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Odisha Inclusion Utsav

06 February 2016 Share: facebook share twitter share

At the end of its seven-year-long journey empowering marginalised communities and thus creating leadership among them, the Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme celebrated with a three-day closing ceremony – the PACS Inclusion Utsav - in Bhubaneswar, Odisha from 4-6 February 2016.

The Inclusion Utsav was attended by community leaders, representatives from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), government officials and decision makers from the Government of Odisha, and it gave ample opportunities for stakeholders in the programme to share ideas and experiences, while making way for discussions about the future for sustaining the good work initiated by PACS in the State.

PACS in Odisha: a summary

Over the course of its seven year long journey in Odisha, PACS has impacted the lives of 1,133,724 people from socially excluded communities in 3023 villages of 14 districts in the State. Working with 38 CSO partners, 3612 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) were formed with 53,042 members, 95% of whom belong to socially excluded communities.

The thematic coverage of the PACS programme in Odisha has included the MGNREGA employment scheme, land and forest rights, health and nutrition, and education. Socially excluded communities have been made aware of their rights and educated and trained to secure them.

Find out more about PACS work in Odisha.

Day 1

Session 1: Inauguration
The inaugural session on Day 1 of the event began with the traditional lamp lighting ceremony by eminent guests including Shri J Jagadananda - Founder of the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD) and Former Information Commissioner for the Government of Odisha, Ms. Chandana Das - Joint Director of PACS partner CWS, Shri Arbinda Behera - Ex-Secretary of the Government of Odisha, Shri Karunakar Patnaik - Chief Functionary of PACS partner ISS, and Shri Rajkumar Bidla - Head of Programmes for PACS.

Dignitaries light the traditional lamp to inaugurate the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.

Setting the context of the session, Shri Rajkumar Bidla talked about the works undertaken by PACS across the seven States in which PACS works, and the impact it has had on communities. “We have proved that the CSO is a very important and responsible entity,” he reflected. “To take forward this work you have to use the networks that you have made over the last five years. You also have a duty to talk about your work, to carry out advocacy with the government and present your case for seeking collaboration.”

Continuing the discussion, Mihir Mohanty - PACS State Manger for Odisha, and Prasanna Kumar Lima - PACS Programme Officer for Odisha, showed a detailed presentation of works undertaken across the State, showing how the PACS programme has encouraged communities to stand up and demand their rights under various government schemes.

Adding more strength to the claims made by the PACS team, CBO leaders and CSO partners came onto the stage and shared their testimonies with the audiences.

Ms. Chandana Das - Joint Director for PACS partner CWS - said, “Such is the impact of PACS that a village is known as a ‘PACS Village’. The PACS journey has been remarkable. PACS is independent and it gives independence. I hope that the team of community leaders remains intact and continues the journey.”

The Chief Guest for the session was Mr. Arabinda Behera - Former Secretary of the Government of Odisha. He unveiled a fact sheet of achievements under the PACS programme. “The effect of the work done by PACS can be seen on the ground,” he said. “Funds have increased along with the betterment in standard of living, showing both growth and development. You [PACS] have done a fabulous job in giving a voice to the people so that they can raise demands for their rights and entitlements. Let this Utsav be a celebration of the beginning of a new journey that will last until the last socially excluded person is empowered.”

Karunakar Patnaik - Chief Functionary of PACS partner ISS - said, “People have become so empowered that they cannot be fooled anymore. Even the government officials are paying heed to their demands. Now, the community leaders compel government officials to work positively. This is community leadership and this is happening.”

The Chairperson for the session, Shri J. Jagadananda – Founder of CYSD and Former Information Commissoner for the Government of Odisha, made the closing remarks: “It has been clear that initiatives taken during the programme are far from over. It can be seen that a new leadership with a new vision has taken shape in the villages. They will lead to the awakening of communities across the State.”

He went on to caution community leaders and CSO partners that there is still a long way to go, outlining two main challenges for them. Firstly, he said that the convergence of schemes and government departments needs to happen to ensure the effective implementation of programmes. Secondly, he said that it is important to continually devise new ideas and new ways to renew the vigour and enthusiasm amongst communities.

Shri J Jagadananda - Founder of the Centre for Youth and Social Development and Former Information Commissioner for the Government of Odisha – closes the first session, saying that the community leaders created under PACS will continue to lead change in their villages.

