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'Take ownership'

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Active participation in development activities can make all the differenece

In the villages of Shahapur, water is a major issue. There was a time when Palichapada, which is very close to Tansa Lake, had only three sources of water—a half-constructed brackish well, a hole in a pipe and a well that was two kilometres away.

“Laadli had a participatory project with the villagers to take the community along,” explains Dr Sharada. “We were told water was a big problem but the villages were willing to work on it.” The Laadli team suggested that the Block Development Officer (BDO) ask for a water scheme, only to find that such a system had already been set in place much earlier, when “someone had laid pipes and a motor, which was burnt in no time, and there was no water after that”.

Laadli then told them about the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA, a law enacted by the Indian government to ensure self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India. After much discussion, they got the Panchayat to grant Rs 4 lakh; of this 30% was to go for the school building repairs and the rest for work on the well.

“Government schemes work on reimbursement,” explains Dr. Sharada. “You have to invest the money and it comes back. This is usually done by the contractor and there is corruption and the job is not done properly.”

In the case of Palichapada, which had the full backing of Laadli, the villages said they would dig the well on their own. “They contributed their labour free and donated the money they got from their employee guarantee scheme.” The villagers even negotiated with a farm house owner who approached them for water, agreeing to share it on the condition that he pay the complete water bill of the village and take responsibility of maintaining the tanks and the motor! “Everything was managed by the workers,” Dr Sharada says. “We were just hand-holding them.”

As Dr Sharada writes on her blog: “The story of Palichapada, a remote tribal village, illustrates that by mobilising communities to participate actively in village development activities one could build bridges between government and people. By building their leadership skills, creating effective teams and providing knowledge and understanding of government schemes one could empower the rural communities—particularly women and youth—to drive the development initiatives in villages.”

She also points out that there are enough resources; what is lacking is people’s ownership and participation in development initiatives leading to corruption and inefficiency in programme implementation. “Palichapada offers a ray of hope to many such village communities languishing in ignorance, apathy and despondency,” she adds.

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