"Graguate Recommendation Letter Sample"
PAUL HAMLYN FOUNDATION CONSULTATION ON WORKING WITH ELECTED LOCAL BODIES 25-26 February 2010 JAIPUR EXECUTIVE SUMMARY We all see the increasing role of local level political institutions (panchayats and municipal bodies, also called Panchayati Raj Institutions or PRIs) in implementing development programmes in India. They are now critical to large government development schemes, and as elected bodies have a mandate for the development of their villages/towns. And yet, NGOs have had limited engagement with PRIs. Why is this? Do PRIs‟ role and mandate conflict with those of NGOs? Do we (NGOs) recognise the primacy of their (PRIs) mandate? Should NGOs engage with PRIs to bring about long-term change? Should NGOs be accountable to them? What are the difficulties that NGOs face in engaging with PRIs and vice versa? The purpose of this consultation is to discuss the issues and conflicts in working with PRIs. A group of 25 people gathered together in Jaipur (Rajasthan) on 25 th and 26th February 2010 for this. They included representatives from PHF‟s partner NGOs with an interest in the issue (16 NGOs across 8 states representing urban and rural areas), a guest speaker, and a PHF team consisting of consultants, advisers and staff. Participants had prepared a background paper outlining their organisations‟ experience in working with PRIs. The consultation began with a session in plenary in which the framework for discussions was decided. Four themes for discussion in sub-groups were outlined, with special focus on PESA and urban issues. The sub-groups were asked to present the key points made in their deliberations back to the participants along with one issue each for further discussion in the plenary. Mr. TR Raghunandan, a civil servant with experience in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj that dealt with decentralisation and devolution of power from within the government, was the guest speaker. He provided a historical perspective to PRIs and then spoke about the salient features of the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Indian Constitution that provided a constitutional status to them. He articulated the critical requirements for effective devolution of power and discussed the problems faced that have led to gaps between intent and implementation. He finally identified four „game changers‟ for the future; the policy shift from doles to rights, the unique identification number project, galloping connectivity across the country and financial inclusion of the poor. His talk put the efforts of NGOs in engaging with PRIs into perspective. The participants discussed the following themes in sub-groups – What is the appropriate role for NGOs in strengthening the relationship between citizens and PRIs? The key point made was that PRIs have capacity and competency issues relating to their responsibilities, and that NGOs can forge partnerships with them to enable them to cope. Do NGOs face a conflict in values in engaging with PRIs? There are basic differences between NGOs and PRIs, and these do lead to a conflict in values – an example is the perceived „imposition‟ of transparency on PRIs. Ways to address the conflict were discussed. What are the capacities that NGOs need to develop to be relevant in a changing environment? This was also subsequently discussed in plenary. Why does independent organisations matter? How can NGOs enhance their independence? This too was subsequently discussed in plenary. 2 The following issues were discussed further in plenary – Independence: The key points made were that transparency, accountability and independence were complementary, and that accountability within NGOs needs to move beyond narrow formal definitions to encompass governance structures, values and behaviour. Capacity building of NGOs: The key points made were that NGOs need to have access to medium-and-long-term sources of financial support and that donors should understand the value of grants towards enabling NGOs to develop and towards building skills and capacity within NGOs. Autonomy of the Gram Sabha: The difficulties faced in devolution of power in PESA areas was discussed and related to the absence of a development paradigm for tribal communities in India. The (rapidly shrinking) space for social change: The effects of development thinking that focuses on the visible and the measurable were discussed. The point was made that work on neglected or unpopular issues, such as that of social justice, is finding less support. The need to formulate new thinking on the value of a social justice agenda and new tools to measure long-term social change was articulated. The key learning for PHF from the consultation were identified as – PHF needs to increase support to work in smaller urban settlements. PHF needs to understand other factors that bring about change, such as technology and markets. NGOs will find social change harder to bring about in the future. Accountability is going to be a critical value. Encouraging this through capacity building, learning from each other, sharing of learning and peer assessment should play a greater part in PHF‟s agenda in India. 3 CONTENTS 1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Page 2 2. CONTENTS Page 4 3. FOREWORD Page 5 4. CONSULTATION REPORT a. Scoping and Framing the Consultation Page 6 b. Talk by Guest Speaker Page 8 c. Group Discussions Page 11 d. Discussions in Plenary Page 15 e. What has PHF learnt? Page 18 5. ANNEXURES a. Consultation Concept Note Page 19 b. List of Acronyms Page 21 c. List of Participants Page 22 d. Consultation Schedule Page 25 e. Pre Consultation Papers by Participating NGOs e 1. AAK Page 26 e 2. ANANDI Page 28 e 3. ARAVALI Page 30 e 4. CHIRAG Page 33 e 5. CSI Page 35 e 6. KMVS Page 38 e 7. KNNA Page 41 e 8. Nari Uthan Page 45 e 9. RCDC Page 50 e 10. SAATH Page 57 e 11. SEVA Mandir Page 59 e 12. Shaishav Page 62 e 13. SPS Page 65 e 14. SWATI Page 71 e 15. The ANT Page 74 4 FOREWORD It is rare for Paul Hamlyn Foundation to host a meeting of its partners in India – in fact the only previous occasion was in March 2007. The reasons are several! Time is precious, especially for the heads of organisations that attend. Meetings are expensive (and the logistics are complicated), and we do like to use most of our funds for grants. And, last but not least, there does need to be something of particular importance to discuss. It is this last that has led us to call for this consultation. We have all been witness to the increasing role, and the increasing importance, of local level political institutions (panchayats and municipal bodies) in India‟s development. They are now critical to large government development schemes, and have a mandate for the development of their villages/towns. And yet, NGOs working on development have had a limited engagement with these institutions. Why is this so? Do these institutions‟ role and mandate conflict with those of NGOs? Do we (NGOs) recognise the primacy of their (PRIs and municipal bodies) mandate? Is it necessary to engage with such institutions to bring about long-term change? If so, in what form should this engagement be? Should NGOs work with and/or through such institutions? Should NGOs be accountable to them? What are the difficulties that NGOs face in engaging with such institutions and vice versa? As a grant-making organisation that has supported NGOs for social development in India since 1992, we are especially keen to get a perspective on the above questions. And our first source of information is the NGOs that we support, who grapple with these issues on the ground. And therefore, this consultation! In the process of meeting and sharing, we got access to a wide range of viewpoints and opinions, and some important perspectives. We hope that others did, too! Many people worked hard to ensure that the consultation went smoothly, from within Aravali (our hosts) and PHF. Many thanks to them! And to the participants, who came from across the country. We would especially like to thank our guest speaker Mr. Raghunandan, whose talk on „game-changers‟ in devolution became a game-changer for the consultation. The purpose of this report is to act as a record for the consultation and to enable others with an interest in this issue to gain from the proceedings. Robert Dufton Ajit Chaudhuri March 2010 5 SCOPING AND FRAMING THE CONSULTATION After a round of initial introductions and a short sharing of the critical points made in the notes submitted by the participants, the group got around to scoping and framing the consultation. Buzz groups of two were formed to discuss between themselves a) the meaning of the term „local political institution‟ (we have also used the terms Panchayati Raj Institutions or PRIs and panchayats for this) and b) the location of the community in relation to local political institutions. The groups were to return to the plenary and present an image that denoted their respective understanding of the relationship between local political institutions, the community, and NGOs. The buzz groups had different interpretations of the above, and these were presented and discussed. Some of the important points made were – The role of the government, panchayats and NGOs and their relative power vis-à-vis the community and each other were discussed and it was felt that the government was in the driver’s seat in this relationship and that the community was a bystander within both governments and panchayats. There were definition issues around NGOs as well, with differentiation between formal (legally registered, etc.) NGOs and informal community based organisations (CBOs) and community groups in their roles and responsibilities. There were similar differences between constitutionally mandated local institutions and people’s representative organisations. There is an urgent need to devolve functions to PRIs and also to provide PRIs with the necessary resources (finances, people, etc.) to undertake the functions effectively. Yet, there is little willingness on the part of political parties and the administration to actually devolve power to local political institutions, and there is a danger of PRIs being saddled with responsibilities without authority in the current arrangement. In many areas, the administrative jurisdiction of a Panchayat is different from the natural form of habitation in rural areas and thus several clusters of the latter make up one of the former. This leads to artificiality, as the people within one panchayat don’t have traditional relationships with each other. There was also discussion around whether NGOs should set up village level bodies that act in parallel to PRIs, and whether this strengthens or weakens PRIs’ ability to govern. Sushma Iyengar (SI) summed up the discussion by saying that many NGOs work towards empowering people through working with and empowering Gram Sabhas and community organisations – this is natural to them. Few, however, work to empower elected panchayat leaders so that they perform their mandated functions efficiently and effectively. SI mentioned some of the difficulties NGOs face in engaging with PRIs, particularly that NGOs‟ work usually has an ideological basis whereas the functioning of PRIs is driven by practicalities. She also emphasised that PRIs do represent the aspirations of communities, and that they do have difficulty in delivering on these aspirations due to various issues. NGOs that work with communities should work with, and through, PRIs and enable them to deliver. SI appreciated that there were differing viewpoints on the ideal relationship between communities, PRIs and NGOs, especially with regard to responsibilities and resources, and stressed the need to recognise these differences. 6 After a short discussion on the points made by SI, Robert Dufton (RD) introduced the key themes for the consultation – 1. In strengthening the relationship between citizens and PRIs, what is the appropriate role for NGOs? 2. Do NGOs face value system issues and conflicts in working with PRIs? 3. Are there issues of sustainability for CBOs and NGOs in an environment in which PRIs have a predominant role? This was subsequently changed to – how do NGOs maintain their work in a changing environment? What capacities do NGOs need to develop? 4. Why do independent organisations matter? How can NGOs enhance their independence? There was an initial discussion at the plenary on the issues. A point was made that it would be important to see the governance role of PRIs, and thereby not merely focus on their development role, while fleshing out the themes. Another point made by RD was that the discussants might want to reflect on the values of NGOs and not limit discussions to the values of PRIs. The plenary decided that the participants would be divided into four groups, and that the first two themes would be discussed by two groups each – who would present three key points emerging from their discussions to the plenary at the end of Day 1. Two groups each would also discuss the second two themes on Day 2, with the participants dividing up so that they could cover general issues and issues specific to urban settlements and PESA areas. Each group were to present points made in their discussions, and identify one theme for further discussion in the plenary. This would be followed by a summary session by PHF and then by lunch and departure from the venue. The plenary also decided to listen to the guest speaker, Mr. Raghunandan, in the afternoon of Day 1, before breaking into group discussions. 7 BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF Mr. RAGHUNANDAN‘S TALK Mr. T.R Raghunandan (TRR) is a senior IAS officer who has worked on the issue of devolution of power from within the government at both centre and state levels. He came to Jaipur to give the consultation participants an insider‟s perspective on decentralisation and devolution of power. TRR began with a historical perspective. The concept of five respected elders providing direction to communities began in earlier times, and the concept of panchayats and sabhas continued with variations through the Moghal and British rules. The Indian freedom movement‟s initial request for self-government was subsequently changed to a demand for independence. Mahatma Gandhi‟s own view was that the entire edifice of Indian democracy should be based upon one popular election to the Village Panchayat and indirect elections from Panchayats to State Assemblies and from there to Parliament. Article 40 of the Constitution says „the state shall endeavour to constitute Village Panchayats as institutions of local self-government‟. He then described the salient features of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts of 1993 that provide a constitutional status for the Gram Sabha (an assembly of the community in rural areas) and prescribe a three-tier system of governance at the village, intermediate and district levels (two-tier in smaller states and single-tier in municipalities). These also ensure the reservation of seats and leadership positions for deprived communities and women, and require the holding of elections every five years. The financial share of the exchequer that is allocated to local governments is determined by State Finance Commissions that are to be set up every five years. Article 243 G describes the powers, authority and responsibilities of panchayats. The 11 th Schedule lists the activities that fall within panchayats‟ purview and the 12th Schedule listing those within the municipalities‟. Environmentally sensitive, resource rich or special areas fall within the 5th (selected areas in 9 states across north and central India) and 6 th (in the north-eastern states) Schedules. Some areas, such as Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, the hill areas of Manipur and Darjeeling, come under other systems established through State laws. The specific provisions for Panchayati Raj in these areas comes under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 or PESA, in which the state gives primacy to tribal communities to manage their affairs in accordance with traditions and custom. How is decentralisation perceived? Politicians have led all efforts at decentralisation and devolution of power. Yet, the political dividend is seen as short-lived in that visionaries of decentralisation usually do not gain political benefits from it. The executive generally resist attempts at decentralisation on the grounds of efficiency – they feel that it creates too many levels of decision making and leads to a „democracy tax‟. Civil society too is sceptical of the benefits of decentralisation, and there is a feeling that elite capture of PRIs hinders better targeting of benefits through them. Lack of data and an absence of good research prevent an in-depth examination of the economic arguments in favour of or against decentralisation. 8 TRR described the difference between real and not-so-real devolution as – REAL NOT REAL Clear role assignment Scheme-bound expenditure Power to spend money Staff on deputation Limited power to collect revenue Power to tax Someone else is acting for PRIs and is Power to hire, fire and control staff responsible for PRIs‟ performance Discretion in spending Direct accountability He also described some of the deformities in the decentralisation process in India. The transfer of political, administrative and fiscal responsibilities to PRIs has not been achieved, and the formal strong legal framework as outlined in the Acts hides the reality of marginalisation. The failure of the Gram Sabha to ensure accountability has led to communities being unable to control PRIs, whose functioning is beset by patronage politics, insufficient attention to detail and poor decision making. TRR stressed on the need for role clarity as a pre-requisite for good decentralisation. He went on to talk about fiscal decentralisation, describing the provisions under Article 243 for collection of revenue directly, obtaining a share of the State and Central exchequers, and receiving funds for implementing schemes. Some of the concerns he raised were that PRIs‟ own revenues were low and they were dependent upon transfers from the state. These in turn are a) tied and conditional and b) subject to interception and diversion, especially to parallel structures. The slide no. 28 of TRR‟s presentation describes the flow of funds to PRIs. An important problem is the establishment of parallel institutions to PRIs, from user groups to committees formed by government departments and multilateral institutions, that are created at sub-panchayat levels with no connection to the PRIs and to whom funds entitled to PRIs are diverted. NGOs too have been set up in competition to PRIs and are usually unwilling to work with them, despite a huge need for development of capacity in PRIs. TRR asked the following questions of these institutions – Are they sustainable? Are they incompatible with PRI systems? Are they competitors to PRIs? Are they free of the ills that bedevil PRIs? Are their mentors willing to move on? TRR finally described four game-changers that would influence the future of decentralisation and, indeed, federalism. The first was the policy movement away from doles and towards rights and entitlements that began with the setting up of NREGA in 2005. The second is the unique identification number project that will enable direct and pinpoint cash transfers and ensure de-duplication of payments. The third is galloping connectivity through TVs and mobiles, and the fourth is the move towards financial inclusion that will enable banking facilities for everyone and opens the possibility of cash transactions through everyday devices. The participants agreed that this was a „game-changer‟ of a talk and that it brought a larger perspective to the issue of decentralisation and placed the role of NGOs within it. There were discussions around the following points – 9 Governments are limited by their fixed term and therefore have an interest in provisioning public goods that are tangible and achievable during this period. This is a reason that the social change space has been occupied by NGOs, and this is a reason that this space should not be abdicated. There were concerns around the questions of whether decentralisation was a panacea towards effective service delivery and how much citizens‟ energies should be focussed upon demanding the state to meet its legal obligations. There were questions on PRIs‟ power to tax and concerns on the influence of markets. TRR clarified that most states allow PRIs to impose taxes (Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan being exceptions) and that imposition of tax motivates Gram Sabhas to demand accountability and allows innovative local programmes to be financed. The increasing role of the market and direct fiscal transfers to beneficiaries were discussed in the context of the continued relevance of NGOs. Innovative programmes by the government, such as the state‟s identification of below poverty line families in partnership with NGOs, were described. Issues relating to the implementation of PESA and the increased expectations and aspirations after the 73rd Amendment were seen to be more than issues around collecting taxes and provisioning public goods. 