From the desk of Editor- in -Chief

Need to handhold the ‘unsung’ and ‘real’ heroes

Civil society organizations often define themselves as national level or state level organization and expert on specific thematic issues like health, education, livelihood or mental health. While many agencies have achieved the status of policy level organizations and are part of various government committees both at national and state level, thus influencing government policies and development agenda.

There is one section amongst the civil society organizations or individuals- who are making differences in lives of people though at a small level but significant one. We came in contact with quite a few organizations that operate at a very small level but are making considerable changes in the lives of beneficiaries.
Nishat runs a small organization in Old Delhi walled city area and is absolutely not aware of any concept of institutional funding, CSR or any other big NGOs. She is not even aware of how to mobilize resources. As part of her social work initiative, she stations herself in hospitals like Lady Irwin and GB Pant, where more than 10,000 patients approach daily while facing crisis and 60% of them are from outside Delhi/neighboring states like UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand or Bihar. 95% of them belong to lower socio-economic strata and are absolutely not aware of where to approach in case of emergency, where is the registration counter, where is blood bank or how to get admission in hospital? Nishat, as part of her simple social work is available at 10 am in the hospital and ensures to address the plight of people who are running from pillar to post to get their near ones treated.

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Though she can do more, by making it a very structured intervention, open a help line or develop a cadre of volunteers along with hospital administration or think of some facility for the patients or their relatives- but nobody has engaged with her on these ideas. She is absolutely not aware that external funding can be mobilized where she can multiply her efforts in a more organized manner.

Similarly, there are many individuals or small organizations in clusters offering brilliant services in the field but are not able to scale up their intent as well as interventions because of lack of know how. They set up themselves with intent to support humanity and in the process also registered themselves in the form of organization/trust.

These agencies need to be identified from the field and should get duly acknowledged. People like Nishat must be exposed with the world and better networked. It is easy to find resource but very difficult to find good intent and genuine Samaritans. These agencies need an organized capacity building as well as a process oriented hand holding support, so that they can be linked to the right people/agencies in the sector.

These unsung heroes come with great strength of passion, hard work, intent and self help attitude. They however are not aware of the other side of the sector, professional approach, availability of larger network and resources. We at the BRIDGE look forward to building the capacities of these heroes and connect them with other resource full organizations that will be keen to support and grow such initiatives.
Happy reading!

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The Prime Minister with a ‘social’ conscience

By Vishwajeet Ghoshal

As India lost Atal Bihari Vajpayee the entire country was looking back into the era led by the iconic leader with profound gratitude and deep nostalgia. His unprecedented contribution towards bringing India to where it is today has been refreshed in the memories of one and all. Corporate Social Responsibility may not have been a mandate during his regime, however a close look into all the developmental work that was initiated under his leadership reflects philanthropy work that has eventually supported the development of the social sector that it has proliferated into in the present times.
Rural Development was the core focus of the Vajpayee Government. The thrust of these programmes was on all round economic and social transformation in rural areas, through a multi pronged strategy, aiming in the process, to reach out to most disadvantaged sections of the society. His initiatives in the form of a Golden Quadrilateral of roads, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Kisan credit cards, continue to touch the lives of millions of Indians. It is his government that revolutionized bank lending to farmers for their crop production needs by launching Kisan Credit Cards, nearly 4.14 crore farmers took benefit of it by the end of March 31, 2004, towards the end of the Vajpayee Government. The National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (country’s first comprehensive insurance programme, launched in 1999 -2000, as part of risk management in agriculture with the intention of providing financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of crops as a result of natural calamities, pests and diseases. The other important programme that was again a Vajpayee Government baby was the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, (PMGSY) launched on 25th December, 2000, with the objective of providing road connectivity through good roads to all unconnected habitations having a population of more than 1000 persons by the year 2003 and those with a population of more than 500 persons by the end of the Tenth Plan Period.

