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Grassroots 11-2-2013

Grassroots 11-2-2013

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Published by Vibhuti Patel
Journal of Press Institute of India, Chennai
Shift to e-journal
Dear Reader,
With increasing printing costs, the
Press Institute of India, a non-profit
trust, has been compelled to stop
publication of the printed edition
of Grassroots. Grassroots is now
published only as an e-journal. The
annual subscription to the e-journal
(which can be assessed by clicking
the Grassroots section on the home
page) will be Rs 300 and payment
(in the form of DD favouring Press
Institute of India) can be sent to
the Director, PII-RIND, RIND
Premises, Second Main Road,
Taramani CPT Campus, Chennai
600 113. Existing subscribers will
receive either a PDF version or a
password to log into the e-version.
We look forward to your support
always.
Director
Journal of Press Institute of India, Chennai
Shift to e-journal
Dear Reader,
With increasing printing costs, the
Press Institute of India, a non-profit
trust, has been compelled to stop
publication of the printed edition
of Grassroots. Grassroots is now
published only as an e-journal. The
annual subscription to the e-journal
(which can be assessed by clicking
the Grassroots section on the home
page) will be Rs 300 and payment
(in the form of DD favouring Press
Institute of India) can be sent to
the Director, PII-RIND, RIND
Premises, Second Main Road,
Taramani CPT Campus, Chennai
600 113. Existing subscribers will
receive either a PDF version or a
password to log into the e-version.
We look forward to your support
always.
Director

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 grassroots
February 15, 2013
 
