Study on Bundelkhand of Planning Commission: Voluntary Efforts in Bundelkhand Region

Study on Bundelkhand of Planning Commission: Voluntary Efforts in Bundelkhand Region

Voluntary Efforts in Bundelkhand Region

The voluntary sector in India has a rich history.Traditionally, the construction of temples, schools, hospitals, roads, tanks, minor-irrigation works were done either by richer sections of society or by collective efforts of the community. There were social reform movements in late 19th and early 20th centuries against social evils like child marriages, purdah, sati - system, caste discrimination and untouchability. Gandhian and Sarvodaya activities drew inspiration from these tendencies in Indian society from time immemorial.

In the early years of Independence, the state got so much primacy that voluntary sector either got diluted into it or saw a decline. National movement activists joined the government and sarvodaya or khadi institution developed the tendency to depend on the government. The State gave the impression that it would solve all developmental problems in the country. This never happened and in late sixties, voluntary sector witnessed a new awakening, disillusioned with the developmental failures of the state and political leaders. International donars and developmental agencies also visualised the role of NGOs in the fight against poverty and other such issues. The period after Emergency ( ‘75-’77) saw the mushrooming of new organisations and new activities when it came out clearly that the state alone can not solve the developmental problems and the market is iniquitous.

There are various kinds of NGOs in the country, given their activities and orientation. There are organisations who are working for relief, welfare and charity often under religious and humanitarian inspirations. Than there are organisations which are involved in development activities with the approach to improve the condition of the poor. They undertake activities to mobilise and organise communities for income generation activities, and around the issues of health, education, agriculture and women. Then there are organisations called support - organisations which are involved in training, research, documentation, evaluation, networking and advocacy.

Besides small and big NGOs, working in field, there are community based organisations(CBOs) which are activity or identity based groups of the community , viz mahila mandals, youth groups, credit groups,forest management groups,watershed development groups etc.

Madhya Pradesh has no history of any social reform movement in the state, expect that in the medieval period, Saint Kabir had extensively visited the state and attacked on religious malpractices and blind faiths. During freedom struggle and after, some Gandhian institutions, mostly under Kasturba Gandhi Trust, were initiated in M.P., particularly in areas adjoining Gujarat boarder.

Recently, when Samarthan-Centre for Development Support, conducted a survey and undertook the situational analysis of the NGOs in M.P.,it concluded that there were broadly three kinds of NGOs in M.P., widely spread in the state. On one hand, there were big and established NGOs with clear perspective and considerable resources. They were mostly centred in big cities of the state. Secondly, in certain regions like Chhattisgarh, activist NGOs and labour-unions have been active . But the largest number is that of small emerging new NGOs which are struggling to establish themselves, organisationally, financially and at programme level.

Bundelkhand in M.P. is hardly on the NGO- map, given the present scenario. It is not that this region has never had voluntarism in its society. Voluntarism was there in it since the beginning and existing traditional water resource management systems, including that of Chandeli ponds, are the testimony of it because it was not possible to have such systems without voluntary contribution of the community . Bundelkhand played significant role in the freedom struggle through human and material contribution. Bhoodan and khadi movements got numerous dedicated volunteers from this region, particularly from Tikamgarh and Chhatarpur. But present scene is bleak, There is not a single established NGO with wider implications and coverage, in terms of issues and area, except Ekta Parishad which has tried to build upon the Gandhian and Sarvodaya remains.

In August 1997, a situation analysis of Bundelkhand region was undertaken by Samarthan to assess the existing base of voluntary efforts in this region. The study which concentrated in four districts namely, Datia, Panna, Chhatarpur and Tikamgrah, all situated in the Bundelkhand region attempted to analyse the socio- economic scenario of the region vis a vis the voluntary efforts made. A number of organisations, groups, CBOs as well as individuals were met with during the study.

The study brought out some very interesting trends especially, the kind of organisations and groups present in this region. Some of the findings are given in the form of Table 7.1. In Bundelkhand there in no dearth of registered NGOs, for the name sake, but those who are involved in some activities and are functional to some extent can be placed under small, fluid and evolving NGOs/ associations/ groups. They have started their work with relatively high degree of enthusiasm and commitments, but with on idea of organisational, programme and financial management. They are relatively clear on the issues in large context. A positive aspect with such NGOs groups is that they have been started by local people and leadership and hardly any outsider has tried to make it his business. This provides for better understanding of local issues with these organisations. But these organisations are almost working in isolation. Most of them have no idea about the development sector and the possibility of generating resources and finance from the sources other than the government departments. Largely depending on the government fund, entangled in the redtapist machinery and having lack of skills in programme management, these organisations/ associations/groups are struggling for their survival. These have the potential to work with the people for grassroots- level development but efforts are required on the part of support and funding organisations to help them out in their present situation. Another type of organisations in Bundelkhand is that of government- promoted nongovernment organisations like Nehru Yuva kendras ( NYK) and cooperatives. NYKs are involved basically in the formation of youth- groups at village-level and involve them in constructive activities, cultural activities and awareness- generation about the government programmes. Such organisations, being almost the part of government system, are financially secure, have large network at the national and regional level, good knowledge base and experience of working with grassroots-level groups.But close functional linkages with the government makes them a bureaucratic setup themselves. They don’t have

institutional mechanism to provide back-up support to their groups and have weak capacities of development management with decision-making powers concentrated in the coordinator’s hand.

But such organisations have the potential to play a positive role in development, though they cannot take up the issues of the communities in which the Government will be confronted with. They are useful for advocacy on politically neutral issues due to their linkages and ability to mobilise youth groups quickly. The youth groups promoted by such organisations mostly act as CBOs but some of them show their potentiality to grow as community based NGOs, given the orientation and training in organisational and programme management. Such groups can take up local issues with better understanding of the situation and play a major role in rural development.

