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Crossing The Poverty Line: National Rural Livelihoods Mission And Rural Poor [Part-1]

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By Dr. Amrit Patel

Since independence, the Government has accorded top priority in its policy and planning approach and allocated significant resources to alleviate rural poverty. This paper briefly highlights the achievements of two earlier programs and the objectives of the proposed third one. After several piecemeal efforts, the concept of Integrated Rural Development Program [IRDP] was first proposed in the Union Budget of 1976-77 to provide self-employment opportunities to the rural poor [specifically agricultural and landless labourers, small and marginal farmers, rural artisans] through capital subsidy and bank credit so as to help them acquire productive assets and appropriate skills to cross the poverty line on a sustained basis. In 1978-79 with some modifications the program initially covered 2300 blocks and focused family as a unit rather than individuals. With addition of 300 blocks during 1979-80, it covered 2600 blocks identifying 53 lakh families for assistance as on 31 March 1980.

 

Integrated Rural Development Program

From October 2, 1980 IRDP was extended to all blocks in the country stipulating targets for SCs/STs and Women beneficiaries and emphasizing primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of rural economy. The District Rural Development Agencies were specifically established to plan and implement IRDP. Between 1980-81 and November1999, about 535.22 lakh beneficiaries [including 44.7% SC/ST & 25.4% women] were provided Rs.11796.01 crore capital subsidy & Rs.21336.63 crore bank credit. Though the program was comprehensive in scope and sought to secure through a process of block level planning, fuller exploitation of the local growth potential to significantly alleviate poverty, in practice the program was merely reduced to subsidy giving program shorn of any planned approach to the development of the rural poor as an inbuilt process in the development of the rural poor, the area and its resources.

Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana

Since 1 April 1999, the “Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana [SGSY]” for the self-employment of the rural poor has been under implementation after restructuring and merging the erstwhile IRDP and its allied programs. The program aims at bringing the assisted BPL families above the Poverty Line through

  • organizing rural poor into Self-Help-Groups
  • establishing micro enterprises in rural areas based on the ability of the poor and potential of each area.
  • provision of credit linked subsidy to help beneficiaries acquire income generating assets
  • training of beneficiaries in group dynamics and skill development for managing micro-enterprises
  • marketing support with focus on market research, upgradation and diversification of products, packaging, creation of marketing facilities
  • provision of infrastructure development fund to provide missing critical links

Between April 1, 1999 and January 31, 2010 SHGs formed were 36,78,746 of which women accounted for 68.32%. Total 1,32,85,688 Swarozgaris were assisted with subsidy of Rs.10091.96 crore and bank credit of Rs.20822.29 crore. Share of women, SCs/STs, Minorities and disabled assisted Swarozgaris was 57.63%, 46.76%,9.47%, 1.48% respectively as against mandated 40%, 50%,15% and 3% respectively. Percentage of fund utilization was of the order of available [73.82], allocation [92.66]. Subsidy [65.88], revolving fund [10.31], infrastructure 16.24], training/skill [149.09] and credit [60.43] demonstrating low utilization.

The SGSY suffered from major deficiencies, such as

  • weaknesses in the planning and implementation process, formation, nurturing and working of SHGs
  • subsidy acted as a tempting factor rather than enabling one to acquire income generating assets through bank credit resulting in unsatisfactory loan repayment as compared to SHG-Bank-Linkage Program
  • estimated income was not generated because of lack of effective coordination and systematic monitoring of SGSY implementation
  • heavy concentration on agriculture and that too milch animals
  • inadequate use of funds earmarked for capacity building and skill development training, infrastructure development and marketing support.

Deficiencies were observed in varying degrees in all States but were more pronounced in States of North-East region, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal in particular.,

Implementation of IRDP till November 1999 and SGSY since April 1999 could not alleviate rural poverty as expected, as according to NSS round [2004-05], 41.8% rural population had monthly per capita expenditure of Rs.447, which some economists consider Below Starvation Line instead BPL. Besides, according to Multidimensional Poverty Index [MPI] worked out by UNDP & Oxford University, July 2010, about 645 million people [55%] in India are poor. As against 410 million MPI poor in 26 of the poorest African countries, eight Indian States [Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal] have 421 million MPI poor. The MPI reveals a vivid spectrum of challenges facing the poorest households. MPI considers 10 sharp indicators, namely Education [child enrolment and years of schooling]; Health [child mortality and nutrition] and Standard of living [electricity, drinking water, sanitation, cooking fuel, flooring and assets]. A global report on poverty eradication of the U.N. Secretary-General [2010] shows that economic growth is evident for the progress in China in reducing extreme poverty and raising living standards, whereas India is expected to be home to more than 300 million in poverty out of 900 million predicted to be in extreme poverty in 2015.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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