Sunday, December 29, 2013

Visit for Social Audit of NREGS - 2

What is a social audit? It is better to have an idea of the concept in the first place. Social_Audit_Report is uploaded in the NREGS website. But almost all of the community seems to be completely unaware of documentation part. Best part of these meetings is the opportunity to meet office bearers and government officials on same day.

When government makes schedule for social audit in October, it reviews work done/in progress from April to September months. SA was originally scheduled in October but due to cyclone, it was completed in December. Advertisements were given in three Oriya newspaper giving dates and location of the social audit meeting. Local NGO was invited to attend the meetings but no provision of fund was available for community mobilisation through local NGO. This was all done when Gram Rozgar Sevak (GRS) [working personnels for NREGS at Village level] were gone on strike. Their online petition is worth a read on the problem faced at implementation level.

Verification of Documents, Grievance Submitted and Issues Raised were tackled in the meeting with sincerity. Whatever issues were raised and action was taken on them.  Normal complain was wrong account number given by beneficiaries of bank accounts. One person complained having no job card. He later told that he was migrant and belong to well to do family. Since, this card is one more government paperwork done free, he was eager to get in hope of anticipated benefits. Ensuring faster wage payment to beneficiaries under MGNREGS is the process lacuna. Payment within 15 days deadline is sometime stretched to full month that came in limelight.

According to the guidelines of MGNREGA, a Gram Sabha is held the prime institution of planning and execution of MGNREGA. So much in writing but activities of Vigilance and Monitoring Committees (VMCs) at Panchayat level is in hibernation all over Odisha. NREGS work for purposes like common grazing and livelihood are not taken much in thought. NREGS website is great. But even the BPL (as per 1997 census in Odisha) doesn't seem rightly feeded in that. I have highlighted with red circle in the picture above and brought to the notice of concerned authority.

There is no convergence that household has taken benefit from which scheme like IAY/RSBY of the government.  Even demand generation suffers due to lack of initiative of community. As per government official, not much work can be generated if a lot has been already done in previous years. There is a limit of demand that can be achieved under guidelines of NREGS. The demand scheme has been converted into target scheme by the officers under pressure from the government to show numbers.  That was the most important lesson came out in this exercise.

 Social Audit has merely reduced as excercise for checking numbers, as rarely people complained about quality of work and let accountable pay for corruption. Even mighty monitoring tool like social audit can become grievance redress mechanism only in the hands of dull community. Social audit may have helped in awareness generation but a lot of work need to be done for community engagement.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Month at Bhanjanagar, Ganjam

I reported at DRDA office, Ganjam district on 18th November 2013. I was relived from previous duty for PHAILIN rehabilitation work. Emergency relief work had already been finished in most of the block. Hence, rehabilitation work is not included in my role at Ganjam District. I was assigned to work at Bhanjanagar block exclusive for Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM).  Bhanjanagar block is a non intensive block as per OLM guidelines. A new proposal to change this into intensive block has been sent to the central government. That means a lot of action under coming months but not now. Revolving fund to SHGs, e-NRLM (MIS)and SHG Bank Credit Linkage are the focus area  in job profile.
OLM  , Panchayat Samiti Office, Bhanjanagar
Work Station
Every person worth its salt always knows how to correct itself, and eventually does. I feel vulnerable against myself. The trait of punctuality is leaving me even with the minor load of the government job. Hoping to maintain this habit of punctuality. I am ignorant about development issues to a large extent. I am focusing hard to be updated on each aspect of community and governance development. It a general truth that "No work, No Pay". Currently, assigned work is minimum at this moment. Let's have a thought, I feel like overpaid government officer !

Motivation for the Day: “If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.” ― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More Words, Less Work

Jargon is not monopoly of B School students, as they are also used excessively in the development sector. That is why practitioner doesn't read academic literature. The funny part is that the jargon such as 'Sustainable' and 'Strategy' in daily vocab as student is not coming any use to me. Development academics are known for their penchant for creating jargon where there is need for none, points out Pulitzer-Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist and novelist Jules Feitter in his inimitable style.

“I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy. Then they said needy was an expression that is self defeating, I was actually deprived. Then again they said deprived created a bad image, I was actually underprivileged. Now they say underprivileged is inaccurate. I am actually disadvantaged. I still don’t have a dime, but I sure have a rich vocabulary!” – Jules Feitter

Monday, December 2, 2013

Producer Groups - Practical Experiences

"I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."- Richard Feynman ; That is why, despite of knowing theoretical concept on the Producer Groups, there were some practical lessons gained in the field. I had worked with Producer Groups  farming Groundnut, Onion, & Pulses (even one group was doing business of NTFP) at Balanagir district, Odisha. I was guided under able supervision of Kamalendu Paul, Zonal Manager, ORMAS (Orissa Rural Development and Marketing Society). The document Community Enterprise System Manual prepared by Prof. Amar KJR Nayak came helpful during work.

All producer groups were having women members only. No producer group has been registered under any act till now. However, credit was given to them on the basis of mutual trust between government and Producer Groups. The legal process will be initiated soon. We were also unable to do protect farmers under crop insurance scheme till this year. Organizing the unorganized was already done by Paul Sir before my arrival at district. Without help of local persons, this was not possible. The sign of government (even its vehicle) is a sign of trust in rural areas. That fast paced our work even by Indian standards in establishing trust with the community. Our companies have usually dump their sub standard products and Chit Fund company had run away with the money of rural people. This historical tendency of companies have made the business in rural areas difficult.

Practical Experiences:

1) 40-60 is the optimal size of the group. It is necessary for cohesion within and management of the group. Since, they are small scale, it is generally preferred that they are not much dispersed. There is an executive committee and further sub committees in the Producer group. But, most of the members don't know the power, roles and responsibilities of these committee. Since, NRLM is a new scheme, we have to remind each time about objective and scope of mission to the members.

2) Producer group were more successful in the remote areas of the district. The sense of cooperation is more seen at these regions in comparison to the relative rich parts of the district. It is a small sample for me to draw conclusions but poor are more honest and cooperative in the nature.

3) For any business, 'budget' is the ultimate tool with which to monitor and keep an eye over the business. The lack of education becomes major hindrance in the preparation of annual action plan and budget. It was easy to make them understand about procurement procedures (like inviting more than one quotations) and necessity of documentation. Since, most of the women are part of SHG, they have a basic idea about documenting the meetings and cash book.

4) LSP (Livelihood Support Person) is appointed for their help in marketing linkages and proper documentation. Producer Group is more considered for good price while government is more strict on documentation part. Honorarium of LSP is merely 2000 -3000 rs currently. That may appear low but as per my opinion, is sufficient if billed on RS 50 per hour of interaction. Work of LSP is maximum during post harvesting season.

5) I have attained lectures, read articles and even studies courses on the leadership. Cooperative Leadership is not just about good communication skills, democracy – its about sound decision making by utilizing capacity of the group. Producer group like any other group is leader oriented. The trivia is that an exterior person like LSP should enable but should never drive the Producer Group strategy. Since, I have been working women producers and male LSP, this scenario may occur in future. A leader should be groomed inside the group. Even on the proxy of gender diversity, there was only single women among all appointed LSPs.

6) Another difficulty that the producer group or cooperative societies encounter relates to storage facilities. Most of the surplus produce in an area is assembled and sold at the mandi. Infrastructure support is must for the producer group. Most of the farmers even if organized for the production purpose are reluctant to store for a long time to meet their immediate consumptive need. Low cost storage facility for multipurpose use at each GP/ village for each producer group is a good solution to the problem. It may appear cheap and effective under Panchayat but the chances of either personal usage by PRI members or no maintenance are more in it.

7) The transport arrangement to market small volume of produce is not facilitating and rural transport cost is much higher than the urban transport cost. Hence, with combining the total produce, we were able to bring businessman on doorstep of farmers.

8) Line departments like Agriculture Department and its extension services support has been minimal till now. Convergence is always missing in-between government departments! We are hoping for their help during training session of producers. The fund supplied for training purpose by government will be used in future. The caveat of guidelines in utilizing training fund: Only half of the group will get the training. A sure way of creating rift between members. It is better to spend less on training per member but to impart training to everyone in the group.

