Initiatives for Peace
ROUND TABLE DIALOGUE ON ‘SECURING PEACE THROUGH RELIGIONS: CHALLENGES FOR
RELIGIOUS LEADERS’ ON 3RD MAY 2010
A series of incidents in December 2001, prominent among them being the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, set off reactions which resulted in amassing troops on the borders by both India and Pakistan. By mid January it looked that both the countries were on the verge of another full scale war, which every one feared might result in a nuclear holocaust in the sub continent.
People for Peace
At home war hysteria was being drummed. A large number of sane voices within both the countries were being drowned in the war cacophony. A still larger number of people were confused and consequently pushed into silence which was being taken by the right wing forces of both the countries as consent for a full scale confrontation. People for Peace was initiated with the idea of bringing together these voices calling for peace so that pressure is brought on both the governments to de escalate and get back to the negotiating table.
Activities in Hyderabad
All India Industrial Exhibition is conducted in Hyderabad every year between 1st January to 15th February. The exhibition, being conducted since the last 60 years brings together artisans and industries (big & small) from across India and has about 2000 stalls. It draws lakhs of people of the twin cities as well as from other parts of the country. Endorsements for peace and the demands of the People for Peace between India and Pakistan were collected from the visitors of this exhibition.
Peace Vigil started with a Vintage Car Rally and culminated Candle Light Vigil and peace songs. The Vintage Car Rally for Peace was flagged off from the Historic Charminar by Ms. Ammaji and Mr. Sajid, grass root workers active in the slums in the old city of Hyderabad. Passing through 12 kms of the main thorough fares of the city, the Rally culminated in a Candle Light Vigil at Tank Bund that connects the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. About 300 children, women and men participated in the candle light vigil holding Candles, Banners and Placards and signed the Memorandum of Demands. The Rally and the Vigil received extensive media coverage. 6 Television channels and all English, Telugu, Urdu and Hindi newspapers gave extensive coverage with photographs.
Painting and Cartoon Competition for School and College students on theme of Peace was conducted on 24th February about 100 students participated in these competitions. Mr.Jagjit Singh – renowned Gazal Singer gave away the prizes. Well-known cartoonist – Mr.Shaam Mohan, Mr.Shekar, Mr.Shanker, Mr.Venkatesh, Mr.Mohan – participated drawing cartoons for peace.
Initiatives in Jammu & Kashmir
Kashmir Valley suffered massive unrest for over 6 months from April to September 2010 in which nearly 110 people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured. With curfews imposed by the government and Hartal (strike) calls by the Separatist groups, the people of the valley are in virtual prison- facing extreme hardships and deprivations.
COVA took the initiative and in collaboration with a number of organization in Kashmir and across the country undertook the following activities:
1. Representatives of COVA visited Kashmir in June and July to study the situation and bring together the civil society in Kashmir to engage with the prevailing situation. A group called People Initiative on Jammu & Kashmir was formed.
2. 26th August 2010: Meeting at New Delhi: A meeting of civil society groups was organised by COVA in New Delhi on 26th August 2010 in collaboration with other civil society organizations. The meeting was well attended with representation from many civil society organisations, students, journalists, professionals and different sections of Kashmiri society including Kashmiri Pandits. Representatives of Save Children, JamatUlema- Hind- Jamat E Islami, Aman Trust, Arya Samaj, FOCUS, COVA and many other national level organisations participated. Mr. Shafi Pandit IAS (Retd) and Mr. Zafar Meraj came from Kashmir to speak at this meeting. Dr. Mazher Hussain gave the introductory remarks followed by addresses by Swami Agnivesh, Mr. Kuldip Nayar, Mr. Rahul Jalali, Mr. Sanjay Kak and others. Many members of Parliament including Mr. Rattanpuri and Mr. Shaheen from Kashmir participated and addressed the gathering. Mr. S.Q.R. Ilyas of Jamat- E- Islami moderated the proceedings.
The Meeting resolved to facilitate the formation of Working Groups on Jammu & Kashmir in different cities to sensitise people and policy makers about the problem in Jammu & Kashmir and work in a consistent manner towards the resolution of the ongoing problem.
3. 20th to 25th September 2010: Consultations with civil society organization in Srinagar, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai for the formation of People’s Initiative on Jammu & Kashmir- Meetings with political leaders and parliamentarians for raising the issue of turmoil in Kashmir in Parliament and assurances by Parliamentarians in the matter. Discussion on Kashmir in the Lok Sabha on 26th August 2010 and in the Rajya Sabha during Zero Hour raised by Ms. Brinda Karat on 31st August 2010
4. Civil Society Delegation to Kashmir: COVA facilitated the visit of a Delegation of Civil Society to Kashmir from 30 August to 2nd September 2010. The delegation comprised of Swami Agnivesh, Admiral L. Ramdas, Ms. Mohini Giri, Fr. Dominic Emmanuel and Dr. Mazher Hussain. The objective of the visit was to gain first hand knowledge of the prevailing ground situation in Kashmir and to commiserate with the people for their suffering and loss of life. The Delegation found the situation to be critical and tragic and also gained some startling understanding of the scenario. A Report of the visit of the Delegation was circulated in the Peace Updates Dispatch of 17th September 2010 that reaches over 20 thousand people, .and also shared with members of parliament, political parties and media.