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Vajpayee’s journey from a modest background to the position of Prime minister of India thrice-first in 1996 when he served for a period of 13 days, second in 1998 for a period of eleven months, and third time in 1999 for a full term of five years was inspiring though full of challenges.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was amongst one of the rare statesman who had successfully changed the worldview of a large nation. He had ideas of his own that were not in tune with the mainstream thinking and some of his ideas found expression when he became foreign minister during 1977-79. He succeeded in giving shape to his foreign policies after two decades as a Prime minister and his diplomatic boldness, reflected in his ability to transcend the Nehruvian legacy on foreign policy as well as the BJP’s nativist burden. POKHARAN-II, 1998, was a shining moment in his career.
‘His captivating leadership qualities, mesmerizing oratory, soaring patriotism and above, all his, sterling humane qualities such as compassion, humility, and the remarkable ability to win over his adversaries, despite ideological differences, have all had a profound effect on me in my years in public life. I will miss Atalji immensely,’ mourned Lal Krishna Advani, his closest friend of 65 years. The entire country salutes him with immense gratitude.
(The writer is the Director(Projects) Prayas JAC Society)

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Transforming communities through street art

By Lakshmi Singh

Living in a basti in Timarpur with a mother who is barely able to support her with two square meals, twelve-year-old Rajjo could never think of becoming a doctor or engineer. Against all odds however, she has turned into an artist who paints the walls around the colony with amazing graffiti. It is not only Rajjo who has been transformed into an artist. There are at least 30-40 children around that area who have transformed into artists in spite of living in dismal conditions. Interestingly, it was the visit of street artist Ruchin Soni into this area, that played the catalyst in transforming these kids into artists.

Graffiti to street art movement

According to Ruchin Soni, “What started as an underground graffiti culture a few years back, evolved into a vibrant street art movement with an array of street artists

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transforming city’s public spaces with paints, stencils and spray cans! Being an artist, I was totally enamoured by the street art. Converting walls into canvas excited me a lot. But soon I realised that this street art is something that the common man is not able to relate with. And I could see that art is not accessible to them. I was not too happy with the reach of existing galleries, museums, and exhibitions. Anyone from the slums or orphanages could not think of visiting these places. I reached out to them with paints, colours and spray cans to the place where they live. So that street art could help people connect to art. I started painting walls with a specific theme or message. The primary objective was of making art accessible to a wider audience, creating a positive impact on the society.”
Ruchin Soni hails from a family of traditional painters in Gujarat, and was initiated into the world of art during his early childhood when he learnt traditional painting techniques from his parents. He was formally trained at the M S University of Baroda specializing in painting and mural. Specialized in mural design, Ruchin has created several murals in India and Mexico. He has been a part of the Street Art Festival in Delhi since its inception, and his works adorn the walls of Shahpurjat, the Rain Basera on Mahatma Gandhi Marg, as well as India’s longest mural at Tihar Jail in New Delhi.

Making art accessible

After creating several murals in Mexico, Ruchin Soni felt that art is something that is expensive and decided to make it accessible to children who could not afford it. He began teaching art through his street art workshops for children from impoverished backgrounds. From an artist, Ruchin became an art educator. “I went to paint the ‘rain basera’ in the North Campus which is a shelter house for homeless people. The painting on the shelter home consists of one body with many faces depicting the several people around us who are homeless. These are the people who are dealing with hunger, poverty and are homeless. This painting conveys the message for everyone to look at them and do something to uplift them,” says Ruchin.

Out of the box thinking

In order to give children’s imagination a boost, Ruchin Soni decided to use art game to help the children think out of the box. This helps student’s look at a situation from different perspectives. It opens up their mind to risks and new possibilities, where good drawing becomes a secondary skill and creative thinking around the medium becomes the primary focus.
During the workshops a wall is turned into a canvas for the duration of the workshop. As the students learn about the challenges and thrill of painting on a grand scale, Ruchin leads them through the steps of planning the composition, sketching on the walls, and finally the act of painting. During the workshop he teaches them various techniques used in mural-making, developing a project as a team, and are introduced to the basics of street art as

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‘We need to reach out to the gamut of schemes govt offers for socially deprived’

By Seema Jairath

Rashmi Krishnan, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, in a tete-a- tete with The Bridge India India talks and elaborates about the support offered by the government policies and schemes towards accelerating progress of women and child and persons with disabilities.