Though largely devoid of established and far sighted NGOs/associations, Bundelkhand enjoys a repository of committed and credible individuals who have considerable understanding of the local issues effecting the rural life, high levels of interest and commitment for the human causes and willingness to work on various issues. But again they do not posses clarity on development issues in the broader context, have no idea of planned development efforts and no financial base. However the study gauges that such individuals could act as capable resource persons who could provide voluntary services and can develop into organisations in the long run if capacity building support is provided to them in a phased manner. Bundelkhand was also closely involved in the Bhoodan and Khadi movement and there were a number of individuals who almost spent their lives for such movements particularly from the districts, Tikamgarh and Chattarpur. When these movements lost ground and individuals involved in it got disillusioned with the Government functioning, some persons within the groups began to initiate voluntary process in small measures through building collective efforts with like minded individuals in the various areas both rural and urban.

The study reflected that the capacities and vast experience of such individuals can be tapped for creating people based organisations as also movements.

Non Government organisations, although small and less resourceful are engaged in various kinds of activities around numerous issues in Bundelkhand. The only big organisation with a large network in MP, Ekta Parishad is active in almost all the districts of Bundelkhand particularly in Chattarpur, Tikamgarh and Satna, with its coordination office at Mohalla near Jabalpur. It functions on issues concerning land, water and forests through community mobilisation and group formation. It is considered to be a highly vocal group fighting for the causes of low caste and class communities. In its programmes, participation levels of community especially those belonging to the disadvantaged groups and categories is very high. The group at present is fighting for rights of forest land and water resources for the community. It also takes up the cause of other issues as long as they are raised by the community themselves. The network is very active in Palera Block in Tikamgarh District. It is also highly active in District Satna.

Among the small evolving NGOs/associations/individuals met with, some are working on secular, non confronting issues such as literacy, education, awareness generation of Government programmes. A large number of NGOs in the region are highly dependent on funds coming through Government sponsored schemes and programmes. In many cases, such groups have wound up after the withdrawal of the scheme/programme. Only a few groups are attempting to come up to the main stream of the development sector. It was also observed that the voluntary efforts in this region have not catered or directed focus towards specialised area of activity. The Viklang Sansthan is Chattarpur is one such exception. The organisation is working on the issue of welfare to children suffering from physical disabilities.

A fair number of organisations mostly headed by women work for a number of issues pertaining to women such as legal counseling and employment generation. The activities are concentrated in Tikamgarh and Chattarpur districts. Such organisations are being supported by Central Social Welfare Board. However these organisations expressed that the funding source is very meager. One of the major demands of such institutions especially
those working for women has been the need for welfare homes to provide shelter to abandoned women, a common problem in this area.

Another area of activity where voluntary groups are involved is the area of mine workers and those involved in bidi manufacture. Mention can be made of two organisation who are working on these issues respectively. The Sawashrayi Sewa Sangh, Chattarpur and Pathar Khadan Mazdoor Sangh in Panna District work for such causes. The objective of their activities is mainly to link the benefits of Governmental schemes and programmes to the mine and bidi workers. The study shows that in the past such groups have taken activists modes of functioning(calling for Dharnas and other pressure strategies) for pressurising the Government.

The other category of voluntary efforts include groups who are mainly involved in awareness generation of the community, youth group formation, capacity building of panchayat representatives etc. Such groups use strategies such as group meetings, building close relationship with the village community, door to door meetings etc. Thus the work activities of such groups mainly cater to spread social messages across community through day to day contacts with the community. Interestingly these groups, since the last few years have attempted to come into the main stream of development activities. Although very small and budding, much potential for development efforts could be envisaged in such groups. Final, mention must made of groups that have strong links with the fine arts and culture. Such groups undertake cultural and literary activities, holding sammelan, literary competitions, plays, religious gatherings, bhajan kirtan etc. It was observed that these groups are highly popular amongst the community both in the urban and rural areas. Such groups are existent in all the districts of the Bundelkhand region. However it has been observed that as compared to the other districts, the concentration of such cultural groups is high in District Datia. One of the reasons could be that Datia has , through the years, enjoyed a high degree of support from the erstwhile rulers and nawabs, during which such cultural groups were encouraged and supported by these rulers. Through time although many of these groups faded away, the cultural setting and psyche of the community as regards cultural activities is still fairly strong.

Given the types of organisations in the Bundelkhand region, it becomes clear that NGOs/associations/individuals with development perspectives are few and far between and major issues related to livelihood are still not taken up to a large extent by these organisations. A list of some NGOs/individuals met with during the study is appended inAnnexure 1.t the state level, Government-Non government collaboration is taking place incertain programmes such as TLC(Total Literacy Campaign), DPEP, Joint Forest management (JFM), Public distribution system, the programme of development of womenand children in rural areas(DWCRA) and Watershed development. This is being undertaken at the district level too. However the dependency of Government funds was observed to be so strong that most voluntary groups act as government contractors to undertake specified
and given tasks. The target approach to development functioning, common in the Government set-up has infiltrated many of the NGOs undertaking such activities in this region.In many cases committees formed for governmental schemes such as TLC and DWCRA are alsoviewed as NGOs to be collaborated with. While this is appreciable, what is of concern is that other independent bodies are not encouraged to undertake any development efforts. All activities get concentrated within such groups only. though attempts are being made for the development of civil society, the efforts in the Bundelkhand region are still far from satisfactory. There is a strong need for capacity building of voluntary groups especially small and budding bodies in various areas of programmed and so that organisational development development issues of the region are actually and realistically addressed by such people based organisations.


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