5. 3rd September 2010: Public Meeting and Formation of Kashmir Working Group at Mumbai: Peace Mumbai along with other civil society groups organized a Public Meeting at Mumbai titled “Kashmir at Cross Roads” inviting Sajjad Lone of Peoples Conference and Basheer Manzar, Senior Journalist from Kashmir. The Meeting passed a Resolution and formed Kashmir Working Group- Mumbai that would meet regularly to work for the resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir problem.
6. 3rd September 2010: Press Conference and Press Note: Members of the Delegation that had visited Kashmir from 30th August to 2nd September 2010 addressed a Press Conference on 3rd September at New Delhi.
7. 8th September 2010: Meeting at IIIT Hyderabad Admiral L. Ramdas and Dr. Mazher Hussain addressed the students and faculty of IIIT (Indian Institute of Information Technology), Hyderabad on the Topic “Kashmir Crises: Genesis, Current Situation and Way Forward”. After the meeting a number of students expressed a desire to visit Jammu & Kashmir to understand the issues and contribute to the peace process.
8. 8th September 2010: Public Meeting and Formation of Kashmir Working Group at Hyderabad: Admiral L. Ramdas and Dr. Mazher Hussain addressed a Public Meeting at Hyderabad attended by members of civil society, professionals, students and representatives of the Kashmir community including Kashmiri Pandits on the Topic “Kashmir Crises: Genesis, Current Situation and Way Forward”. . The gathering decided to form Kashmir Working Group- Hyderabad that would meet regularly and work to interact with and influence political parties, government and the media for the resolutionof the Jammu & Kashmir problem.
9. 9th to 14th September: Contacts and Meetings with leaders of Political Parties: Contacts and meetings with leaders of different political parties were undertaken to sensitize them to the gravity of the situation in Kashmir and brief them about the issues to be raised at the All Party Meeting convened on 15th September 2010 by the Government of India.
10. 16- 18 September 2010: Preparations for Meetings at Delhi and Cancellation: Preparations were made to organize meetings at JNU – Delhi on 16th September; St. Stephen’s College- Delhi on 17th and a Meeting for the formation of the Kashmir Working Group in Delhi on 18th September 2010. Mr. Zafar Meraj, Mr. Shujaat Bhukari, Prof. Hameeda Nayeem and others were scheduled to come from Srinagar. As the Srinagar airport was suddenly closed from 14th September 2010 all the meetings had to be cancelled.
11. 15th to 19th September 2010: All Party Delegation to Jammu & Kashmir- Lobbying with National and Regional Political Parties, Parliamentarians and groups in Kashmir: The All Party Meeting held on 15th September resolved to send an All Party Delegation to Jammu & Kashmir from 20 to 22nd September 2010 to study the ground situation and suggest way forward.
But this Delegation faced serious challenge regarding its credibility and effectiveness as all the Separatist leaders issued a call for its boycott and the strict curfew declared by the state government. Realising the importance of the success of this Delegation in connecting with the people of Kashmir for mitigating the prevailing distrust and violence, COVA put into place two initiatives. First, members of People’s Initiative on Kashmir- Srinagar were requested to convince people to meet the All Party Delegation despite the boycott call. Secondly, COVA contacted members of different political parties who were in the Delegation and made three suggestions to them including that they should go to the homes of the separatist leaders to meet them and break the impasse that has been plaguing Jammu & Kashmir for over 63 years.
People from different walks of life came out in large numbers to make their Representations to the Delegation. Further, three groups from the All Party Delegation comprising Mr. Sitaram Yachuri, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Mr. Gurudas Dasgupta, Mr. Nama Nageshwar Rao, Mr. Asaduddin Owaisi, Mr. T.R. Balu, Mr. Shahid Siddiqui and others did go to the homes of the separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik and created history in the annals of peace on the eve of World Peace day that is celebrated on 21st September.
The results are there for all to see! Almost instantly, the stone pelting and disturbances in the Kashmir Valley started declining and things got back to normalcy in a month.
Interventions Towards Dialogue
In order to seek a proper solution to the Kashmir embroglio, COVA is facilitating a civil society initiative that is aiming to bring together Huriat leaders and Members of Parliament of India for a dialogue to pave way for addressing the outstanding problems. In pursuance of this objective, the civil society group comprising of Kashmiri Muslims, Pandits and members from other parts of the country meet regularly. It is proposed to form a caucus of parliamentarians on the Kashmir issue who will take the dialogue process forward. Some parliamentarians have already agreed to function as a core team that could facilitate the formation of the caucus and work towards the dialogue process.
The Judgment of the Allahabad High Court scheduled on 30th October and the turmoil in Kashmir for over three months had become matters of concern. In order to propagate the necessity to maintain communal harmony all over the country and strive for a just solution for the problem of Jammu & Kashmir that is festering for over 60 years, COVA proposed simultaneous Prayer Meetings and Candle Light Vigils for “Communal Harmony in the Country and Just Peace in Jammu & Kashmir” on 2nd October 2010 from 6 pm to 7 pm in different cities and towns all over the country.
