CSOs to work together to continue the work that PACS has started.

Session 2: MGNREGA
The second session was on PACS work in the field of MGNREGA. The session was chaired by Dr. Yogesh Kumar, Director of PACS partner Samarthan.  The session started with the release of a report on PACS and Samarthan’s work on MGNREGA in Chhattisgarh.

Dr. Yogesh Kumar from PACS partner Samarthan chairs the second session of the PACS Inclusion Utsav on the theme of MGNREGA.

National Programme Manager for PACS, Shri Rajpal, shared a holistic view of the PACS intervention in livelihood rights, especially MGNREGA. Of the 92,000 people who applied for work, more than 85,000 received work. Wages worth 10 crore were generated and 50,000 households completed 100 days of work. He shared strategies adopted by PACS and its partners for better implementation of the act. “The campaign primarily focused on work demand; we called it the ‘Kaam Mango Abhiyan’ [Work Demand Campaign]. Alongside, we also encouraged use of the Integrated Participatory Planning Exercise [IPPE] and trained 100 people across 477 Gram Panchayats,” he said.

Sunita Munda from the PACS Chhattisgarh team also elaborated on the work done by PACS, especially focusing on the social capital of 496 social audit resource persons and 1040 planning resource persons. One of the key achievements is the creation of the Chhattisgarh MGNREGA Majdoor Union, which has more than 10,000 members from nine districts.

CBO leader, Sandeep Kumar Poya, shared his experience: “PACS and [partner] DISHA made us aware about MGNREGA. Based on their training, we built a committee in our village and prepared a labour plan that was presented to the Panchayat. PACS also helped us to procure job cards for many people. Thanks to PACS, people in our village can now demand work with confidence.” CBO leaders Yashni and Gomti from Dhantari district also shared a similar experience highlighting that PACS’ work has led to women’s empowerment by giving them a voice to put forth their demands.

Programme Director for PACS partner CARMDAKSH, Dip Narayan, elaborated on his CSO’s role to increase women’s participation in MGNREGA as well as the Forest Rights Act. He said that bringing together women in a group was the key to success. CARMDAKSH trained these women on IPPE and other essentials of MGNREGA. They encouraged them to raise demand and also share information with other women in the community. This helped them identify and prioritise needs of the hour.

From PACS partner KALP, Abhishek shared some of the work done by them in partnership with PACS. They worked in 2 districts and 151 villages. Their efforts were primarily to strengthen the implementation of IPPE. They also led social audits in 6 blocks with CBOs and government working together. As a way forward, he suggested the formation of district-level MGNREGA forums where CBOs could get together and share common issues. He also encouraged CBOs to increase female participation, especially those who have already been trained. He concluded on a high note saying that, today, 30 trained personnel from different CBOs are representing their communities in Panchayats.

MGNREGA GIZ Consultant - Government of Chhattisgarh, Ms. Namita, stated that the objective of launching IPPE was to do work that directly impacts the people. “IPPE is imperative to the success of MGNREGA. All CBOs and CSOs should continue their work in this field,” she said. A critical point made was the lack of awareness still prevalent. Identifying the role of organisations like PACS and its partners to create on-the-ground awareness, MGNREGA has integrated an initiative called Cluster Facilitating Team that strengthens and supports CSOs to work towards increasing demand.

Adding further to the discussion, Shri Gurjeet - MGNREGA Consultant for the Government of India’s Ministry of Rural Development, acknowledged PACS’ work in the field of raising awareness about rights and entitlements among marginalised groups.  He mentioned that the most important component that needs to be implemented effectively is timely wages. He made some suggestions like specific work to be created for women, senior citizens and persons with disabilities. However, an important point made was in the field of using technology. He said that the government needs to take a sharper look at feasibility before they launch a new system.

Shri Gurjeet - MGNREGA Consultant for the Government of India’s Ministry of Rural Development – praises PACS work, helping socially excluded groups to understand and demand their rights to MGNREGA employment.

