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Showing posts from March, 2015

Socially disadvantaged groups in Gujarat have lower purchasing power than other states

By Rajiv Shah*  Fresh data released by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in the report “Household Consumer Expenditure across Socio-Economic Groups” have suggested the purchasing power of the three socially disadvantaged groups – scheduled tribes (STs), scheduled castes (SCs) and other backward classes (OBCs) – in Gujarat is considerably less than what prevails in most of the Indian states, especially in the rural areas. Calculated as monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE), purchasing power figures are based on NSSO’s survey in 2011-12. The report was released in February 2015. In Gujarat’s rural areas, the STs’ average MPCE is Rs 1,155, which is less than 12 out of 20 major Indian states (Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Maharashtra). The SCs’ average MPCE is Rs 1,374, which is less than 11 major states (Kerala, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, And

The first jail reforms: Addressing plight of SC, ST undertrials needing legal aid

By Gagan Sethi* The Centre for Social Justice started a programme of Janvikas in 1996 with a view to ensure that access to justice became a reality for those who needed it most. Begun in two districts, Surendranagar and Vadodara, we were given a small room in district court premises to proactively provide quality legal services free – courtesy then acting Chief Justice RA Mehta. It was an attempt at fulfilling and understanding Article 39A of the Constitution, which provides that the state shall secure the operation of a legal system, which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity, and offers free legal aid through suitable legislation or schemes to ensure equal opportunities. It was necessary to see that justice is not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or any other disability. Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the state to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice. One of the vulnerable groups to whom legal aid is most nee

Gujarat fails to provide guaranteed jobs to 30% rural jobseekers under NREGA

By Rajiv Shah  In an important revelation, the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report, “Employment and unemployment situation among social groups in India”, released in January 2015, has suggested that Gujarat is one of the few states which has failed to be effective in providing guaranteed job to those seeking it in the rural areas under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The survey, carried out in 2011-12, finds that, in Gujarat, a total of 17.2 per cent rural persons registered themselves and got job cards under NREGA. However, these as many as 29.2 per cent failed to get any employment despite the fact that NREGA is a job guarantee scheme for 100 days to anyone in the rural areas seeking it. It is noteworthy that the all-India average of persons refused job under NREGA is considerably less — it is 18.8 per cent. The percentage of failure to provide job to the jobseekers in Gujarat was higher than most major Indian states, except four – Maharashtra 44.8

Advocacy’s fine art rural leaders know better: Organising tribals around forest rights

By Gagan Sethi*  Baba Pansare was a young tribal activist then. He was working in the Manchar taluka near Pune among tribals of the region. Adi Patel, one of the famous names in the development world those days, recommended to us in Janvikas that the Baba should be given a fellowship. He was organizing tribals around forest rights issues. The Baba knew it well: Forest dwellers take care of the ownership of their habitat and protect it better than any outsider agency. The archaic forest act, which ruled the roost, was penned by the British rulers. The Britishers used it as the prime driving force to hold complete sway over the forests. It was a thorn in the flesh for the tribals. Though forest department officials now have become friendlier, the powers they hold remain plenipotentiary. They harass tribals and tribal activists, who are often arrested and detained just under suspicion. But, clearly, times have changed. Tribals prefer to be identified as adivasis – the original dwellers of

When appearances can indeed be deceptive… Sushma, lean, thin, yet energetic activist

By Gagan Sethi* I received a mail from Shabnam Virmani, about whom I have written earlier, introducing me to Sushma Iyanger, another young pass out from Cornell in development communications. Shabman told me in the mail that Sushma was frantically exploring to do work on issues of women and development. This is where our journey of the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), now a well-known women’s organization in Kutch, began. The year was 1989. Sushma, lean and thin, yet energetic, quietly walked into my office one afternoon, saying she was interested in exploring to work in remote rural areas of Gujarat. My first thought was: Was this yet another example of a person who has romanticized development work at the grassroots? Yet, I threw a challenge to her. I had a request from the Gujarat State Handicrafts Development Corporation (GSHDC) to look at women and development, as women were the largest beneficiaries of the drought relief scheme in Kutch, where different types of handicraft wo

Talented Shabnams need space to be agents of change to make India more humane

By Gagan Sethi*  We had just begun our voluntary organisation, Janvikas, as an incubator for those social workers who wanted to innovate and work on an alternate life mission. That was the time when some enlightened youth seemed not quite interested in a lucrative course like MBA. Nor were they interested in selling soap, or pursuing an architectural career, or building houses for the rich. The Indian civil society today has come of age. It now offers careers. At that time things were different. The young people, who would join civil society, would make a hard choice of an alternative life style. They knew that working for social change was not lucrative but a satisfying life mission. The salary received by them was anywhere between 4 and 10 times lower than the prevailing market rate. Perhaps, that is the reason why these inspiring pioneers of social change even today resent the name NGO or non-government organisation – a term used by government or industry to identify what’s not. The