Session 2: Forest Rights
The second session of the opening day featured discussions on the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The session was moderated by Shri Trilocahan Sahoo – Officer on Special Duty for the Department of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Right to Information, Government of Odisha. Panel members included Shri Rajpal Panwar – Forest Rights Programme Manager for PACS, and Sita Devi - Chief Functionary of PACS partner Janasahajya.

The speakers at the session on the Forest Rights Act release a book about PACS work on forest rights in Odisha.

Opening the session, Shri Rajpal Panwar explained how there has been a huge uptake in FRA awareness and demand in the State. “6325 villages have worked on FRA under PACS,” he shared. “Across 40 districts in Odisha, 1,242,222 forest right claims have been filed and 35,000 have received their claims. It is our responsibility now to continue this tremendous performance and collaborate with government to achieve this goal.”

Prasanna Kumar Lima – PACS Programme Officer for Odisha – elaborated on the PACS forest rights journey: “Initially, Forest Rights Committees [FRCs] had been formed but the level of awareness amongst members was dismally low. As that issue has been addressed, coordination between various government departments is very important to keep the good work going.”

Sita Devi - Chief Functionary of PACS partner Janasahajya - shed light on their interventions, challenges and achievements in the field of FRA. “We had to run from pillar to post to get information on FRA,” she recalled. “As there were four departments dealing with the implementation of the Act, beneficiaries looking for information were often confused. After PACS intervention in 2011, we came to know how to generate claims for forest and land rights.”

Sita Devi - Chief Functionary of PACS partner Janasahajya – shares how PACS has helped them to work on the issue of forest rights.

Community leaders also came forward to share their own experiences of working with PACS on the issue of FRA. For example, Khetrabasi Ping from Jharsugda district told the audience about the reformation that his FRC went through after PACS started working with them.

Mr. Trilocahan Sahoo from the Department of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Right to Information - Government of Odisha, moderated the session, concluding that, “Odisha is leading in the direction of generating FRA claims. As for our part in the cause, we will give off-campus training to CBO leaders and members through CSOs.”

Session 3: Land Rights
The concluding session of the first day of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha was a thematic discussion on Revenue Land Rights. Mr. K.K. Patnaik - Chief Functionary of PACS partner ISS - moderated the deliberation amongst a panel of dignitaries including Shri Sivabratta Pattnaik - State Head for PACS partner Landesa, and Shri Chitta Behera - Policy Advisor and Representative from the Department of Revenue and Disaster Management.

Mr. K.K. Patnaik - Chief Functionary of PACS partner ISS – chairs the session on land rights, sharing his experiences of working on this issue.

Setting the context for the session, Mr. Rajpal Panwar – Land Rights Programme Manager for PACS - informed the audience that the three major projects undertaken for working on land rights were providing homestead land, ensuring farmlands to landless families and creating common property resources. “Around 33,000 land right claims have been filed so far,” he stated.

Reflecting on the theme, Shri Pattnaik - State Head for PACS partner Landesa, spoke about their work on land rights: “We are working to award land rights to women. Everyone has to come together to sustain the work done for land rights under the PACS programme. Government collaboration is imperative too.”

Community leaders also recounted the impact that PACS interventions on land rights have had for socially excluded communities. Raghunath Khara from Koraput district stated that people in her community came to know about their rights after PACS and its partner SPREAD started working with them and that, so far, this work has generated 2940 claims for homestead land.

Ms. Bimla Bardhan from PACS partner SWAD then took to the dais and gave an emotional speech, asking why it had taken over 60 years to get land rights. “We have various committees and we will get our rights if we raise our voices together,” she said passionately. “PACS doesn’t differentiate between people and we need to work together with a similar approach.”

Mr. Chitta Behera - Policy Advisor and Representative for the Government of Odisha’s Department of Revenue and Disaster Management - focused on giving land to Scheduled Tribes. “No CSO nor any other organisation seems concerned about this issue. We have to raise this issue,” he said. “The grievance redressal in the office of the Governor also has to be strengthened.”

In his closing remarks as Chairperson, Mr. K.K. Patnaik - Chief Functionary of PACS partner ISS, laid stress on improving land rights to women: “The situation has changed now. You have to be conscious of your rights. You have to get the thousands of acres of land identified by the government through campaigning and proper planning,” he advised.

Colourful cultural performances marked the end of the first day of the Inclusion Utsav as classical dance performances by Guru Nityanand Das, Guru Vijay Kumar Das and others left the audience spellbound.

Classical dancers perform at the end of the first day of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha.

Day 2

Session 4: Inclusive Livelihoods
Day 2 of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha began with a thematic session on Inclusive Livelihoods, including discussions about MGNREGA, Livelihoods and Skill Development.

