Introduction: This is a consortium project implemented in 20 tribal blocks in 10 districts involving 10 NGOs led by Agragamee – Kashipur and financed by European Union. Chale Chalo has been selected for implementing the project in 50 villages of Boden Block along with the responsibility of facilitation of project actions in Nuapada District. The project started on 1st January 2014 with partners’ capacity building training, operational action plan by all member NGOs and State Level Launching in the first quarter with the presence of EU Representative, State Information Commissioner, Director of Agragamee and other renounced personalities and CSOs. The project started implementing the planned activities in full swing from April 2014. The target groups of the project are Schedule Tribe and Schedule caste women and children, landless and marginal farmers’ families, migrant workers, and displaced communities. The project aims to achieve the following in one block (for Chale Chalo, it is Boden Block in Nuapada District) in 5 Yrs.
In Nuapada district 2 blocks have been chosen for the project i.e Boden and Nuapada. Chale Chalo has been selected as the Boden Block Nodal as well as coordinator for district level project actions. Agragamee is the block nodal for Nuapada Block in Nuapada District.
The series of activities taken up during the period have aimed to introduce the concept, and idea behind the project in Nuapada district, while also emphasizing on the role and importance of sharing of information at different levels. The project has been able to reach out to Elected Representatives, Community Leaders, Government Officials, Civil Society Organizations and Media in its efforts to take information down to the last person in the village. The starting up activities have included selection and orientation of District and Block coordinator, setting up Block Information Center, launching of the program at the district level, rapport building with Government Officials, and Elected Representatives, publication of newsletters and brochures by Agragamee for wide spread sharing, orientation training, building up village contact and generating awareness about the RTI Act, and provisions of Section 4.1.b, and base-line survey and compilation. Sharing and dialoguing has been taken up with District Collector, Project Director, District Rural development Agencies, the Welfare Officers, Department of Women and Child Development, and the District Education Officer, of the School and Mass Education Program. The ground level linkages with PRIs have also helped Chale Chalo and Agragamee to fine tune the program, and identify priority areas and groups for support and hand holding. The Block Level Information Centre (BIC) has been a vibrant unit, with the active involvement of the young members of the Citizens' Action Groups.
The focuses of the project during the year have been on RTI – Section 4.1.b for so-moto disclosure of information on education, health, nutrition, employment and governance and related schemes and programs contributing access to quality services in tribal areas, poverty reduction and improvement of their situation. The following Specific Activities have been performed under the project during this period.
Base-line Survey and Micro Planning covered as follows:
The Micro – Planning of Kamarkhol Village covered the Followings
Brief Introduction on the Village, Map of Kamarkhol Village, Household table, Land table, Location table, Literacy & current education status, Government service table, Occupation table, Loan table, Social Exclusion and Inclusion table, Seasonal Food Calendar, Seasonal Work Calendar, Seasonal Agriculture Calendar, Historical transect, Present land use, Wealth ranking, Problem ranking, Village micro-plan for 5 years with prioritization of planned activities, Other issues influencing the micro – plan
The baseline survey helped to get Information on status of different schemes and programs in 50 project villages. It also help to assess the extent of exclusion from Government Program for 250 families in 05 villages and plan for improving access to welfare and poverty reduction schemes and programs among the marginalized groups in project villages through information sharing, handholding supports and capacity building of targeted marginalized families
1 Block Information Centre has been set up, in the Boden Block Headquarters, and is functioning well, providing information, and support to community members for effective implementation of various development, welfare and poverty reduction programs and delivery of quality basic services. Citizen’s Action Groups have made the BIC more active, manage it and ensure flow of information to community and supporting them to access their entitlements, with orientation and inputs. The BIC in Boden is linked with Block Office, Line Departments, PRIs, CBOs, NGOs, service providers, beneficiaries and villagers and helping the unreached to know the schemes and programs and access them for increasing income and savings, reducing poverty, educating their children, getting benefits from health and nutrition services.
Being the state nodal, Agragamee had developed and printed Brochure on project in Odiya and in English. These have been distributed by Chale Chalo to key stakeholders at district, block, GP and village levels for spreading information about the project. 2 issues of Newsletters designed and printed by Agragamee in Odia and English have been distributed among the stakeholders. Awareness of the project has reached block and district Offices, as also remote corners of villages, and created the potential for active people's participation in Government Programs, and also created a demand amongst officials for involvement of project staff and youth volunteers for better implementation of Government programs at grassroots level.
Linkages with Government Organizations have been established at block and district level. Sharing and dialoguing has also been taken up with District Collector, Project Director, District Rural development Agencies, the District Social Welfare Officer, Department of Women and Child Development, and the District Education Officer, of the School and Mass Education Program. Apart from this the ground level linkages at the block, and with village leaders, and elected leaders have also helped Chale Chalo to fine tune the program, and identify priority areas and groups for support and hand holding. These linkages have helped to access information about different schemes.
Interface workshops at the Panchayat level have been taken up in project block. These workshops, which have brought together community members, elected leaders, and government functionaries, have helped to highlight the lacunae in implementation of Government Programs, and facilitated direct interaction between the members of the community and the government officials, highlighting the shortcomings and helping people to have a better understanding of the programs and get involved actively for proper implementation. Elected representatives got sensitized on section 4.1.b of RTI Act.