Many organizations in different cities / towns came forward to organize the event. Details of Cities / Towns where organizations came forward to organize the Prayer Meetings and Candle Light Vigils for “Communal Harmony in the Country and Just Peace in Jammu & Kashmir” are as follows:
City / Town Venue Facilitation Contact
Amritsar Jalian Wala Bagh Folklore Research 09872318484
Ayodhya Ayodhya Ki Awaz 09451730269
Banglore Gandhi Statue, M.G. Road Sahajeevan 09449070760
Bhopal Gandhi Bhavan Yuva Samvad 09424401469
Bhubaneshwar EKTA Parishad
Chandigarh Yuvasatta 09872609816
Delhi Raj Ghat Asha Parivar-NAPM 09313106745
Guntur VAN Guntur 09848090642
Gwalior EKTA Parishad
Hyderabad People’s Plaza, Nacklace Rd COVA 09346238430
Jaipur PUCL Rajasthan 09351562965
Jhansi EKTA Parishad
Kurnool COVAN Kurnool 08008663361
Lucknow Shaheed Smarak- Residency Asha Parivar 08081670595
Mumbai Azad Maidan FOCUS 09869077718
Nellore NOVA Nellore 09440309228
Nizamabad Voluntary Asso.Nzb 09010892898
Ongole VAN Prakasam,Ongole 9849212816
Patna EKTA Parishad
Raipur EKTA Parishad
Srinagar Press Colony, Lal Chowk J&K RTI Movement 09596081900
Warangal ONVA Warangal 9849366660
Apsa, Aman Vedika, Apna Watan, Asha Parivar, Ayodhya Ki Awaz , CHATRI, Coalition for Peace and Harmony, CKGPC, COVA, COVAN Kurnool, EKTA Parishad, FOCUS, Folklore Research, Forum for Better Hyderabad, Guild of Service, ICAN, Indialogue Foundation, J&K RTI Movement, Mahita, NAPM, NOVA Nellore, ONVA Warangal, Phoenix, PUSH, PWS, PUCAAR, PUCL Rajasthan, Sahajeevan, Right to Walk Foundation, Sakshi, Samhita, SANSAD, SOUL, United form for RTI, VAN Guntur, VAN Prakasam, Voluntary Asso.Nzb , War Widows Association, WIPSA, World Council of Arya Samaj, Yuvasatta, Yuva Samvad
Kashmir Earthquake Rehabilitation Project
COVA initiated a large-scale relief program covering 6000 families in Karnah and Uri tahsils of Kashmir. The affected families were provided tool kits, nails and washers for construction of temporary shelters and bukharis and polyurethane sheets for heating and protection from rains, snow and winds. COVA also succeeded in mobilising local communities through the formation of 175 village committees and recruitment of 2400 Link Volunteers from all the 136 villages and towns of Uri and Karnah tahsils.
The following activities were conducted as part of this project during the year 2007-2008:
- 195 houses were constructed and handed over to the beneficiaries
200 foldable stretchers were distributed to Village Committees on diffi cult terrains in Uri, Karnah and Boniyar tahsils to facilitate access for patients to the nearest hospitals.
Two awareness melas in each of Uri and Boniyar tehsils on schemes and policies of departments of Employment, Agriculture, Social Welfare, Animal Husbandry. 250 people participated in these melas.
Disadvantaged families, physically challenged people, unemployed youth, mentally challenged children benefi ted from these melas, which built linkages between these people and the government departments and NGOs concerned.
Need Assessment was done in 29 villages in Boniyar and 20 villages in Uri tahsils. Bad roads, irrigation and drinking water scarcity, and lack of health care centers emerged as the major concerns. The members of committees at various levels were given individual responsibilities to explore ways to resolve these issues.
COVA’s Lobbying with J & K Bank resulted in sanction of house building loans at reduced interest rates, and with government agencies concerned resulted in sanctioning grants for a Water filtration plant, a road and a hospital.
540 students were provided career-counseling service.
Halla Sheri, an age-old practice, was revived to provide a community problem-solving forum. An irrigation channel and two roads were made functional as a result of collective community action arising out of this system.
Environmental Awareness Program at Noorkhah and Chandanwari villages of the block Chandanwari in collaboration with Noor-Ul-Uloom High School, Noorkhah, Boniyar, sensitized people on environmental pollution.
A health camp benefi ted the children of Bagna village.
A Volley Ball Tournament was organised at Kamalkote and Jhula Blocks of Tehsil Uri from the 8th of Sept.2007. 20 teams from various villages participated.
Ten training camps were organised in collaboration with NCPDP at Chandanwari Block of Tehsil Boniyar for 32 masons and 100 local people.
Committees at village, block and tahsil level have been reconstituted through electi
COVA and VAN Kashmir took up construction of 200 houses for the most vulnerable victims of earthquake in Karna and Uri tehsils ensuring partnership of communities in the process. As part of Operation Salvage, 5383 households in Karnah and Uri were saved from dismantling and the owners were helped to opt for retrofi tting. With support from GMR Varalakshmi foundation Bangalore washrooms and toilet facilities were constructed for two schools of Gabra village in Karnah Tehsil. Signature Campaign and Lobbying A signature campaign demanded that the government provide tax-free construction material and long-term interest free loans to the people for reconstructing their houses in the earthquake affected areas of Kashmir. In response a number of government depots opened for supply of wood at different locations COVA lobbied for issue of compensation for victims the government. Training programmes Staff of COVA, engineers, engineering students, link volunteers, VRCC members, teachers and representatives of other NGOs were trained on various aspects of NGO management, disaster management and construction of seismic resistant houses. Community Empowerment Programmes In Uri tehsil 240 women link volunteers were mobilized from 35 villages. Besides a workshop on hygiene these woman link volunteers also participated in the training programmes conducted by NCPDP Gujarat on earthquake resistant features. COVA distributed sports material in communities and also in schools, with a preference to Girls Schools, to promote Sports Clubs. COVA intends to enlist the services of the members of these Clubs for various future initiatives in rehabilitation and community empowerment programs in Uri and Karnah Tehsils.