10 GROUP DISCUSSIONS THEME 1: CITIZENS AND PRIs – ROLE OF NGOs The first theme was – what is the appropriate role of NGOs and CSOs in strengthening the relationship between citizens and PRIs? The key points made by the two groups discussing this theme were – Enable the forging of partnerships: NGOs that work with marginalised groups within communities can enable the forging of partnerships between PRIs and such groups. This includes the work of creating spaces for marginalised groups and panchayat leadership to interact and communicate. Encourage the observation of rules: PRIs have pre-defined rules and procedures that are laid down through Acts and circulars, that enable better and more transparent functioning of the institutions. NGOs can create awareness on these rules and procedures, both with panchayat leaders and other people, and thereby enable improvement in the functioning and responsiveness of PRIs. Support panchayats in planning and implementing: PRIs have a key role in planning and implementing development works within their respective jurisdictions. Most do not have adequate competencies to do this. NGOs can potentially support panchayats by providing skills and expertise in planning, targeting and implementing services and in building PRI capacity. Enable voter awareness: Participation of the electorate in PRI processes and in selection of the right candidates to represent them is critical to the success of panchayati raj. NGOs can play an effective role in generating awareness within the community on the role of PRIs, the selection of suitable candidates, and the relevance of reservations. Set an example: NGOs should be seen as setting standards in transparency, probity and effectiveness. Their own plans and activities should be of a level that enables engagement with PRIs in partnerships built on trust. Encourage the functioning of sub-panchayat bodies: The institutions of panchayat sub-committees and ward sabhas, which are more decentralised and closer to people, can be encouraged so as to enable panchayats to be better deliberative forums. NGOs can work with PRIs to identify the right people for these institutions and to conduct participatory deliberations. 11 THEME 2: VALUES AND CONFLICTS The second theme discussed by the participants was on whether PRIs and NGOs have conflicting values, and on what NGOs should do and not do. Is there a conflict in value systems? In principle, no – both aim to serve the community, though in differing roles. Yet, there are clashes on basic issues. The culture of transparency: Functionaries within PRIs place a low value on transparency, and this puts them into confrontation with NGOs‟ demands on rigorous social audits. Majoritarian vs. voiceless: PRIs have a political mandate, and are put into place by a majority within their respective constituencies. NGOs, on the other hand, often represent marginalised voices within communities. Sharing of power: PRIs in their current form are not designed to share power with parallel bodies such as NGOs and community groups. The social change space: While PRIs seem to give voice and representational opportunities to hitherto marginalised sections of society such as scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women, there is no effort at any direct attempt towards social change. Many NGOs work directly at making society more equitable and just, and this aspect of their work should not be given up or ceded to other actors. What should NGOs do to bridge the conflict in values? NGOs should be transparent themselves. NGOs should play a critical watchdog role so as to ensure that PRIs are accountable to the communities they represent. NGOs should respect the autonomy and mandate of PRIs. NGOs need to recognise the value of local representation and leadership, and invest in developing capacity and capability of local people. NGOs can understand what is wrong instead of seeking out who is wrong. 12 THEME 3: NGOs IN A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT: CAPACITIES REQUIRED There was debate around the theme of sustainability, and subsequent agreement on a revision to a discussion on how NGOs can maintain their work in a changing environment in which PRIs have a larger role, and on the development of capacities to do so. The points made by the discussants were – There is a need to influence the development discourse in the country so as to enable the formulation of policies that address real issues of inequity and alienation. NGOs should develop the capacity to do this – by mixing implementation programmes with research, by interfacing more with each other, with academia, and with other actors in the civil society space, by enabling exchange, and by forming common platforms for advocacy. Partnerships with PRIs are required at three levels. The first is to work with and develop the capacity of Presidents (who are endowed with most of the power within PRIs). The second is to support PRIs in planning and implementation by making available capacity, resources, skills and experience. The third is to enable PRIs to engage with the state and negotiate for effective devolution of power. NGOs need to work through local community groups to act as a pressure on PRIs and as a force that enables performance and ensures a focus on equity. NGOs also need to understand the interplay of markets, development policy and governance and to ensure a social justice agenda within these. A group of participants focused on the theme within urban areas. The points made by this group were – The extent of devolution of power to elected municipal bodies in urban areas is limited. Elected ward committees have not been formed in most towns. There is an urgent need for advocacy for more devolution. NGOs need to develop an understanding of the structure and dynamics of municipalities, and to build knowledge on decentralisation in urban areas. Here, the executive is more powerful than political representatives. NGOs working in urban areas need to develop strategies to influence the executive. NGOs can use innovation as a means of moving from service delivery to influencing municipal bodies. Many towns have sufficient funds, and NGOs can use these to set up innovative pilot interventions. Urban poverty issues are complex. NGOs have to be careful to deal with these only once they have sufficient presence and a good understanding of these issues as their own role, focus and mandate will be called into question. 13 THEME 4: INDEPENDENCE The fourth theme for discussion was articulated as – why do independent organisations matter? How can NGOs enhance their independence? The points made by the discussants were – Independence and accountability are two sides of a coin. Accountability is to another party, not to oneself. PRIs are accountable to people (as voters) and to the state (from which they derive their powers). NGOs, however, are accountable to their governance structure and to the charity laws, and not to the communities who they work with/for. NGOs need to make additional efforts to be responsive to communities‟ needs in the absence of a formal structure of accountability. There was also discussion on the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act that outlines the powers and responsibilities of PRIs in 5th and 6th Schedule (tribal) areas. Panchayats here are often artificial constructs that are not in synchronisation with traditional relationships and power structures, and tribal communities therefore exercise little ownership over PRIs in PESA areas. Problems of land alienation, resource extraction and usurious money-lending practices that come within PRI jurisdiction are therefore ineffectively and inadequately addressed. There is a need for study on the divergence of existing laws under PESA from practice, and for NGOs to support tribal communities to assert their rights under the Act. Tribal communities do come together for social and cultural events, and NGOs need to channel such energies towards a progressive social change agenda. The participants identified the following issues for further discussion in the plenary – Independence Capacity building of NGOs Autonomy of the Gram Sabha Challenges of maintaining space for the social change role 14 DISCUSSIONS IN THE PLENARY INDEPENDENCE The discussion focused upon accountability of NGOs and the relationship between accountability and independence. The points made were – The term „accountability‟ is mostly interpreted in narrow formal terms, limiting it to finance and accounts. This is a great pity, because values and behaviour play a significant role in an institution‟s accountability function and should have as much emphasis as formal accountability. A number of participants spoke of their organisations‟ policy of sharing plans and strategies with communities and PRIs, resulting in greater cooperation and in the development of capacity among elected leaders. There was also a discussion around the caution that needs to be exercised while sharing strategies, as this can be counter- productive – more so in contexts in which PRIs and NGOs have different perspectives. There was an opinion among the participants that transparency, accountability and independence are often but not always complementary and that there are NGOs that are transparent without being accountable. Others are independent without being accountable, and it is the fact that they do not seek accountability that enables them to be independent. NGO governance structures have weakened over time, and for many reasons (including the donor climate). The value of a representative governance board for NGOs was debated and seen as positive – enabling deeper engagement with beneficiary communities, more so when members were chosen through correct selection procedures. PRIs too need to be accountable to communities, and the systems to ensure this (especially between elections) are often by-passed. PRIs tend to resent the „imposition‟ of accountability upon them by NGOs in the form of social audits and other procedures that are in fact written into law. CAPACITY BUILDING OF NGOs There was debate among the participants on the need to have a separate emphasis on building the capacity and capabilities of NGOs that was not a function of projects. The main points made were – The main responsibility for delivering development programmes lies with the state and PRIs. Yet, NGOs continue to be relevant in these changing times as they have the ability to reach marginalised communities and areas and to work on issues that are more than the delivery of a service. Financial support for NGOs has become difficult, possibly due to donors‟ emphasis on the state and PRIs. Living from short-term project to short-term project has led to instability, to focus away from the long-term agenda and to bad practices. It is important for NGOs to have access to medium-and-long-term sources of financial support. It is also important for donors to understand the value of grants that are specifically geared towards enabling NGOs to develop and towards building skills and capacity within NGOs. 15 AUTONOMY OF THE GRAM SABHA The discussion focused upon the gap between the laws relating to devolution of power to PRIs and the actual happenings in practice on the ground, particularly in the PESA (scheduled) areas. The points made were – PRIs have been endowed via PESA with powers and authority to function as institutions of self-government, with the right to plan, implement, monitor and regulate social development activities, enforce prohibition, prevent land alienation, manage village markets, regulate the collection of forest produce and control money-lending. The institution of Gram Sabha (GS) plays a critical role in the effective functioning of PRIs in scheduled areas. One reason for the gap is that, in practice, holding a genuine GS is difficult as the administrative jurisdictions of panchayats are not contiguous with traditional villages. People do not participate in a GS and quorums are not possible. People do meet collectively under traditional tribal councils, and there is a need to integrate these two levels to enable localised consultation and decision-making with a mandate from the state. There is also an absence of a development paradigm for tribal communities. Adequate attention has not been paid to protecting their interests, and the lack of clarity in development policy and practice has led to widespread alienation. The state has tried to mainstream tribal communities instead of tribalising governance. An outcome of this policy is the significant and increasing presence of non-state actors in tribal dominated areas. The executive needs to be responsive to issues that are brought up in panchayats through the GS. The current system ensures that all the authority remains with the state but the responsibility falls on elected representatives in PRIs, with PRIs taking the blame for unsuccessful programmes and schemes even if the main cause of failure is executive sloth. NGOs should undertake an advocacy effort to bring about a balance in the lines of authority and responsibility between communities, PRIs and the state. THE (RAPIDLY SHRINKING) SPACE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE The discussion focussed upon the importance of NGOs continuing with the work of bringing about social change in society. The points made were – In earlier times, NGOs were provided funds for undertaking development activities. NGOs used these funds to work with communities, both to implement the project at hand and to add inputs around distributive justice and equity, which are critical to bringing about social change. The latter set of activities was taken up complementarily. In the current climate, with most funds for development being routed through panchayats, NGOs find it difficult to attract funds for the social change agenda on its own and this aspect of development is thus getting left out. There is an increasing realisation within the development sector that PRIs are the key drivers of development in rural areas. NGOs are re-orienting themselves to work with and influence panchayats and to enable panchayats to work more effectively. In the process, they are losing their focus on organising people towards social change. NGOs are increasingly taking up development projects that have visible, tangible, measurable processes and outcomes that are in line with the current thinking within the development sector. Work on unpopular and/or neglected issues, including social justice issues, is declining, as is the inclination and capacity to work on such issues. 16 There is need for new thinking on the value of a social justice agenda. This includes the need to develop tools to measure social change rather than trying to adapt instruments from the livelihoods enterprise paradigm. New strategies that match short-term requirements with long-term perspectives need to be developed. Intervention strategies can change over time, but a clear perspective on the importance of a social change agenda is required. 17 WHAT HAS PAUL HAMLYN FOUNDATION LEARNED? Shankar Venkateshwaran (SV) and RD articulated PHF‟s learning from the consultation. SV reviewed the deliberations and noted the following points – PHF already recognises the need to work in urban areas, particularly in India‟s smaller towns. The discussions at the consultation highlighted the complexity of development issues in urban areas and in working with municipalities to whom powers have not adequately devolved. PHF needs to continue its urban focus on smaller towns, and to enable its NGO partners to take into account these issues in their work. Dwindling support for a social change agenda is a challenge. What will this mean for donor agencies such as PHF in terms of programming and support? Both influencing public policy and building the capacity of NGOs need to be considered seriously as additions to the „project‟ mode of support. There are many rapidly changing externalities that affect the development sector. PRIs are just one of them – others include the market and technology. A series of dialogues towards understanding the impact of these changes and their influence on NGOs needs to be held. There is limited knowledge and expertise available on PESA area issues. Working on these issues and advocating effectively for change is important, more so in the current context of widespread alienation. PHF needs to enable the building of a better understanding of PESA area issues among NGOs. Accountability needs to be a core value among NGOs. PHF intuitively agrees with stakeholders being represented in NGOs‟ governance structures, and in the need for NGOs to enhance accountability in their governance and operations. PHF will think through its own role in supporting this aspect of development in an appropriate manner. RD added that PHF is primarily a grant-maker and needs to move cautiously on matters that affect Indian development policy. He recalled Paul Hamlyn‟s background and recollected the motto „enabling truth to power‟ that inspired him, emphasising that this is particularly challenging when working with an emerging government. He shared that PHF in the UK is working to develop tools to track social change and is considering financial support beyond the project cycle to enable tracking of change. He suggested that PHF‟s India Programme could encourage sharing of experience and enable learning across NGOs, and felt that a system of peer assessments could be a good step towards this. He asked NGOs to cluster together in order to pool ideas and to develop evidence for social change. He also requested that NGO partners identify the activities for which it is most difficult to obtain financial support so that PHF could consider support. Ajit Chaudhuri then closed the workshop by thanking the participants for their presence, for the quality of their participation, and for the diversity of their opinions that enabled healthy debate on this contemporary and relevant topic. 18 PAUL HAMLYN FOUNDATION – INDIA PROGRAMME CONCEPT NOTE CONSULTATION ON WORKING WITH ELECTED LOCAL BODIES 25th and 26th February, Jaipur Background: Among the recent important directions in development in India is the increasing role of local level political institutions (panchayats and municipal bodies) in implementing development programmes. They are now critical to large government development schemes, and as elected bodies have a mandate to take responsibility for the development of their villages/towns. And yet, NGOs working on development have had a limited engagement with these institutions. Why is this so? Do these institutions‟ role and mandate conflict with those of NGOs? Do we (NGOs) recognise the primacy of their (PRIs and municipal bodies) mandate? Is it necessary to engage with such institutions to bring about long-term change? If so, in what form should this engagement be? Should NGOs work with and/or through such institutions? Should NGOs be accountable to them? What are the difficulties that NGOs face in engaging with such institutions and vice versa? We within PHF‟s India Programme are grappling with these issues. In keeping with our philosophy of learning from the NGOs and the work we support, we are calling for a consultation among selected NGO partners to discuss this. Aim of the Consultation: To discuss the issues and conflicts arising from working with local level political institutions, specifically – What has been the partner NGOs‟ experience in working with locally elected bodies and other formally mandated institutions (such as VHSCs)? Should NGOs work with such institutions? Should NGOs be answerable to such institutions? If so, what are the factors that NGOs need to keep in mind to enable this? Do NGOs need to change to work successfully with such institutions? Dates: Noon 25th to lunch 26th February 2010 Location: Gold Palace and Resorts, Kukas (on Delhi road), Jaipur Suggested Format for the Meeting: 1. Introduction by Robert Dufton and Ajit Chaudhuri 2. Open Discussions 3. Group Discussions and Presentations 4. Guest Speaker 19 Tentative Timetable: 25th February 1200 to 1300 Introduction 1300 to 1400 Lunch 1400 to 1600 Scoping the workshop and framing the discussions 1600 to 1615 Tea 1615 to 1745 Group Discussions – 1 1800 to 1900 Guest Speaker 2000 to 2200 Dinner 26th February 0900 to 1030 Group Discussions – 2 1030 to 1045 Tea 1045 to 1215 Open Discussions – 1 1215 to 1230 Presentation by PHF on outcomes of the consultation 1230 to 1245 Closing remarks 1245 to 1330 Lunch Each participant should circulate a short (two pages max) note outlining Brief organisation background Experience in working with panchayats or local municipal bodies Key learnings from working with panchayats or local municipal bodies Specific issues that you would like the group of participants to discuss and provide feedback or an opinion on 20 LIST OF ACRONYMS CBO Community Based Organisation CSO Civil Society Organisation GP Gram Panchayat GS Gram Sabha IAS Indian Administrative Service NGO Non Government Organisation NREGA National Rural Employment Guarantee Act NTFP Non-Timber Forest Produce PESA Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas PHF Paul Hamlyn Foundation PRI Panchayati Raj Institution RD Robert Dufton SI Sushma Iyengar SV Shankar Venkateshwaran TRR TR Raghunandan 21 PAUL HAMLYN FOUNDATION – INDIA PROGRAMME CONSULTATION ON WORKING WITH PANCHAYATS JAIPUR 25-26 FEBRUARY 2010 LIST OF PARTICIPANTS 1 Dr. Sunil Kaul The Action Northeast Trust +91-3664-293802 Udangsri Dera, Rowmari +91-3664-293803 P.O Khagrabari, via Bongaigaon email@example.com District Chirang (BTAD) Assam – 783380 2 Mr Saroj Dash Regional Centre for Development Ph. +91- 674- 2545250 Cooperation firstname.lastname@example.org A – 68, 1st Floor, Saheed Nagar Bhubaneswar, Orissa 751 007 3 Mr. Harigovind Singh Arthik Anusandhan Kendra Ph. +91-512-2600220 2/130, T.B Sapru Road +91-9415247602 Allahabad email@example.com Uttar Pradesh – 211 001 4 Mr V K Madhavan CHIRAG Village Simayal +91-5942-285738 P.O. Nathuwakhan +91-9412085732 District Nainital firstname.lastname@example.org Uttarakhand - 263 158 5 Mr Sanjeev Kumar Aravali Tel +91-141-270-1941 Patel Bhavan Fax +91-141-271-0556 HCM-RIPA email@example.com JLN Marg, Jaipur Rajasthan – 302 017 6 Ms Deepa Bajaj Child Survival India Tel +91-11-2784-4740 Multi Purpose Community Center +91-11-2784-4182 Village Kherakhurd firstname.lastname@example.org Delhi - 110 082 7 Mr Vikram Solanki Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan Tel +91-2832-230771-72 C Katira Commercial Complex, Mob. 09979916861 Pramukhswami Nagar email@example.com Mundra Relocation Site, Bhuj, Kutch – 370001, Gujarat 8 Ms Lata Sachde Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan Tel+91-2832-223340 38B, Vijay Nagar, Bhuj firstname.lastname@example.org Kutch District, Gujarat 370 001 22 9 Ms Meena Qureshi Baihar Nari Uthan Seva Mahila Mandal Tel: +91-763-6256591 Compounder Tola, Ward no 65, Baihar, District Balaghat Nari_utthanbhr@rediffmail.c Madhya Pradesh om Pin code: 481 111 10 Ms Parul Sheth Shaishav Executive Director 601/B “Shanti Sadan” Tel: +91-278-2428560 Opp. Shivshakti Hall +91-278-65545192 Sir Patni Road +91-9376428561 Bhavnagar - 364 001 Shaishavad1@sancharnet.in Gujarat email@example.com www.shaishavchildrights.org 11 Ms Poonam Kathuria Society for Women‟s Action and Executive Secretary Training Initiatives (SWATI) Tel: +91-2754-281338 Samarthya, Plot no.65,66,67 firstname.lastname@example.org GIDC – Estate, Surendranagar www.swati.org.in Road, Dhrangadhra 363 310 Gujarat 12 Ms Neeta Hardikar Area Network and Development Tel: +91-2678-220226 Initiatives (ANANDI) email@example.com Parekh Sheri, Devgadh Baria firstname.lastname@example.org District Dahod www.anandiindia.net.in Gujarat - 389 380 13 Mr Rajendra Joshi Saath Charitable Trust Tel: +91-79-26926604, O/102 Nandanvan V 26929827 Near Prerana Tirth Dehrasar 26929821 Jodhpur email@example.com Ahmedabad – 380 015 www.saath.org Gujarat 14 Ms Neelima Khetan Seva Mandir Tel: +91-294-2451041, Old Fatehpura 2450947 Udaipur, Rajasthan firstname.lastname@example.org Pin - 313 004 www.sevamandir.org 15 Mr Rangu Rao Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS) Tel: +91-7271-275757 Bagli, District Dewas +91-7271-275550, 275500 Madhya Pradesh – 455 227 email@example.com 16 Mr T R Raghunandan 17. Mr Ajit Chaudhuri Guest Speaker Director – India, PHF firstname.lastname@example.org AChaudhuri@phf.org.uk 23 18 Mr Robert Dufton 19. Ms Skalzang Youdon Director, PHF Administrator, PHF RDufton@phf.org.uk email@example.com 20 Mr Shankar Venkateswaran 21. Ms Gazala Paul Advisor, PHF Consultant PHF firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com 22 Ms Sushma Iyengar 23. Ms Veena Lakhumalani Advisor – PHF Consultant PHF sushma_iyengar@rediffmail. firstname.lastname@example.org com 24. Mr Adil Ali Consultant, Documentation Adil.email@example.com 24 CONSULTATION SCHEDULE 25TH FEBRUARY – beginning from 1200 hours Introduction Description of the participants‟ background papers Lunch Scoping and framing the consultation and identification of themes Talk by Mr. TR Raghunandan Group discussions – first round Group presentations Dinner for participants hosted by Aravali 26TH FEBRUARY – ending at 1400 hours Recap and outlining the day‟s schedule Group discussions – second round Group presentations Discussions in plenary PHF‟s learning from the consultation Vote of thanks Lunch 25 Arthik Anusandhan Kendra Joint initiative of AAK and Gram Panchayat for various developmental works Arthik Anusandhan Kendra (or AAK as it commonly known by people estab. 