The EU – Agragamee Project that aims for improving access to information on Government schemes was formally launched on dated 05.08.14 at Soil Conservation Conference Hall, Nuapada. Shri Pradip Ku Naik (OAS), PD DRDA, Nuapada, Shri Achyut Das, Director Agragamee and Shri Sarat Chandra Srichandan, Sub-Collector, Nuapada collectively inaugurated the program. 63 participants representing PRIs, SMCs, JCs, SHGs, NGOs, Youth Clubs, Media, Volunteers, Activists, Intellectuals and Beneficiaries of Government Programs actively participated in this one day interactive workshop. Mr. Rudra Madhab Barik, Chairman of Chale Chalo facilitated the project launching program. Mr. Achyut Das, Director, Agragamee highlighted the significance of the Right to Information for proper implementation of government programs for benefiting the poorest of the poor. He explicitly explained the 5 components of EU – Agragamee Project – Health, Nutrition, Education, MGNREGA and RTI and pertinent problems faced by the villagers for ensuring their proper implementation and getting desired benefits. Mr. Pradip Kumar Naik, PD - DRDA focused on the Government programs and Services that are not reaching to the villagers and the inherent problems therein. He shared his experiences how the CSOs, beneficiaries and government working together can ensure better implementation of the programs and maximizing benefits for the marginalized. He urged the participants to get engaged collectively to understand the problems and work constructively to find the solutions and assist the poor use RTI to know about government programs, schemes and services for accessing them. Shri Sarat Chandra Srichandan, Sub-Collector, Nuapada, appreciated the Bottom – Up approach of the project and hoped it would help the government to know the gaps in reaching the beneficiaries and assist the villagers to get well informed about the government schemes and make legitimate demands for remedial actions. There are schemes and services which are demand driven and conditional like MGNREGA, JSY, Mamata Yojana, IAY, Mo Kudia, inclusion in NFSA and many more. Unless the beneficiaries and villagers know the process and procedures along with the conditions and benefits, they may be left out from getting the benefits. Sarpanches of Karlakot, Khaira, Sunapur and Farsara had also participated in open discussions and reported the project supports had made them able to track the implementation of welfare and development schemes. Mr. Ranjit Kumar Swain, Director, Chale Chalo, applauded the supports and cooperation of all stakeholders to the project, especially the government officials, service providers, CSOs, PRIs, Media, Volunteers and Activists. He urged them to use the project as a effective platform for working together to access information for better implementation of government schemes and programs for the targeted marginalized groups. The one day program came to an end after a vote of thanks given by Mr. Swain.
After series of informal meetings and consultations, a block level Citizens’ Action Group (CAG) had been formed on 3rd November 2014. The representatives from PRIs, SMCs, Janch Committees, FLRCs, CSOs and Media actively participated in the CAG formation process. The agenda of the CAG formation meeting were – Brief Introduction of Project, Needs of CAG, Formation of CAG, Role and Responsibility of CAG members, Guidelines for CAG, Functions of CAG and Future Action Plan. CAG will mainly work for ensuring free flow of information about government schemes by extensive use of Section 4(1) B of RTI Act, present the problems of the people and bridge the gaps between the beneficiaries and service providers / implementers and ensure effective functioning of Block Information Center. An executive committee of 11 members was also formed for effective functioning of CAG and looking after the day to day activities. After the formation of CAG, the members held monthly review and planning meeting at different GP head quarters in 5 GPs. They had discussed on the issues pertaining to health, nutrition, education, MGNREGA, RTI and Governance especially the functioning of Palli Sabha, Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayats in facilitating the marginalized groups to access the benefits of government programs. We also facilitated the formation of Nuapada Block CAG and initiated the process to form district level CAG in coming months.
Mr. Achyut Das, the Director, Agragamee and Mrs. Bidya Das, Project Coordinator of EU – Agragamee Project along with other team members used to visit in periodic intervals to project villages, BIC and Chale Chalo Project Office for monitoring the project works, assessing the progress, strengthening partnership with government officials, PRIs, CSOs and other stakeholders and give their inputs for further improving the project management and quality implementation of project action plan. The visits have helped them to understand the prevailing situation of the field and to assess the project status by visiting the villages covered under the project and the field level interactions with different stakeholders. During the field visits they discussed the problems related to health, nutrition, drinking water, education, MGNREGA, RTI and functioning of schools, ICDS Centers, RWSS, Palli Sabha, Gram Sabha and GPs in addressing the problems and suggested for convergence for multiplier positive impacts in the lives of target groups.
In addition to regular village visits and informal meetings with beneficiaries and villagers individually and in small groups, 41 formal village meetings have been organized in project area. The meetings helped the coordinator, volunteers and CAG members to inform villagers about the project, Prepare village Profile, Identify issues related to 5 components of the project and beyond, selections of village youth leaders, sharing of government programs and evolving Common Action Plan for getting information, claiming and accessing entitlements for ensuring increased income, improved health, nutrition and education status along with improved scope for participation in decision making for the marginalized groups.