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Jharkhand Inclusion Utsav

11 February 2016 Share: facebook share twitter share

The Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme celebrated the conclusion of its seven-year long journey enabling marginalised communities in Jharkhand to fight for their rights and entitlements with a three-day Inclusion Utsav in Ranchi from 9-11 February 2016.

The Inclusion Utsav was a conglomeration of community leaders, government representatives and officials, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and experts on various matters related to socially excluded communities. At the event participants shared their experiences with PACS, assessed their achievements and deliberated over strategies to sustain the work that has been done over the past seven years to empower socially excluded groups.

PACS in Jharkhand: a summary

Since 2009, the PACS programme has touched the lives of 2,714,303 people from socially excluded groups across 4976 villages in 106 blocks of 12 of the poorest districts in Jharkhand. The work was made possible by 32 CSOs and 4936 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) across the State. A testament to the efforts made to create social capital amongst the marginalised communities, 91% of these CBOs are led by members of socially excluded groups and 92% of their 68,064 members hail from socially excluded communities.

In Jharkhand, the PACS programme has worked towards ensuring rights and entitlements pertaining to land and forest rights, inclusive health initiatives, inclusive livelihood initiatives and education by giving socially excluded groups a voice of their own to fight for privileges that are rightfully theirs.

Find out more about PACS work in Jharkhand.

Day 1

Session 1: Inauguration
The inaugural session of the event began with rousing slogans from CBO members and community leaders to keep their companions motivated, followed by songs in native languages of Jharkhand to welcome the guests.

The session was chaired by Dr. Ramesh Sharan, Head of the Department of Economics at Ranchi University. The dignitaries sharing the dais included Shri Saryu Roy (Minister for Parliamentary Affairs - Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs), Ms. Louis Marandi (Minister for Welfare and Social Welfare), Shri Ratan Tirkey (Member - Tribal Advisory Council) and Mr. Balram (State Advisor to the Commissioner of the Supreme Court, who is also associated with Right to Food Campaign).

Setting the pace for the session ahead, Shri Rajkumar Bidla - PACS National Programme Manager - said, “This Inclusion Utsav is the celebration of creating community partnership. PACS as a programme has inculcated a feeling among those coming from socially excluded groups that they have rights and entitlements. It is really heartening to see that we achieved more than we planned for when we started the programme. Now it is the responsibility of the government to utilise the social capital we created along the way.”

Mr. Johnson Topno - PACS State Manager for Jharkhand - recounted the achievements of the programme in delivering the benefits of various welfare schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) towards the underprivileged. “We worked on four aspects – establishing cooperation between civil society and the government; interacting with government functionaries so that we can discuss our problems with one another; ensuring participation of marginalised communities in the decision making process; and propagating our experiences to the rest of the society,” he said.

The Minister for Welfare and Social Welfare, Ms. Louis Marandi, noted how PACS has been working in remote areas of Jharkhand that are difficult to access. “PACS has sensitised the populace living even in such remote areas about their rights and entitlements,” she reflected, acknowledging how PACS has been working hand-in-hand with the government to reach groups that are usually neglected by the society. “I am sure, assessing your [PACS] performance so far in Jharkhand, you will see that you have achieved more than you expected. We expect that such work will continue in the days to come.”

Louis Marandi – Minister for Welfare and Social Welfare - takes to the dais to speak about the impact of PACS.

Shri Ratan Tirkey - Member of the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) - said, “Both PACS and TAC are organisations working for the welfare of the under-privileged, telling them about their rights and entitlements. There are many organisations working for the uplifting the downtrodden, they need to come together and find ways to take Jharkhand ahead on the path of progress.”

Mr. Balram - State Advisor to the Commissioner of the Supreme Court - said, “Now is the time to put into practice what we have learnt in the past seven years.” He went on to suggest that the reasons behind the prevailing inequality in society need to be ascertained in order to eradicate discrimination. He also said that, under the current Yojana Banao Abhiyaan (a State-level rural planning campaign), projects finalised by the rural populace are the ones that should be approved and implemented in reality.

Shri Saryu Roy, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs - Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs, also reflected on the issue of discrimination, saying that it was programmes like PACS that can initiate an effective movement for eradicating inequality. “Welfare projects have to be inclusive,” he said. “The awareness campaigns conducted by social bodies like you [PACS] can be the permanent solution to social disparities; and government will support you in every step.”

Dr. Ramesh Sharan summed up the session with suggestions for a future plan of action. He said that, thanks to PACS, a force has risen which, he said, would be effective if it remains united. “As the PACS Programme is at its end, the government should organise the organisations involved in the project so that the resulting emptiness can be averted,” he concluded.

During the session, two brochures – FRA Journey and RSBY Journey – documenting the achievements of PACS in ensuring forest rights and health services to socially excluded groups, were released by the dignitaries on the stage.