On 8th October 2006 in the Earthquake Anniversary, the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir presented a memento to COVA in appreciation for its services to the earthquake victims.
Activities in other cities of India
Vigils were also organised in Kolkota by PIPFPD – Kolkata Chapter & Obsession Orchestra, Thareek Samajik Association, Saharanpur, Play for Peace, Bangalore, Coalition For Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, Panjim, Goa, Rastriya Ekta Samiti, Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangh, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, All India Peace and Solidarity, Vishakapatnam, MARI, Warangal, NOVA, Nellore, Mother Teresa Social Service Society, Mahaboob Nagar, COVAC, Cuddapah, CYRD, Bhootpur, Mahabob Nagar, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Memorandums were signed by participants of these Candle-Light Vigils, urging the governments of both Pakistan and India to:
1. Open up all communication and travel links between the two countries.
2. Immediately sign a No War Pact.
3. Set up a Permanent Dialogue Process for continued and uninterrupted negotiations to settle all outstanding issues (including the issues of) Kashmir, by involving people of Kashmir on both sides of the border, and cross border terrorism, etc.
4. End and reverse the nuclear weapons race; actively engage in Global Nuclear Disarmament initiatives.
5. Immediately establish trade and commerce links.
These Demands were also endorsed by Participants of Vigils organised all over the world. These documents of endorsement were collected and sent to Governments of India and Pakistan as well as the media and other world leaders.
Hangout South Asia
Virtual Connect for Real Friendships across Borders
Challenges of Exchange Programs
South Asia as a region has a history of shared heritage and culture and an important element of this has been the interconnectedness of its people as a whole. Exchange programs have been an ideal vehicle to bring the people of South Asia together all through history, but due to a range of factors in present times, including severe visa restrictions and travel costs etc. direct people to people contact between the South Asian countries has become difficult.
An Option: The Google+ Hangout
Google Hangout platform is being used to bridge this gap and bring together people (mostly youth) from all the South Asian countries for virtual interactions on issues of common concerns and interests once every month. These interactions will help South Asians to connect with each other to understand commonalities, appreciate differences, identify and address points of conflicts, analyse problems, evolve solutions, share interests, seek hobby partners, establish personal friendships, sing and dance and do much more together … all online to begin with and perhaps also take it into the realm of the real world subsequently! Possibilities are just limitless!!
All that is required is a computer / laptop with an internet connection. Even mobile phones with android versions would enable you to view any Hangout Session from anywhere and even when you are on the move! If your computer or mobile has a camera, then you can also participate in a Hangout Session!! Just click on www.hangoutsouthasia.org to view and participate in Hangout South Asia Sessions.
Hangout South Asia would go live once a month for 90 minutes. One hour for Panel Discussion on an issue of interest in the South Asian context and the next 30 minutes – titled Culture Connect- for sharing about cultures, traditions, cuisines, interests, hobbies, singing, dancing and the works!!
Online Voting for Topics for Panel Discussions and Culture Connect
Themes and topics along with specific questions to be streamed live would be selected through on line surveys to ensure participatory flavour and provide space to issues of maximum interest to the people. Hangout South Asia Portal has special sections for suggestions/ voting for topics and specific questions for each Session. Anyone could suggest any topics or a question/ comment for a topic shortlisted or vote in favour of a topic or a question proposed by someone else. Topics and questions with maximum votes will be featured in the Hangout Sessions. Similar procedure will also be followed for the Culture Connect Time also. To propose or vote for a topic or question or share your views please visit: www.hangoutsouthasia.org
Each Panel Discussion will be of 60 Minutes duration
Eight Panelists will be invited from each of the 8 member countries.
In order to provide space for a wide range of perspectives, 2 to 3 panelists from each of the following fields will be selected for any Panel Discussion comprising of a total of 8 Panelists :
Diplomats / Politicians / Bureaucrats /Armed Forces Personal
Activists / Civil Society
At least two of the Panelists will be below 30 years along with provision for appropriate gender and minority representation.
Each Panelist will get 3 minutes for Opening Remarks and 1 Minute for Closing Remarks (total of 24 minutes for the Panelists). Remaining 36 Minutes will be available for discussion between Panelists and Online Participants.
Online participants will be selected on the basis of endorsements received for their questions and it may be possible to provide space for 15 to 18 Online Participants during each Live Hangout Session. At least one Online Participant from each of the 8 SAARC Countries will be given space to participate in any Live Hangout Session. (For details please see Selection on Topics and Questions given below)
Two Celebrities (One from India or Pakistan and one from the other countries) will be invited as Special Guests for each Live Session to give their message /opinion on the Topic under discussion.
Messages by 2-3 renowned personalities / experts on the topics under discussion could be carried during the Live Sessions
Thirty Minutes after the Session on Panel Discussion will be devoted to culture time around one select theme every month.
Themes could be singing, dance, poetry, jokes, comedy, mimicry, amazing acts, marriage customs, fashion, traditions, cuisine etc.
Events that could transcend language barriers would be preferred
Selection of themes and participants / artists for the Culture Connect will also be done through online polling as in the case of Panel Discussions.
Every Session of Hangout South Asia will have two Moderators- for Panel Discussion and for Culture Connect.
Moderators will be selected from different South Asian countries by rotation.
One organisation in each of the eight South Asian countries with an extensive network within their own countries and a track record of promoting cooperation in South Asia will be the Anchor Organisations for Hangout South Asia and facilitate organisation of Panel Discussions, Culture Connect and Mass Actions in their respective countries. Anchor Organisations of different countries are listed in “Contact Us” on the Portal and appended below as Annexure I
Core Partners and Partners
All Networks- National, South Asian and International- collaborating for implementation of Hangout South Asia Project will be the Core Partners. Organisations, institutions and groups will be enlisted as Partners.