Moderating the session was Shri Bidyut Mohanty - Chief Functionary of PACS partner SPREAD. He pointed out that delayed payments under MGNREGA have been a major concern in Odisha. The discussion also saw participation from Rekha Shenoy – PACS Livelihood Manager, Shri Jayadev Dakua - Assistant Programmes Director for the Centre of Youth and Social Development (CYSD), Dr. Amulya Mohanty - Vice President of PACS livelihood partner ACCESS Development Services and Shri Devi Prasad Mohapatra from PACS skills partner DB Tech.

Shri Bidyut Mohanty - Chief Functionary of PACS partner SPREAD – moderates the session on Inclusive Livelihoods at the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha.

Setting the tone for the session, Shri Rajpal Panwar – MGNREGA Programme Manager for PACS - presented facts and figures reflecting the impact that PACS has had in Odisha on the issue of inclusive livelihoods.

Talking about the importance of planning in MGNREGA work, Jayadev Dakua - Assistant Programmes Director for CYSD - said that one has to do proper planning before starting work in one’s area: “Social audit is very important. After doing it successfully in collaboration with the government, you have to start doing it independently also.”

Speaking about the PACS inclusive livelihood models programme, Ms. Rekha Shenoy – Livelihoods Programme Manager for PACS - said, “One of the prominent learnings from the programme is that socially excluded communities can be equalised, developed and included in the value chain. We also learnt that people are keen to learn new things and are receptive.”

Dr. Amulya Mohanty - Vice President of ACCESS Development Services, the implementing partner for the PACS pro-poor crops inclusive livelihood project - said that a lot can be done in the field of livelihoods, for example in goat farming, chilli cultivation and vegetable cultivation. “Women groups have got rewards in Odisha for their work. We are making Producer Companies where women will get work and benefits. They will get seeds, wages, training, everything through the Companies,” he said.

Women from some of these Producers’ Companies came on the stage to share their experiences. “We had a group but we just used to sell rice,” explained Premsheela Nayak. “Several Self-Help Groups were chosen under the PACS programme. They helped us to learn new and scientific techniques for turmeric cultivation. Later we also started producing tomato, potato, cauliflower, gram and other vegetables with better techniques. Earlier we did not get the right price for our products but after being trained and made acquainted with marketing techniques we get the proper price for our products.”

Premsheela Nayak – a farmer who is a member of one of the Producer Companies set up under the PACS programme on Inclusive Livelihoods – shares how training and support helped her to improve her productivity and profit.

Pushpanjali Seth – another female farmer - said that the livelihood programme has done wonders for women’s empowerment: “Now we are not dependent on our husbands. We are now socially and economically free and independent to take our own decisions.”

Shri Devi Prasad Mohapatra from PACS partner DB Tech shared the work that they have been doing under the PACS Skills.in programme, imparting vocational skills, computer training and English-speaking courses to youths from socially excluded groups. “The impact has been all-round empowerment of youth, both economical and social,” he reflected. “We taught 3265 youngsters skills for employment with support from PACS. From them, 80.2% have been placed in firms and companies.”

Session 5: Health and Nutrition
The second thematic session of Day 2 was on the theme of Health and Nutrition. Discussions in this session were moderated by Mr. Akshay Kumar Biswal - Regional Manager for OXFAM - and the panel of experts gathered to discuss the issue included Mr. Karmakar Swain - Chief Functionary of PACS partner OVHA and Dr. Subrata Pal from IABH.

PACS Programme Officer, Prasanna Kumar Lima, set the context by showing a visual presentation on the state of health and nutrition in Odisha. Following the presentation, CBO leaders like Nalini Sahu from Jharsugda district shared their stories. “We have been ensuring institutional delivery in villages telling expectant women to go to hospital for maintaining better health and hygiene,” she said, adding, “If you remain clean and maintain hygiene you will remain disease-free.”

Gurubari was one of the many CBO leaders to share their experiences of working on the theme of Health and Nutrition.

Karunakar Swain - Chief Functionary for PACS partner OVHA - said that Odisha has fewer doctors and health facilities compared to need. “We have to work and ensure health facilities for people from rural areas,” he said. “As a health worker one has to very actively work in one’s respective area. Use your knowledge and spread it among the masses.”

Sunati Sunani from SRUSTI talked about their involvement in the Nuapada district on the issue of Janani Suraksha Yojana and other health related schemes. She talked about how prevalent anaemia is among women in the area and their initiatives to provide nutritional advice and support to expecting mothers and lactating women along with adolescent girls.