1968) is primarily a rights based organization with the sole aim of working with people & peoples‟ representatives (Panchayats – village and district level) to change the socio-economic conditions of the poor in a sustainable manner by increasing the rights, access & control of livelihoods opportunities. Dissemination of information about various government welfare schemes and facilitates the linkage of needy with them. The analysis of the various villages of a village panchayat is shared with the village people, peoples‟ representatives and then a microplan is developed, discussed and finalized along with participatory responsibility sharing. PHF is supporting AAK for micro- planning of 26 villages of 07 village panchayats. In total AAK is working with 200 villages of 50 village panchayats. When any work area is selected by AAK, the Gram Pradhan and the concerned local authorities are apprised of the objectives and methodology of AAK. The Gram Pradhan and other representatives of the villages addressed the outcomes of the unified approach. Consent is sought with the Gram Panchayat and AAK and the problems of the community are estimated by the PRA method. The problems of the various villages are ascertained by the PRA method. Analyzing the factors, the participation and responsibilities are fixed of the Gram Panchayat, AAK and the community. AAK has worked with the Gram Panchayat towards micro watershed programme in 5 panchayats of the Hallia Block namely Kushiyara, Belahi, Phulyari, Mahokhar and Umaria With unified efforts of the Gram Panchayat and AAK, a number of wells, hand pumps, earthen dams (Bandhi) and check dams have come into existence and plantation of trees has been done. In the Umaria village of Hallia block, the responsibility of watershed was given to the women of the area, which was a new initiative. The Gram Pradhan had been very helpful in this endeavor as his presence in every meetings, decision, material resources, planning, monitoring and evaluation was added advantage. AAK with the Gram Panchayat has worked to identify the most marginalized and poor people and efforts have been made to bring positive changes in their livelihood. The considerable help of the Gram Panchayat is lauded. Following are the various works done by the joint efforts of AAK and the Gram Panchayat. Micro Watershed The deprived and poor children were enrolled in temporary school - AAK has organized meeting with the community and sorted the issues of land allotment for the permanent Primary School in the vicinity. It has also presented memorandums to the Banks, Tehsil and District level authorities. 26 The landless were identified. Lekhpal was convinced in a camp organized by AAK the legal documents for allotment of 809 families of the Gram Samaj land to the deserving was disbursed. The candidature of the poor, widows, old and disabled for the various government schemes were ascertained. The decision regarding eligibility was made to be accepted by the civil authorities. Physical Verification and Social Audit at Gram Panchayat level, of the work done by the joint effort of Gram Panchayat and AAK was done at Phulyari. AAK initiated efforts for Ideal gram Panchayat. Micro Planning for 10 villages of the Block with the Secretary and BDO were conceived. Gram Pradhan of Kotar village invited AAK to work and make developmental plans in the village. Meetings with the poor members of the communities and the civic authorities were organized at public places of Lalganj. Estimation and analysis of the problems of Panchayat were done by PRA method thereafter, joint work plans were developed to tackle the problems A list of poor was prepared in accordance with the Gram Panchayat. The role and responsibility of the Gram Panchayat is determined by AAK in various programs and the Gram Panchayat has been cooperative to a large extent. Education – Efforts are made with the Panchayat towards imparting better and quality education in Schools. Health – The Panchayat has worked towards providing drinking water at community level, better sanitation and informing the PHC for eradicating contagious deceases. Efforts are made for better immunization program. Meetings were organized at organizational, Gram Panchayat and Block level for the implementation of NREGA. The Gram Pradhans have lauded the efforts made by AAK 27 Strengthening Rural Democracy ANANDI‟s work with Panchayati Raj Institutions in Gujarat For us in ANANDI “working with” PRI has been an ever changing experience. ANANDI always involved the Panchayat Body members in almost all dialogues without compromising on the values of equality, participation, transparency, accountability and pro poor and that is why the relationship between ANANDI and GP goes through the ups and downs and but never “ignore”! At ANANDI, the translation of empowerment approach takes place through a combination of methods - training, regular dialogue and review and reflection with the team members, the local women, and their leaders. To strengthen democracy is to strengthen people especially those who are marginalised and are subjected to discrimination. We realised that the process of working with elected women representatives (EWR) called for a change in the social power about the differential capacity of individuals, social groups and gender. In 1995, ANANDI began work in Panchmahaals district of Gujarat by interacting with women Sarpanch and Gram Panchayat (GP) members to understand how they identify with the power they have got and what are their issues in absence of any kind of capacity building and support for them amid the prevailing notion of patriarchal stereotypes of dysfunctional women representatives. After initial dialogue with the President of the block Panchayat (Devgadh Baria, Ghogamba Dist: Panchmahaals and Shihor Dist: Bhavnagar) and the Taluka Development Officer (TDO), ANANDI initiated a monthly forum - space for dialogue between the EWR and the block officials. Working with GP and EWR Through “Mahiti Kendra” (1999-2004) Information Centers now the “Lok Adhikar Kendra”(2005 onwards)- Community resource centre for gender justice, in and close to block office premises, provided a platform for information to the active EWR on day to day issues of governance and experience sharing and perspectives building for other members. Supported the “Koliyari Dam Asargrast Hakk Rakshak Samiti” (1995-2000) a village level organisation led by the woman Sarpanch of village Navagam to demand better rehabilitation to the project affected people of a medium irrigation dam project ousting seven villages completely and about seven other partially. This organisation has effectively influenced the stoppage of the work of the project through collective strength and legal action. Helped the EWR raise issues of entitlements such as food security , drinking water and shelter for the vulnerable households headed by single women, aged, and the poorest to promote equality and equity in governance. The issues of cancellation of faulty BPL identification, issuance of Antyodaya Anna Yojana card and social security entitlements to widow and old age pension are taken up. “Choose your Candidate” pre election voters‟ awareness campaign to motivate voters to elect right candidate. “Support desk” for women candidates were step up at the block offices to help them file their nomination forms for election. Often due to incomplete information in the nomination form, a candidature is disqualified. 28 Many men and their panels also came to the desk seeking assistance in filling up nomination forms. During election (2006-2007) there was absence of any mechanism for migrant workers (of which over 70% are dalits/ tribals from the poorest families) to exercise their right to vote in the elections. The stakes of the migrant workers in the village panchayat elections are high since many of the schemes for this population are now being implemented by GP. In Gujarat over a million voters were estimated to be absent from their place of residence but had no way of exercising their right from their work-site. ANANDI approached the election commissioner with the need for making provisions of postal ballots or voting at the place of duty like those made for armed forces, NRI's and officers on election duty to be extended for the migrant workers, pastoral communities too. The matter stands unresolved for now but we hope that it will be taken up for the ensuing round of elections. These are small but critical steps in strengthening our democracy and making it responsive to the needs of the poorest. 40 women Sarpanch and Panchayat members were trained on "Gender Budgeting & Analysis” (2006). They started looking at expenditure in their GP on infrastructure, food security schemes and social security from gender perspective. For example, there are high no of cases of anemia among pregnant women but the allocation for and execution of the Janani Suraksha Scheme is very pitiable ANANDI engaged with EWR as well as adivasi women leaders to raise issues of development of the adivasi region to influence the candidates for the legislative assembly election (2007) and their election manifestos. Many political parties and independent candidates responded to the call, and attended but they all preferred to send their women representatives! ANANDI‟s focus on working with EWR has received mixed responses as it compelled men at home and in the GP resist women making use of power. The strategy of mobilizing communities for Gram Sabha, use of the Right to Information Act, social audit and public hearing of schemes such as public distribution system, food schemes run by school and Anganwadi centre, health services through the Primary Health Centre faces similar challenge. Public demonstration for justice in cases of atrocities on women by forest department, domestic violence, police apathy and women‟s participation in public forums and decision making process have raised unfriendliness from the vested interest. Consequently ANANDI amended its strategy and engaged with other GPs too Active involvement of community in decision making (albeit difficult for the GP members) would only strengthen the democracy and hence for us strategies like capacity building and supporting GPs and forming workers‟ forum under the NREGS go on at the same time. The Roji Roti Lokjumbesh (RRLJ) - people‟s campaign for right to food and right to work to is a process of people‟s participation in development plan. For last four years the campaign focused on awareness building, people‟s plan and demand for work, ensuring quality work and timely payment of wages, social audit (SA)and developing long term perspective plan. Recently two of the six GP who worked with ANANDI towards making the NREGA work in their villages agreed to put information of their GP in public domain. ANANDI enabled (2009) other 22 GPs including these 2 GP for proactive disclosure of all information related to NREGS, Public Distribution System, Health, Education, 29 Integrated Child Development Scheme and schemes under District Rural Development Agency on public walls, panels and files in the GP. This is first ever initiative of GPs in India where the GPs have complied with the provisions under section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act. In the forth year of the RRLJ (2010) the ward members have taken initiative in preparing Participatory Village Development plan with people. The subjects taken up by them are developing existing resources, action points for rejuvenation of natural resources, village infrastructure, social security and human capacity building. These plans would be shared at the block as well as at the district level for encouraging other GPs too. May be this is one of the “up” moments in the ANANDI –GP relationship! Learnings: ANANDI‟s initiative in Social Audit of the in house programmes established that transparency of funds and its utilization is the non negotiable principles as far as the use of public resources are concerned. However for GPs, Social Audit is still a deliberate exercise of intrusion and provoking by “outsiders”. We feel that it is difficult to enforce such values without handing over the power to do so. The „experience of powerlessness” among the GP is due to the half hearted efforts of decentralization of power in the PR system. As a result, the GPs identify themselves as “contractor” rather then a decision making and implementing agency. (Example NTFP collection, NREGS funds, functions and people) Engagement of GPs is mainly for party politics which is in the interest of the block as well as district level Panchayat It is critical to build capacities of the elected members at all layers of the Panchayati Raj system. The administration must begin the process of real devolution of power to those who by the Constitution have it. 30 ARAVALI I. Nature of NGO Engagements providing them Opportunities to have an Interface with PRIs Approaching PRIs to meet their data requirements for ongoing projects and programmes or for ensuring entitlement outreach Schematic Association o Schemes of Government Organisations Beneficiary identification Seeking No Objection Certificates (e.g., for WSD programmes) Seeking Work Completion Certification (e.g., under Fluoride Mitigation programme) Decentralised Planning (e.g., for DAP preparation under RKVY) o Projects of Private Donors Seeking No Objection Certificates (e.g., for CRS-supported WSD and Drought Mitigation projects) Decentralised planning pilots (e.g., Ford Foundation for SRG-NREGS project) Migrant identification and certification support from local Sarpanch (MSP of SDTT) Informing local Sarpanch about the upcoming donor-funded project in his/her area Capacity building of PRI functionaries o Awareness generation programmes for voters and candidates (PRIA, HUNGER Project, IGPRS, Gandhi Gram Yojana) o Training of GPs in Social Audit process o Training of PRIs on NREGS o DPR preparation support to Panchayats, under DRDA‟s watershed projects o Strengthening Gram Sabhas by promoting the participation of women SHG members in them As part of the organisational Dalit Agenda of NGOs, mentoring local leadership and promoting election of Dalit candidates as PRI functionaries As part of operational strategy, organising VDCs or Standing Committees with Panchayat representation, before starting wok in any village II. Experiences of NGOs from Engagements with PRIs Difference in the level of understanding of local administration and of PRI functionaries creates hurdles in the implementation of Government schemes Positive experiences exist of NGOs engaging as designated DRPs/BRPs/Trainers for capacity building of PRI functionaries Where NGOs are called upon to perform monitoring roles for assets created with PRI participation, trust build up is low Timely provision of information on a scheme / Government programme to the PRIs by NGOs subsequently leads to an enhancement of NGO-PRI interface incidents, with diversified themes of engagement NGO support to PRIs comes in handy and is also valued when the latter are assigned tasks like DPR preparation (which are beyond their capacities and) which require mandatory completion before physical works are allotted to a Panchayat 31 PRI functionaries elected through NGO support are more responsive to addressing community concerns as communicated to them by those NGOs; however, a subsequent “relapse” to predecessor‟s style of functioning has been experienced III. Challenges Identified by NGOs in Working with the PRIs Limited PRI interest and participation achieved when NGOs approach them under non-GO schemes and programmes (as compared to that under GO schemes) Support provided to selected, able candidates by the NGOs in fighting PRI elections creates a no-co-operation situation in case their rival candidates win the election Vested interests do not want NGO-PRI collaboration to be sustainable as it impacts the distribution of schematic benefits (esp. those with tangible gains like seed mini- kits) More than the PRI functionaries, local administration personnel - across the three tiers – adopt a non-co-operative stance while dealing with local NGOs that try to work with the Panchayats; such NGOs are either seen as emerging power structures, or as watch-dogs, or competitor contractors in GO schemes requiring physical works Whether to engage with the “dummy” candidates (pati sarpanch, e.g.) is a constant dilemma for NGOs; while these are not the actually elected PRI functionaries, without capacitating them or engaging with them, any impact on the field level performance of the real functionaries may not be assured Young and nascent NGOs are still to think of ways to engage and work with Panchayats Apart from ideas and paradigms, funds to do concentrated work on and with PRIs is lacking Panchayats are perceived as quasi-Government organisations; NGOs do not want to engage with them with the fear of antagonising them The PRIs also do not have an understanding of what NGO means; they often lack information about NGOs working in their area Some points to ponder Building functionary capacities v/s capacities of Panchayat as an organisation Creating paradigms; evolving programmes for PRI strengthening weaved around their engagement in flagship programmes like NREGS, NRHM, and RKVY Apolitical role of NGOs v/s their role in functionary strengthening and voter awareness PRIs in the prevailing institutional environment (role of bureaucracy; demands on the functionaries under NREGS; NGOs providing backing to candidates from certain backgrounds and social order) Assessing the perceptions and expectations of PRIs from local NGOs 32 Engaging with Elected Local Bodies – CHIRAG's Experiences Chirag and Introduction The Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (Chirag), is a rural development organisation that seeks to improve the quality of life of rural families – with an emphasis on the poor and women – in villages in the central Himalayan region of Kumaun. Chirag believes that the complexity of poverty and human aspirations requires an integrated response with multiple strategies that are inter-woven into each other. Our activities include community health care – curative as well as preventive and promotive, primary education, soil and water conservation, drinking water, sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, livelihood support, community forestry and knowledge and skill development of young people. Chirag works in 220 villages in the Nainital, Bageshwar and Pithoragarh districts and provides technical support to other institutions in the state on integrated livestock management and soil and water conservation. Engaging with Village Level Institutions Villages in our region are marked by multiple institutions – both formal and informal. Chirag works with school education committees (formal), Van Panchayats (Forest councils- formal), Van Suraksha Samitis (Forest protection committes – informal), Watershed Development Committees (formal), Village development committes (informal), Self-help Groups (informal), user groups (informal), Gram Panchayats (formal) and Health Committees of Gram Panchayats (formal). Over a period of time, Chirag has recognised that two formal institutions – the Gram Panchayats (including their statutory committees) and the Van Panchayats have an important developmental role to play and must therefore be strengthened. Chirag facilitates the skill building of Van Panchayats and the creation of micro-plans for the management and development of their forestry plots. In case of all physical works that are undertaken in villages, Chirag as a matter of policy shares its plans with the Gram Panchayat and seeks a no-objection certificate from them prior to any physical intervention in their village. Periodic meetings with representatives of Gram Panchayats are held to brief them about the activities that Chirag is undertaking in their villages. For every physical activity that is undertaken, Chirag transparently shares the estimated budget and the final cost and for long-term developmental efforts where the basis of planning is the village or gram panchayat, provides the community with a copy of a detailed