Concept and Proposal
Livelihoods, Entitlements and Activism Project (LEAP)
Knowledge is power and access to information is the best gateway to economic growth, socio-political empowerment and sensitivity to social issues – the three critical requirements that could make all sections of society prosperous, empowered and responsible citizens.
The Livelihoods and Entitlements Project (LEP) that we envisage is meant to use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) along with the extensive community out reach of religious / community groups and civil society organisations to redress problem of lack of access to information faced by a large number of people, especially the disadvantaged population of India comprising minorities, the marginalised and women, in both rural and urban areas that stands in their way to become prosperous, empowered, assertive and compassionate citizens. The Project will be anchored around a Single Window Four Dimensional Web Portal that will provide comprehensive and current information relating to 1. Education and career opportunities; 2. Information about all the welfare schemes and programs of the government; 3. Political, social and economic entitlements of all people as equal citizens; 4. and Group rights
The Portal will be suplemented by Multipronged Initiatives for Citizen’s Empowerment (MICE) with the objective of enabling people (especially youth and members of poor and marginalised communities) to access all the information necessary (through the Portal and other supplementary information systems) and gain the required advocacy support to exercise and access all their rights and entitlements as equal citizens. It is proposed to go beyond the ambit of NGOs to also involve religious / community organisations; student and youth bodies; Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and other such civil society organisations for the implementation of MICE.
- Education Facilities, Career Options and Skill Development
Despite the great economic boom and diversification in India during the last two decades, most people, especially from the marginalised communities and rural areas lack information about all the different education facilities, career options and skill development avenues that have emerged and can now be easily accessed through the internet. According to National Skill Development Corporation of India, construction industry in the country had about 31.5 million workers in 2005 but 83 percent of them were unskilled. The same will be the story with most other sectors of industry and business and very large percentages of the populations remain under educated and unskilled or in most cases saddled with inappropriate education or skill sets that cannot further their career or broaden employment avenues.
The Government of Andhra Pradesh launched a very ambitious program titled Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu with the target of training and providing employment to 9.1 Lakh youth in Andhra Pradesh between 2011 and 2014. However, it could train and provide employment to only 4.85 lakh youth or just 53 percent of the targeted figure despite over 80% of the youth being unskilled and 13.3 % unemployment amongst youth.
Such a situation obtains to a large extent because our education system totally lacks any provision to guide school dropouts, students’ in schools or undergoing college education regarding all the different and diverse opportunities for continuing education along with scholarship and hostel facilities that can be availed; the range of traditional and emerging career options that can be opted for; and the very wide range of facilities and institutions that are now available for skill development through the National Skill Development Mission and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives apart from the traditional institutions for skill training like ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) etc.
- Employment and Entrepreunership Opportunities
Financial Express reported on 21st September 2013 that the labour ministry’s third annual employment and unemployment survey on 1,33,354 households across the nation showed rural unemployment rising to 4.4% during the last fiscal from 3.4% in 2011-12 while it rose to 5.7% from 5% in urban areas. The unemployment rate is significantly higher among females (7.2%) as compared to males (4%). In urban areas, the female unemployment rate is estimated to be 12.8%.
An alarming trend is the higher rate of unemployment among youth between the age group of 15-29 years for whom the unemployment rate is estimated at 13.3%. The unemployment continues to soar as job creation has slowed sharply even as more workers entered the market.
The scenario in the field of self employment and entrepreneurship is even more dismal. The statistics based on 4th Census on MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) sector conducted in 2006-07 revealed that only 5.18% of the units (both registered and unregistered) had availed finance through institutional sources, 2.05% got finance from non-institutional sources. The majority of units i.e., 92.77% had no finance or depended on self-finance. The situation has not changed much even today.
Even for loans for people below poverty line under the DRI (Differential Rate of Interest) Scheme, Banks are supposed to give at least one percent of all their outstanding advances to the poor but the figures for 2013-14 are an abysmal 0.02%.
Thus the poor and the middle classes are also deprived from access to capital from formal financial institutions that they are entitled to. This prevents these sections from venturing into entrepreneurship and gaining economic development. Please See Annexure I (Transforming Philanthropy: From Charity to Empowerment).
3. Accessing Government Services, Schemes and Programs
Till 20 to 25 years back, poor in India had to largely depend on the generosity and philanthropic donations of individuals and charitable organisations (from within the country and abroad) to escape from spells of starvation, avail medical treatment, access school education, secure scholarships for technical or higher education, mobilise small funds to start petty businesses etc. But since Mid- Nineties with the boom in Indian economy, with an average 7.9 per cent growth in GDP from 2007-2012, – at times reaching 9 per cent- and the political compulsions on all parties to provide for inclusive growth the Government in India is allocating very large budgets to the poor as a matter of mandatory and legal entitlements in areas of education, health, banking, civic amenities and livelihoods etc.
RTE (Right to Education) Act of 2009 makes free, compulsory and quality education of every child in India the constitutional responsibility of the government. It also provides 25% totally free seats in all private schools in India to children from poor and marginalised communities. In a city like Hyderabad, where 7 lakh children are studying in private schools, this means that 1.75 lakh poor children will be able to get quality education in private schools – including elite and International schools- totally free. Despite constitutional provisions and orders from the Supreme Court of India, these provisions are not being implemented at all in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and most other states of the country due to lack of awareness among the people and no pressure from civil society on the system for proper implementation.
