Taking on Local Governance

///Taking on Local Governance

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.

Government Ration Cards

Government Ration Cards

We took up work on the PDS with the support of Rationing Kruti Samiti (RKS), Mumbai. RKS is a network of more than 300 grass-root organizations in Maharashtra. It is a people’s movement to ensure ration as a right for marginalized and poor sections of the society. With the unflinching support of the Late Anna Shirwadkar of RKS – schemes were reviewed, meetings with beneficiaries were held, complaints were registered and taken up. Dr. Shirwadkar a retired veterinarian had made the Right to Food Campaign his life mission. We were enthused with his infectious passion for the campaign. For a period of about 6 years Anna deputed by the Commissioner ( who was appointed by the Supreme Court of India for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of all orders relating to the right to food – PUCL vs. Union of India and others, Writ Petition 196 of 2001) would visit Mokhada each month . Along with the AROEHAN team he would visit ration shops, meet people, conduct meetings with officials – he ensured that the pace of work never dwindled. It was this concentrated effort that led to some very positive results:

# Complaints were addressed

# Alteration in the grain quota: It was realised that wheat is not consumed by the people of Mokhada as it is not part of their diet, so the wheat allocation was replaced with rice.

# Ensuring that widows and people entitled to the Antodaya scheme get allocated rations

# Schemes were introduced and implemented: Mr. Shekhar Gaikwad the then Collector of Nashik had taken a the initiative to research and introduce the ‘Ghar Poch Dhanya Yojana’ – Door Step Grain Delivery Scheme. This was a very beneficial scheme through the medium of which people could get ration for three months at one time. AROEHAN took the initiative to implement this scheme in Mokhada. This was a really important impact because it not only ensured that families migrating for work to carry their quota with them ( which would have otherwise got siphoned off) but it also ensured that villages that get cut off during the monsoon now receive their quota too.

Shankar Sadu Ghatal is a landless labourer in Ikhrichapada, Mokhada. Having to migrate for work, he very often did not get to claim the ration that he was entitled to. The ration shop owner in his village taking advantage of the situation ( as there are many like Shankar) would sell the ration in the open market. Villagers were often given excuses saying ¬†they have come too late or that the ration is over etc. When AROEHAN staff got wind of this situation, we visited Ikhrichapada and met people there and told them about what they were entitled to. Through village meetings we gave them detailed information about the ‘Ghar Poch Yojana’. The people were still a little intimidated by the ration shop owner. But Shankar took the initiative, gave the ration shop owner money for 3 months of ration and ensured that the ‘Ghar Poch Yojana’ truck reached his village on the 19th of December 2012. The impact? A very happy Shankar and a very angry ration shop owner!

Our initial work on rationing helped us plan our entire governance programme. While we did ensure that families migrating had their quota of food with them – it led us to ask a very basic question – why should families be migrating in the first place? And thus began our work on the implementation of the MREGA.

To be continued in part two

By | 2018-07-06T16:48:14+00:00 June 14th, 2016|Governance|0 Comments

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