budget and activities. Similarly for efforts in common lands, plans are shared with the Van Panchayat and a no-objection certificate is requested for prior to commencing any activity. The Van Panchayat is privy to the proposed plans and expenditure. We are currently exploring the possibility of working with Gram Panchayats and the government to help create plans for utilisation of funds from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and to provide technical support to the Gram Panchayats. Gram Panchayats and the National Rural Health Mission Two years ago, in recognition of the potential of the National Rural Health Mission and in view of the absence of a formal and active role for Gram Panchayats, Chirag commenced working with the statutory health committees of 38 Gram Panchayats in Nainital and 33 Bageshwar districts. The objective was to facilitate the creation of health plans by these committees, to support the ASHA's (Accredited Social Health Activists) and to help the Panchayats use the plans to leverage services from the government and to track progress. Delays in the conduct of elections set us back by several months and following the elections, we had to facilitate the creation of the health committees since the Government did not issue orders for their formation. Subsequently, the government formally recognised the need for these committees and issued orders for their formation throughout the state. Over the past year, the Panchayats that Chirag has worked with have used their plans to leverage services from the government. Immunisation has improved with regularity in the visits by the ANM's (Auxiliary Nurse Midwifes), several health camps at the village level have been held with participation of government doctors, provision of iron folic acid and vitamin A has improved and the Panchayats have been provided with chlorine to treat their water sources. The single most significant success has been the fact that all the Panchayats have received Rs 10,000 – as an untied fund for health activities that they wish to undertake. Key Learnings While the state visualises a role for Panchayats in development, the role and decentralisation of powers and resources is visible in activities that involve infrastructure development but no in soft developmental issues. In flagship programmes like the National Rural Health Mission, the expectations from Panchayats are not clear and in the absence of a clear mandate for Panchayats and their statutory health committees, the advocacy role with the state has become as important as the mobilisation at a community level. The expenditure in elections and the culture of commissions that feeds of infrastructure projects has created a disincentive for Panchayats to engage with issues that do not involve substantial funds. The absence of a critical mass of civil society actors engaging with Panchayats in general and specifically in the context of health or education makes it difficult to generate policy support and a culture of engagement with soft developmental issues at the Panchayat level. Communities equate leadership and effective functioning of Panchayats with expenditure and visible infrastructure. The demand for Panchayats to improve education, health, provide training and information for employment or agriculture and animal husbandry, reduce violence against women or improve the quality of drinking water or credit flow to the village is non-existent. Issues for Deliberation Shouldn't we recognise Panchayats as the foundation for ushering in changes in the political culture and practices? Is electoral democracy adequate or do we wish to facilitate the creation of a truly participatory democracy? With enormous resources now flowing through Panchayats, what should be our role to strengthen these institutions and to ensure that these resources are utilised more effectively? 34 CHILD SURVIVAL INDIA Experience Of Working With Elected bodies & Panchayati Raj Institutions 1 Deepa Bajaj, Child Survival India Child Survival India is an NGO in development working primarily on health and gender issues. Our major project base is in urban slums and rural communities at Delhi , Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh. We work on: HIV prevention amongst vulnerable and high risk behavior groups In patient & community- based care and support for adults & children living with HIV/AIDS Life skill education for street & working children Comprehensive maternal and child health care Legal literacy and women empowerment We do not have a vast experience of working with elected bodies but whatever little experience we have, we would like to share it with other NGO partners of PHF. Gram Panchayat‘s involvement & support in legal literacy and women empowerment programs ( Women‘s panchayat) Illiterate poor women in distress are not able to approach formal legal system due to lack of awareness about the legal rights and the related processes & procedures. Child Survival India has thus mobilized some alert , aware, sensitive women who are willing to devote time for community courts , as Mahila panchayat members in three villages of Sonipat district (Haryana state) and has built up their capacities on gender & legal issues by interaction with police and legal experts. Mahila Panchayats are thus community –led informal legal justice committees run at the community-level by the community‟s own women , that attempt to provide an effective & sensitive redressal mechanism for community women facing domestic violence, marital discord, dowry demands etc. Community meetings, legal awareness camps & community events like street plays, poster exhibitions etc. are organized so as to create legal awareness at the community level .Effective linkages are developed with local police station , free legal aid cell , state women commission ,local protection officers and other such forums for facilitating women to get police & legal aid. The program has led to greater awareness amongst women about their legal rights .The backing & joint power of panchayat members has given strength to a lot of women in distress to speak up against violence being faced by them and get an effective, speedy and inexpensive means of justice for themselves However , Rapport building with existing gram panchayat proved immensely useful in the effective functioning of the mahila panchayat .We did it by initially winning the confidence of women members of these panchayats ( there is 33% reservation for women in all these panchayats) and then gradually inviting male members to see the functioning of mahila panchayats. This was important as it was observed that many a times when the mahila panchayat sent a notice to the 1 Deepa Bajaj has a Masters degree in Child Development from Delhi University and an MBA in Human Resource Development from IGNOU. She is the Chief Executive of Child Survival India and has been working in the development sector since last 19 years .Her areas of expertise are community mobilization ,reproductive health and HIV prevention and care. 35 second party, the party usually came to the hearing accompanied by the members of their family and also some members of the Gram Panchayat. Thus the respect accorded to Mahila Panchayat by other village Panchayats and the effective way in which it resolved the cases earned it the respect and backing of the Gram Panchayat. The Mahila Panchayat has received special support & recognition from the Gram Panchayats—in fact in one village theGram Panchayat has publicly requested people to take all cases of gender based violence to Mahila Panchayat ,instead of bringing them to Gram panchayat. Case Study Saroj, the daughter of village Barauta came to our Mahila Panchayat at Barauta and registered a case against her in- laws who had thrown her out of their house after her husband‟s death. Saroj was emotionally very disturbed as her in- laws had kept her 3 yr old daughter . When we took her case study, we realized that Saroj had not married the man , she was calling her husband and it was a live in relationship that was given a social sanctity and she was staying in the joint family with her partner. Her husband had his first wife and three kids from her. It was in fact a case of bigamy. When her partner died in a road accident , her in laws threw her out because her brother in laws did not wish to share the family property with Saroj & her child. Saroj was however concerned about her young daughter and wanted her back and thus she approached us. The paralegal workers went to her in laws house for investigations. The family said that keeping the grand daughter was the decision of biradari panchayat. However the paralegal workers said that biradari panchayat can not give a decision in the absence of the women who is affected. Besides, legally a child under 7 yrs should be given in the custody of the mother. After a lot of deliberations, the family was given a notice to be present in the next hearing of the Mahila Panchayat along with the child. In the panchayat hearing , both the parties were present and Panchayat members insisted on the legal right of mother on the child. A lot of gram Panchayat (village panchayat) members of Mandaura also came to the Mahila Panchayat office .In fact, the panchayat members also raised the issue of some maintenance money for the girl child. The family was not agreeable to this. The Mahila Panchayat members then said that Saroj would apply for compensation under motor vehicle act and would keep all the money for her girl. This really acted as a trigger and the family came to a compromise that they would give back Saroj‟s daughter and also agreed to give her half the share in compensation money received. The effective handling of case by Mahila Panchayat members impressed the Gram Panchayat members of Mandaura and they announced that in future ,no case from Mandaura related to marital discord, domestic violence, dowry etc would go to women cell or would be placed to gram panchayat and all the cases would be first referred to the Mahila Panchayat. 36 Support in resolving civic issues :The Municipal counselor of Samaypur Badli in Delhi ( an area where CSI is implementing an RCH project and an education project for out of school children) organizes quarterly review meetings with NGOs in the area .He listens to any civic issues like water supply, sanitation etc raised by the NGO representatives and gets quick redressal of the same. This is important as any comprehensive health project focusing on preventive, promotive and curative aspects is unsuccessful if basic amenities like sanitation and drinking water supply is lacking in the area. The counselor has also started a mobile health Van and a computer training center in the community thru his area development funds. We have been supported by different area counselors in establishing base offices at various slum clusters in Delhi as they have recommended us for allotment of Basti Vikas Kendra & community centers . These buildings are really useful and provide us ample space where community meetings/ trainings can be conducted. This is as per the requirements of MCD slum wing that requires recommendation of the area counselor for allotment of any slum wing building in a slum cluster to an NGO. We have been helped by counselors and MLA to help community access benefit of various schemes of social welfare department e.g widow pension, handicapped pension etc but now the Delhi govt. has simplified the procedures and has appointed Gender Resource centers in various clusters who can directly forward the forms to Deputy Commissioner‟s office. Lessons Learned : Our experience with Panchayati Raj Institutions and other elected representatives shows that: We need to keep them updated about community concerns and our interventions in the area. We need to sensitize and educate them on the real problems and concerns in their assembly or ward, e.g women not going in for institutional deliveries in the absence of emergency transport facilities in the area ; impact of staff vacancy or absentia in municipal dispensaries/schools ; Need to have adequate bus service in the area to ensure access to public education and health facilities; concerns of truckers/migrants at industrial clusters/trucker halt points. We need to constructively engage them in our activities and not have them as only token representatives in our functions. We can do that by involving them in: Project advisory committee meeting Project review meeting Event planning meeting 37 Rightful governance through women empowerment Sushashini (KMVS) Background of Organisation : Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS) is a grassroots collective of rural women in Kutch district. It has a membership exceeding 12000 spread across 165 villages in 4 blocks (talukas) of Bhuj district. Since its inception in 1988-89, KMVS has initiated a movement of social change, especially for the rural women of Kutch by addressing critical issues such as livelihood, leadership in Panchayats, ownership of property and violence against women. KMVS and its women members have defined women's empowerment as a spiral of securities against illness, drought, violence and gathering strength and capacities to articulate their own issues, create their own space and presence in the communities (in which they live and beyond); and ultimately to be able to make a positive and visible dent in the social, economic and political life of the community. The emergence of Panchayat Knowledge Centre (PKC) within KMVS in 2003 is the result of their experience and need (73 Constitutional amendment and subsequently the Gujrat Panchayat Act 1993 that enabled a 33% reservation for women in local governance structures). Starting as a panchayat cell working on the issue of building capacities of elected women representatives in Kutch district, today PKC is a major stakeholder in the sphere of decentralisation. Following an independent review of its work in Feb-March 2006 by a two member team; PKC undertook an exercise for strategic planning and articulated its overarching aim as “to politically empower the rural women through the Panchayati Raj Institutions; and create an environment for greater transparency in the village evelopment processes”. Emergence of Sushasini (Panchayat Knowledge Center) As fallout of the International Conference of Women in Beijing (1995), in 1997 the Gujarat Working Group on Women's Issues was established. KMVS was also a member of this working group and since one of the first initiatives of this Group was “building capacities of the elected women representatives in the PRIs”;KMVStook on the responsibility of doing this work in Kutch. In 1999-2000, survey on the status and needs of elected women representatives in PRIs in 10 Talukas overing 191 Sarpanches was conducted by the Panchayat Cell in KMVS. The survey results highlighte the key issues on which work needed to be done: access to information pertaining to government chemes, programmes and procedures; capacity building as 78% of the sarpanchs had received no training input; coordinating the functioning of the three levels of PRIs and various government departments for resolution of problems at the village level; and regular flow of information and skills pertaining to the basic features of the Panchayati Raj Act such as functioning of Panchayat level amities, Maintenance of records, micro planning, powers and responsibilities of Gram Sabha etc. In 2001-02, another study was conducted on the profile of elected women representatives covering 100 women Sarpanchs in ten talukas. This study provided significant information on the socio, economic and olitical background of the elected women; their experiences on being in office; autonomy and ecision making; training inputs received; role of the GP in the development of a village; role and esponsibilities of Gram Sabha; and effectiveness of the Sarpanchs. 55% of the respondents felt that lack of education hindered their work and effectiveness. While 44% felt that caste was a major indrance; 40% felt lack of experience as a hindrance and 29% described lack of family support as a hindrance. 38 Achievement in the past three years: Reaching out effectively in Kutch and outside, prioritizing the issue of women‘s leadership: Sushasini works with two of KMVS Sangathans called Ujhas and Shiyari. It works directly in 163 villages across six blocks called Anjar, Mandavi, Nakhatrana, Bhuj, Abdasa and Mundra. It is also working in partnership in 596 villages. Sushasini also provides input to women‟s networks outside of Kutch district. like trainings on the various facets of Panchayati Raj to 87 members of other organizations. Elected Women‘s Platforms: Sushasini has been instrumental in forming Manch of politically active women like the Sarpanches, Ward members and other potential leaders. The manch membership was 150 in 2006, 345 in 2007 and 460 in 2008. By 2008, there were 67% elected leaders and 33% other women leaders in the Manch. There is coverage of nearly 34% of elected women in six blocks of Kutch through the Manch which also represent a source of power. Manch have been agents of change and development: From implementation of existing development schemes to raising new issues, women‟s platforms have become important units of collective action. Their presence is even visible at the district level. Women Group for Women Land Ownership (WLWLO) through Sushasini has been able get 56 women get lands transferred and registered in their names. Capacity Building opportunities for elected women in the form of lecture series, direct trainings, exposure visits, learning material etc has been used and reached out to 500 elected women in the past three years. The Panchayat Information Centres have taken up nearly 2500 cases across six blocks related to issues like domestic violence, land rights, ration card, pension, employment guarantee etc. Various issues of Advocacy have been taken up. Like getting honorarium for elected representatives; devolution of greater financial resources to Panchayats; speaking against the Saamras scheme; raising the threats that Panchayats face due to rapid industrialization. Learnings and Challenges: SHGs and Sakhi Mandal women who plays a good role as women leader loses election with fewer votes. Women having awareness and having good leadership qualities are not accepted in politics. Coram has importance in Gram Sabha but its necessity has not been decided. There is no provision for women‟s issues and budgetary provisions. Participation of marginalized, dalits and women is very low due to political interference in Panchayats. Acceptance of women on general seat is difficult. 39 Non-coverage of BPL, widow and single women while planning implementation of schemes by Panchayats so they are not getting benefit of Ration, shelter, pension, loan etc. Women are lacking information, knowledge about rights, they are not organized. There is a provision for women in Samras Scheme but there is no participation of women in Samras Panchayat. Women are having presence in Gram Sabhas but they are not having voice and decision power. Women performing active role as a Sarpanch, faces threats so she has to give resignation or fight. In last quarter, 2 employees left Sushasini for personal reasons, and new 2 employees have been appointed on their place. They are Ramilaben Parmar for activities in Abadasa block and Almasben as an accountant. This is the challenge faced by Sushasini from 2006, employees leave organization after their capacity building. Specific issues: 1. Sustainability of Forum of EWRs . 2. Policy Advocacy for EWRs 40 Reinforcing Efforts towards Improved Local Self Governance – Setu, Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan Organisation background Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan (known as Abhiyan) is a district network institution composed of 32 voluntary organizations. The network coordinates and influences key factors supporting development in the district and links communities with these actors in order to leverage human, knowledge, and financial resources for local development needs. The network also focuses on strengthening of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) and traditional livelihood based groups to identify their development needs and enable them to directly access the appropriate resources from the State, donors and other institutions. The task of capacitating PRI and community based organisations is being undertaken by Abhiyan through the 18 existing Setus (translated as „bridge‟). Setus are rural information and coordination centers within a cluster of 15 to 18 villages that provide information, share experiences, and build linkages between communities and key actors, in order to facilitate the communities to lead development processes. The context The status of devolution of powers to the Panchayats has always been a major concern in Gujarat. It was important to demonstrate the capacities of Gram Panchayats (GP) in implementation and develop confidence of the Government, NGOs and other Donor agencies in working with or through GPs. Moreover the Government funds that the Panchayats were able to access were pre defined to be used by specific sectors, thus, the actual need of the village remained unaddressed. It was also observed rather than focusing or enhancing the implementation abilities of the GP on governance practices, more focus has been on building capacities of the Panchayats through structured trainings. The need to develop capacities of Gram Panchayats as accountable bodies for fund utilisation & management was also evident. The other major challenge was that, „village development‟ for Panchayats meant physical development alone - often restricting their goals and role to the construction of community halls or cement concrete roads, rather than governance of their primary education, the Public distribution system, or social security for the old or disabled. And move towards reducing the village's 'dependency' attitude on the Government and NGOs while also paving the road for better governance. Setus observed and realized the need to Building capacities for improved empower Panchayati Raj Institutions by governance through: developing their access to alternative Provision of Untied fund for development funds, and through that development generating a need to govern, by nurturing Sectoral knowledge through the village's responsibility to monitor use of Lecture series these funds for their development, and enabling News Letter and Information Panchayat bodies to become more Panchayat Forums accountable institutions. Government Grants/Schemes It was thus, the objective of the Setus to ture Series nurture, and enable Gram Panchayats, and village communities to prioritize, develop, plan and implement their own developmental needs - with the mandate and ownership of the gram sabha. And enable them to safeguard, develop, and govern the well being of their village in a more holistic manner. 