Senior Trade Unionist, KK Niyogi, is the technical expert behind the Chhattisgarh MGNREGA Majdoor Union. “The development of a country depends on ensuring equal representation of everyone in the society and PACS is working with that vision,” he stated. He went on to say that PACS’ conclusion is a big milestone and emphasised that the Majdoor Union is made by the people and for the people: “We must now not hesitate to demand our rights.”

Additional Commissioner for Panchayat and Rural Development - Government of Chhattisgarh, Shri Nilesh Kumar, mentioned that all problems highlighted with respect to MGNREGA will be resolved in the coming times. He admitted that the top-down approach by the government has not worked and all consequent changes to the Act and its provisions will involve planning and inputs from those who are on the ground. He reiterated, “The success of IPPE can be attributed to PACS and the likes of it.” He also introduced Project Life - a programme for sustainable employment. Those who have completed 100 work days under MGNREGA will be given opportunity and resources for skill development, self-employment and livelihood up-grading.

To conclude the session, Dr. Yogesh Kumar from Samarthan said, “it is evident that wherever PACS has worked, we can hear MGNREGA success stories.” He stated that no discrimination should be tolerated and there should be fair selection of people for Project Life. He concluded that the social capital created by PACS must be used to its full potential.

Session 3: Education Rights
The last session of the day was on PACS’ contribution to education rights in the State. It was chaired by Mr Prashanta Dash, - Chief Field Officer for UNICEF in Chhattisgarh.  

Chief Functionary of PACS partner Shikhar Yuva Manch, Bhupesh, shared the work done by PACS. He stated that the objective was for 100% of eligible children to be enrolled in school. He elaborated on the strategies adopted by them which included training CBOs, running advocacy campaigns, building unions, creating Bal Panchayats (Children’s Parliaments) and implementing a tracking system to measure progress. Community implementation and monitoring came out as key measures to ensure the success of any development related intervention, especially education.

Bhupesh, Chief Functionary of PACS partner SYM, explains the strategies employed by them to ensure that all children are accessing their right to education.

A School Management Committee (SMC) member, Vijay Kumat, shared his experience. He mentioned that the standard of education is his village was really poor. “PACS introduced the SMC programme in 2011 and everything has changed since,” he said. They formed a union called the Shikhsa Vikas Manch that took the initiative to improve the situation of education rights in his village. He mentioned that over time they have been able to open a high school with an adequate number of teachers and enrolled almost all eligible children. “Education is the only tool that can take India back to its glory,” he concluded.

National Programme Manager for PACS, Shri Rajpal, elaborated on the PACS Behtar Shiksha Hak Abhiyan (Right to Quality Education Campaign) - an advocacy campaign and strategy that involved improving community monitoring, working towards the betterment of education and ensuring proper implementation of the SMC programme. Under this campaign, RTI (Right to Information) requests were also filed to understand the status of the provisions of RTE (Right to Education) that have not been fully implemented. Lastly, he suggested trainings for teachers to identify and address discrimination cases in schools. This technique was implemented in Bihar under the PACS programme and is currently being considered by the Bihar Government for becoming an official process.

Technical Expert for Education, Seshadri Giri, stated that education is not a service that can be acquired but something where individual effort needs to be invested. Hence, he emphasised, it is very important for an individual to have the attitude and motivation to educate themselves. “The only way to improve the current standard of education in villages is strict community monitoring. PACS partners should continue their work in that direction,” he said.

Regional Manager for OXFAM India - Anand Shukla - said, “The PACS programme has reached the deepest set places and socially excluded groups have emerged as empowered leaders.” However, he also shared his worries that, despite so much work having been done by CSOs, a lot of schools face the threat of being closed, highlighting that there is still a long way to go.

Chairperson of the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights - Government of Chhattisgarh, Shatabdi Pandey, reinforced that the work must not stop. PACS contribution should be treated as training and all the initiatives must continue.  She encouraged SMC leaders present in the audience to share their work and applauded their efforts.