9) There was not much inclusion of banks till now. Without any corpus fund provided as grant, it was difficult even for a bank to provide them loan amount. And, Banks heavily discourage and delay SHG/PG  members making transactions to the respective branches. That is a big issue with multiple perspective to be debated later.

10) Agri Produce Market is not very quality conscious, but price sensitive to a certain extent. The credit supplied to PG is used for holding the collective produce for the one or two month. In the mean time, there is definite rise in prices of produce. We have experience of selling Pulses for profit of more than Rs 10 per kg by holding stick for a period of one month.

Failure of Cooperative societies should never be forgotten in Indian context while pitching support for such groups. Cooperative societies were not harmed much by politics but by interference of the bureaucracy. Lack of serious attention to value added agriculture and rural MSMEs are big task to be handled in the future. How do we make agriculture sustainable and economically viable ? That is the big question.

Initiative Taken:

- Previously, only office bearers and LSP words were taken for granted in meeting at district level meeting. Producer Group registers were only way of checking regular meetings and updates during field visits. I have collected maximum available mobile phone numbers of members. Hence, I can actually monitor live, whether PG meeting is happening or not from district headquarter through random calls to any member.

- A DPR (Detailed Project Report)was approved by OLM (Odisha Livelihood Mission) last year. There was no provision of baseline survey. I tried to capture data about household socio-economic conditions so that impact assessment can be made in coming years.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Producer Groups - Theoretical Concept

"Where the poor participate as subjects and not as objects of the development process, it is possible to generate growth, human development and equity, not as mutually exclusive trade offs but as complementary elements in the same process." --- Meeting the challenge, Report of the Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation, 1992.

The problem with modern outlook of business education is to view a rural/urban citizen as target consumers. Instead, if we enable them as producers, that will surely boost economy and well being of our producers. Most of the producers are caught in the vicious circle of poverty and even fully dependent on monsoon for good harvest. Government has reworked on its strategy of helping marginal and small producers in breaking out of the cycle of poverty by organizing them into producer group. Concept of Producer Group has been lifted from the cooperative societies. This concept is based on voluntary cooperation as rural ecosystem has limited resources and infrastructure.

Why Producer Group?The main aim of producer group is to stop the practice of ‘distress selling’ . I will give three reasons for pitching of Producer Groups. 1) Creditworthiness is directly related to income, farm size, age of farmers, and level of formal education of farmers. Hence, marginal farmer is always caught with lack of credit. 2) Marginal farmers as rural producers always suffer from imbalance of bargaining power in market transactions. 3) Small farmers always dispose off their produce at the nearest mandi at a through-away price. Size of the market for agri-related commodities is always good but highly price volatile in India. I have written more on this topic: Market Failure and Primary Producers.

A producer Group generally consists of 30 to 150 producers [depending upon nature of the Livelihood Activity] involved in a common activity. Producers group should be formed preferably at village level or at GP level for tribal areas where size of village is very small. Producers Group may be registered under the Self Help Cooperative Act, 2001 of Government of Odisha (Depending on state) or The Companies Act of India in future. As per new NRLM guidelines, minimum 50% of the total members should be from BPL category. That is a good strategy for poor and vulnerable households.

There will be service charges taken from the members for purchase and maintenance of common asset like Mattress, Chairs, Lock, Box and Weighing Machine. There will be engagement of professional resource person called as LSP (Livelihood Support Person). LSP will help them in procurement, processing, value addition and market linkages. However, the cost of LSP will be borne by government for initial two years depending on the honorarium decided by Producer group. There is provision of financial (Loan for working capital @7 % & Grant for capacity building through training) for producer group.

Generally, Indian farmers have highly unorganized and individual approach for cultivation. Organizing the unorganized through mobilizing whole community is the most time taking part of the formation of Producer Group. The first step with in business planning is to identify the business opportunity. This is decided by members Producer group itself only. Ensuring regular meetings and interaction from government official is a way to sustain producer group. With enhanced collective bargaining power, Producer groups are obtaining good price for their produce in the market. Still, there are many practical difficulties in the whole approach. That will be taken later in a new blog post.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pointers for Rural Managers

There are 6 lakh villages across the country. It is essential to know about government schemes and local culture while working in rural India. They will always come handy in certain situations. Great debate on caste system has not been touched by me where majority of Indians follow an unwritten rule of not mingling through marriage of one religion or caste.

Hindi Calendar Months:

Important Festivals: I am not elaborating on Festivals in India that consumes a major part of government holidays. Just few minor ones, that may be unheard by most of us.

Akshya Tritiya - Day for worshiping traditional seed-before ploughing and sowing of seed.
Makar Sankranti / Onam- It is a harvest festival.
Vasant Panchami - This dayannounces arrival of spring.
Gudi Padwa/ Ugadi/ Bihu/ Vishu - New Year in Hindu Calendar
Navarathri - Celebrated five times a year but primarily once during spring.
Ramadan - A month of fasting for Muslims.

Important Schemes:

1- Poverty Alleviation Schemes : National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)
2- Education Schemes : Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDA), Adult Literacy.
3- Water and Sanitation : National Rural Drinking Water Programme , Total Sanitation Campaign.
4- Health : National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)
5- Women and Child Development : Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
6- Rural Housing : Indira Awas Yojana (IAY)
7- Rural Roads : Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)
8- Rural Electrification: Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), Remote Village Electrification Programme (Non-conventional energy)
9- Hunger Reduction : Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) . (Upcoming Food Security Bill,)
10- Entitlements : National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS) and National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS).
11- Rural Infrastructure : Bharat Nirman Seva Kendras and Telecommunication Connectivity.

Quote of the Day: “My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.” — Maya Angelou.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Transfer Order

The official stint at Balangir is over after 175 Days. I have been transferred to Ganjam district that will be effective from 18th November 2013. Life will be turbulent, may be good in coming weeks.

Since, Ganjam district has been badly affected by the PHAILIN and followed by flood due to incessant rain, it was decided to relocate eleven Young Professionals for the rehabilitation and restoration work. Transfer Order is little puzzlinh while looking at overall context of the decision. Currently, there are 36 Young Professionals employed at Odisha Livelihood Mission. There will be thirteen Young Professionals working at Ganjam district now with this official order. There are districts like Mayurbhanj, Kendrapada, Balasore and Bhadrak affected by cyclone and flash floods. No Young Professional is placed there for rehabilitation work. Hence, this skewed decision appears bias to me.

Change is constant but its hard to guess pace of the change. There is an expression that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” While it is partially true that those who fail to plan will eventually fail in achieving their goals, there is strong evidence to suggest that having a plan leads to greater effectiveness and efficiency. I am hoping for better and optimum utilization of time at new place. Dreaming to come up with self-correcting mechanisms against habit of procrastination. Self-image, hopes and dreams matter, not as part of vanity, but for the choices that I will make.

Thought of the Day: The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. - David Orr.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Look Beyond GDP !

It is a popular quote by Friedrich Nietzsch : All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. Elite and educated Indians have high obsession with two parameters for judging development in India either GDP growth rate and numbers of stock exchange. I will discuss about GDP and similar indicators. GDP is a good indicator but doesn't show up complete picture. It does not take into account income distribution.

Let us talk about Per Capita Income. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate (such as GDP or GNI) and dividing it by the total population. So, its just an average ! Hence, increase in wealth of Tata, Birla and Ambani can show up good figures for India but can't really reflect development of a common citizen. Let us use three global indices of development for comparison:

1. GCI (Global Competitiveness Index): issued by World Economic Forum, and is based on a composite ranking of growth potential, business competitiveness, etc. India ranks 64 among 152 nations in 2013-2014 report.

2. HDI (Human Development Index) : issued by UN which is a composite of education, per capita GDP, longivity, etc. India ranks 136 among 186 nations in 2012.