41 Village Development Fund (VDF) – the concept The VDF was envisaged as a flexible fund that paved the way for Gram Panchayats to initiate governance and development related interventions through a participatory political process, which involved all the village citizens. With Setus playing a facilitative role, this fund contributed to by Paul Hamlyn Foundation(PHF) and other donor agencies/institutions, was used to re-educate the Gram Panchayat in good governance, introduce an intensive process of capacity building with them, and support them to establish transparent norms of fund utilization and implementation. This untied fund enabled the Panchayat (Gram Sabha and the Panchayat body) financially, to be able to prioritize and undertake small but critical developmental agendas of the village. The process met two aspects of development- building capacities of the Gram Panchayat as empowered change agents and second, trying to redefine the role of NGOs, Donors, and Community vis-à-vis each other. The Panchayats are able to access VDF only when they are ready to involve the community, and work with every ward in their village, at all levels of the project management, and planning – beginning with need identification, consensus on needs and priorities, focusing on specific needs of the most vulnerable, planning implementation, organizing village resources, mandating and recording decisions, managin No. of Gram Panchayats in Kutch: 614 g the No. of Gram Panchayats covered under Setu Programme: 164 funds, No. of Gram Panchayats covered under VDF: 38 and Amount spent through VDF: Rs.2400000 monitori No. of Setus (Units): 18 ng outcome . Our Experiences: The overall level of political consciousness, development perspective, readiness to govern, and The Panchayats used the accountability to citizens were abysmally low in fund sanctioned according Kutch (as it is in so many parts of the Country), even 3-4 to the issues prioritised at years ago, and in fact continues to be so. However, the the village level. While most act of „investing‟ minimal finances with the Gram of them prioritized on Panchayat (through the VDF strategy) has over the reviving the traditional past 3 drinking water sources in years, energized about 38 Gram Panchayats their villages and also on substantively, and has slowly begun to activate a larger enhancing the educational critical mass of Panchayats towards a need for initiatives, the Panchayats decentralized action. To that extent, the VDF as a and the villages have strategy has shown tremendous potential, and become more responsible became a powerful educational medium, through towards the most vulnerable which other capacity building processes have been more in their village. rooted. In the last 3 yrs, 25 Panchayats developed their village development plan and presented their plan and budget before the VDF steering committee2. On sanctioning of the budgets, each Panchayat was able to access an untied grant of Rs.1,00,000 max. for addressing development issues 2 the steering committee is represented by members from resource organizations, a Sarpanch, one Governing council member of the setu programme, 1block coordinator, one member from Abhiyan finance department) 42 within their villages. There was much expectation from the VDF in areas such as inculcating a development agenda within Panchayats and making them participatory in systems and processes and more sensitive towards the problems of the vulnerable. At first, it took time for the programme to take off because the Panchayats elections had just been held, the idea of VDF was very different, almost challenged the conventional norms of developmental work, and had a different set of expectations from all the stakeholders. 38 Panchayats have accessed the VDF contributed by different institutions and individuals. Some accessed support for health systems initially and then continued to access support from PHF – Thus, 25 Panchayats accessed an amount of Rs.24,00,000 contributed by PHF 18 Panchayats accessed an amount of Rs.13,50,000 as untied fund towards developing primary healthcare systems in villages 7 Panchayats accessed an amount of Rs.5,81,415 for village development activities from individual donors. On an average, 12% of the cost of interventions has been contributed in cash by citizens. VDF was used for some typical development work as in the first round it was not viable to challenge too The much. This includes developing locally governed drinking water sources, primary education, health, Impa upgrading Panchayat office, improving agriculture, supporting animal husbandry, public infrastructure ct like wells, roads, schools, dispensaries, pastorals etc, social security support to the most vulnerable Over the Yet there were some unique examples like a Panchayat purchased a thresher that was then used by local years farmers. This has created an income-generating asset for the village. Another set up a solar lighting of system for common areas in the village. Another set up a system for birth and death registry. Another Setus used the VDF to feed abandoned animals. const ant Even the whole process empowered the Panchayats to raise their voice for improved governance. dialo Maldeben, the Sarpanch of Godpar Panchayat, raised, the issue of absenteeism, of the Talati. Applications guing were submitted several times to the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) regarding this irregularity. No with steps were taken. Ultimately, the Sarpanch alongwith a Panchayat member visited the Taluka Panchayat, the Bhuj and reported the issue to the TDO. Within 15 days of this, the existing Talati for this village got Panc transferred and a new Talati was deputed. The new Talati is supportive to the Panchayat and pays hayat regular visits to the village. mem bers and strategically developing the capacities of the Panchayat members, there have been some good practices that have created a positive impact on the whole initiative. There has been much more participation of the people and even the various groups including women to atleast identify and prioritise their issues/problems. Discussions were held with women‟s groups separately so that they have a scope to come out with their issues. The Panchayats have become much aware on the Government schemes, their roles and responsibilities and have evolved as informed Decision makers A culture of creating transparency in local governance has been introduced. Panchayats have made efforts in displaying financial information on boards at the Panchayat office. An emerging change in the mindset of Panchayats is evident. Rather than infrastructure development, Panchayats are now prioritising issues addressing the holistic development of the village The Panchayat members have become responsible and accountable towards their village and thus have regained the trust and confidence of the Gram Sabha 43 The formation of a forum of block level village panchayats has helped them raising issues regarding policy advocacy. Some of them have been issues related to implementation of NREGA, provision of ration card, revenue collection, implementation of Government welfare schemes etc. This forum made a collective effort to work out solutions to various problems. Key Learnings: Investing in developing the capacities of the Panchayats is important as that helps them in coming out with holistic plan of their village even addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in their village. Panchayats equipped with knowledge and information have shown the capacity to address the developmental issues in their village. They have the ability to address the priorities of the village through the development of Village Development Plan and implement the activities alongwith maintenance of accounts Panchayats have been focusing on certain issues of practical needs as part of VDF but the larger issues of local governance have not yet been addressed. The village panchayats have been sensitised to look into the aspects of planning for the basic needs of the village like the Primary health, Primary education, drinking water, citizen‟s rights, income generation, the vulnerable groups and natural resources – and not restricting themselves to the physical development alone. Group Discussion: The points I would like the group to discuss on: 1. Devolution of power to Gram Panchayats 2. Enhancing Capacities of Gram Panchayats for Village Development Planning & and the larger issues of governance 44 Brief Information of Nari Uthan INTRODUCTION ―Nari Utthan‖ is combination of two Hindi words and can be defined as nari means women and utthan means development or empowerment. ―BNUSMM‖ is a non- political. Non-profit making. Non government and secular, grass root voluntary organization. It is working in the village of Baihar, Balaghat districts for the last five year in Backward & Tribal areas for completely under below poverty level, who called ―Baiga‖ people are deprived most basic amenities of lively hood. There Backward communities reliance of forest food and other necessities. They are living at desperate levels of socioeconomic development. For want of infrastructure and especially food, people walk miles together and have no help in any emergency. The area is mostly hilly, stony and forestry where wild animals like Bears, deer, Pig, Tiger are also dwelling. Nari Utthan specially Dedicated for overall development of poorest poor ‖Baiga‖ Community. Nari Utthan Started out as voluntary facilating women‘s organization and gender devoted for social development. MISSION The mission ……….. Our mission is to act as a catalyst to enable the civil socially and rural communities especially poorest poor, who called "BAIGA‖ to improve their livelihood on sustainable basis. VISION The mission ………… To improve the health and socio economic status of rural people and strive for their overall development. To impart education & training for the strengthening of poorest poor ―Baiga community‖ To implement innovative livelihood programmes with communities in different parts of M.P. 45 Strengthening the women empowerment and child program as well as Environment Awareness Programme. Networking with leading national and international organization in the development fields os ―Baiga‖ TARGET Target Groups GROUPS & 1. Landless labour. 2. Marginal and small farmer‘s. PROGRAMS 3. Poorest Poor Baiga Community. 4. Women‘s of all Cast. About \working 1- About 250 kM of Nagpur, Jabalpur & Raipur Area 2- Baihar, Birsa and Paraswara Blocks of our area is 5th seduled area and their BAIGA Community formed 3- Totally dense forest area are not proper roadways system. 4- Surrounding of KANHA Nation Park which is famous of wild life mostly TIGER. REGISTRATION DETAILS OF NARI UTTHAN 1 Registration Details i. Registration Number, JB 2181 ii. Date of Registration 28-July-1995 iii. Registration up to, Life Time iv Character of Association Registration under Madhya Pradesh State Society Registration Act 1973 (Code 44 of 1973 v Activated Area All India 2 F.C.R.A. Registration Details i. Registration Number, 063120014 ii. Date of registration, 3-July 2001 46 iii. Act of Registration Registration under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 1976. 3 12 ‗A‘ Certificate Details i. Registration Number, CIT I/JBP/12A/25/05-06 ii. Date of Registration, 25-05-06 iii. Act of Registration Under Section 80 ―A‖ of IT Act 1961 4 80‘G‘ Certificate Details i. Certificate Number, F.No. CIT-I/TECH/80G/07/05-06 ii. Date of Registration, 09- June -06 iii. Act of Registration Under Section 80 ―G‖ of It Act 1961 5 Actual year of active working 16 years (1990 to till date) Table showing brief details of project and coverage area me of Project Name of Total Covered Area Nature of Work Funder Villages Panchayat Blocks District Families Tejaswini MPMVVN 152 40 2 1 20357 Social, Political, amin Mahila Economical, asaktikarn Educational empowerment of Women SGSY Jila 52 23 3 1 7241 Thrift and credit, Panchayat Livelihood, Watershed Jila 33 23 4 1 4866 MREGS, Land and Panchayat water treatment, Baiga OXFAM 95 31 5 3 2253 Sanghatan, Education, Community INDIA, Health, PRI, mpowement PHF England Table showing Total Staff of Nari Utthan 47 No. of Staff No. of No. of No. of Experience of Staff Male Female Total Permanent Project Volenteers 1 to 3 to Above Staff Staff 3 5 5 year year year 50 34 84 7 77 38 31 38 15 Qualification of working staff Under High Graguate Post Technical Matric Secondary Grajuate 27 23 11 12 11 Experience in working with Panchayat Capacity Building of PRI Representative Baiga PRI representative Capacity building in which organization conducted 16 days training to 48 community representative in Panchayat with proper follow up activity program. Women PRI representative training in which organization conducted 16 days training to 90 women of ST community representative in Panchayat with proper follow up activity program. 3 days training in 217 cluster of 10 blocks of Balaghat district in which 5657 men,2886 female, 938 SC, 1688 ST, 5824 others .8450 Punch, 60 Serpench 5 BDC members, Sachiv 27 trained. Awareness about Gram Sabha Increase Participation of Baiga Community members in about more than 50 percent in 30 villages of Baihar tehsil. 48 Increase Participation of Baiga Community members in about more than 25 to 50 percent in 30 villages of Baihar tehsil. Increase Participation of Women in about more than 50 percent in 25 villages of Baihar tehsil. Increase Participation of Baiga Community in about more than 25 to 50 percent in 25 villages of Baihar tehsil. Villagers Linkage with Panchayat level Government Schemes Benefits received by Baiga at Panchayat and other government schemes are mostly Forest Land Patta - 228 families Indira awas - 122 Beneficiaries Old Age Pension - 126 Beneficiaries Janshree Beema - 144 Beneficiaries Cast Certificate of Baiga children - 178 Beneficiares Key learning from working with Panchayat Difficulties Less literacy rate of PRI Representative Mostly work of Women PRI representatives are held by their family men member Lack of awareness of Government schemes and process Different governing bodies of Panchayat level are only in paper. Secretary has most powerful role in PRI representative committee. Key learning from working with Panchayat If they are more educated the work better If they know their work & responsibilities they will function better 49 After election newly elected representatives should be given training immediately so they function effectively. 50 Towards devolution of power and capacity building of Panchayat Raj Institutions: RCDC experience in Orissa Background The spirit of Panchayati Raj as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi at the time of India‟s independence is yet to be materialized. The 73rd and 74th Amendment of the Indian Constitution rejuvenated the gamut of local self-governance. Enactment of PESA in December 1996 was a milestone in the case of tribal self-rule, which recognized tribal culture, wisdom and dignity for self-governance and development. The irony is that the people, who have already become dependent on the government for each and everything, are not able to realize the importance of self-rule. More than half a century of external inputs based development has made them convinced that development is nothing but the delivery of few services and facilities. Regaining the confidence on their own Institutions and articulating participatory development and reviving the natural resource base for livelihood security are the major challenges before the people, the PRIs and also other development actors. In the present times PRIs are of prime importance, without whom socio-economic and political development of the area can not be thought of. Their potentiality is enormous because of their numerical and institutional strengths and constitutional mandate. All the developmental programs are to be implemented through them and resource use patterns are to be approved by them. What needs to be done is to inculcate in them the values and skills for designing and articulating their own development needs, instead of implementing programs designed by a top-down approach. RCDC, The Regional Centre for Development Cooperation in partnership with Concern World Wide(CWW) planned for the intervention in Nabarangpur District of Odisha which aimed to capacitate the PRI so that the representatives are well aware of their power, roles and responsibilities and lead the process of development for a bigger change in the living , livelihood and resource management for interest of the common mass of the district. The district of Nabarangpur that is located in the South Eastern part of Orissa became a separate district in 1993 before which it was part of Koraput. The district has very good concentration of tribal population, which is in the tune of 55%, and the Scheduled Castes constitutes about 15 percent of the total population. In terms of literacy, this district figures in the bottom in Orissa with 19 percent male and 10 percent female literacy. Although it is a schedule area, the visibility of tribal self-rule is hazy. Traditional tribal organizations are very active in their social and cultural activities. Some of them are very enthusiastically managing the forest resources but when it comes to the context of local planning process and area development, and local self-governance, their involvement has not been so encouraging. Not much has been done by the Government as well as by the non-governmental organizations to strengthen the capacity of the tribal organizations and also the PRIs to strengthen the tribal self-rule in the district. The situation of the PRIs may be stated as follows. Lack of awareness among the PRIs on local Self Governance/ Panchayatraj/ Tribal self- rule. 51 Lack of awareness among the people on Tribal Self Rule and how to effectively participate in the Local Self Governing process. Poor participation of PRI members in the Governance and management of the PRIs. Lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities of the members as well as office bearers. Inadequate efforts of the PRIs for local level planning for development. Poor implementation of poverty alleviation programmes for the poorest of poor. Too much of dependence on the Sarapanch and Panchayat secretaries at the GP level and on the BDO and other Govt. Officials at Block level. Highly bureaucratic operations enabling non-participation of the members of PRIs. Dominance of Panchayat Secretaries at the GP level. Poor participation of women in the Panchayatiraj. Virtual absence of Pallisabha and Gram Sabha. Inadequate understanding on the powers and functions of Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha. Poor efforts by the Government for building up of capacity of PRIs. The Accomplishments in a nutshell In the first phase steps taken to build up a good rapport with the district and block administration and their support for capacity building of the PRIs solicited. A team of trainers (around 25) created within the district through a three phase ToT and these trainers involved in capacity building of PRIs . 7 days training was provided to more than 2300 PRI members and functionaries on different aspects of local self-governance in the tribal areas. Resource materials were developed in Oriya language and circulated to the PRI members and government officials. 3 workshops were conducted at the district level for the PRIs and government officials to discuss the issues in local self-governance. 20 GPs have been identified with the district administration for intensive capacity building of PRIs and 40 cadres (one man and one woman from each GP) trained for 5 times on tribal self-rule, participatory micro planning and strategies for capacity building of PRIs etc. Annual plans developed for 10 GPs. Regular interaction with 20 GPs established. One orientation programme was organised on decentralised planning for the leaders and functionaries of 20 GPs, officials from the Panchayat Samiti etc. Handbooks containing the basic information on duties and responsibilities of PRIs were developed and provided to all elected representatives of PRIs. Collection, publication & circulation of various schematic entitlements meant for food & livelihoods security, MCH care and other programmes meant for very poor & vulnerable families in 20 selected GPs. Regular publications of advocacy and campaign materials on the 73rd Amendment, PESA, NFFWP, RTI, NREGA etc. Developing special illustration and learning materials for the virtually illiterate elected PRI members and helping them to acquire better reading & writing skills. Organising regular meeting of the NGOs/CBOs to review the method of intervention, understanding their intellectual and resource requirements and organising support for them and imparting training to their cadres on 73rd Amendment, PESA, NFFWP, RTI, NREGA etc. District level cultural campaign has been conducted in the form of street play to propagate 73rd Amendment, PESA, NFFWP, RTI, NREGA etc. Intensive campaign has been done immediately before the PRI Election of 2007 to educate the voters about their rights and duties and how to select good candidates. 