A School Management Committee member stands up to share her experiences during the session on education at the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

Chief Field Officer for UNICEF - Chhattisgarh, Prashanta Dash, concluded the session reiterating the need for non-discriminatory access to education. “Social capital is the biggest asset PACS has created for Chhattisgarh,” he said. He mentioned that time investment as well as monetary resources are imperative as there is still a long way to go to ensure education access for all.

Day 2

Session 4: Forest Rights
The second day started with a session on forest rights. In Chhattisgarh, 44% of land is under the Forest Department and the livelihood of 70% of the tribal population is dependent on them. Hence, effective implementation of this Act is critical for many in the state. This session was chaired by Shri Anupam Trivedi, Officer on Special Duty - Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Chhattisgarh.

National Programme Manager for PACS, Shri Rajpal, gave a broad view of PACS work in the area of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The programme has worked across 13 districts with seven partners and facilitated more than 17,000 claims of which 44% are under process and 39% have been rejected. The key strategies were to create a working relationship between the government and civil societies and create a cadre of leaders who would take the work forward. Through the 524 trainings held, a social capital of 9219 members has been created.

Many learnings have been generated through this process including the importance of outreach to CSOs, clarity and transparency among all stakeholders,  maintaining a balance between priorities and expectations, sharing resources and  capacity sharing and building with local functionaries.

CBO leader, Kanhaiyalal, shared his experience: “PACS has given us direction and made us aware about our rights. It is only through PACS that we know about FRA. Our fight is full of struggles but we continue to be passionate and continue our fight.”

Community Leader, Kanhaiyalal, shares his experiences of fighting for land rights under the Forest Rights Act.

Another CBO leader, Jainanadan, from the Surguja district of Chhattisgarh highlighted the importance of the programme as most villages in the district depend on the forest as a means of livelihood. “PACS’ continuous effort towards effective implementation of FRA through advocacy and awareness has helped us to create a committee within villages to take the work forward,” he said.

State Coordinator for PACS partner PRAYOG, Arun Kumar, stated that lack of effective implementation of FRA should be questioned and that a deep understanding of the issues is required. He mentioned that an important element to make impact is to create a strengthened relationship with the people. While counting PRAYOG’s achievements, he mentioned that PACS has helped to make this local issue a national one and the support bringing together CSOs and CBOs has been commendable. However, he concluded that, “A lot of effort has not yielded any result. The main challenges are resources and funds required for sustainability.” He also added that he felt CSOs and CBOs would be able to create more impact if they felt accountable to the public for their work.

Director of PACS partner Chaupal, Gangaram, mentioned that the PACS programme has changed their perspective on working with the government, encouraging them to build a partnership with them. He highlighted that the Global Positioning System (GPS) mapping tool has been one of the biggest victories as it allows complete transparency in filing claims and acceptance. However, he reiterated that a lack of resources is a very big challenge that needs to be addressed.

Chief Conservator of Forests – Raipur, Arun Pandey, started on the note that, while CSOs are working in full force to create awareness about the FRA, the government is also trying to implement it effectively. He discussed an important point on rejections where he mentioned that a lot of them are due to false claims. “The effort by PACS, its partners and the government towards implementation of FRA should and will continue. I hope it will help people demand their rights but also motivate people to raise voice against those filing false claims,” he said.

Arun Pandey, Chief Conservator of Forests for Raipur, encourages attendees at the Chhattisgarh PACS Inclusion Utsav to continue demanding their rights under the Forest Rights Act.

From NGO Shrishti, Keshav Gurnule elaborated on the importance of awareness about specific provisions of the Act. He said that people should join hands with PACS and its partners to understand the details. Citing an example, he said that Section 41E of the Act says that a committee should be formed with at least 11 people to ensure proper dissemination of information as well as implementation, which is in-line with the strategy of PACS and its partners. He concluded that building a proper strategy is of utmost importance.