3. Gini Index: this a part of HDI, which ranks countries according income disparities in the society. A Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 1 implies perfect inequality. Although income inequality in India is relatively small (Gini coefficient:0. 325 in year 1999- 2000), India's nominal Gini index rose to 0.368 in 2005. [Source]

Hence, we are a country with high growth rate and still lacking in basic facilities like health and education. Only figures does not explain this position. I will give data for the reasoning. Let us ask a basic question : Can bad policy decisions block development in a country like India that has many aspects of inclusive institutions ? Yes, that is cent percent true for India. Kothari Commission (1964-66) suggested to allocate 6% of GDP for public expenditure on education. Leave the past, even in the last decade, we haven’t spent more than 4 % of GDP. (Source). Our expenditure on public health hasn't gone up more than 4 % of GDP from may years. Figures of any developing or developed country (Turkey, USA, UK, Brazil and SA) is always more than 6.5% from last 20 years. (Source)

As an approach to development, Ferro et al. (2002) were of the view that pro-poor growth in India can rest on two pillars—by grouping policies for improving the investment climate to accelerate growth and for empowering its poor to contribute and benefit from this growth. Robustness of the economy is a must thing but a significant investment must be made in people's lives. We have today thriving yet highly privatized health and education systems (with very different opportunities for different class). With the exit of middle class using public facilities, the bargaining power of remaining users has declined. Due to less investment by state in increasing its capacity, health and education have became costly affairs in private hands. We must think of households who have to spend a good part of their income to buy good health and primary education facilities in private sector – leaving a much bigger gap in the pocket that can be invested in their own or children’s future.

There are always enough reasons to despair and hope in India. Recently, Raghuram Rajan Committee Report has recommended for evolving a Composite Development Index for States. Kudos for new way of thinking ! Development is about a healthy community of economically active people. Hence, we need to see more than one indicators in popular media as well to get the complete picture. If someone is still not convinced , please march ahead and read : It’s Not The GDP, Stupid!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Visit for Social Audit of NREGS

NREGA funds are used for natural resource management activities by generating wage employment for the poor as well as strengthening their livelihood resource base. I will ask readers to go through these two articles :[ Rural job scheme: Can we get it right? and NREGA social Audit: Myths and Reality ] on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) before going forward.

There is social audit of MNREGS going on in Balangir district from 22-10-2013 to 26-10-2013. I attended three such meetings as an observer only. I attended social audit at Kutenpali, Jharmunda and Kandajuri Gram Panchayat of Loisingha Block. Loisingha Block consist of 18 G.Ps with 108 Villages and is 22 km away from district headquarter. The officers, Sarpanch and GRS were present for the meeting on time. Yet, there was lack of people attending the meeting held at Panchayat Bhavan. The registered person data is taken from NREGA website for the financial year 2013-2014. I have given distance from Block Office to show their remote locality.

G.P.Distance from Block OfficeRegistered   In Meeting  
  HouseholdPersonsMaleFemaleTotalMaleFemale
Kutenpali7 Km6741899107682340400
Jharmunda12 Km6611686983703000
Kandajuri15 Km4571075596479770

Key Findings -

1. There were people keeping themselves busy in a game of cards but were unaffected by any meeting. This attitude of local people was fatal to their own development. Hence, all the blame of failure of government scheme can't be solely put on the state. The lack of participation of the local population was making the whole event into a flop show.

2. GP with 40 people was considered as success by block office. It was later told that such low attendance of 5-10 people without any local NGO participation is prevalent in another block of Balangir district. With the support of community based organization, the number of participants can rise upto 80-100 maximum.

3. There was notice attached to the Panchayat office but no meetings were held on the importance of social audit. Adding to this limited communication, effective strategy of rural communication through vocal was also utterly discarded by the government. Neither NGO nor any community organization was used for mobilizing the public.

4. Land development through individual project is equally good option with community project in the remote location. Due to hilly terrain and poor connectivity, there is greater participation in NREGS in backward GPs. Most of the people working as labour in NREGS are tribal and BPL card holders.

5. The Gram Panchayat must own the data it collects; Information is a basic tool for planning. Information relevant to each area like population, Infrastructure and natural resources database is rarely available for use. Even NREGA data is available on the internet yet not available to common man in the village. Virtual transparency may give temporary relief to the government officials, whereas the reality is that villagers have to meander through a cobweb of data to search and find what they are looking for.

6. Surplus labor used in NREGS can generate productive assets that can be eco-friendly in nature. The asset base of the poor both individual (for example, Land leveling, reclamation of soil, bunding, constructing small ponds) as well as collective assets (for example, regeneration of common lands, water harvesting structures, group irrigation facilities etc) can be strengthen through this scheme. Migration of unskilled labors can't be stopped with virtually 30-40 days of the work.


In NREGA, government officials and PRI members had used fraud measures like “creating fake muster rolls, inflated bills, exaggerated measurements, and non-existent works, all through bribes and cuts from wage seekers" to make money. What need of hour is social audit, best tool we have for monitoring using community participation to curb such fraud activities. Development from design is not primarily about selecting right people for the job. It is about setting of right processes, standards and procedures followed with continuous adherence to it. I will end with the words of Omnia Marzouk, President, IofC International - : 'Nothing lasting can be built without a desire by people to live differently and exemplify the changes they want to see in society.'

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rural Managers: Their role from a development professional's view

[ This post has been taken from 2013 edition of Dhwani, the annual journal of published by RMAX [ Rural Manager's Association of XIMB (Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar)]. Content has not been tampered but published without prior permission. Please contact blogger in the case of any dispute/offence/copyright issues.]

Author : Mr. Shouvik Mitra, World Bank Consultant

The development sector has seen a sea change over the last four decades starting from the Sarvodaya movement, primarily inspired by the Gandhian philosophy in the early sixties to the professionalization of the sector in the mid eighties where NGOs like PRADAN and MYRADA came into existence to the near corporatization in the first decade of this century. Thus, with the evolving scenario the role o f r u r a l m a n a g e r s h a s c h a n g e d drastically. When Dr. Kurien established IRMA in 1979, the goal was to develop professionals to work for the sector in general and for AMUL/ GCMMF in particular. Today, rural managers are involved in organizations ranging from grassroots level NGOs, secondary support NGOs, donor agencies, private foundations, agri-business entities and social enterprises.

The role of a rural manager, over a period of time, has become more evolved, more sophisticated and more complex. This change in role is due to the change in contexts in which rural managers work. These contexts have opened many new opportunities for rural management as a field to grow. However, the same contexts have given rise to some peculiar challenges for rural managers. Let us take few examples. Most of the NGOs today face certain major organisational constraints, such as, funding and limited outreach. This along with sector specific demands, multi-dimensionality of rural poverty as well as high donor expectations poses a unique set of challenges in the face of rural managers. The Government being the largest player in rural development sector is worried about quality and efficacy. The donors and foundations are facing constraints of dwindling innovativeness, quality partners, timely delivery and measurable impacts. The entrepreneurs are facing capital constraints, government policies and quality human resource. The agenda of inclusiveness is going through a major drift among the corporate agri-business entities while the corporate social responsibility wings are too focused with R&R, establishing brand value and a general lack of understanding of the way forward. Another new concept that has emerged is Producer Collectives. Though their presence is still on a relatively smaller scale, they not only face issues of quality HR, capital constraints, and lack of mission but also suffer from governance issues and member-organization conflicts.

Poverty is complex phenomenon and there is no single silver bullet to wipe it out. And it has become extremely critical to work on several fronts simultaneously to tackle it effectively. It is now rare to find organizations working in a dedicated domain like health, education, empowerment, livelihoods. The recent mantra is overall well being of community and thus the organizations prefer to work across multiple sectors, though many of them continue to have a core competence in one or few of the sectors. This has necessitated knowledge across different domains for professionals working at the grassroots level.

Another challenge for the demographers today is migration, the solution to which is to provide ample employment as well as self employment opportunities in rural India. The need is to tackle this situation by proposing ideas for self-sustaining business models which not only generate revenue for the corporate but also proves beneficial monetarily and socially for people at the base of the pyramid. It is here that rural managers, armed with a combination of business acumen and compassion can contribute the most. Majority of social ventures fail to scale up due to lack of managerial skills. Similar is the case with implementation of a number of government schemes. To justify the claims of 'social inclusion', it is important for the development agencies to broaden their horizons to include a whole range of beneficiaries and not just a minor part of the population. All sections of the society are equally important to achieve the goals inclusion.