TBI: What is your role and responsibilities?

RK: As the name suggests, I look after the interests of those who are socially deprived including the handicapped, old aged or whoever who has no means of support. On the other hand, with the women and their development side, we look after poor women, destitute women and children. This also includes the nutritional program which the government runs for infants, pregnant women, lactating women with an entire gamut of schemes which the government offers, to which we plan to reach out to the best of our ability.

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TBI: What role does the education sector play for persons with disabilities?

RK: We have special schools for children with disabilities. Out of which, five schools are for the hearing impaired. One school is running for blind students. Another is meant for the mentally challenged. All the five schools are located in Delhi. We impart education to bring these children at par with the remaining population of children as far as their educational outcomes are concerned. On this front we do have number of limitations. We try to render substantial services. Many of our students have been outstanding in their performance. The problem of being understaffed plagues our system. But we’re trying our best to do a good job.

TBI: What challenges do you face while working for the old and destitute women?

RK: Presently, the entire system is undergoing digital transformation. Here comes the biggest challenge for us. The major challenge is to link up with the Aadhar number- the Unique Identification number. Many of them don’t have Aadhar number. On one hand, people who require it, don’t have them. On the other hand, some are very clever and get the aadhar number very quickly even if they don’t belong to our territory. So, at times, this kind of injustice happens like someone who has to get higher pension gets less attention, as the linkage doesn’t happen. But we are trying hard to resolve it with the banks. This is one of the major problems. The other problem is the very nature of the population which is deprived. So one feels very sorry for them and you are not able to do anything for them as the waiting spaces are not sufficient. Many a time old people are waiting in queue for long hours. We are trying to work on areas like improving the waiting areas, expedite the work and minimize the number of visits they have to make to the centre where they get their payment. We are trying to simplify the procedures for them. Currently, I am working on checklist which can be displayed on the website itself which are generally made public so that people know that these are the documents required. This can help them in coming to the centers well prepared so that they don’t have to keep running around. So my effort at the moment is to resolve this basic distance that is being created with the absence of the aadhar.

TBI: In India girls with disabilities are usually stigmatized. Are there any schemes for them?

RK: The awareness programs for the parents are yet to be implemented. The reason for girls with disabilities to be stigmatized has a lot to do with the mindset and the cultural orientation of people. In North India, cases of female feticide are high. There is an urgent call for cultural up gradation. It is necessary for people to get kinder and larger hearted. Parents should be less selfish. I fail to understand when parents don’t understand or accept their own children even if it’s a girl or a boy who is a special child, then how can you blame the society. Why anyone else will look after the child when they themselves can’t look after their own child. On one hand, we are surrounded by such beautiful examples where parents have sacrificed their lives for their child. On the other, there are very few in number who just want to get out of the situation of having to handle such a child. One of the main reasons behind this is also the economic condition of the family. In a well to do family, bringing up a special child may not be a burden. But if somebody is struggling for meal to meal existence or if he is a daily wage earner, a child with disabilities is difficult task to handle. So this ongoing current tragedy is a hard reality of our times. We have to stand up and deal with it. There is a need to work on this challenge. Life becomes easier when parents also give emotional strength to deal with this kind of situation.

TBI: Could you throw light about the hostel facilities for persons with disabilities.

RK: We have a hostel facility for the hearing –impaired. Besides, there is a hostel facility for the students of blind college. Ironically, the demand is high. One of the factors for the increasing demand is that the facilities in the other neighboring states are not so good in comparison to the hostel facility in Delhi. Thus there is a huge population that comes from South India, North eastern states. So the pressure that keeps generating is that of funds. The funding comes entirely from the Delhi Government. What is of prime importance is that there is a need for graduating to a better funding mechanism as we are hardly able to meet the economic requirement for this kind of task.

TBI: Is your department collaborating with the NGOs?

RK: A good number of NGOs have collaborated with us and we are proud that they are doing a great job.

TBI: What are the schemes available for Persons with Disabilities?