Second, the Government Scholarship schemes are now available from 1st standard to Ph.D for students belonging to SC, STs, and disadvantaged classes, including minorities, and had an allocation of Rs 5,284 crore in 2013-14. Scholarships available through Minorities Ministry alone were 1521crores for the year 2013-14. But very little of these budget allocations are being utilised. While Rs. 310 crore was budgeted for the minority post matric scholarships in 2013-14 by Government of Andhra Pradesh, the Department of Minorities Welfare had sanctioned only Rs. 50.45 crore till January 2014. This means that instead of just 1.5 lakh minority students, at least 9 lakh minority students in the State could have availed scholarships if the entire sanctioned budget was utilised.
Similarly, with regard to utilisation of allocations by the Schedule Castes, a study for the 11th Five Year Plan shows that between the years 2007 to 2011 Budget utilisation for SCs was just 15.56% of the allocations in Andhra Pradesh, 3.65% in Orissa and 15.5% in uttarakhand.
Similar story of gross under utilisation of allocated budgets emerge for JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission) also that is a massive city-modernisation scheme launched by the Government of India in 2005 for a slum free India that envisaged a total investment of over $20 billion over seven years in 67 cities of the country to provide proper housing and all civic amenities, especially to the urban poor. Results: Only 231 projects out of the 1298 projects sanctioned under JNNURM till 2014 have been completed. Similarly, with respect to housing projects, only 22 of the 1517 projects have been completed.
While Rs 37,330 crore were allocated for Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2013-14 as against Rs 5780 crore in 2000-01, a 6.5 times increase in 14 years, but the quality of health care in government hospitals has deteriorated manifold and even the poor are being compelled to seek health care in private hospitals at exorbitant costs that are beyond the limits of affordability in most cases. Please see Annexure I.
As seen above, most of the resource allocations by the Central and State Governments in India are being grossly under utilised for lack of awareness among the people about these schemes and provisions and the apathy of government officials in processing applications and implementation of programs . As a result there are estimates that hardly 20% of the allocations for social programs could be utilised during the 11th Five year plan (2007-12) and there was no proper mechanism to ensure accountability from the government.
- Entitlements- Political –Social- Financial
Political: Artice 243 of Constitution of India requires that it is the citizens of India who are entited to take all decisions in their Gram Sabha and Area Sabha meetings regarding any development in their areas and for identification of all beneficiaries for every state and central government wefare schemes like scholarships, old age pensions, allotment of gas connections, housing or land sites. The elected representatives and government officials are required to only implement the decisions taken by the people.
However, in reality, the citizens in India do not have any say in decision making (except for casting their votes once in five years during elections) and it is the elected representatives and government officials who together take all decisions regarding all matters relating to development works and selection of beneficiariesfor all welfare schemes and programs and they also implement them leaving no scope for participation by the people. This practice is totally unconstitutional, undemocratic and illegal and is responsible for perpetuation and strengthening of feudal polity, authoritarianism, corruption and exclusion and exploitation of the marginalised.
Until and unless the citizens are made aware and empowered to excersice their right to decide and ensure that the role of elected representatives and officials is restricted only to the implementation of the decisions taken by the citizens, there can be no genuine democracy in the country, no inclusive development and the exploitation and marginalisation of people will continue further, increase crony capitalism and increasingly widen the rich- poor divide in the country irrespective of whatever schemes and programs are introduced by the government for the poor or development initiatives for the marginalised undertaken by civil society organisations. Please see Annexure II- Reinventing Indian Democracy: From Subject to Citizen. .
Social: A second inportant feature are the group rights enshrined in the constitution of India and other legislations and acts that provide group rights and entitlements to the excluded and marginalised communities like the SCs, STs, Minorities, Women, Children, Differently Abled and others that together can ensure inclusion and accelerated developmet of all these groups. Unfortunately, most members of these groups and even the organisations working with them are not fully aware of all these affermative provisions and continue to lag behind. Unless all the existing affermative provisions are fully understood and accessed by these groups, there can be no genuine development for any of these sections.
Financial:The last of the three empowering entitlements is the policy of financial inclusion of the poor and marginalised that is enshrined as a national policy for over 40 years now but there is absolutely no awareness among the people about this policy nor is there any proper implementation. As per the legislated and approved financial inclusion policy of the government of India, all banks are obligated to give one percent of all their advances to people below poverty line (who comprise about 30% of the population) as DRI (Differential Rate of Interest) Loans and another 24% of all their advances should go to the Micro and Small enterprises. If the banks do not meet these targets, they are to be penlised. However, all banks are giving less than 0.02 % as DRI loans instead of the one percent and the record for Micro and Midium is restricted to around 10% instead of the 24%. Until the poor and the middle classes become aware of their entitlement to access loans from public as well as private banks as a legislated right and undertake measures to collectively exercise this right, they will continue to be deprived of access to public capital and will not be ablle to engage in or enhance business activities that could ensure their economic growth and inclusion in socio-political mainstream. Please See Annexure I
- From Service Delivary to Securing Entitlements:
Most social formations like NGOs, civil society organisations, religious / community groups and philanthropic bodies are mostly engaged in charity work or service delivary schemes and do not undertake empowerment programs to enable people to secure their rightful entitlements as citizens.
