It was late afternoon when Rahul Tiwrekar received a phone call about a the siphoning of PDS
( Public distribution System) grain meant for the people of Shivli. A whole truck full! ( Large quantities of rations meant allocated under the Public Distribution System are siphoned off and reach open markets where they are sold at the market rate) Rahul and Narendra Padir immediately took a decision, got on to their bike and decided to track this truck. They found it a few kilometers into Khodala – what followed was what laid the foundation to our work on Local Governance in Mokhada. The truck driver was apprehended and taken to the Tehsil office, the police were called, arrests were made, lives were threatened, bribes were offered – but the grain was safe and was directed to the intended beneficiaries . These beneficiaries – the people of Shivli – came in large numbers to the Tehsil office the next day at 7.30 am. They sat outside the office the whole day till they were heard and their complaint was registered. The news of this incident spread in Mokhada like wildfire.
However, this case was just the tip of the iceberg. Knowingly and perhaps a little naively, we had gripped corruption by its horns (and are still wrestling with it on a daily basis). But things had to be done systematically. We knew what issues the locals faced on a daily basis – whether it was delayed or non-payment of wages or no access to services that they are entitled to – we realised that we couldn’t always react impulsively – we needed to have a plan.
It is in a place like Mokhada that you truly understand the importance of the ‘welfare role’ of the government. A place where there is little or no economy, where people are completely dependent on the welfare schemes of the government. It therefore took a lot of deliberation on our part to define our work on the issue of governance. Having said this, it’s important to state that there were certain dilemmas that we faced too. For example, as an organisation that is working so closely with various government agencies was it wise for us to get into a conflict mode with them? Would it hamper our development work? But the decision was clear – we decided that one cannot survive independent of the other. In order for our development work to be sustainable we would have to have several conflicting stands with the government. And for our work on governance to be sustainable – we had to provide alternatives to people – through our development work. One had to compliment the other.