52 Using RTIA to address long pending grievances of the poor and tribal in the micro intervention areas. IMPACT OF THE PROJECT The main objective of the training was to empower the PRI members by making them aware of their roles and responsibilities and the functioning of Panchayati Raj system. For assessing the impact of training programmes variables like change of attitude, extent of awareness among PRI members, increase in women‟s participation in Gram Sabha and Palli Sabha meetings and PRI representatives‟ perception regarding improvement in the functioning of PRIs have been used. The training seemed to have made the elected representatives more confident about themselves and their position in the PRI system. Women members have stated that while they used to go and sit quietly during Gram Sabha meetings they have began to ask questions regarding the various development works being implemented in their GPs. Members also stated that earlier they were afraid of meeting government officials and asking them about development programmes. The training has given them courage and confidence to meet government officials. Some of the elected representatives said that earlier they used to sign the Gram Sabha resolution book without knowing what was written in it. But now they insist on proper discussion on the matter and then writing it down before signing. This change was more evident in GPs where Panchayat Sathis were posted. The project has played an important role in enhancing awareness about Panchayati Raj system and tribal self-rule among elected representatives of PRIs by conducting training on PRI system, roles and responsibilities of elected representatives, information dissemination and intensive intervention with the selected GPs. The sample study has shown that 72 % Ward Members have acquired some knowledge about the system. Most of them had no idea about their roles and responsibilities earlier. It was noted from the interaction with villagers and women groups that many of them are now aware of Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha. This was made possible by the discussions the trained ward members had in their villages. The intervention by Panchayat Sathis and the process of micro level planning also has contributed to making PRI system more popular in the selected GPs. So it implies that the PRI members can play a better role in making people aware of the PRI system. 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act mandating 33 percent reservation for women in three- tier Panchayati Raj system is a very strong and effective step for women‟s political empowerment. Women did not have equal status in Indian society. They were not allowed to take part in decision-making inside the house as well as outside. This situation has changed for good and it is now increasingly realized that there should not be any gender discrimination and women should have equal right to participate in social, economic and political aspects of life. Political participation can contribute significantly to this empowerment process. Field study has shown that 83 percent women representatives participate in Gram Sabha / Palli Sabha meetings regularly after getting trained. 17 percent still do not participate in the meetings due to gender discrimination prevailing in their respective families. Men 53 acknowledged during discussion that sometimes decisions made by women members led to fruitful results for which they allow women to take part in decision making. Villagers have reported that participation of women in Gram sabha has been increasing. Further inquiry has shown that women participants attend in large numbers only when the meeting is to select beneficiaries under welfare schemes like IAY, BPL list etc. On other occasions their participation is poor. Self-governance means autonomy of funds, functions and functionaries. The objective of the training was not only to impart knowledge about the PR system, rural development schemes and self-rule but also to implement the same in the field to benefit the poor. It was satisfying to note from the interaction with the sample group that except for about five percent, everybody else have tried to put into practice what they have learnt from the training. Of course, about 57 percent could only remember a few things, as they are not able to refer to the resource books because of illiteracy Problems in the project implementation: Initially the political parties did not show interest for the programme and apprehended that the training programme could prove to be a threat to their clout in the area. Therefore, there was hardly any support from them at the beginning of the project. However, after series of interaction their doubts clarified and subsequently they started taking interest in the project. During discussion on the development schemes being implemented by the block and Gram Panchayats, the PRIs wanted to question government officials as they were the ones actually implementing the same. This hurt the sentiments of the Govt. officials as before no body raised questions to them in their monopoly in implementation of Govt. schemes. Participation of trainees has shown a decline over the three phases of the training. There may be a number of reasons for this. For instance, the timings of the training; coincided with the agricultural activities making it difficult for people to participate. Many of the participants being very poor they felt it that they could have earned some amount without attending the training. Thirdly, many of the participants being illiterates the course content and methodology would not have fully suited them. Fourthly, the participants have shared their view that some of the trainers were not suitable for the task. Teachers, advocates, district level officials etc. were identified and invited to the TOT. Their commitments to the cause of strengthening the PR system or their competency to deal with illiterate PR members were not taken into consideration. More care needs to be taken to avoid such trainers who are not committed to tribal development and their self-rule. Though training need assessment was done at the beginning, the training module developed did not suit the large number of illiterate members. Some of the classes were monologues, keeping the participants inactive and dull. Involvement of block and district level official in the training sessions as resource people could have helped rapport building between the officials and the PRI members. They would have been in a better position to deal with topics related to the PRI structures, rules and regulations, Centre and State laws, allied Government orders, details of various schemes, etc.. The team has noted that the number of women trainers was very low. The project team has no women in it. With a good number of women representatives in PRIs it will be appropriate to have more women trainers who can better relate to women representatives. 54 EMERGING ISSUES, RECOMMENDATIONS & CONCLUSION RCDC, supported by Concern Worldwide on the one hand and the district administration on the other, has intervened in the district of Nabarangpur to make tribal self-rule a reality. The project has certainly made some positive impact at the district and local level. This has reportedly been the first effort in Orissa to provide a series of training to all the elected representatives of PRIs in a district. The objective of tribal self-rule was shared by the district administration, while the constitution of India upholds such an objective, it is also the declared policy of the state government. To strengthen the PR system, the state government has been giving training to the PR members which were sporadic in nature. However, here the administration along with RCDC carried out intensive training programme covering all the elected representatives of PRIs in the district. The devolution of power to PRIs is not an easy task. Though it has taken place on paper, in reality, the government functionaries continue to exercise most of these powers and it is unlikely that they make whole hearted efforts to hand over full powers to PRIs as envisaged in the Panchayati Raj Act. Though political parties subscribe to the idea of PRIs for local self governance, and it has been envisioned as a non political entity, in reality, it is considered as the nursery to nurture political leadership. Thus attempt by any party or group to strengthen PRIs is looked upon with suspicion by others. Thus one cannot expect political parties to provide the leadership to bring about the power transition. As of now the elected representatives of people in PRIs are the best bet to bring about the dream of local self governance or tribal self-rule. If they can be equipped with proper and full knowledge about the functioning of PRIs and the skills required for performing their duties efficiently, they can provide the leadership required to make local self-governance a reality. This challenge before RCDC, Concern and the district administration is to establish replicable models that can encourage and move others to replicate. Literacy: It was made clear from the intervention that illiteracy is a major constraint in enhancing the capacity of PRI elected representatives. Majority of the PRI members are depending on others for reading notices and notifications, Government circulars, project plans and details, beneficiary list, Panchayat accounts and records etc. The illiteracy sets a limit to the PR members‟ powers/rights; it sets a limit to the entire capacity building initiatives. Since past attempts at total literacy campaign has failed to address illiteracy issue, something different needs to be tried out. SHGs Role in Empowering PRIs SHGs have helped women to fight evils of alcoholism and generate supplementary income for the family. Empowered women SHGs have activated PRIs in several places. 55 SHGs could become powerful collaborators of the PR system. They can be real campaigners for participation of people and generate lively discussion in the Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha. They could also be part of village level marketing networks and micro enterprises‟ management. Hence, SHGs can be instrumental in strengthening local self- governance. Gender and equality: Equality of women and men should be brought with in the agenda of the GPs and the Panchayat Samittee. The existing social practices are biased against women and girl child. School going girl children should be given special attention so that they can be on par with boys in both curricular and extra-curricular activities. The entire GP members should address gender justice as one of the prime concerns and it should occupy due space in the GP deliberations and plans. Micro level planning: As in the case of literacy campaign for the PR members and linking up SHGs with the PRIs, micro-planning is an inevitable tool to strengthen the PR system. A meaningful exercise to decentralize power is possible if it is linked to the capacity to plan for the development of both human and natural resources through the technique of micro level planning. The training has enabled the PR members to negotiate with the Sarpanch and the Panchayat secretary. Ordinary ward members were upset because much of the State and Centrally sponsored schemes remained outside their knowledge, may be because the Panchayat secretary and the Sarpanch choose to keep the information to themselves or may be due to their illiteracy. The training programme has enabled the PR members to get details of various programmes. But the very PR system is very much circumscribed within an „implementing agency-‟ syndrome, a mind set which is contradictory to the idea of self rule. The GPs generate little resources on their own and depend on government support for plan implementation. 90% of the total investment of the GPs comes from sponsored schemes of the State and central Government, the implementation of which is controlled by the BDO. The experience of implementing somebody else‟s plan is not likely to encourage and motivate PRIs to aspire for self-rule, which is the missing link today in the PRIs. The GPs should start planning and implementing programmes with own resources - both human and natural. Resource mobilization: The resources of GPs in Orissa are very limited. The main source of fund is the sponsored schemes of the State and the Central Government. Another source of fund is the 11 th Finance Commission allotment, which includes community roads inside the village, lighting (electricity and maintenance) schools and education. Specific grants like Kendu leaves grants are also available to GPs in scheduled areas in Orissa. 56 GPs in the project area generate very little „own fund‟ through taxation (local transport, market places, shops etc.), issuance of trade license (primarily for non-timber forest produces) and leasing of GP assets like ponds, orchard, etc. Culture of paying taxes and participating in decision making as to how to spend that collected tax constitutes the very essence of the self-rule. But in the present situation, neither GPs can deal effectively with tax defaulters nor the taxpayers participate in the decision making process. Institutions like Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha provide the legitimate forum for citizens to participate in the planning and decision-making process but unfortunately proceedings in these institutions continue to be manipulated by vested interests groups. This situation can be improved only through collective action of civil society and the government. There should be advocacy and lobbying at the state and district level for creating more conducive environment for the PRIs to execute their power. There is a need for adequate support to the GP for establishing tribal self-rule. Saroj Kumar Dash, Regional Manager, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation, Nabarangpur, Odisha. 57 NGOs and the Government - Possibilities of Engagement Rajendra Joshi - SAATH Introduction and Background The NGO sector has grown considerably in India. www.indianngos.com has a database of over 50,000 NGOs. The Planning commission has promoted a NGO partnership system - ngo.india.gov.in -in which 34,842 NGOs are listed. This system gives details of 106 schemes of the Central Government which can be accessed by the listed NGOs. Recent data suggests that traditional international NGO funders are decreasing their footprint in India. The trend seems to indicate that NGOs in India will have access to increasing government funding and decreasing donor funding. This note discusses the possibilities and practicalities of partnering with the state and accessing government funding. Traditionally NGOs and the state have had a largely adversarial relationship which can be attributed to differing ideologies, objectives and ethical positions. This has restricted NGOs engagement with the government. In today‟s context, in which the government seems to have realised that the last mile delivery mechanism of NGOs is more efficient and effective than that of the state, a window of opportunity for accessing state resources in a more equitable relationship is opening up. Why engage with the government? The government is the largest developmental agency in India with the largest influence, financial resources, infrastructure, reach and human resources. NGOs have more commitment, knowledge, strategies, innovations and local understanding and support. It makes sense to complement these advantages for attaining the objectives of both, the government and NGOs. Opportunities for Engagement From a NGO perspective, the opportunities for engagement with the government are manifold and include influencing policy, leveraging resources, co-designing innovations and strategies, scaling up, geographical spread and increasing access to government schemes and programmes. Managing Relationships and Expectations Working with the government is complicated. The government is not a monolith. It is a complex structure which works at a central, state, district, taluka, city and nagarpalika levels with ministries and departments. The way the government works cannot be generalised because ultimately, the face of the government at all levels is the individual person. My experience is that creating and maintaining a relationship of trust with that individual is the key to working with the government. This entails a non-judgemental attitude, being supportive by way of providing strategic information, logistics and knowledge, not being competitive in getting publicity or credit, and genuinely promoting the achievements of the individual to his superiors. There are numerous individuals in the government system who are genuinely empathetic and understand the critical role that a NGO can play. The challenge for NGOs is to identify these individuals and support them in furthering their objectives. These individuals have 58 their own network within the government which can be leveraged by NGOs after a trusting relationship is established. Risks and caution It is not wise to be completely dependent on government funding. NGOs can have more leverage when they bring something on the table. With co-funding, NGOs the relationship becomes a partnership and not one of giver and taker. The government functions through a bureaucracy which is complex and can be slow. Approval for grants and payments is often delayed. It makes sense to have a corpus which offsets these delays. A widespread cause of corruption is greasing palms for releasing payments. It helps if an NGO has the capacity – through a corpus – to wait for payments. The requirement of a bureaucracy is excessive paperwork and record keeping. NGOs would have to align their systems to be able to meet this requirement. Officials in the government are frequently transferred. Projects and programs are often affected when these officers are transferred. Overdependence on a few officials should be avoided and a wider network should be cultivated. Acknowledging the contribution of a government scheme, department and official is very important. My experience is that NGOs often do not do this adequately. To cultivate and strengthen relationships, officials and departments of the government should not be publicly criticised or compared. Criticism and comparison should be constructive and on a one-to-one basis. Conclusion Partnership with the government is a complex affair. It should be established with a long- term perspective. It grows incrementally and has to be nurtured. It is different from the traditional donor-donee relationship that NGOs are familiar with. At the same time it offers opportunities for greater resources and reach 59 Note from Seva Mandir for PHF Partner Consultation I. Organisation Background: Seva Mandir has been working for 40 years with the rural, predominantly tribal, population in Udaipur and Rajsamand districts of southern Rajasthan. Seva Mandir's work area encompasses 626 villages and 56 Urban Settlements. In total the organisation reaches out to over 70,000 households, influencing the lives of approximately 360,000 persons. Majority of these are tribal people. Seva Mandir's work has centred on efforts to bring together and organise communities through a wide variety of interventions across diverse sectors, thereby simultaneously addressing people‟s immediate development needs as also empowering them to become conscious agents of their own destiny. This work has been carried out through a participatory, democratic framework grounded in the idea that each citizen is responsible for co-creating the society they are a part of. Seva Mandir has the following overlapping strategic objectives: o To create and strengthen institutions for development (at the village, organization and society levels), o To enhance people‟s capabilities for self-development (both at individual and community level); and o To create sustainable improvements in the livelihoods base. II. Experience in working with panchayats: Seva Mandir‟s first involvement with Panchayats dates back to the mid- seventies, when Seva Mandir actively groomed village leaders to take on formal elected positions in village Panchayats. The high point came in 1978 when in one Block of Seva Mandir area, such village leaders became panchayat Sarpanch in more than one-third of the total panchayats in that Block. Hope was high that a new paradigm of work will be established and poor‟s voices and preferences will find space. However, in actual practice, the community leaders who managed to secure positions of power and influence in local government, either ended up being unable to do anything or else were co-opted by the system of which they had now become a part. At the time, this was a source of great disappointment for Seva Mandir. However, through these difficult lessons, Seva Mandir came to the realisation that bringing about change needed a strong social base, and not just good leadership. The more recent direct encounters with Panchayats have been around NREGA, and in the work on peri-urban governance issues. Under NREGA, we have worked closely with 81 Panchayats over the last one year. And as part of our peri-urban program, we have worked very closely with one Panchayat over the last five years. Both these have been very instructive associations. Other than this, over the last 20 years, we have worked with about 189 village communities in helping them gain access to their common lands held by the local Panchayats. III. Key learnings from working with panchayats or local municipal bodies: Seva Mandir‟s experience of working with, and in, Panchayats can be described in three broad categories that also follow a historical trajectory. In the first one and a half decade of Seva Mandir‟s existence going back to the 70s and early 80s, Seva Mandir invested a great deal in the idea of voter awareness, and the poor 60 electing people of integrity and competence to Panchayats. This strategy didn‟t pay the dividends that were hoped. Those elected tended to get co-opted into the patronage system of governance, including its propensity to corrupt dealings. Those who held their grounds in terms of resisting corruption and patronage were largely rendered ineffective by the system, and over time lost the confidence of the electorate, and their own self- confidence in providing leadership. Seva Mandir then experimented with the idea of collective action by voters to hold the Panchayats accountable to good governance practices. People at the Gram Sabha and Ward Sabha level were organized into solidarity groups and enabled to protest acts of corruption and make demands for their entitlements to be honored. This strategy did yield good outcomes, but it was episodic and often required approaching senior members of the bureaucracy by NGO leaders themselves. Ordinary people didn‟t see their agency at work on this strategy, and when they did, it was in terms of the application of coercive force. The self-confidence in their own agency to resist the system, and the ability to crystallize political agendas for better governance and equity, was not forthcoming. In the last two decades or so, Seva Mandir has engaged with Panchayats in yet another way. It has shifted its emphasis on making ordinary people more aware of their duties towards good governance norms; norms which they expect their elected leaders and officials to uphold. This strategy required involving local people to participate on an everyday basis, as trustees of the commons that make for a good society. This strategy is based on running programs in the fields such as early childhood care, health, primary schooling, protecting the village forests, and in ways that people are able to see the value of good quality services and their own role in making these services work well. Getting staff and people to practice what they want the larger system to be had a salutary effect in activating the autonomous agency of people. The outcome of this strategy became evident with people participating in Gram Sabha meetings not so much to pursue their private agendas, but agendas in the common interest. For instance, they put up proposals for NREGA works that are well-considered and will create assets of sustained benefit. It is also the case that people have a more informed sense of good quality services in the field of early childhood care, primary school education and public health issues. They are able to better appreciate those who provide these services, be they private, government or NGO agencies. In the case of Seva Mandir, the quest to improve the functioning of Panchayats has become, in essence, a movement to hold people and Seva Mandir as an institution, accountable to norms that we aspire to see in society. Self- improvement and self-rule in the Gandhian sense, have become the pivot of making the body polity more healthy. One‟s own vested interest and that of the power structure doesn‟t take kindly to framing of legitimacy and accountability issues in these terms and yet, over time, constructive work as a non-violent way of social and political transformation is showing promising results. IV. Specific issues that you would like the participants to discuss and provide feedback or an opinion on: The institutions of local government were given constitutional protection and additional powers and responsibility to make governance more responsive to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. It was hoped that face to face governance bodies would make the functioning of the local government and society more accountable to the common good of society. Looking back on 15 years of this experiment, these expectations appear to have been belied. 