Second, most organisations make single point interventions (focusing only on health, education, savings etc) when the requirements of the communities are multiple. Representatives of these organisations can be easiy oriented and trained to undertake additional interventions (even if these are restricted to just passing information about other issues) with little additional effort and no extra costs.
Hence there is a need to motivate and orient civil society organisations to expand their scope of operations from single point interventions to Multipronged Interventions for Citizens’ Empowerment (MICE).
Even if just a thousand civil society organisations from the over 2 million that are reported to be operating in the country along with some progressive political parties can be motivated and reoriented to adopt the MICE approach for intervention and engagement with the communities, this could radically transform the practice and dynamics of citizens assertion and the grammar of governance in India.
Livelihoods, Entitlements and Activism Project (LEAP)
To create a society of informed, empowered and responsible citizens who will secure their political, social and economic entitlements from the system and ensure inclusive and equitable growth
Create a comprehensive and easy to access matrix of information systems that will enable citizens, organisations and institutions to avail extensive and up to date information relating to all the political, social and economic entitlements available in a period of three years.
- Creation and maintainance of a Single Window Four Dimensional Web Portal providing information on:
- education and skill development options, aptitute testing, scholarships, hostel facilities and all the different career opportunities
- Information about all the Central and State Government programs and schemes for individuals, organisations and institutions, communities/ social groups and habitations (villages, towns and cities).
- Constitutional entitlements
- Group entitlements
- Media Articles: Publication of weekly articles on education, career opportunities, citizenship and group entitlements and introduction to social issues to be published in at least 100 regional and language newspapers across the Telangana through sydication. The targetted number of newspapers to be covered within three years.
- Citizens’ Empowerment Handbook containing information on
- Constitutional entitlements
- Group entitlements
- Financial Entitlements
- Government Schemes and Programs
- Select Citizens Charters
- Counseling: Create and offer counseling facilities through
- Personal counseling,
- Tele counseling,
- Real time electronic chat, and
- Discussion forums
To promote and foster MICE (Multipronged Initiatives for Citizens’ Empowerment) through motivation and enlistment of civil society organisations and religious / community groups to undertake programs to facilitate and empower all sections of society (especially the poor and marginalised) to secure their political, social and economic entitlements in all the 10 districts of Telangana in three years.
- Extending beyond civil society organisations to also enlist religious / community groups, student unions etc for the MICE (Multipurpose Initiatives for Citizens’ Empowerment) program.
- Training of 2 representatives from the 30 enlisted organisations with good reach on MICE in 10 districts ofTelangana as Master Resource Persons. A total of 300 Master Resource Persons to be imparted two trainings in a year for 3 years
- Provide master copies of Citizens’ Empowerment Handbook as Resource Material to all enlisted organisations for printing and distribution to their cadre, staff, volunteers and community members.
Innovation in Grammar of Interventions for Social Transformation:
From Charity and Service Delivery to Awareness, Empowerment and Advocacy:
There is an immediate need for a Paradigm Shift by NGOs, Civil Society Organisations Religious / Community Groups and other philanthropic bodies from charity and service delivery to awareness and empowerment of people to enable them to secure all citizenship entitlements, ensure effective implementation of all government schemes and projects- supplemented with advocacy wherever required to seek complete utilisation of all the budgets allotted.
“The core issue still is not about allocation but implementation. During 11th Plan we were able to spend only 20 per cent of the allocations which is not sufficient and therefore we need to remove the bottlenecks and implement them fast”: Sushma Berlia- Reactions to Union Budget 2013-14
- Most civil society organisations in India are structured to engage in activities of direct charity to the poor or delivery of services in the fields of education, health care and civic amenities etc. through their own limited resources
- Less than 200 to 300 organisations in the entire country are undertaking initiatives to enable people, especially the poor communities, to access and utilise some of the very wide range of government programs and schemes amounting to lakhs of crores every year and that are lapsing each year
- There are very few organisations (including political parties) that are working to secure the political, social and economic entitlements of the citizens.
- Religious and community groups have extensive networks reaching even remote areas that can be easily mobilised for effective implementation of MICE. Practices like Sunday sermons in churches, Friday prayers in Mosques and weekly Satsangs organised by some Hindu sects and where thousands congregate can be totally free and very effective platforms for creating awareness on a range of issues and schemes. COVA has already used this mode successfully for campaigns on HIV AIDS and citizens entitlements in governance through Area Sabhas.
Promotion of and support to organisations that can take up awareness generation, empowerment and advocacy work to ensure:
- Members of the community become aware of all their entitlements as citizens and members of specific social groups along with access to information about all the schemes and programs offered by the government and other agencies / groups.
- Facilitate members of the community to understand and follow the required procedures to secure their entitlements, access schemes and programs and also enable them to represent to concerned officials in case of delays or rejections
- Identification of conditions and requirements stipulated for different schemes and programs that could be outdated, unwarranted or contradictory and advocacy for their modification or deletion; Example: The RBI had fixed an annual family income of Rs. 18,000 (Rs. 50 per day) for rural areas and Rs. 24, 000 (Rs. 66 per day) for urban areas for eligibility to avail DRI Loans at a subsidised interest of just 4% per annum. Income levels have increased and the poor earn at least 150 per day in rural areas and 250 per day in urban areas and cannot get income certificate as required by present rules. Result: Banks that are required to give at least 1,% of all their loans to the poor (who constitute at least 65% of the population of India) under the DRI scheme are giving less than 0.02% of the loans to this section.