Dr. Subrat Pal of IABH shared his ideas saying, “I have been working for 10-12 years in the field of maternal and child health care in Odisha. The government wants to integrate several health schemes and there comes the role of CBOs and CSOs. They have the expertise to effectively reach communities.”

Shri Akshay Kumar Biswal - Regional Manager for OXFAM - lauded the work of CBO leaders and said, “We have to get out of our houses and get our rights. Think about everyone, not just yourself, so that villages and villagers around you also get health facilities. You have the responsibility to do advocacy and collaborate with the government to ensure that the health facilities reach the last man in society.”

Chairperson of the session, Shri Akshay Kumar Biswal from OXFAM, praises community leaders and encourages them to continue in their struggle for health rights.

Session 6: Education
The last session of Day 2 focused on the issue of Education and the work done by civil society and community leaders in this field during the seven years of the PACS programme.

Dr. Sneha Mishra - Chief Functionary of PACS partner AAINA - chaired the session, which saw participation from Mihir Mohanty – PACS State Programme Manager for Odisha, Mahendra Kumar Mallick - State Project Director for the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA), Shri Anil Pradhan – Convener of the State Right to Education Forum, and Shri Jitendra Rath - Programme Officer for OXFAM.

Setting the context for the session, Shri Mihir Mohanty reiterated the efforts under the PACS programme to create demand for education among the rural populace. “We have worked with and trained 420 School Management Committees and a total of 103 students were admitted in schools. Several children with special needs were also assimilated into regular schools,” he said.

CBO leader, Kalpana Behera, then shared her experiences of working on the theme of education: “Coming to know about the Right to Education Act, we understood what children need and how they can get it. I enrolled my own child in school and children’s groups were formed. They meet and talk about social issues.”

Shri Mahendra Kumar Mallick - State Project Director for OPEPA - appreciated the fact that communities have now started acting responsibly in terms of education. “We are trying to ensure that there is no discrimination among students. To achieve this goal, we are also providing Braille scripted books to visually impaired children,” he said.

Mahendra Kumar Mallick - State Project Director for the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA) – speaks about how they are trying to ensure discrimination-free schooling for all.

Shri Anil Bardhan voiced his concern about the government’s delivery of promised rights to people: “The government claims to give so much to the people but are they actually getting it?” he questioned. “The quality of education is deteriorating due to flaws in the system. We need to protest; we have to come together and raise our voices, challenge the government if needed. That is how you will get your rights.”

Jitendra Rath - Programme Officer for OXFAM - said, “According to the Economic Survey, although poverty has decreased in Odisha, there has been an increase in inequality. Discrepancies are rampant and the government grievance redressal system is in shambles. Your journey with PACS has been remarkable and you have to carry this forward more enthusiastically.”

Concluding the session as Chairperson, Dr. Sneha Mishra - Chief Functionary of PACS partner AAINA - highlighted the need for providing facilities that encourage all children to come to school. “When we talk about retention of students, there is a difference in the data provided by different agencies,” she said. “It has to be considered that a physically challenged student will never go to school if there is no ramp for them.”

Dr. Sneha Mishra - Chief Functionary of PACS partner AAINA – concludes the session, speaking about the importance of making sure that education is inclusive of children from all backgrounds and abilities.

After a day of deliberations, the second day of the Inclusion Utsav culminated with cultural performances showcasing the traditional diversity of India.

Day 3

Session 7: Corporate Social Responsibility
Day 3 of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha began with CBO leaders taking to the stage with inspirational songs and stories based on the theme of empowerment. Following this came a session on collaboration between CSOs and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sector.

This session was chaired by Shri J. Jagadananda - Founder of the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD) and Former Information Commissioner for the Government of Odisha, and featured inputs from experts like Mr. Prashant from PACS partner VICALP, Mr. Vikas Gambhir – Director of Not-for-Profit for Grant Thornton India LLP, Mr. Ambika Nanda - Head of CSR for TATA in Odisha, Mr. Subhash Chandra Ray - Head of Land, R&R and CSR for Tata Sponge Iron, and Mr. Anand Kumar Bolimera – Director of PACS.

Setting the context for the session, Mr. Anand Kumar Bolimera spoke about the Companies Act, which states that 2% of company profits have to be utilised for CSR. He also pointed that, when one talks from a CSR point-of-view, a rights based approach is very radical. “We have a CSO sector that is readily available,” he said. “CSOs can help corporates to magnify their CSR investment and help people to access government funds. We could have a better society with private sector helping CSOs.”