61 The law and order situation, protection of property rights, the functioning of the health and education systems, early childhood care programs, access to clean water and good sanitation, don‟t seem to have improved in perceptible ways. One can blame the institutions of Panchayati Raj, but that would not be an adequate explanation for the failure of greater democratic decentralization in our society. It would also not be correct to say that the failure is due to their being low on capacity, authority and finances. The malaise is perhaps deeper. It has to do with ordinary people and leaders being complicit in subverting good governance. This complicity takes many forms. People are given to seeking their narrow self-interest and elect leaders who act as patrons, who will assist you irrespective of whether your claims are valid and fair. While such behavior is understandable given that our administration doesn‟t uphold just claims, but also, challenging these practices is a pre-condition for local bodies to perform their duties better. Public actions that create spaces where ordinary people can grow in their confidence to give up patronage arrangements, and instead work for the common good, can take many forms. Challenging the existing behavior of elected leaders and ordinary people is a difficult and daunting task. Questioning elected leaders and citizens who break the law, are corrupt and promote caste and religion based divisions is not easy. Because this kind of work is difficult, it is not uncommon for NGOs to collaborate with Panchayats without challenging these distortions. Equally there are NGOs who avoid collaboration in order that they be free from the danger of being co-opted by the power structure. Neither of these approaches is desirable; collaboration for its own sake or non-engagement in political issues. The question then is not so much whether one works with Panchayats or is accountable to them; but whether there is a vision of making our political and social arrangements more consistent to a vision of building a more just and humane society. 62 Experience of working with Municipal Bodies Shaishav Introduction Shaishav, (means “childhood”), is a voluntary organisation committed to ensuring Children‟s Rights. We especially focus on underprivileged children; slum dwellers, child labourers, non-school-going children and girl-child. We are working at Bhavnagar, Gujarat since 1994 and have established a significant presence in the local community. We carried out a survey in 1994 that showed 12,813 children working across 106 different occupations. 68% of which had never attended school. Out those who had been to school, over 70% had dropped out before completing 7th standard. We also found that many children begin work in the summer vacation and seldom return to school. On this basis, we consider education to be the strongest tool to combat child labour. We offer this on two levels. Firstly, we provide quality education as a stop gap to mainstream education. Secondly, we have a strong focus on both the enrolment and retention of children in the formal education system to sustain the process. We strongly believe that children are the partners in the process of change and not just beneficiaries or service seekers. Simply, children are the Change makers of society. It is with this understanding that all our programmes are designed. Our Concept for working with Municipal Bodies The government is the biggest service provider for any society. It is not possible for any organisation to reach out to its target group to the same extent as the government can due to their wealth of human, financial and material resources. Having considered this, we made a conscious decision to work with local government to compliment existing educational efforts rather than attempt to work parallel to them. This also allows us to mainstream our concept of quality and child led education into the formal system and replicate it at much larger level. Current Challenges in Education Little awareness of importance of education in lower socio-economic strata. Poor quality teaching and other facilities in Government Schools Most children are first generation-learners and have little support in their studies from home Our Experience Largely our experience with local government is positive. We first started working with then in 1996 and have since worked with a total of 34 different government schools across Bhavnagar, reaching over 18,000 children annually; roughly half the total number of children covered by the local education board. We worked once a week to consult teachers and children about the topics that needed more support and planned innovative teaching/learning activities accordingly. After the initial one year period we did not seek written permission to continue our work. As actors within society, we felt that we wanted to create a mutual understanding with the 63 local government that were working together to improve the provision of education. The government responded very well to this initiative and we have build up a relationship of trust. In India, this is a very innovative method of government and NGO cooperation. It is very rare to have a mutual understanding rather than a formal, written agreement which sustained for over 12 long years. Achievements Setu (means Bridge) Programme – linking children of municipal schools to the wider society. Including exposure visits to many government systems e.g. banks, police station, having visitors from government departments and linking to private schools. Child to child teaching/learning – partnership of municipal school child and private school child conducting group learning sessions with other municipal children. Hand in hand participation with government – enrolment drive originally started by Shaishav and many other network partners across the state of Gujarat in 1995 eventually mainstreamed in 2000. Bal Mela – Innovative teaching method of difficult concepts through experimental learning to large groups of children simultaneously. Theme or subject based groups – Supporting children in project work that focuses on important social issues through the academic syllabus. Encourage self- learning and independent discovery. Shaishav developed lot of educational activities and low/no cost teaching learning materials in these 12 years. We also conducted an action research to show that it was possible to take the children of very less literacy skills from 3rd – 7th standard and bring them up to their respective level under intense training in 6 – 8months Opening of first government high school in slum area Khumbarwada Expansion of many classrooms in our project areas to accommodate more students Child participation – through leadership camps active involvement of the children in all the activities. The children of municipal schools have participated in the state, national and international events through their children‟s collective. Creating Positive attitudes towards education among the children and their parents. Major Impact of our work More than 7500 out -of-school children admitted to formal mainstream schools. Intake of fresh students in the first year of school has increased in all schools in the communities where Shaishav works, ranging from 36%in some schools to 76% in others. Increase in retention rate to 95% in class I to III and to 63% in class IV to VII. The girls‟ enrolment to schools has increased by 52%. The proportions of child labour in the communities where Shaishav works has reduced by 48% Key Challenges As positive as this experience has been, there are limitations to having an agreement built on trust. Essentially, we are reliant on government support. In January 2009 we faced one major hurdle. There was a huge changing of members in the education board. Due to their 64 internal political dynamics, some of the new members questioned our work and denied us any access to government schools. We are still working to transfer our concept at the local government level and hope to have more luck with future board members. At the state level however, we are still very well received. Some Limitations: Teacher attitude – although obvious changes in children e.g. increase in high school enrolment, increase in female education, it is difficult to bring sustained change among teachers towards quality education and create child-friendly conducive environment in the school. The educational activities and teaching learning materials developed by Shaishav in these 12 years and through the research is really effective. We had major plan to upscale it at much wider level but now it is not possible to replicate it due to discontinuation of our work in the schools. It did not remain sustained after so much of investment of human, financial and material resources. Lack of physical space and other basic amenities such as water, toilet facilities and cleanliness in the schools does not allow lots of activities or does not help to create child friendly environment in schools. Lack of materials – even where computers and teaching/learning materials are present they are rarely used for the children. Issues to discuss How can we sustain this process of working in the Government system? How can we mainstream the concepts and replicate it on a wider level? How can we influence teacher‟s attitudes for effective implementation on a day to day basis? How can we improve the quality of mainstream education? 65 Working with Elected Local Bodies : A Note by Rangu Rao, Samaj Pragati Sahayog A. SAMAJ PRAGATI SAHAYOG: AN INTRODUCTION Over the last two decades, Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS) has grown to be one of India's largest grass-roots initiatives for water and livelihood security, working with its 125 partners on a million acres of land across 75 of India's most backward districts in 10 states. SPS is headquartered in a drought-prone, tribal area of the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh, which typifies the most difficult problems of the country. We see our work here not so much as a model but as a living laboratory of learning for others to adapt to their own areas. Our work has shown that farmer-driven, location-specific watershed development combined with bio-diverse agriculture, other nature-based livelihoods and micro-finance, can dramatically raise rural incomes, providing an enduring panacea to the suicide-ridden drylands. This arrests distress migration of tribal communities towards the city and liberates them from the clutches of the usurious moneylender-traders. SPS has so far taken up over 32000 hectares for direct implementation of watershed and drought-proofing programs. Over the last 8 years, total expenditure on watershed and drought-proofing programs has been Rs. 52 million. This has generated 836,096 persondays of employment. The total water storage capacity of the water harvesting structures created by SPS is about 1 million cubic metres. This has had the primary impact of ensuring drinking water security to all households in these 25 villages. Rabi irrigation has shown a rise of 300% and the overall irrigation ratio has more than doubled. A significant impact of the work has been drought-proofing of the kharif crop. The yield of kharif (mostly rainfed) crops has shown a rise in the range of 10-20% and that of rabi (mostly irrigated) crops has shown a rise of 50-60%. In the benchmark watersheds an 80% reduction in external migration has been observed. These achievements have become the basis for SPS being a major centre for learning on watershed development. At SPS there has been great restlessness regarding the need to find an effective way of taking our work to a much higher scale of impact. Our experience had taught us that the most difficult part of a watershed project is the task of mobilising local communities, especially women, to grow to own the project and provide it leadership in the long-term. It is our conviction that the most powerful way in which we can upscale the impact of our work is to build partnerships with those grass-roots civil society organisations (CSOs) who have proven capacities to mobilise communities, especially women. To facilitate this mutual learning and building of partnerships, in 1998, we set up the Baba Amte Centre for People‟s Empowerment in tribal village Neemkheda, where we implemented our first watershed project 15 years ago. B. SPS AND THE PRIS: LESSONS FROM A CLOSE COLLABORATION From its very inception, SPS has worked very closely with the elected representatives of the Panchayat Raj Insititutions (PRIs). We had made it mandatory for ourselves that we will not start work in a village or panchayat unless the panchayat gives us a written invitation. We have also made it a condition that elected representatives 66 should be made part of the Village Watershed Committee and other such institutions we form for implementation of our programmes. We have involved PRI members actively in resolving conflicts in the village, which arise during the course of our work. In the NREGA watersheds, the Village Headman (“sarpanch”) is one of the four signatories to the bank account of the VWC. The progress of the activities in watersheds is regularly reported to the PRI representatives and their feedback is taken to fine-tune these programmes. As part of the campaign to raise awareness about the rights and entitlements of the people, our village level associates (“mitaans”) regularly interact with the PRIs and monitor the progress of various government schemes like PDS, ICDS, MDMS, pension schemes and maternity benefit schemes. Through these processes we try to create capacities within the PRI system as well as mobilise the local communities to demand their entitlements and create a pressure on the PRI system to deliver these. Our key learnings from these initiatives can be summarised as follows: Deepening Democracy: It is clear that the PRIs hold the key to deepening democracy, effective governance and inclusive growth in India. At a time when there are challenges to the democratic fabric and many infirmities in the delivery of government programmes, empowerment of PRIs provides the perfect platform for reform. There have been three stages in the development of the PRI system. Since 1959 till 1992, the PRIs have been in existence without funds, functions or functionaries. With the passing of the 73 rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in 1992, more functions have been transferred to the PRIs. However, they were left with little funds. Since 2004 and the enactment of NREGA and other such centrally sponsonred schemes, a lot more funds is at the disposal of the local governments. However, key functionaries are still lacking. In the next stage of their development, the PRIs should get more functionaries to utilise funds at their disposal for the functions that have been devolved upon them. Social Mobilisation: However, there is no doubt that the PRIs are still a long way from making their fullest contribution to India‟s democracy and development. This is especially true in the remote tribal hinterlands of the country, where violent extremism that feeds on cynicism and despair, is gaining ground. The elected panchayats in these parts are mostly puppets in the hands of the entrenched social forces that block a pro-poor development. Left to themselves, these panchayats cannot be expected to benefit those who are in need. Here, the NGOs and the CSOs have to play a major mobilisational role vis-à-vis the PRIs. The core philosophy of SPS is that development cannot be regarded merely as an economic initiative. It is centrally concerned with governance structures and the orderly and effective functioning of democratic institutions. People need to become active participants and partners in the democratic process. Developing People‘s Institutions: With this view, SPS has been working in the direction of strengthening a several people‟s institutions such as SHGs, Cluster 67 Development Associations (of 15-20 SHGs) and Federations (of around 200 SHGs), primary producer groups (for agriculture and dairying), Water User Associations etc. It is our vision that these people‟s institutions will emerge as the building blocks for effective empowerment of the poor in the tribal drylands of India, giving these regions the necessary voice in the development process. The members of such institutions will also be able to provide effective and capable leadership to PRIs in their own areas. These institutions set in motion several parallel processes of choice and decision-making at the grass-roots, which makes democratically elected representatives of the local governments more accountable to the people. Capacity Building: While mobilising people to make the state accountable, we believe the role of the NGO is also to build capacities within the PRI leadership and staff. In the context of local government, capacity building has two facets, namely, building up the organisational capacity of the PRIs and building up the capabilities of elected representatives (numbering 32 lakhs) and PRI staff (numbering around 10 lakhs). Currently, staff and other capacities are partially given to PRIs only to implement schemes entrusted to them. This is not conducive to their effective functioning as local governments. We need to seriously reconsider the notion of “capacity building”. In the current usage, the term is seen as equivalent of training or imparting skills to implement schemes properly. The content of the training programme will, therefore, differ with the nature of the programme for which capacities are being created. However, in our view, “capacity building” should be understood as creating capacities within the local governments to analyse their own problems and find creative solutions. Rather than transfer a few skills on how to do implementation of a specific scheme, capacity building should be seen as a broader task of creating within the PRI structure, capacities to think, develop institutional spaces and forge crucial partnerships for programme implementation. Viewed thus, the PRI representatives and staff will be able to approach any programme and ensure its proper implementation. This type of capacity building within the PRI system is one of the primary roles that the CSOs are best suited to perform. Empowerment of PRIs at All Levels: India has been experimenting with a three-tier PRI system. A lot of attention, in terms of mobilisation and capacity building has been spent on Gram Panchayats and Gram Sabhas. However, the middle rung of this system, the District Panchayt and Block/Janpad Panchayats, remain poorly equipped in terms of a clear role and adequate functionaries to deliver the functions devolved upon them. For instance, in NREGA, it is often the case that the Block Development Officer is given “additional duty” as the Project Officer for NREGA at the block level. The block is the cutting edge of implementation of any programme which requires co-ordination across villages. It is also necessary that the block level is further disaggregated into smaller units comprising 15-20 villages (closer to the “Mandals” in Andhra Pradesh) and these 68 units are properly empowered. Such reorientation will make the “cutting edge of implementation” more equipped for the task entrusted to it. In this context, we see great potential in member based organizations like SHG federations. In our vision, such cadre-based organisations of local people can take over leadership of development initiatives in the long run. SHG federations have the