The dignitaries release two brochures about PACS’ work in Jharkhand on the Forest Rights Act and the RSBY health insurance scheme.

Session 2: Forest Rights
The first day of Inclusion Utsav ended with a thorough deliberation on the Forest Rights Act (FRA), with the session being chaired by Shri Sanjay Upadhyay – Advocate for the Supreme Court. He shared the dais with Shri BC Nigam (Principal Chief Conservator of Forests - Forest Department, Government of Jharkhand), Dr. Vinay Kumar (Deputy Director - Welfare Department, Government of Jharkhand), Mr. Birendra Kumar from PACS partner Naya Savera Vikas Kendra, Raphon Bakhla from PACS EFICOR, and Mr. Shivkar Purti from PACS partner ASRA.

PACS State Manager for Jharkhand, Johnson Topno, opened the session with a brief history of FRA in Jharkhand, recalling how the legislation was rarely talked about despite Jharkhand being a State abundant in forests and forest resources. He went on to talk about how the issue was taken up by PACS and the impact it has had across the state. “The efforts made thus far are small and the State government needs to come forward if these initiatives are to be scaled up,” he said.

Representatives from PACS CSO partner organisations presented the work that they have done on various aspects of FRA including a campaign to improve claim generation, training Van Mitras (Forest Friends) and educating Gram Sabhas (Village Councils) about their role under FRA. They also spoke about the challenges and bottlenecks that they have faced in FRA implementation.

Lakhinder Mahto speaks at the second session of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Jharkhand, sharing his experiences of being a Van Mitra.

Anish Nag from the Saranda forest region in the West Champaran district of Jharkhand recounted his experiences working as a Van Mitra in one of the areas of the State that is most affected by extremism. “Organising frequent meetings was a challenge for us as the law enforcement agencies became suspicious of our intentions. Even then, we organised regular Gram Sabha meetings and discussed forest rights with the villagers. As a result, 1089 claims were generated by five Van Mitras working along with me in the region,” he said.

PACS Programme Coordinator, Mr. Dheeraj Horo, discussed the hurdles faced in ensuring effective implementation of FRA and some measures to overcome them. “Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) should get site verifications done for settling claims and take proper receipt for the same,” he said. “Gram Sabhas should also exercise their powers to take decisions on matters related to FRA. Claims pending due to delays in site verifications should be presented before the Gram Sabha and, in case of further delays, the village body should take suitable resolution in the matter.” In addition, Mr. Horo spoke about how, due to misconception, some claim applications are being submitted to the Circle Office, but this should be stopped.

Welfare Department Deputy Director - Mr Vinay Kumar - then spoke, assuring all possible help in eradicating difficulties in implementing the FRA. “If we receive complaints about unavailability of documentation holding up settling forest rights claims, action will be taken to sort this problem out with immediate effect,” he promised. “As for site verification, funds have been allocated to District Welfare Officers across the state to appoint ameens for this purpose.”

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests for Jharkhand, BC Nigam, emphasised the importance of attaining equilibrium between our needs and protecting forest resources from exhaustion: “It is a delicate balance to maintain – we have to take from the forests for our sustenance and have to protect them simultaneously. Forming a win-win situation in this scenario is crucial.” He also spoke about how the FRA can be used to develop a bond between the jungles and those living near it.

BC Nigam – Principal Chief Conservator of Forests for Jharkhand – speaks about the delicate balance that needs to be maintained in order to protect and profit from forests.

In his address, Shri Sanjay Upadhyay - Supreme Court Advocate - stated, “We have talked about how many claims were generated and settled under FRA, but this legislation is not about numbers alone. This legislation was meant to be an instrument in ensuring rights.” He went on to say that details of awarded claims should be registered with both the Forest Department and the Revenue Department, and that the formats for the same should be thoroughly discussed.

Day 2

Session 3: Health and Nutrition
The second day began with a session on Health and Nutrition. The guest of honour was Shri Ramchandra Chandravanshi (Minister of Health, Medical Education and Family Welfare – Government of Jharkhand). Shri Ashish Singhmar (Mission Director - National Health Mission) chaired the session and representatives from various CSOs that have worked with PACS on the issue of health presented facts and figures about their achievements on this front.

The Health Minister, Shri Ramchandra Chandravanshi, praised PACS for reaching the hard-to-access areas of Jharkhand and for bringing members of socially excluded groups under the aegis of health projects. “RSBY Mitras [Friends] is a concept conceived by PACS. They are the reason Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana could be successfully implemented in the state. Considering this accomplishment, the insurance cover under the project will be increased from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 2 lakhs and the number of beneficiaries will be increased from 40 lakhs to 50 lakhs,” said the Minister.