RK: There are a number of schemes for Persons with disabilities. There are few schemes in education sector. Under the schemes provision of pension is allotted to Persons with disabilities suffering from 40 percent disability. An amount of Rs 2,500 is provided to them on a monthly basis. This may not be a great amount but as of now the government is able to afford only this much.

TBI: What kind of challenges you come across?

RK: The challenges are huge. In spite of innumerable schemes for persons with disabilities, providing them merely with a pension is barely giving him means to survive as the amount is so less. On the other hand, if we had systems of employment generation like imparting them with skills that can be marketed or identifying their strengths so that they could develop into full blown individuals with life and career of their own, instead of waiting for the drop of merely Rs 2,500. These are some of the challenges and there is a long way to go in terms of development for persons with disabilities.

TBI: Are there any schemes for women?

RK: Yes, there are some schemes for women in distress. Widows are provided with pension. Pension is also provided to divorced women and also some income is allotted to women who don’t have any other source of income and for women who are working and doing well in life, there is a provision of working women’s hostels.

TBI: Do you have any rehabilitation facility for persons with disabilities?

RK : We don’t have any substantial rehabilitation facilities as yet.

TBI: Do you have any future plans for rehabilitation centre?

RK: We are trying to work out on this for the disabled. Rehabilitation means they would be able to work out their own livelihood. So we are planning some job fairs in near future. I am asking the department to work out a mechanism whereby people can register with us like in an employment exchange. It is all in the process and is in conceptual state, yet to take off.

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Flood battered Kerala fights back to recover and rebuild

By Lakshmi Singh

After the worst flood in close to a century killed over 400 and displaced over 700,000 in Kerala, the state is fighting back. As the state machinery concentrates on disaster management and rehabilitation, help is pouring from all corners. While the government has responded well with immediate rescue, the affected populations desperately need shelter materials, personal hygiene items and safe drinking water. Beyond already stretched administrative machinery, it is the participation of lakhs of volunteers that is adding teeth and speed to relief and rehabilitation in the state hit by the flood fury.
Many national and international NGOs are working on a war footing to bring back life to normalcy. At a time when Oxfam, Save the children, Global Cancer Concern India, Action Aid, and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few, are working to rebuild and reconstruct Kerala. Contribution of one day salary by the employees of Prayas (JAC) society to aid Kerala comes across as a unique gesture by an NGO.

‘Forces for good’ in action

Emergency response team of ActionAid India (AAI) led by Esther Maria Selvam and Debabrat Patra, reached out in Wayanad and has visited four villages in Kottathara Panchayat and has spoken with almost 100 affected families to ascertain their needs. “Emergency situations affect vulnerable communities disproportionately. We need to recognise this reality, and reach out to women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities,” said Esther.
“Emergency response, especially relief and rehabilitation support, needs to be community‐led. We need to promote the dignity of the affected communities. While providing immediate relief, Action Aid remains committed to a long‐term response that includes rehabilitation of affected communities,” said Debabrat. ActionAid has started mobilising funds for relief, recovery and rehabilitation.

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According to Ian Corea, Chief Manager, Hope Foundation, “Our teams have been on the ground. While our original intent was to hand over the relief material to the army, on reaching Wayanad, we realised that those in remote areas are still stuck in their homes and were getting little or no assistance. It led to our team crossing difficult terrain by vehicle and on foot, wading through the water and going from camp to camp and home to home to directly reach men, women and children in need. Walking through slush and addressing needs and bridging gaps sometimes thinking on behalf of those who were too drained to make decisions clearly. They shared insights about the needs situation in different hamlet and relief centres and guided or travelled with us to reach Aramangalam colony, Anchupothy, Dampatta, and Appappara. We salute and remain thankful for the unnamed ‘forces for good’. Our teams encountered bisons, wild boars, deer and poisonous snakes. We could not reach some locations because of wild elephants. We have been distributing kits to each family which include – utensils like plates, tumblers, spoons, provisions like boiled rice, dal, sambar powder, chilly powder, coriander powder etc, lungis, nighties, children’s clothes, half sleeve shirts, saris etc.”