A rural manager thus needs to juggle with a number of issues and come up with optimal solutions in whatever organization s/he may be working. S/he is expected to deal with organizational staff, ground level workers, outside/intervening agencies, rural community members, all at the same time.

The question to be asked here is how one can equip oneself to cope with such diverse and demanding situations. Is only a rural management degree itself a sufficient condition to be an effective rural manager? I doubt it. The right kind of attitude is of paramount importance; an attitude to work with rural poor in a manner which is professional, yet tender and at the same time not compromising on the quality of the outcome. What is required is a delicate balance of both head and heart where one is hardnosed about the efficacy of the project and is also concerned about the well being of the community. There is hardly any room for trade-offs. S/he must be able to analyze the situation and visualize the possible solution. It is required from him/her to be willing to unlearn, learn and relearn continuously and over a period of time.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why Government Schemes Fail?

All claims of 'development' by government appear to be a hoax ...obviously ! Because we always see huge margin of difference between announcement and implementation. Let us redefine government for our own understanding. It is a crucible of interest groups, rather than a black box of noble intentions. So, the responsibility of failure of schemes lie with various stakeholders in the development process.

Growth can never be inorganic and the system needs to learn before they grow. Now replace ‘system’ with ‘welfare scheme’. Example: Gradual improvement (IRDP - SGSY - NRLM) is better approach for development. Not all schemes are so much lucky. They are renamed and often termed as 'old wine in new bottle'. Sometimes if any scheme is a completely prone to the corruption, we have hinged for its immense benefit to power holders. Bad schemes is like giving perpetual gifts that has made people into beggars rather than partners. India's government programmes are riddled with corruption and leakage. The main source of corruption arises from the identification of beneficiaries. Identification is not a statistical exercise, but is a major political activity. Nitin Pai has written an article focusing on this issue only - Where are the Poor?.

Rajiv Gandhi’s famous and oft-quoted statement that out of every Rs 1 spent on development only 15 paisa reaches the poor. Monitoring and Evaluation is often the weakest part of the chain of the schemes. Officials are getting salary for what they are supposed to serving the people. They get away clean either with not doing anything at all or doing with bribes. This is the most damaging aspect of the government jobs. Even harsh reviews and suspension does not mean anything to them.

Unused knowledge is a buried treasure. Government officials at block levels have brilliant expertise but they rarely display an ounce of integrity. The block level officials and extension workers are inadequately available and most of the posts were vacant. So, the staff is always overburdened by additional charges. None of govt official will talk openly of their exasperation with the stiff deadlines. But off the record, most are forthcoming. And, their feedback is rarely taken serious. There is also lack of specialization at the top level of bureaucracy. Same officer can look sports affairs with equal expertise as livelihood ! Such is the way of functioning government. This system has began to change positively from the last 10-15 years with the incoming flux of new officers.

The reformers calling for heads of government servants and public representatives are not free from all blame. I will not give detail here in the corrupt practices of NGO sector but will take a dig on activist mode workers. Most of the activist are either committed right Swadeshi or a leftist social workers . They are staunch and passionate persons who are anti-globalization, anti- market and assumed that all decisions however big or small had to be taken in GramSabhas and will turn up invariably the right ones. Hence, not all feasible solutions are put on table and negotiation becomes ideological battleground.

Poor can not be served poorly; Government must stop thinking that PRI as low-cost and voluntary. People’s Participation for Empowerment and Good Governance may sound like a jargon in the reading but it is not. It is a simple process of taking voice of an important stakeholder i.e. public. There will be corruption in the early years, but surely spread of awareness will happen in upcoming years.

The hunger and poverty that one sees all around must be tackled with better designed scheme. Structural transformations at the top to allow local actors to participate with their potential is required. We must focus on convergence of existing schemes of the government rather than launching new schemes. Only then, we can roll back redundant schemes and put in their what is required. Even we got a new scheme. "The Implementation Part" is key to measure any success of intervention rather than allocation of fund. I will leave readers with quote by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi in his article "The contractor state": The government of India is a government of contractors, by contractors, for contractors.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Market Failure and Primary Producers

There are two factors that affect the lives of farmers - Lack of financial planning and Information Asymmetry. Let us roughly cash flow of the marginal farmer (as owner or tenant or share cropper who cultivates agricultural land up to 2.5 acres) that will fall into low-income households. The cash out flow of the household is throughout the year and peak-out during festive season, marriage or birth) and bad patches (accident/death) in the family. The farmer gets cash inflow with sales of produce only. Hence, the borrowings of the farmer limits the growth option for the household.

Let us take an excerpt from the paper - Why Don‘t We See Poverty Convergence? by Martin Ravallion  - "Banerjee and Duflo (2003) provide a simple but insightful growth model with borrowing constraints. Someone who starts her productive life with sufficient wealth is able to invest her unconstrained optimal amount, equating the (declining) marginal product of her capital with the interest rate. But the 'wealth poor' for whom the borrowing constraint is binding, are unable to do so. Banerjee and Duflo show that higher inequality in such an economy implies lower growth. However, they do not observe that their model also implies that higher current wealth poverty for a given mean wealth also implies lower growth.."

There is failure of state even in few cases as farmer sold paddy at 900 Rs. to the middleman against the minimum support price of 1250 Rs. This was bought in my notice during a meeting with SHG woman at Khaprakhol block of Balangir District. Hence, the information asymmetry is a definite factor for the problems of primary producers. Let us take the case of Cotton producers at Balangir. Most of the farmers avail credit, fertilizer and seeds from the middlemen. Hence, they are forced to sell their produce to the middlemen. They mostly sell at the price negotiated upon irrespective of the price prevalent in the market. In almost all cases the negotiated price for future output is 10 to 30% lower than the market prices.

Since the cash inflow with the farmers happens only in time of sale post harvesting season. Hence, it is very hard for farmer to negotiate with the creditors, middlemen and even local traders in terms of price of the produce. Farmer is forced to sell the producer soon after the harvest. This phenomenon is called Distress Sell. The lack of holding capacity reveals failure of credit mechanism of government. Through better connected network and information, the middlemen are always able to better estimation of price of the commodity. This price distortion has been brought lower due to reach of mobile phone connectivity. This can be countered by providing loans to hold sale of harvest for few weeks/months and installation of the mini warehouse facility at the GP level.

The market failure is typically attributed to information asymmetries—that lenders are poorly informed about borrowers. But we will go more in the topic of distress sell. Let us see State Wholesale Prices for Onion in Orissa (Rs/ Quintal) [Source - http://agmarknet.nic.in/]


MonthsWholesale Prices (Rs/ Quintal)
April,2013 1500.81
May,20131607.41
June, 2013 1826.3
July, 20132556.19
August, 20134954.79
September, 20134056.14

What we see is the clear evident of the rise of price of Onion to 150-300% soon after harvest season of April and May. So, the actual producers are not getting benefit of the high prices of onion due to distress sell while traders are making money out of the misery of customers. While we talk about food inflation greatly, it has nothing to do with supply demand constraints in India. Its simply linked to hoarding and profiteering. I don't have concrete evidence for this fact, hence will not raise this issue.

Looking from the perspective of the neo -liberal, local traders are managing risk. But, through current practices, we are making agriculture unsustainable and economically nonviable for a small farmer. There are folk idioms like "Des bigade maarwadi, sadak bigade bael-gaadi" prevelant in the rural India. Local traders (often Maarwaris) whatever their motives, have done much to built the market in our country. What we need is inclusion of small farmers as players in the market. It is only by forming networks and communities built on solidarity that marginal farmers can make a difference. The main objective is get the remunerative price for primary cultivators and distress sale should be checked. That will be explored in the future posts through topic like Producer Groups

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Government Schemes and Development Programmes

Livelihoods Initiative at CMF has complied a list of government schemes that focus on livelihoods promotion, broken down by state that is updated by latest August 2013. I am updating here name of schemes implemented in Odisha.