unique merit of representing a happy marriage of social and individual interests. This gives them exceptional sustainability. Each member is a stakeholder, for her savings are what makes up the working capital of the institution. The interest of members is abiding. The SHG Federations are also financially powerful entities, growing in strength by the year. Till date, we have formed 1165 SHGs in 6 locations, with a total membership of about 20,000 women. The total saving of the groups together comes to Rs. 50 million and the total loan outstanding of these groups is about 100 million. At Udainagar location, Udainagar Pragati Samiti, our first SHG federation, has a membership of 3751 rural women in 223 groups. UPS has a saving of Rs. 10 million and a total loan outstanding of Rs. 20 million. Till date, SHGs of this federation together has given out Rs. 70 million as loans to members. Two more such federations are ready to come up this year. With such wide member base and financial strength, the federations possess the unique capacity of leveraging public funds from external institutions such as public sector banks, NABARD, CAPART, and SIDBI etc. It is also possible now to visualize that the UPS could soon be in a position to become the PIA of watershed projects funded under NREGA (UPS is a registered society, with its own governance structure and decision-making capabilities). The federations can marshal grants and loans from a variety of agencies, depending on the relative bankability of the activities concerned. Over time, they would move rural development up the loan-subsidy scale, in a way no NGO can even begin to imagine. For unlike Micro-Finance Institutions, which are condemned to remain external institutions like NGOs, these Federations are all grass-roots member-driven organisations. We, therefore, see complementarities of roles of the CSOs/member-based organizations on the one hand and PRIs on the other in making the state and the development process more accountable to the poor. By forging such strong partnerships, we can give the development process in the backward regions of the country a pro-poor orientation. C. NREGA CONSORTIUM: AN EXAMPLE OF THIS PARTNERSHIP A recent example of the CSO-PRI partnership is the National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations for NREGA. These CSOs of the NREGA Consortium have first developed relationships with the PRIs, including Gram Panchayats (GP) and Gram Sabhas (GS), in some of the most backward and neglected districts of India. Something the voluntary sector has tended not to do, often for immediately understandable reasons of being opposed by elected representatives for the difficult questions they have tended to raise. But the partners of the National Consortium have sought to break this pattern and actively seek out PRIs in the recognition that they are the constitutional face of Indian democracy at the grass-roots. Reflecting the immense diversity of this vast nation the 69 strategies adopted by the CSOs for building these partnerships have been different in each case. They have supported GPs and GSs in various aspects of planning, implementation and social audit of NREGA work. On the foundation of this growing engagement with PRIs, the CSOs have sought to partner the state and central governments. Bucking the trend of NGO-panchayat hostility and non-cooperation, the Consortium now has 51 CSO partners working across 48 blocks of 45 most backward districts in 10 states of India. The broader goal is to strengthen PRIs and thereby Indian democracy at the grass-roots, to generate greater awareness and engender deeper capacities among NREGA stakeholders, as also to carry forward an agenda of NREGA reforms. The difficulty is that adequate provisions have not yet been made in NREGA to ensure that a break from the past can become real in comprehensive terms. The GPs who are to be the main implementating agency do not have requisite human resources to plan and implement NREGA. There is still a tendency for states or districts to dictate the works to be carried out and there is little evidence on the ground of planning happening with the genuine involvement of the GP and GS. It is here that the work of the National Consortium becomes so important. Not only are Consortium partners enabling PRIs to carry out their responsibilities effectively, they are also providing the state a clearer idea of the kinds of reforms that need to be urgently carried out in NREGA implemnentation for it to realise its full potential. It is only when such ideas are effectively operationalised that NREGA will become a medium of transformation of India‟s countryside, which is its true destiny. D. WHAT IS NEEDED FOR EMPOWERMENT OF PRIS? In the light of the above discussion, the following steps must be undertaken immediately to build up the organisational capacity of PRIs: Estimate the functionaries required by PRIs to carry out the entire range of functions assigned to them. Transfer departmental personnel and make them accountable to PRIs Create a strong and fully equipped local cadre to support the PRI system, permitting the lateral shifting of staff, provide flexibility to PRIs to outsource technical personnel from empanelled providers; Step up professional support to Village Panchayats Each village Panchayat must have a full time Panchayat Secretary, Accounts Assistant, Office Assistant, Computer Operator and technical support for any extra responsibilities entrusted to them. Synergise community based organisations (CBOs) formed through societal process with PRIs and view them as nurseries for learning grassroots democracy and local planning and implementation. Provide continuous training to PRIs that empowers them to meticulously plan and execute development projects. Training must evolve into a demand driven system where PRIs are able to demand and obtain relevant and useful training at their convenience from a choice of institutions, both from within the 70 government and outside. Improve the training infrastructure. Resource centres for capacity building must be established at every district, block and for clusters of village Panchayats (as per need), each equipped with the necessary facilities and having access to a strong data bank Along with training of PRI elected representatives and officials, there must be a strong focus on awareness building of citizens, to put pressure on improving PRI functioning. From within the funds earmarked for administrative support in every Centrally Sponsored Scheme, a certain proportion must be separately allocated for training, evaluation and research. In the case of NREGA itself, 1% of the 6% earmarked for meeting the administrative cost must be specifically earmarked for training. For financial accountability, the common accounting framework and standardized data formats officially endorsed by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India must now be implemented across all States; A cadre of PRI accountants must be developed and their skills improved through training and capacity building, utilising the facilities available with the C&AG. Computerization of accounts and networking of PRIs must be completed expeditiously. It would be useful to set up a centralized agency in each State for data collection and maintenance 71 Society for Women's Action and Training Initiative Working with Panchayati Raj Institutions- A note SWATI works in Gujarat state of India to promote the human rights of women and the marginalized; influence formulation and implementation of gender just policies; and build an enabling environment for the achievement of the democratic rights of all. To increase the outreach of its work, SWATI aligns with other groups and organizations through capacity building and networking for collective action in the areas of violence against women, right to information and advocacy for reproductive health concerns of women. SWATI began its work at the community level in 1994 through organizing women to control and direct their own development through leadership building, Rights awareness and control over resources in three blocks of Surendranagar district. Now our work is spread in three districts: Surendranagar, Mehsana and Patan specifically around : empowering women through capacity building for leadership and control in decision making making violence against women a governance concern to be addressed by Gram Panchayats facilitating active participation of citizens in using RTI and exposing corruption , making government accountable advocacy and Action research studies to enable effective implementation of laws to prevent violence against women. The passage of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Indian constitution and the State Panchayat Act that followed provided an unprecedented opportunity to democratise with social justice the grassroots level politics of India. Civil society organisations ( NGOs , CBOs) saw it as a major opportunity in forwarding its goal of gender just governance through empowering women and the marginalised to play a role in governance and decision making. Making the Panchayati Raj in India a functional reality became the goal for several organisations. However after over one and a half decades of this engagement the process has not been as successful as it was expected to be. Though it may also be said that whatever little success we have had is due to the commendable role played by the NGOs . This success some times spectacular, is however limited and in few pockets. The reasons for this are primarily located in two realms: a) the NGO approach and inadequate understanding to strengthening panchayti Raj system; and b) a lack of political will that has undermined the effectiveness of panchayati raj institutions and the process of decentralization. I elaborate on these below: Our approach and understanding: Since most of the new EWRs are illiterate and hail from marginalized –lower castes, poor backgrounds the focus was on their confidence and capacity building to play their role (powers and duties ) and above all orient them to the Panchayti Raj goal of strengthening democratic and decentralized governance in rural areas. Except for a few examples ( KSSP ) there was relatively little focus on enabling the EWRs in their role as development of the village. 72 The interventions made by NGOs did not address the challenges that came in the way of new EWRs towards being effective and fulfilling the aspirations of the village community and the marginalized groups they represented. Panchayats themselves remained or became in most states defunct and highly politicized bodies The need was to support the Panchayats to help them focus on the excessive political interference and undermining and resultant subordination of the PRIs to the bureaucracy However most NGOs being apolitical in nature are reluctant to and perhaps could not themselves fathom the issues and ways of galvanizing Panchayats around them. NGOs work with the marginalized and the disempowered. But lack clout and support at the level of the gram Panchayats which are mostly in the hands of upper castes . This limited their capacity to influence and impact. However the onus for (not )engaging with PRI for their effective role in decentralized development cannot all be placed on civil society groups. A major obstruction has been lack of political will both at the level of the central and state government which has undermined the effectiveness of panchayati raj institutions and the process of decentralization. The challenges here are : There has been very little progress with respect to the transfer of funds, functions and functionaries to panchayati raj bodies across the country. The States are required to set up District Planning Committees (DPCs) to facilitate decentralised planning under Article 243(ZD). Large States such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat have not yet set up DPCs, thus evading constitutional responsibility without being punished. The introduction, soon after the 73rd Amendment, of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme, which allows Members of Parliament (MPs) to spend Rs.2 crore a year towards local area development, bypassing panchayats and municipalities, indicates the lack of political will towards decentralization. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (2001) showed that the scheme was plagued not only by the lack of funds but also by the misuse and diversion of money earmarked for the project. Most of the plans undertaken form part of the 11th and 12th Schedules in the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution, which refer to the functions that are to be transferred to the local bodies. While governments are unwilling to strengthen panchayati raj bodies, they have created several parallel village bodies such as water user groups in Uttar Pradesh Gram Vikas Samitis in Haryana, vigilance committees in Himachal Pradesh, , and watershed committees in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Of late, parallel bodies are being set up at the behest of donor agencies. For example, village education committees have been set up to accommodate demands laid down by the British government, which funds the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP). These parallel bodies do not have any effective organic links with the constitutionally mandated panchayati raj institutions; they only serve to maginalise PRIs. 73 While Panchayat elections in several states have not been held3, states like Gujarat have undermined the importance of the electoral process and grassroots democracy by offering monetary incentives to Panchayats that would get elected uncontested. Analysis In the current climate of globalization and privatization it is becoming increasingly or of utmost important to engage and activate Panchayats and municipalities in ensuring development with social justice. Panchayats have the unique position of being socio -political bodies. It is important to recognize the role this elected contemporary leadership can play in influencing social change . Rather than focusing on the individuals it is important to engage with Panchayati raj system and Panchayat as a body and activate them in their role and responsibilities. Along with social justice there is need to focus on building administrative efficiency of the Panchayat For discussion: The number of centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) as a proportion of total number of schemes has shot up to 70 per cent4 compared with less than 30 per cent in 1980s. These schemes are framed by the Centre and implemented by the panchayati raj bodies. This includes the VHSC under NRHM. While these schemes have been beneficial to the development of the village, we need to articulate our understanding of Panchayati raj as defined by the constitution . Are village panchayats agents or are they actors in enabling through a decentralized process the advancement of their village? 3 Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, pondichary 4 There are more than 200 schemes currently. 74 Engagement of the ant with Local Level Political Institutions In Bodoland, Assam At the outset, it may suffice to admit and announce that the ant is yet to engage seriously with local level political institutions (LLPIs) like panchayats and municipal bodies. The reasons are many. It may be relevant to point out that we work only in rural areas of Bodoland in Assam, which means that we cannot work with municipal bodies. The Sixth Schedule status that our autonomous council enjoys under the constitution also means that the Panchayati Raj Act does not apply to Bodoland. Instead we have the Village Council Development Committees (VCDCs) as a replacement but they have been created without the equivalent of the Panchayat Secretary who is expected to carry out all the executive functions and does not change with the fortunes of political parties during the elections. Besides, as of now, elections in these areas are not compulsory for appointments to such local bodies which rarely include more than two women, unlike the one-third stipulation of the PR Act. The VCDCs also do not enjoy any more legal powers besides dishing out the schemes dealt by the DRDA. The members are nominated by the ruling party and although all of them may not belong to the ruling party, yet most are seen to be political appointees. It is not that we do not engage with the VCDCs. As a rural based NGO, VCDCs need to sign many of our documents that require proof of residence/ existence. In that sense, yes, we do interact. Except the VCDC most close to the HQ office, most other VCDCs have contributed to the ant‟s women‟s programmes, children‟s camps and even to our agricultural programmes with money, their labour and their interest. Committees with LLPI representation We have worked with Village Health & Sanitation Committees (VHSCs) formed by the Government, and have often worked with many other committees which again, like the VHSC, may include some ex-officio members belonging to the VCDCs. Compared to working with the VCDC, there has been a better relationship with such committees as VHSCs. It is often that the ex-officio VCDC member is absent, and although it may hinder financial flows – as he (invariably not she) has too many other meetings to attend or occasionally attend school where he is a government teacher - the decision making is smoother. NGOs like the ant are often seen as a thorn in the flesh by VCDCs steeped in corruption. Even in those cases where VCDCs may believe in personal honesty, the procedures and the cuts that HAVE BECOME MANDATORY to be passed up also make NGOs like us an irritant as we may ask for accountability by filing RTI applications or motivate the people to demand entitlements. Accountability of LLPIs to people VCDCs – like the Gram Panchayat - usually lack ownership. This, we feel, is on account of its membership beyond a settled village/ hamlet. VCDCs of Bodoland within the state of Assam, replaced GPs that are present at each 10,000 population, and hence in almost 25 village hamlets in the tribal areas. Even if they have 10 members, which would mean one ward member every 2.5 villages, the accountability of the entire VCDC to its constituency is almost nonexistent. Village hamlets usually have a history, shared ancestry, democratic setups, funds, constitutions and institutions that make people take pride and respond to each other. They support each other and make & defend collective decisions. Each village 75 hamlet has its own President and Secretary or Gaon Burha (Village Oldman/ Headman) and he is usually elected based on his honest lineage, capability and by consensus. On the other hand VCDCs – like the new Gram Panchayats all over India- are artificial, legal constructs and more often than not made by intense lobbying that is backed by parties and supported by large expenditure these days. It is estimated that an average GP election needs an expenditure of more than Rs 5 Lakh for the winning candidate, which obviously is seen as an investment that must be returned with dividends. It is this nature of the beast – and this is the norm, not the exception - that NGOs in the neighbourhood, esp those who work for accountability are seen with suspicion. Political ego vs apolitical facade Moreover, getting into the VCDC is also seen as the first step to going higher in the political hierarchy. It often gives rise to an ego that needs to be massaged by others. Unless some of the members of the VCDC had come of age in an environment where the NGO was already present and running schools or other programmes that affected them positively, a good relationship is not a guarantee. The NGO movement being rather recent in Assam, NGOs are not expected to train any government personnel, or for that matter PRI representatives. Egos come in between in seeking help or to accept advice. The openness with which maybe the Govt of India or even the Govt of Assam is ready to listen to the ant‟s members for its projects is sadly absent at local levels. It may also be the case, that it is considered „too high or too elitist‟ for local VCDCs to consult. There is also the case that many NGOs like the ant are wary of being close to elected representatives. It is scared that if it is seen as aligned to a party, it may have to face the vengeful wrath of the opposition the next time and this may also ruin its apolitical visage. It is thus that no overtures are seriously made to work with the VCDCs – at best the engagement is to keep them informed about its activities. Terms of endearment It is not our case that the Civil Society should not engage with the local level political institutions. It may be good to salute democracy and allow the primacy of the LLPIs over civil society. It may be good if the LLPIs with a vision of 5 years can synergise with project based NGO work which may be shortsighted and limited by the project period. It may also be good if the LLPIs can be guided by a civil society organization that can dream of long term development beyond 5 years. Yet, collaboration with LLPIs cannot be seen as an end in itself. We see the civil society as the fourth pillar of a vibrant democracy. We at the ant feel that conditions as are prevailing in India where democracy is often seen as a dictatorship of the majority, where the bureaucracy loses conscience and the legislature & judiciary work in the interest of the moneyed classes, civil society can and must arrogate to itself the defence of the constitution and the marginalized groups. It of course should not treat the LLPIs as untouchables, but it may not be prudent to allow it primacy either. What cannot be forgotten is that each of the institutions has to uphold the primacy of the constitution. The devolution of democracy was meant to decentralize power to its manageable and accountable units namely villages. But Panchayats or our VCDCs are not what they are supposed to be and probably because of this are not easily accountable to their constituency. We hope that more and more sections of civil society can step in to interact, engage, serve and challenge LLPIs so as to make the constitution complete its mandate of making a just and equitable society. 76 The author, sunil kaul works with the ant, an organization based in Bodoland, Assam (India). 77