Silent saviours

As the water levels rose, as homes were submerged and livelihoods destroyed, thousands of local volunteers from across the country turned up to volunteer at the relief camps. Even the church, temple and madarsa turned into relief camps. To get a sense of the first idea, consider the silent heroes who sought to help countless victims. The most enduring image of Jaisal KP, a fisherman from Mallapuram bending and offering his back as a ramp for people getting on a boat. Another moving example is of an eight-year- old girl who has been saving money for four years to buy a bicycle, has donated her entire savings to save the victims.

Lost livelihood

The most important aspect of the Kerala floods has been that apart from affecting cash crops such as pepper, rubber, coffee, etc, the devastating floods washed off vegetables, medicinal plants and horticulture crops and acres of paddy cultivation in the Palakkad and Kuttanad regions. There has been a loss of rich genetic resources of crop varieties and breeds and the flood-hit districts are some of the best agri production and promotion zones. Broiler, pineapple and banana production zones suffered a huge loss. More than 80 percent of duck flocks in the Kuttanad area were lost. Moreover, heavy losses also occurred in fisheries stocks, including ornamental, rearing and nuclear breeding stock of fishes and hatcheries, Ian Corea said.

Towards restoring homes

Rajan Samuel, MD Habitat for Humanity shared “as the rains have stopped, some of the relief camp people are going back. Lot of slush and debris is trapped inside the houses. So we have set up a ‘Tool Squad’ where people can borrow some tools like jet pumps, generators or any tools to clear their homes. So far we have served 23,550 families through relief kits. In terms of Habitat framework, we conduct our work at three levels- namely 1) Relief stage 2) the Rehabilitation stage 3) Reconstruction stage. Reconstruction means pathways to permanence. We are building a complete house, right now we are working at the Relief stage where we are giving out relief material to affected families.” We provide them with the ‘humanitarian aid kit’ that consist of non-food items like water-filter as water here is totally contaminated and we need to avoid any water borne diseases, he added. As a housing organization, we normally don’t give food items, however, here we are adding food items as well as the situation demands. Once the cleaning is done, people will start living in transitional shelter which we provide for the next three months while their houses are being repaired and renovated. For the people who have lost their houses entirely, we try to reconstruct by discussing the infrastructure with the government, shared Ranjan.
Kerala has seen its biggest disaster in living memory. As it deploys all available resources to battle the crisis and rehabilitate the affected, it also needs to quickly insulate the state from such calamities in future.

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Development Happenings

By The Bridge India India Correspondent

Prayas (JAC) Society gets empaneled after Due Diligence

The process of due diligence was completed with Prayas (JAC) Society and was empaneled by The Bridge India, a social consulting firm. Responsible to bridge the gap between NGO’s and the corporate, The Bridge India is committed to strengthen the NGO’s by empanelling those that are:

  • Lesser known but are credible
  • That have the capacity to deliver
  • Have an organised and well formulated approach
  • Transparent
  • Follow best practices

Kanya Vidya to provide financial aid to educate girl child

In continuation of its ongoing philanthropic efforts, the Kanya Vidya initiative was launched by Indus Scrolls during the award ceremony of the National Photography Contest held in the capital, on August 11. Aimed at providing financial support to girl children belonging to underprivileged families, Indus Scrolls in collaboration with a grassroot organisation has been providing education to street children, skill development to women at a facility in Janakpuri.
At the launch of Kanya Vidya initiative, a girl child, Mamta, aged 10, who is a resident of Krishna Colony,

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was given financial assistance to purchase textbooks and educational materials. Mamta hails from a poor family whose father, a manual labourer passed away a few years ago and her mother has been bringing her up by working as a domestic help.
G Sreedathan, Editor-in-chief, Indus Scrolls reiterated his commitment to the nationalist cause and said he will continue his efforts in bringing forth an alternate perspective. “We are proud as Indians as we have to our credit Geeta Phogat, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom and the list is endless. When given the best of the opportunities, girls in our country have always made us proud. Indus Scrolls seeks to provide the best of the opportunities under this Kanya Vidya initiative,” said Sreedathan,

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