Social Security
  • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)
  • Annapurna Scheme
  • Anganwadi Karyakartri Bima Yojana
  • Emergency Feeding Programme
  • State Old Age Pension (SOAP) Scheme
  • National Social Assistance Programme for Social Security Pensions
  • National Old Age Pension Scheme
  • National Family Benefit Scheme
  • Balika Samriddhi Yojana (BSY)
  • Jana Seva Divas - Streamlining of the process of Pension Payment
  • Programme for Care of Older Persons
  • Day care Centre
  • Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drugs) Abuse.
  • Scheme for Welfare of Orphan and Destitute Children
  • Orissa Disability Pension (ODP) Scheme

Welfare
  • Rehabilitation of distressed women
  • Balika Samridhi Yojana
  • State commission for Women
  • MVSN
  • An Integrated programme for Street Children
  • Training & Rehabilitation of Persons with Disability
  • National Programme for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (NPRPD)
  • "Preservation and Promotion of Tribal Dialects, Culture & Livelihood"
  • Special Programmes for KBK(Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) Districts
  • Multi Sector Development Programme(MSDP)
  • Multi Sector Development Programme(MSDP)
  • Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF)
  • Gopabandhu Grameen Yojana

Health
  • Janani Express
  • The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
  • Scheme of Awards to Angawadi Worker
  • Kishori Shakti Yojana
  • National Nutrition Mission
  • RevisedNational Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP)
  • National Leprosy Elimination Programme (NLEP)
  • Iodine Deficiency Disorder Control Programme (IDDCP)
  • National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP)
  • National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB)
  • Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP)
  • Immunisation Programme
  • Reproductive Child Health
  • National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)
  • Infant Mortality Rate Mission
  • Navajyoti

Livelihoods Promotion
  • UDISHA - The National ICDS Training Programme
  • Women's Empowerment Programme - Mission Shakti
  • Swayamsiddha
  • Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP)
  • Women's Economic Programme (WEP) - Swablamban (NORAD)
  • Swadhar
  • Supply of Special Aids & Appliances
  • Training Centres for Teachers for Students with Disability:
  • "Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) (EAP)"
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
  • National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM)

Education
  • Midday Meal Scheme
  • Special Schools for children with disability:
  • Construction of 1000 new Girls Hostels

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Analyze This !

I saw two vans simply parked around in block office compound at Balangir district. I don't know which department/agency own the vehicles. Both are marked with the sign of UNICEF. And they are rusting like a junk. Our tax money and foreigners aid money, earned though hard work, in this case are hardly put at work. These vehicles are mere extension of wastage of public goods by our government.

Vehicle at Muribahal Block Office
Vehicle at Titlagarh Block Office,

The most reliable way to save an asset at government workplace? Make sure it is used.

End Notes :
*Photographs are taken by personal phone camera in July 2013.
**No offence to the local governance ! :)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

100 Days @ Balangir

I joined OLM office as YP at Balangir on 27th May 2013. I completed 100 working days today. Let me redirect reader to details of the place where I am working : Balangir District. Balangir/Bolanagir lies in KBK (Koraput Blangir Kalahandi) region and is considered as one of the country's 250 most backward districts. KBK itself has attracted the attention of policy makers, development planners and the poverty critics due to its persistent underdevelopment from last few decades. As per my observation, this place is working with slow/numb administrative activity supported by overt political agitation.

There is no resource block under OLM (Odisha Livelihood Mission) strategy for this financial year 2013-2014 in Balangir. Hence, I have to solely work with ORMAS (Orissa Rural Development and Marketing Society). Motto of ORMAS is simple- Creating competence and values in rural Orissa. ORMAS was constituted to facilitate for a sustainable livelihood of the rural poor by working with SHG clusters. It is very common that government schemes concentrated on the input supply than outputs marketing ; They always look credit, production and market aspect as separate entities. The intervention strategy of ORMAS has been on capacity building, initiation of Micro Enterprises, micro credit linkage and facilitating sales through different channels. Currently, I have been monitoring and learning through interactions about these clusters. I term them as “islands of goodness” amid terrain of poverty.

Understanding of how public systems work at district and state levels is my first priority. I don't want to get caught up in the details of one grand scheme, losing sight of the whole picture. I have been attending few district level meeting and also trying to know at-least the name of various schemes of central and state government. That itself is a huge task.

While it is considered that the most unproductive activity in an IT company (other than negotiating a higher salary with HR) is making powerpoint presentations! No such work is given to me here. I am also not used as a data operator. That is good. I cherish my mentor for this. I do not expect full-time attention of busy mentor but surely office staff help me with various government formalities when required. I try to utilize time by reading reports and news in office. I also count plenty of time wasted/enjoyed in facebook also.

Development of a region or person is a slow process. I have been given full freedom to learn maximum from field visits. Traveling to field never appear hectic to me and a few relaxed days are always there in the office. The words of Marcel Proust, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."  are sounding more true than ever. Each day at field gives me new insight about this place. It becomes very inspirational to see few individuals who are successfully fighting the battle for better future. Yet, scenes of extreme poverty and illiteracy breaks the heart.

I am an early adapter but still found it tough to adjust to the climate and culture of this place. I have started to understand Odiya but speaking this language is still not my cup of tea. Sometimes frustration and lethargy creeps in the work schedule but it takes time and resources to build a knowledge base. As they always say, Rome wasn't built in a day !

Friday, August 23, 2013

Street Entrepreneurs - 1

India’s most enduring heritage since independence is poverty. Poverty can't be fought by throwing doles and subsidy in the name of government schemes. It can only be done by creating suitable ecosystem for innovative and risk taking individuals. These persons need not to be engineering and management college students. A street vendor with no education is taking more risk and still pursing business is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is more prevalent and still damn difficult to pursue for people working in unorganised sector. A NCEUS report estimates that in 2005 out of the 485 million persons employed in India, 86 percent or 395 million worked in the unorganised sector, generating 50.6 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Someone once told me to understand how businesses runs, interact with an entrepreneur, even if it is a pawn shop. I didn't get the point back then. Once in the college, I had read few chapters of book Grassroots entrepreneurship : entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises in rural India by Ajit Kanitkar. That became an inspiration for pursuing an interview with a street entrepreneur. I didn't record the facts like an official interview but collected it gradually in chit chat over a time of two months. What I understood of Street Vendors previously was a little value until I interacted with Mr. Binay Pradan. Our main protagonist, Mr. Binay Pradhan, is a Street Entrepreneur without any big degree and runs a Paanipuri Shop. Mr. Binay can't bear the idea of sweating tears for another person who will get profit on his hard work. He stated : "When one works for oneself, then one really puts the heart in the whole business." One of his wisdom lines remain with me - "A person must be good listener when working on the street. And, these days it has became more important to speak good & sweet rather than selling good products."
Family background - He has studied till 10th and family is located in Nayagada, Odisha. He is the eldest of 6 brothers. He was involved with farming. He also had worked in UP, Bihar and Mumbai for total of 10 years before starting his own venture. He was visiting to Harishankar temple as Bol Bam Kanwariya 11 years ago. That was the tipping point for him. He decided to start own business and migrated to Balangir. Hunch rather than market research, was the basis for opening a shop.

Business Model - Mr. Binay earn maximum upto Rs. 15,000 in a month. Cost of raw materials vary upto Rs. 200 to Rs.500 per day. While profit can fluctuate between Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 on any given day. Also, he procure the raw material from a local trader since the inception of the business. Half the payment is given on the spot while remaining is done on credit. Payment is done as per cash flow obtained through sales. He takes day off on Sunday and rainy day. And he takes long leave for home in summer holidays.

He is married and blessed with three children. Girls are doing good in Class 6th and 9th while son is studying in class 2nd. He wants to impart best education to his children as this is only chance for next generation towards prosperity and respect. I agree with him completely. Education gives us skill to survive in economy and opening of minds. Those who dream about India becoming an economic superpower must support education and entrepreneurship around us.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Social capital

While we have a fair idea of social network, only few know about this is relatively new and multifaceted jargon: Social Capital. The simplest way to understand social capital is through the old adage, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. There is variety of definitions of this word due to highly contextual nature. In words of wiki social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.