Shri Ramchandra Chandravanshi – Minister of Health for the Government of Jharkhand – praises PACS’ work in reaching remote communities in the State to teach them about their health rights.

Ms. Swati Roy from PACS partner Ekjut presented the work done on strengthening Anganwadi Centres under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, along with the associated changes and challenges. “The aim of our work was to develop a common understanding about malnutrition among the CSOs working with us on health and nutrition. Growth was seen in every indicator related to the topic throughout the seven years of PACS,” she said. However, she noted that the some of the challenges, including reaching geographically dispersed populations, sustaining the impact of Participatory Learning and Action Plans (PLAs) and holding the interest of group members, still have to be overcome.

Talking about community-based monitoring and the role of Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Committees, Ms. Kalyani Meena and Ms. Sarwari from PACS partner Prerana Bharti highlighted the strategies that they have used to monitor whether health services are reaching socially excluded communities. They also spoke about the role of the community in this process and its impact.

Kanika Singh from PACS partner Video Volunteers shared the initiative of the Community Correspondents Network. She stated, “In Jharkhand we found that health schemes are not reaching everyone as they should and beneficiaries have to spend out of their own pockets.” Mukesh Rajat, a Community Correspondent from Deoghar, then spoke about how he has focused on improving health services in the district, and how his video advocacy has ensured that doctors are available in most health centres, even in the most remote areas.

Kanika Singh from Video Volunteers speaks about the experiences of the PACS Community Correspondents in Jharkhand who have been using their video journalism skills to highlight a range of issues, including health.

Ms. Purbi Paul from PACS partner Samjeeevi Mahila Samity, and PACS Programme Coordinator, Ms. Anu Singh, recounted PACS’ success on RSBY and the State Facilitation Centre it has set up as a RSBY grievance redressal mechanism. She also spoke about the steps to be taken in the future to extend quality health services to socially excluded communities.

Ms. Akai Minz - State Programme Coordinator for the National Health Mission – then spoke saying, “Patient Welfare Committees have been formed in all district hospitals, community health centres and public health centres, but they need to be strengthened. People have to be aware while understanding their rights. Community monitoring will help in getting health services to those distanced from it.”

Mr. Balram - State Advisor to the Supreme Court - said that health services have improved a great deal in the past seven years, but much more still needs to be done. “We will keep raising our voice to point out the flaws and what needs to be remedied,” he said.

Concluding the session, National Health Mission Director - Shri Ashish Singhmar - said, “We recruited 600 new doctors last year and the same will continue this year too. Medicines and equipment will be provided at district and block level hospitals. High-tech laboratories are operating in all district hospitals, capable of conducting thousands of medical tests. The idea is to negate the out-of-pocket expenditure for availing health services.” He then spoke about the plans the government had of opening new health centres, founding medical colleges and starting Intensive Care Units in district hospitals.

Shri Singhmar – National Health Mission Director – chairs the session on health and nutrition at the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Jharkhand.

Session 4: Inclusive Livelihood Initiatives
Renowned economist, Mr. Jean Dreze, chaired the last session of Day 2, leading discussions on various achievements and challenges relating to inclusive livelihoods. Shri NN Sinha (Principal Secretary of the Department of Rural Development, Government of Jharkhand), Mr. Praveen Toppo (Mission Director of the Skill Development Mission), Mr. Vishnu Parida (Chief Operating Officer of the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Mission) and Mr. Gurjeet Singh (MGNREGA Consultant for the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India) were on the panel among others.

Mr. Jean Dreze chairs the session on Inclusive Livelihood Initiatives, speaking about the potential of MGNREGA and other livelihood programmes to help develop the State.

Mr. Avinav Kumar – Head of Knowledge Management for PACS - showed a documentary about the Skills.in initiative – a vocational skills training programme funded by PACS to improve the livelihood opportunities of youth from socially excluded. “We have learned that the initiative will be successful only if we individually reach the youth and stay with them till they get employed, and even further,” he reflected.

Mission Director for the Skill Development Mission - Shri Praveen Toppo - spoke next saying, “We are planning to empanel special training service providers for imparting skill development training to differently-abled individuals. CSOs can help us with candidate mobilisation.”

Mr. Vishnu Parida - Chief Operating Officer of the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Mission - recounted the various contributions of the Mission in generating job opportunities for people from marginalised social groups. Elaborating on the intervention of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the skills sector, its Assistant Director - Mr Abhishek - emphasised the importance of working with industry to promote every form of skill development.

Representatives from PACS partner WASSAN - Ashima, Ashrita and Vidya – then presented the unprecedented success story of creating jobs for socially excluded communities in the parched districts of Jharkhand through the PACS inclusive fisheries model. In addition, Mr Nikhil - State Coordinator for PACS partner Udyogini - presented the inclusive lac livelihoods model that has been implemented in Gumla district.