- Pressure on elected representatives and government officials for total utilisation of all budgetary allocations under different schemes and programs
Availability of Potential Partners
Given the extensive availability of civil society organisations and religious groups in different parts of the State working with the poor and the marginalised, there will be no need to start any new organisations for the purpose but it will be sufficient to just motivate, reorient and train some of the existing organisations that are showing interest and are sincere and dependable to undertake activities to secure citizenship entitlements and tap all the resources available with the government. A Pilot with just 20 select organisations and in 10 districts should be able to give a good assessment of the effectiveness of this Project in enlisting partners, awareness and empowerment of the people and impact of advocacy on budget utilisation.
The project aims to ensure equal access to information and opportunities to hitherto marginalized sections of population through a single window. It is envisaged that the targeted sections, that is, urban and rural youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, the aged, the disabled, women and children will gain access to a wealth of information with the support of MICA Members armed with a comprehensive and constantly updated database available through the Web Portal. Apart from these, the computer savvy sections in both urban and rural areas will be able to access the Portal on their own and gain benefits.
Depending on their social being, the beneficiaries access different components of the database. For instance, a poor widow will not only get information about the widow pension scheme of the government, but also learn about how to apply for and get it. The poor parents of a girl child of school going age will get information on the welfare measures offered by the government to girl children including residential schools and scholarships. A family of an ethnic minority group can access information about special provisions made for them by government or other agencies. A young man from an agrarian background in a remote village may decide to pursue a tourism and hospitality management course learning about where it is available and how he can make use of the available facilities. Or a young woman may become an entrepreneur by using the assistance available to small entrepreneurs through courses in entrepreuneurship and loans from banks for micro and small businesses.The information will enable the beneficiaries to actively participate in a thriving economy and improve their own standards of living and the economy of the country. Needless to say, in a context where India aspires to transform itself into a knowledge based society, access to information is equivalent to economic and social empowerment.
The supplementary but important component of perspective building on social issues will provide the outlook necessary for the citizens to contribute to a sustainable, just and peaceful society. It will help them to overcome a parochial attitude towards diverse identities operating on equal level in the new economy and acquire a broad advantageous approach.
It is expected that the two Master Resource Persons trained from each of the 10 Partner Organisations in 10 cities (300 Master Resource Persons) will in turn train and orient at least 50 staff /volunteers/ cadre members of their respective organisations making a total of around 15,000 trained MICE Resource Persons for the implementation of the MICE Program at the field level in 10 districts. Each MICE Resource Person reaching, orienting and assisting even 50 people in a year could ensure that the benefits of the Project would directly reach at least 7.5 lakh people in a year.
Target Groups of LEAP and their access to the Project
- Students: Through Web Portal- Citizens Empowerment Handbook- Media Articles- Counseling- Civil Society Organisations, Religious / Community Groups
- Educated Youth: Through Web Portal- Citizens Empowerment Handbook- Media Articles- Counseling- Civil Society Organisations, Religious / Community Groups
- Semi literates and illiterates: Through Counseling- Civil Society Organisations, Religious / Community Groups
- Entrepreuneurs: Web Portal- Citizens Empowerment Handbook- Media Articles- Counseling- Civil Society Organisations, Religious / Community Groups
- Social Activists: Web Portal- Citizens Empowerment Handbook- Media Articles- Counseling- Civil Society Organisations
- Religious and Community workers: Web Portal- Citizens Empowerment Handbook- Media Articles- Counseling, Religious / Community Groups and Civil Society Organisations
- General Public: Web Portal- Citizens Empowerment Handbook- Media Articles- Counseling- Civil Society Organisations, Religious / Community Groups
Advantage of MICE
It is proposed that if Civil Society Organisations, Religious / Community Groups could be motivated to enlist in MICE and oriented and trained to undertake awareness programs to enable people to successfully apply for different schemes and programs and pressurise officials and elected representatives through consistent advocacy to secure all citizenship entitlements, then astronomical funds allocated for different programs for the empowerment of the poor and marginalised can be utilised optimally to transform society along with inclusive growth and social justice –all this at very nominal expense to the organisations compared to the volume of resources these initiatives could leverage.
For the evolution and development of the proposed Project, feedback from the countless users of the proposed portal would be obtained through the partner organisations offering counseling on how the information benefited them and what else would they need. The feedback will be used to improvise on the facilities.
Besides such direct methods of making the beneficiaries active participants in the project delivery, built-in systems will be provided on the portal to elicit the opinions of the users on the services offered and used. The outcomes will be assessed based on direct feedback and the digitally recorded feedback from the beneficiaries and used for improving the Portal and other services being offered as a part of the Project.
The partner organisations will also be indirect beneficiaries of the project, since the proposed services carried out through these organisations will strengthen their bonding with the community. Being indirect beneficiaries with a high stake in the project, they will also contribute to the database through their inputs of information.
Monitorign and Evaluation
The monitoring/reporting system pertaining to the active usage of the portal will be automated. In this system, activation of the database will be periodically linked to the submission of an online report in a prescribed format by the user. The portal itself will generate a log of its usage.
All Partner organisations will be requested to file reports of outreach programs, in house councelling, advocacy initiatives and results acheived in a brief format every quarter. This information will be collated and compiled by COVA and reported to all partners.
An internal monitoring team comprising representatives of COVA, career-counselling specialists, ICT experts and the partner organisations will be formed. The team would meet every quarter to monitor and evaluate the progress of the project.
It is proposed to have an external evaluation of the project in the beginning of the last quarter of the first year to assess the impact and plan future directions. The evaluation will be done by an independent development consultant chosen with the mutual consent of the donor and COVA.