I became aware of this term while studying Livelihood and Natural resource management. I recalled concept of social capital while working with producer groups. I started wondering about cohesive nature and community cooperation. Any person in society cooperate as well as compete. Still others may be in conflict. Hence, I saw there is a scope for micro to macro level analysis of social capital. Alas ! I am not an expert on this subject. There is also an absence of consensus on how to measure it due to nature and rigor of indicators. Even if we measure and evaluate, how it can contribute to nurturing of social capital.

While we can see result of good social capital means creation of civic culture and strong democracy inside society. We can see it as more utilitarian in disaster recovery and vulnerability reduction. It works as as ‘glue and grease' and can improve efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated action. So what makes social capital so useful ? As per Robert Putnam and Thomas Sander, it enable individuals to access valuable information, facilitates altruism, find partners for joint economic transactions and facilitate collective action.

As per Current Population Survey (CPS), administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, they measure social capital with these indicators:

•Voting in local elections (such as mayor or school board)
•Frequency of using the internet to express opinions about political or community issues
•Frequency of communicating with family and friends
•Trust of neighbors
•Confidence in institutions (corporations, the media and public schools)

Social capital is associated with a host of desirable outcomes:

• There is more trust and there are more blood donations in towns with lots of civic associations.
• Voter turnout is higher, and financial markets work better (Guiso, Sapienza, and Zingales 2008).

A growing literature has pointed out that social capital can also have a ‘dark side’ (Field 2003):

• The Ku Klux Klan, drug-dealers and the mafia rely on social cohesion to ensure co-operation.
• Also, important recent work shows that civic associations can lead to the entrenchment of existing leaders, undermining the quality of governance (Acemoglu, Reed, and Robinson 2013).

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Justice for Sneha

There is a common dialouge in bollywood films, “Kanoon andha hota hai” (Law is blind), this line stands cent percent true to every word in reality too. Sneha Singh was working as Young Professional in Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP) was mysteriously found dead in a hotel room in Munger,Bihar. Police primarily suspected it to be suicide,but facts point otherwise. She was found hanging from ventilator's door and in half naked condition with her private parts bleeding and body in very bad shape. Police said that she killed herself after watching "Mohabbatein".

She was once Ranchi RJ who took a new path of development professional for the sake of nation building. There is need of Civil protest and use of social network. This is not about me or you; its about justice being delivered to atleast one person. More information can be gathered her - Justiceforsneha ; We all really want a proper crime investigation rather than burial of case under carpet.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Decentralisation - Chronology of Attempts and Committee Reports

The details of the history of attempts to promote decentralized planning from the first plan onwards to the mid-eighties is summarized in the table below:


Why Decentralization?

The main problem of centralized governance is lack of knowledge about local circumstances due to the geographical distance. It also creates psychological distance of government officials from citizens of the remote part. Best case in favor of decentralizing government is that it creates the inclusive institutions. Autonomy for local population to have a voice in government for decision making enables development. But, Political decentralization has no meaning if there is no fiscal decentralization.

Taking from the blog post written long back - As Oates (1993) explained, "the basic economic case for fiscal decentralization is the enhancement of economic efficiency: the provision of local outputs that are differentiated according to local tastes and circumstances results in higher levels of social welfare than centrally determined and more uniform levels of outputs across all jurisdictions.Although this proposition has been developed mainly in a static context (see my treatment of the "Decentralization Theorem,' 1972), the thrust of the argument should also have some validity in a dynamic setting of economic growth." Fiscal Experts have also concluded that decentralized government poses a threat to the macroeconomic stability and is incompatible with prudent fiscal management. (See Prud’homme, 1995; Tanzi, 1996). Among the fiscal experts a broad consensus has been arrived in the context of Musgrave’s trilogy of public functions, namely, allocation, redistribution, and stabilization, that the function of allocation can be assigned to lower level of governments, the other two would be more appropriate for the national government. Therefore, the macroeconomic management, particularly stabilization policy largely consider as clearly a central function (Musgrave, 1983; Oates 1972). [OP Vohra : Fiscal decentralization and devolution of financial resource]

Saturday, July 20, 2013

SHG Model under TRIPTI Scheme - 2

SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS:- The social inclusion process will include two steps; first to identify the left out poor, those who are not a part of any SHG/ other CBOs and second to ensure their participation in different community based organizations [SHGs, GPLF etc.] at the village/ Gram Panchayat level. In this process, the project also needs to identify the extremely poor and vulnerable groups (EPVG) in community that typically suffer from severe economic and social impediments.

For this purpose the project adopted a community-based participatory approach to identify and prioritize project beneficiaries, including ‘extreme poor and vulnerable groups’, person with disabilities and the ‘left out poor’. The proposed methodology for the same is called situational Analysis in the project which will comprise of the following exercises:
1- Participatory identification of Poor(PIP):
o Social mapping/ collection of base line of beneficiaries
o Well Being Grouping
2- SHG Grading
3- Institution Mapping
4- Livelihood mapping

FUNDS:- For operational sustainability of the GPLF, it needs different kinds of funds like the start-up fund, Institution Building (IB) fund and Community Investment Fund (CIF). Start up funds and IB fund are basically meant for office establishment and capacity building activity. The Community Investment Fund (CIF) act as a catalyst to help poor households meet their demand for improved access to credit for investment needs. The Community Investment Fund will be an infusion from the TRIPTI Project to the Gram Panchayat Level Federation (GPLF) down to the members and is expected to revolve among SHG members for taking loans and repay loans from this fund.

The SHG may provide loans for individual based livelihoods preferably for reducing vulnerabilities and shocks, income generating activities, meeting social needs and supporting investments in housing, education, etc. based on the priorities fixed by the communities in their Micro Investment Plans (MIP). Member borrows from its SHG for implementing Household Investment Plan and repays the loan amount in full with agreed terms and conditions. The amount of loan received as CIF will be first available to the most needy and vulnerable. On repayment and accumulation of group fund the other ranked members will avail funds from the group. The other sources of funding MIP are SHG’s own funds and bank finance.

Pro-Poor Inclusion Fund (PPIF) is a part of Community Investment Fund (CIF) which will focus on activities aimed at identifying the extreme poor and vulnerable groups (EPVG), and enhancing their productive capacity. The fund size of PPIF is Rs 5000/- per eligible SHG.

Panchasutra- SHGs were well aware of the Panchasutra are the five principles of maintaining an SHG and includes
• Regular Meeting
• Regular Saving
• Book keeping
• Timely Repayment
• Internal Lending

Thursday, July 18, 2013

SHG Model under TRIPTI Scheme - 1

Targeted Rural Initiatives for Poverty Termination & Infrastructure (TRIPTI) aims at enhancing the socio-economic status of the poor, especially women and disadvantaged groups, in ten districts of Orissa over a period of five years, beginning 10 February 2009. The project is assisted by the International Development Agency of the World Bank and implemented by Orissa Poverty Reduction Mission, a society under the Panchayati Raj Department of government of Orissa. TRIPTI project under World Bank Assistance is running in 38 blocks in 10 districts that will be treated as pilot blocks for NRLM.

The SHGs are at the first tier of the community institution structure. One SHG is formed constituting 10-20 women members (in case of disability or dispersed location the group size may be 5 to 20). The second tier of the structure is called Cluster Level Forum (CLF) which is an aggregation of 5 to 15 SHGs at the village/hamlet level. GPLF is the third tier of SHGs which is formed taking representation from all CLFs at the GP level.

I have a privilege of working closely with TRIPTI block level team and SHG Federation at Kharidpipal GP for 21 days in Balasore. Bhograi is one of the blocks in Balasore that falls under the TRIPTI project. It consists of 32 Gram Panchayats out of which I was placed at Kharidpipal. Kharidpipal GP consists of eight villages. The GPLF federation of SHG is constituted of 13 CLF and 152 SHG. The detail of the structure is given in the diagram. That gave me a decent understanding of SHG model that will be implemented in NRLM scheme with a slight tweak. I will draw the conclusion that Creation of Dedicated Machinery (staff support) &  Universalisation of SHGs has made it more sustainable than SGSY.