Mr. Vikas Gambhir - Director of Not-for-Profit for Grant Thornton India LLP - said, “A lot has changed since the introduction of CSR Act in 2013. When CSR funds are used for civil society, they have the liberty to select themes. Companies are now increasing the funds committed to CSOs, although the number of CSOs working with them is less.”

He further added, “However, there exists a trust deficit – many companies do not trust the CSOs. CSOs have to demonstrate that they have the capacity for governance and financial handling.”

Mr. Vikas Gambhir - Director of Not-for-Profit for Grant Thornton India LLP – discusses the lack of trust that exists between companies and CSOs, suggesting ways to overcome this.

Sharing civil society’s viewpoint on CSR, Mr. Kumar Prashant from PACS partner VICALP said, “We have to ponder about how companies will collaborate with socially excluded communities for their betterment. The corporate sector has to consider that CBOs and CSOs have a crucial role to play. The social asset created over the course of seven years of PACS programme should be utilised through CSR.”

Adding to this, Shri Ambika Nanda - CSR Head for TATA in Odisha - said, “Let us bring in competent NGOs, which are close to socially excluded groups as they have the capacity to mobilise communities for development. Let us begin the journey to collaborate and live happily.”

Mr. Subhash Chandra Ray - Head of Land, R&R and CSR for Tata Sponge Iron - said, “Everything has to be tangible in the corporate sector. Therefore, those working in the field of CSR are accountable for their work. I hope that a partnership approach between NGOs, corporates and government grows with convergence and brings about a bright future ahead.”

Mr. Subhash Chandra Ray from Tata Sponge Iron shares what the corporate CSR sector looks for and expects from organisations that they support with CSR funds.

Concluding the session, Shri J. Jagadananda - Founder of CYSD and Former Information Commissioner for the Government of Odisha - expressed his concerns about whether eligible beneficiaries avail the benefits of improving government services. “Government budgets for development and social welfare have been increasing and resources are growing, but the question is, will that go to the right hands? For poverty alleviation, the root cause of the problem has to be explored.”

He further added, “There is no harm in talking to companies for setting up dialogue and repackaging a rights-based approach. Stress is eminent in a partnership. What is most important is how we creatively manage this tension. A consortium has to be formed for working with big companies. There is also a need for laying down a code of conduct for relations with companies.”

Session 8: Celebration and Conclusion
The final session of the three-day long PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha proved to be a platform for community leaders to tell their stories and share their ideas for uplifting marginalised sections of the society.

To begin with, Ms. Swati Kundra – Head of Finance at PACS - reflected on the seven-year long journey of the PACS programme. “Initially, we believed that fighting social exclusion would be very difficult but it did not prove to be. Today we have more than one crore people fighting for their rights. Sustained by an organised society, this is a programme that will never end in spirit. If we feel we have changed, our villages have changed, then that will be the biggest achievement for PACS.”

Following her address, several CBO leaders came forward to share their expectations now that their seven-year long association with PACS was coming to an end.

CBO leader, Bibinika Pradhan, from the Kandhamal district reflected, “When we formed our CBO, we first discussed our problems and noted them. As we grew stronger, we went to the Collector’s office and submitted a memorandum enlisting these problems. As a result, we have received land pattas, Indira Awaas, widow and old-age pensions and MGNREGA payments have been regularised. It is sad to see PACS go, but we will keep our fight going.”

CBO leader, Bibinika Pradhan, addresses the audience at the closing session of the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha, speaking about how, through PACS, her CBO was formed and the members are now strong and confident in their rights.

Addressing the gathering of civil society representatives and community leaders, Ms. Pragyan Mohanty - PACS State Manager for Madhya Pradesh - said, “PACS has helped you to grow, now you have to take the work forward. Information is the biggest weapon you have; use it.”

Representatives from various CSO partners who worked tirelessly with PACS for uplifting the oppressed and empowering the marginalised were then honoured for their dedication and efforts.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Anand Bolimera – Director of PACS - said, “I thank the CSO partners and community leaders for joining forces with us to serve the socially excluded groups. I express my gratitude towards my colleagues and members of the IFIRST Consortium. PACS is concluding, but issues of inclusion and securing justice will never end.”

Mr. Anand Bolimera – Director of PACS – and Ms. Swati Kundra – Head of Finance at PACS – felicitate CSO partners on the stage at the PACS Inclusion Utsav in Odisha.

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