Mr. Rajesh Pati from PACS partner ASRA, Mr. Kulbhushan Bara from PACS partner NSVK, Mr. Manoranjan Verma from PACS partner Chetna Vikas and CBO member, Baijanth Verma, shared their experiences relating to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). They focused on the success they have had generating work demand amongst socially excluded communities through the Kaam Maango Abhiyaan (Work Demand Campaign), establishing accountability of related functionaries through social audits and ensuring community participation in MGNREGA planning.

“The completion rate under MGNREGA remains a point of concern,” stated Mr Gurjeet Singh, MGNREGA Consultant, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. He said that, despite PACS’ interventions, often MGNREGA projects are not suitable for the ground conditions or people are not interested in working on the projects, and this needs to be addressed.

Shri NN Sinha - Principal Secretary for the Department of Rural Development - said, “PACS tried to implement MGNREGA in textbook style and has succeeded in the same. The discrepancies in the employment scheme will be eradicated. We expect fruitful contribution from CSOs even after the PACS Programme is over.”

Principal Secretary for the Department of Rural Development - Shri Sinha – speaks about how PACS has successfully helped to implement the MGNREGA employment scheme in Jharkhand.

Winding up the session, Chairperson Mr. Jean Dreze said, “Jharkhand is poor despite an abundance of resources. Deliberations are needed over why these resources are not being used to their full potency. MGNREGA can help in this regard.”

With the sessions coming to an end for the day, CSO and CBO members expressed the struggle and success associated with various social issues though songs in an assortment of languages spoken all over the State. This medley of folk songs was followed by a melodious performance by the music band ‘Chronicles’.

PACS staff, CSO and CBO members celebrate the end of the second day of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Jharkhand with dance and song.

Day 3

Session 5: Conclusion and Celebration
The final day looked back to rejoice in what had been achieved and to plan ahead. Prior to the official beginning of the programme, CBO leaders kept their colleagues motivated through folk songs and motivation, which garnered enthusiastic response from the audience.

CBO members and leaders from across Jharkhand gather in Ranchi for the final day of the PACS Inclusion Utsav.

The session formally started with CBO members retelling their stories about how they had demanded rights and entitlements for their communities. For example, CBO members Ashok Kumar and Sarita Balmuchu shared the growth they had experienced in themselves and in their communities during the seven years of PACS.

PACS Jharkhand State Manager, Mr Johnson Topno, then spoke saying, “The PACS programme has proved to be crucial for civil society in Jharkhand. We were asked to work on 19 projects by UKAid through which we have touched 26 lakh lives. The 7000 community leaders we created during our tenure in Jharkhand will stand strong even after PACS stops operations in the state.”

Mr Anand Bolimera – Director of PACS – spoke about how the PACS programme has worked on two levels. The first level has been the work with State agencies so that State-sponsored rights and entitlements can reach the people. The second level has been working with socially excluded communities, generating demand for these rights and entitlements from the ground level. “Developing community leadership amongst the socially excluded groups was an unique attribute of the programme,” he reflected.

The Chief Guest for the occasion was Shri Raj Paliwar - Minister for the Department of Labour, Employment Training and Skill Development, Government of Jharkhand. He said, “PACS has been a strong organisation and the work they have done on several fronts is commendable. As political and social workers, we both work for the same goal, which is eradicating problems of the common man. You endeavour to deliver the State-run schemes and I assure you all on behalf of the government that the flaws you pointed out will be dealt with.”

Minister for the Department of Labour, Employment Training and Skill Development, Shri Raj Paliwar, addresses the audience at the concluding session of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Jharkhand.

Representatives from CSOs and community leaders were felicitated for their unwavering support during the seven years of PACS after which various CBO members credited PACS for giving them a platform to work for the upliftment of their communities, which, in turn, has earned them respect.

Manoranjan Verma from PACS partner Chetna Vikas spoke of his experience working on various fronts with PACS, suggesting that the measures should be taken forward in the future to make several government schemes more inclusive and effective.

Ms. Belinda Bennet - Chairperson for the IFIRST Consortium - said, “The mindset and attitude of people have undergone a change on many levels. PACS has created strong institutions amongst socially excluded communities. This is the only way to bring about a lasting change in society.”

Finally, Ms. Mamta Kohli - Senior Social Development Advisor for DFID – reflected, “With incessant effort from all the CBOs and CSOs, PACS has been immensely successful in Jharkhand. A platform has been established and it up to us how we take it further. It is good to hear that plans are being formulated to continue the work done so far.”

Ms. Mamta Kohli from the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) – encourages all the PACS Community Based Organisations and Civil Society Organisations to build on and continue the work that they have started under PACS.

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