Looking on the data of Annual Exp of Average Poor – Rs.40-60K; 35-55% Food; 10-30% Health; 15-20% Education; 10-20% C&E (MGNREGS 2011). Most of the schemes related to poor fail because poor spend their money on urgent needs such as health rather than asset building. It is not only economic poverty but lack of financial planning also plays crucial aspect. Hence, TRIPTI focuses on the Micro Investment Plan (MIP) that is a household investment plan prepared by individual households and their consolidation at SHG level.

MIP has socio–economic information will include critical factors such as income, assets and liabilities, needs and problems, number of earners and dependents, single woman, physical/mental disability amongst the members in their family if any, health problems, livelihoods and opportunities, skills, saving capacity, social backwardness, literacy etc. It will look for income and expenditure statement of members. The SHG at the outset ranks its members according to their wealth. The Self Help Groups will then be facilitated to prepare a list of all SHG members along with their loan requests indicating both activity/purpose and loan amount. The group would appraise each loan request and determine the loan terms like amount of loan, installment amount, repayment period, etc. Here, the group would take into consideration the potential for chosen activity in the local area and the competence of the members to carry out the same gainfully.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Governance and Accountability: A to Z

This Governance and Accountability (GAC) is taken directly from the PPT of world bank team.

A: Awareness on GAC - Good project management is promoted by adopted governance and accountability. However one needs to generate awareness on GAC .

B: Benchmarking - The benchmarking on what can be delivered has to be done with due consultations with stakeholder who would deliver the service.

C: Capacity Building - A training module needs to be developed which empowers the entire project staff and participating institutions at all level with basic activities under GAC, tools to be used under GAC.

D: Deterrence - A clear cut policy which includes measures for prevention, detection and punitive action needs to be defined.

D: Documentation - Documentation of procured assets, field processes, accounts, book keeping etc. are integral part of GAC.

E: Effective Service Delivery - The deviation against the benchmarks have to be captured regarding the service delivery.

F: Focal Point for GAC - It would be necessary to identify a focal point for GAC at each level right from State, district, block and community.

F: Feedback System - An effective feedback system has to be evolved in the project. Community Score card is one such feedback tool.

G: Grievance Redress System - GRS will include complete redress mechanism, which can be used by community members also to report on any form process deviation , corruption and complain.

H: Human Resource Policy - Human Resource Policy and Codes of Conduct needs to be defined.

H: Help desk - Help Desks are necessary to provide help / information to stakeholders.

I: ICT - ICT will serve the backend support for improving governance and accountability.

J: Joint efforts - The GAC initiatives have spread across multiple sectors and verticals hence all efforts have to be jointly done by the project staff at the respective levels.

K: Knowledge Management - Knowledge Management helps in learning , sharing and thus necessary for better governance.

L: Learning - Doing by learning is necessary for GAC by a gradual learning-by doing approach.

M: Monitoring for GAC - Monitoring systems have to be in place good governance.

N: Non–Negotiable - Project non–negotiable are key to GAC.

O: Operational guidelines - It would require operational guidelines to be prepared and disseminated at all levels for the staff and community institutions to understand the entire gamut of GAC.

P: Process Audit - Process assessment can become a participatory method to understand the processes adopted at the community level.

P: Public Disclosures - Public Disclosure will be ensured with desired frequency, medium and responsible units.

Q: Quality Control - Quality control is necessary for improved service delivery.

R: Right to Information - RTI emphasizes on complying with provisions on suo-motto disclosure of information under RTI Act, 2005, rather than limiting to only on-demand access to information.

S: Sanction Policy - Clear sanction policy for fraud, corruption, and other malpractices needs to be outlined. Reporting cases from the field and mandatory checks needs to be institutionalized.

T: Transparency - Transparency will have to be ensured strictly at the procurement, financial and project implementation level.

U: User Report Card - The user report card can be done annually or at a regular frequency to capture the feedback from the SHG members through a survey or group discussion method on service delivery in the livelihood project.

V: Verification mechanism - A foolproof verification mechanism has to be developed under GAC for verifying key risk areas like social inclusion, adherence to non negotiable, transparency in project etc. and to identify the loopholes.

W: Window for GAC - A window for GAC concept has to be promoted to provide insight into the practices and innovations in GAC.

X: Xtra Ordinary efforts - Governance and accountability requires an Xtra Ordinary effort.

Y: Yes to GAC - Governance and Accountability is mandatory part of the project and cannot be termed as extracurricular activity, hence each stakeholder has to fall in the line of saying Yes to GAC.

Z: Zeal for GAC - Taking up measures related to governance and accountability requires a Zeal for GAC, amongst the project decision makers and management.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Change the World !


My Belief - “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Little is not little, enough is not enough.

I have decided to loan 25$ each month from my salary to the people in need of credit. This will be done through KIVA. KIVA is a platform of lending that has a 99.03% repayment rate for 340,986,325 transactions in ended loans. This loan repayment rate is much higher than any bank. I will decide later with repayments that how much part of my money will be further used either as loan or development aid. This is my Profile at KIVA so that one can always check the authenticity of the claim.

A story of how a small loan from you can change the life of a family


How Kiva Works (http://www.kiva.org/about/how)

1- Make a loan : You make a loan on KIVA. All KIVA loans are made possible by our Field Partners, who vet, administer, and disburse each loan.

2- Get updates : Throughout the life of the loan, you will see progress updates from Kiva through your email, and if you come back to the site.

3- Get paid back : As the borrower repays the loan, the money becomes available in your account. This is called your Kiva Credit.

4- Repeat : You can now use it to fund another loan, donate it to Kiva, or withdraw it to spend on something else.

Why did I choose KIVA?

Development aid has been flowing for decades, but the results have been absolute dismal. Instead, recipients have merely become dependent. There is a long chain of "middlemen" i.e. the consultants and the companies involved in this "trade" between donor and beneficiaries. Hence, I find microfinance as a better instrument to alleviate poor than a poorly designed development aid. People should decide how to help those in need. It needs a very big database of demand and supply of credit with the purpose of loan clearly mentioned. KIVA is doing just that thing. Hence, we will far less likely to complain that their money is being wasted or misused if we chose where it went.

I believe that our society cannot sustain , unless we contribute back in someway or the other. I strongly feel if even one person does his bit towards social good, there will be positive change. I am not giving anyone lot of theories, clever strategies or concepts. I am asking for direct cash transfers to the needy as a loan. In helping others - Little is not little, enough is not enough.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Restructuring of SGSY as National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)

Launched on 1st April 1999, Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) was an integrated scheme for providing opportunities of self employment to the rural poor. Like any other government schemes, this was also prone to corruption and failure. Swarna Jayanti Swarozgar Yojna (SGSY) has been renamed as National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) with added provision. I was reading notification of RBI on National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) issued way back in June 2013.

Uneven spread of SHGs, defunct SHGs and high attrition rate of members were the main issues faced in functioning of SHG in SGSY. This has been tackled through Universalisation of SHGs. Setting up of federations of SHGs is the salient feature of NRLM that can ensure monitoring and validation at community level.

Identification of Swarozgari was major source of corruption for Bank, Block and District level officers. A lot of money was taken as bribe for clearance before proper credit reached the beneficiary. Even non existing beneficiaries were created for embezzlement of grants. No Capital Subsidy will be sanctioned to any SHG from the date of implementation of NRLM. SHG Federations at GP level will be given grant under Community Investment Support fund, which will be used by the Federations to advance loans to SHGs. There is provision of interest subvention to Women SHGs, enabling them to avail loans up to Rs. 3 lakh at an interest rate of 7 per cent per year.

Lack of dedicated implementation structure are identified as responsible factors by the draft for the poor performance of SGSY. There will be an autonomous, adequately staffed, professionally managed and empowered agency both at the national and state level to implement the mission under the Societies Registration Act. Creation of Dedicated Machinery will reduce burden on existing government machinery, hence reduces the chance of corruption!