Team Leader for DFID-CCIP (a DFID programme to strengthen the resilience of India’s poor to climate change), Mr. Dhanpal, introduced the audience to the Jalvayu Parivartan - an initiative to address climate change. While the working model is still under process, he invited CSOs to partner with DFID on this endeavour.

Director of the Liberty Institute, Barun Mitra, reflected on the use of technology. As the face behind GPS mapping, he said that use of technology is the right way to bridge the gap between FRA claims and rejections. He went on to say that GPS mapping gives the strongest and most objective view on filed claims. “The time, resources and effort invested by PACS is appreciated and acknowledged by all,” he concluded.

From land rights organisation Ekta Parishad, Shri Ramesh Sharma took the stage to reiterate the challenges of the FRA. He particularly pointed out that the onus of filing a claim should not be on the people. The misattribution of land by the Forest Department is a result of historical mistakes and injustice and should be addressed by those in power. He concluded that he hoped for better implementation and fair distribution in the future.

Shri Ramesh Sharma from land rights organisation Ekta Parishad urges the government to continue to improve the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in Chhattisgarh.

To close the session, Shri Arun Pandey addressed some of the questions raised by Shri Rajesh Sharma. He said that the forest land share is bound to reduce due to increased land demand. He also clarified that FRA is not an Act for redistribution of land but regularising land share that falls under the Forest Department.

Session 5: Conclusion and Celebration
The closure session saw speakers representing all stakeholders of the PACS programme. It was chaired by ex-Chief Secretary - Government of MP, Shri Sharad Behar.
Sumant - a CBO leader involved with the Chhattisgarh Viklang Manch disability network set-up by PACS - spoke on the struggles of people with disabilities to have easier access to authorities as well as to find work. The Viklang Manch along with PACS worked across many districts, helping to facilitate MGNREGA work rights, ration cards and higher compensation for people with disabilities.

Disabled community leader, Sumant, talks about his work on disability rights as part of the Chhattisgarh Viklang Manch disability network, set-up by PACS.

Radha, a CBO leader supported by PACS partner KALP, spoke about women’s empowerment in her village that has happened because of the PACS programme. Along with being a leader of the Chhattisgarh MGNREGA Majdoor Union, she has also helped address safety issues in her village due to a drinking problem. She thanked PACS for bringing her to the forefront and training her to become a leader.

Chief Editor of Hindi newspaper Deshbandhu, Lalit Surjan, mentioned that PACS has done much hand-holding for the past five years. “PACS has done its job. I urge all CSOs and CBOs to think about the way forward. When we move beyond everyday biases of caste, religion and gender, then a lot more work will get done,” he said. He concluded by extending a request to all organisations for stronger partnership and solidarity.

Lalit Surjan, Chief Editor of the Deshbandhu newspaper, encourages the PACS CSO partners and Community Based Organisations to continue their work to eliminate discrimination.

Director of PACS, Anand Bolimera, took to the stage to felicitate and thank all PACS partners. He said, “Our biggest victory is the set of empowered leaders we have created. Our model was to encourage diversity and inclusion. Hence, today, we see all our CSOs and CBOs led by members of socially excluded groups”. He concluded that a lot of work needs still to be done – this is the beginning of a long struggle ahead.

Shri Sharad Behar left the audience motivated with his closing note. “The problems in society should be resolved by its people. The work that the government will do in 100 years can be done by its people in 10 years. Make Chhattisgarh the best State with the help of its people.”

Towards the end of the PACS Inclusion Utsav, the PACS Delhi team and Chhattisgarh State team had a meeting with other Chhattisgarh INGOs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) representatives along with PACS partners. The objective of this meeting was to facilitate funding and networking conversations among NGOs, highlighting the work done by PACS and its partners and the rich dividends received. Representatives from UNICEF, Oxfam India, Swiss Aid, Sphere India, GMR Group CSR and Sarda Energy CSR were present at the meeting.

A dance troupe perform to celebrate the end of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

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