There are some changes to National Rural Livelihoods Mission (Aajeevika) recently approved by Cabinet. Under the existing framework of implementation of N.R.L.M, only rural households included in the official BPL list could be targeted under N.R.L.M. This list was prepared in 2002, has not been updated and has many defects. The target groups under N.R.L.M will be determined by a well defined, transparent and equitable process of Participatory Identification of Poor (PIP), at the level of the community. This is welcome approach but can surely increase number of members of Extreme Poor and Vulnerable Group (EPVG) during PIP process. I always believe that identification of the poor is a political gimmick not a statistical exercise at ground level.

National Rural Livelihood Project (NRLP)

Government of India has availed a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) for implementing the, National Rural Livelihood Project (NRLP), under NRLM. The NRLP would be implemented in 13 high poverty states accounting for about 90 percent of the rural poor in the country. Intensive livelihood investments would be made by the NRLP in 107 districts and 422 blocks of 13 states (Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu). Distribution of project funds among the states would be based on the relative share of rural BPL population in the total states. NRLP will broadly support the following components:

(i) Institution and human capacity development at the national, state, district and sub-district level such that support institutional structures are created,
(ii) State livelihood support towards establishment of institutional platforms of the rural poor for improved access to financial, livelihood and public services,
(iii) Innovation and partnership to identify and partner innovative ideas which address the livelihood needs of the rural poor and help pilot or scale them,
(iv) Project management and monitoring and learning systems.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Consumer, Producer and Market

Household final consumption expenditure constitute India's 59.5 percent of GDP in 2008-2012 as per world bank data. Household final consumption expenditure (formerly private consumption) is the market value of all goods and services, including durable products (such as cars, washing machines, and home computers), purchased by households. Consumption shows utilization of wealth but the question runs deeper than figures. Is wealth creation enough ? Is wealth reaching the poor household even with the above 5% GDP growth rate?

Lop sided nature of Indian capitalism promotes few entrepreneurs, mostly as an employees and almost all as a consumers. This is well reflected in our quest to create jobs rather than suitable ecosystem for a new venture. I am seeking attention towards our socio-economic environment where masses are looked as consumers rather than producers. By focusing only on profit making, even BOP reduces the concept of wealth to just money, and the rest – i.e., the community and the environment - are reduced as the resources for exploitation.

Most of the poor people in India are engaged in agriculture and allied activities. The markets are distorted with oligopolies of the traders and producers are not getting proper prices for their produce. Most of the markets are strongly biased in favors of traditional trading communities. One more hidden fact : Caste reduces the transaction cost in India. That is a proper conclusion coming from the research study. [Caste discrimination and transaction costs in the labor market: Evidence from rural North India]. So, pleading with the privileged traders to share their luck may be an utterly fruitless exercise. There is need of deep market reform in India. This idea has been floating from a long time. When we fail to reform markets through regulation (that turned into license raj !), we thought of creating jobs to pull worker from the field to cities. Now on realizing that cities will not absorb the agricultural workforce, schemes such as MGNREGS are created to stop migration. So we are back to square one and problem with the market remains same.

I give weight-age to an inclusive more than an efficient market. Left Parties will always see every individual looking for reform in state policies as a suspect who has succumbed to the lure of the market. And everyone knows how socialism has failed ! Market will always go for person with better information and resources. Neo-liberals cry for efficiency without even giving chance of equal opportunity to everyone. That is the problem of our neo-liberal friends who seems propagator of free market without even surveying ground for this step. Instead of finding out why the idea of regulated market has not worked, we are scrapping the idea itself gradually. In the futile chase of efficiency, we are loosing our sights. Our markets are neither inclusive nor efficient.

There are some views that don't change with the time. Once, I have written an article heading Consumer Culture 5 years ago. But in these five years, I did learn few things about markets and social justice. Still, I am undecided on final answer. Yes, I subscribe to the words of Laurence J. Peter who argued --- “Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reviewing 1st National Symposium on Rural Management

“Small changes can produce big results – but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.” – Peter Senge

XIMB hosted 1st National Symposium on Rural Management on November 9th-10th 2012 [Photo Album]. The event brought together institutions, academics, professionals, key client groups and other stakeholders to deliberate on the issues, pool experiences and develop strategies and designs for expansion, institutionalization and better domain engagement. Papers / presentations were invited on five aspects of the Rural Management field listed here -

1. Rural Management in the Next Decade – Tasks, Organizations and Professional Needs
2. Rural Management – Defining the Field
3. Programs in Rural Management – Intent, Design, Content and Issues
4. Praxis in Rural Management
5. Strengthening Rural Management

NSoRM Welcome Flash Video


I attended few of the lectures/presentation and it was worth attending them. Eminent personalities like Dr. Mihir Shah, K V Raju, M S Sriram, Shailendra Kumar & Dinesh Awasthi participated in the symposium. On the funny side, whole symposium gave a false impression of IRMA alumni union ! Issues like Health, ICT, Policy, Rural Marketing, Rural Development, Human Resource Management, Natural resource management etc were discussed in great details by thematic experts.

I observed that three developing trends must be watched by rural manager - Rapid urbanization, Greater income stratification and Consumer Market Growth. There is increasing level of urbanization from 27.81 % in 2001 Census to 31.16 % in 2011 Census. Rural business has emerged as a big employer for rural managers, but there has been a shift towards looking at rural people as consumers. Consumption in rural India growing faster than urban areas. National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data shows that during 2004-05 to 2009-10 rural construction jobs rose by 88 percent, while the number of people employed in agriculture fell from 249 million to 229 million.

Most of the student have motive to join - to study ‘management’ rather than ‘rural management’. That is the fact of the whole education. Rural Manager have neither many peers/seniors to correct him/her, nor one to look up to for guidance. His/her actions can make or break many livelihood of many if not lives. While students working at NGO think - Low Pay Scales & Can't fundraise; Yaar paisa bhi nahi, learning bhi nahi. It becomes easy to frustrate working in a non-professional environment where only requirements – report writing, proposal writing & ayah-duty for funding agency visits. Hence, the sector is plagued by high attrition and lack of long term commitment from professionals. But the first decade of career as rural manager has assured employment at low pay scale while second decade will bring recognition and reputation.

Its not sectoral job any more. Managerial roles merge irrespective of sectors and there is need to learn a lot by learning courses on Public Systems Management and Program evaluation, Project planning and implementation, Project Funding, Advocacy, Consulting, Communication, Marketing, Monitoring & Evaluation. One more factor that I found in their talks was lack of knowledge management. There are rural managers (men of action) who are a storehouse of information which they often don’t know how to share with academic and student community. Their valued experiences are lost without documentation and appear only in the conversation with their peers.

There are so many colleges offering courses related to rural management like - IRMA; XIMB ; KSRM ; IIFM,Bhopal; IIRM,Jaipur; XISS,Ranchi; NIRD,Hyderabad; TISS,Mumbai; Amity school of rural management ; Agribusiness Management (IIM-A, IIM-L, VAMNICOM, MANAGE). One of the major contribution of these institutes have been bringing about professionalism in the development sector.
All of the people attending were more or less agree on one thing - Rural Management can't be a molded in design of established framework of business management. There can be no unique approach programme design has to be tailor made suiting to the group needs and flexible. While the sector has been growing, Institute have dilemmas of their own - Institution location, Faculty, Placements, Self Financing, Aspiration of Graduates! Alumni are the best ambassadors of what college is all about. That will be my sole criteria on judging quality of institutes.

The Blind Men and Elephant story holds so true in this field. There are no overall experts here. Everybody is a generalist integrator looking for complete picture and specialization comes much later! The whole symposium left many question that were lingering in the minds of working professionals and academic community. Does RM mean RD? What lies beyond Donor Agencies, livelihoods and MF ? Society values “Rural Managers” (??) or Rural Management degree?? And eternal question - "What is a rural manager ?" was discussed again and again for new interpretations.

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Statutory Warning

This Blog is meant purely as a personal diary of a rural manager in making. It exists to record information, experiences and opinions about various issues encountered in the line of duty. Any person, institution and organization mentioned here doesn't assume any liability for its contents. This is not a deliberate attempt to defame anyone. And if you have actually read all that is written in the blog and aren't mad at me, then thanks for your time and patience !

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