I N S I D E
A journal of the Press Institute of India promoting reportage on the human condition
He lends you a helpinghand to help yourself 2
pamela philipOse,
Banswara (Rajasthan)
How a mid-day meal canlight up young lives 3Where are the poor,missing children? 4Across a borderland:
Chronicles of trafficking
5Foreigners in your ownland? 6Providing one meal aday… delivering a lifeline 7
(Continued on page 4)
Child rights defenders in
a conflict zone
8
Bagfuls of nutrition froma women-run unit
There is very little that distinguishes the hamlet of Madri from the innumerable others that dotsouthern Rajasthan. This is a region where the Aravallis make their presence felt in gnarledhillocks, where water is scarce and where the land yields its harvests grudgingly. Peoplehere, including toddlers, know well the edge of hunger. But making a difference is a factory inBanswara, run by the Shitala Mata Women’s Self Help Group. It ensures that the nutritiousfood it produces reaches 7000 children and 3000 pregnant women and lactating mothersevery month through a network of 172 government-run
anganwadis
W
hen Ranjani Ashok, 54,who runs the
anganwadi
 (nursery) in this village –  perched on the border that separatesDungarpur and Banswara Districts – serves her charges their small helpingof 
khichdi
(gruel of rice and lentil), itdisappears in a trice. The children inRanjani’s
anaganwadi
are not pickyeaters. Unlike well-fed children from prosperous city neighbourhoods, thesechildren eat pretty much whatever isserved to them, unless they happen tohave a fever.“In most homes children are givena roti or two, with barely any dal or vegetable to go with it,” observesthe spry
anganwadi
worker. Of late,Ranjani has also started giving the
anganwadi
children a nutritious food supplement as take-home rations.“It’s actually a mix of soya bean
our,
channa
dal our, wheat and a
little sugar, and the kids seem to likeit,” she smiles.This nutritious supplement hasits own story to tell. It comes toRanjani’s
anganwadi
from a factoryin Banswara, run by a local womenself help group (SHG). In fact, itreaches 7000 children and around 3000 pregnant and lactating mothersevery month through a network of 172 government-run
anganwadis
.The Banswara unit, which was setup in September 2011, now producesone metric ton of this supplementevery day. The model is a useful onesince it combines two potentiallytransformational interventions – aregular nutritional supplement for children age between six and 36months and pregnant and lactatingmothers, as well as the generationof sustainable employment for rural women coming from poor households.The supplement, which goesunder the label of RajNutriMix, has been developed by the World Food Programme (WFP) in partnershipwith the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and inconsultation with the Governmentof Rajasthan. It complies with theSupreme Court’s guidelines onthe promotion of decentralised  production of supplementary food for supply under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) as wellas the Apex Court’s stipulations onthe daily intake for vulnerable womenand children. Under the project, atake-home ration of 990 grams of RajNutriMix per week for pregnantwomen and lactating mothers as wellas severely and acutely malnourished children and 822 grams per week for all other children below the age of three years, is provided.The raw materials for thesupplement are procured locally and the production process is completely
mechanised. They are rst cleaned
in a specially designed unit and then roasted. Grinding comes next,
followed by the nal mixing, with
essential micro-nutrients added atthis stage. For the convenience of the
 beneciaries, the ration for the entire
month is given in one go, as onesealed bag. Each of these bags hasfour sealed weekly ration packets.“We discovered that producing this
supplement is a perfect t because
it addresses two urgent needs: anuninterrupted supply of nutritive food and a regular source of income for  poor rural households. The womenworking in the unit can, through this process, earn at least what they would on a MGNREGA site, and that too for 300 days in a year,” says Nikhil Rajof WFP, who coordinates the project.One of the aims of the interventionis, in fact, to consolidate the local SHGnetwork and get women members togo beyond the usual micro-lendingor the making of 
agarbattis
(incensesticks), pickles and 
 papads
. Thisseems to have been achieved in theBanswara unit. Today, the 12 ‘factorymanagers/workers’, all members of the local Shitala Mata Women’s Self Help Group, supervise and run theoperations of the unit.These are ordinary rural Rajasthaniwomen with just a few years of schooling. Most are aged anywhere between 30 and 40 years, althoughthere is an 18-year-old and a 60-year-old on the team. They haveundergone three rounds of training,and were involved in the processfrom its inception. In fact, they evenobserved the machinery of the plant being installed. They are capableof procuring the best raw materialslocally, keeping accounts, managingmachines, maintaining registers and attendance rolls, as well as makingwage calculations and doing the banking. Wages, incidentally, aredeposited directly into banks toavoid any possibility of funds beingsiphoned away.
 Ranjani Ashok, 54, runs the
anganwadi
in Madri Villagein southern Rajasthan. Of late, she has started giving the
anganwadi
children a nutritious food supplement, a mix of soya
bean flour,
channa
dal flour,
wheat and a little sugar, as takehome rations.
   P   h  o   t  o  s  :   W   F   S   P   h  o   t  o  :   G   A   I   N
 Members of the Shitala Mata Womens Self Help Group weighing
and lling bags of RajNutrimix, a fortied blended food in their 
 factory in Banswara. This is what Ranjani Ashok has been givingher children lately.
Change at the grassroots –tribal women showthe way 9
 
February 15, 2013
2
FOCUS
 grassroots
 
Ajournal of the Press Institute of India promoting the human condition
susan philip,
Chennai
He lends you a helping handto help yourself
Today, Udavum Karangal is a multi-tasker in community service. It is a home for the unwantedand the orphaned. It is a shelter for the mentally challenged. It is a source of solace for thedestitute and the dying. It is a haven for society’s rejects, the HIV-infected and the spastics.It is also a stepping stone to mainstream life for those who want to use it as such. And theperson behind it: ‘Paapa’ Vidyaakar
“M
y name is PavaiVidyaakar.” “My nameis Champa Vidyaakar.”“My name is Rakhi Vidyaakar.” Thelist goes on, as a long ‘crocodile’ of happily chattering children pour inthrough the gate. They’re back fromschool, and like any child, the sight of their Pappa puts a spring in their stepsand a sparkle in their eyes. But theseare no ordinary children. Nor is it anordinary home. This is Shantivanam,a unit of Udavum Karangal (HelpingHands), a social service NGO. Everysingle child who calls this homecarries the surname Vidyaakar, and thus has an identity – something soimportant to every human being.Vidyaakar is a bachelor technicallyspeaking, but is Pappa to them all, and also to a motley group of adults, young,middle-aged and old, many of whomdon’t know much about themselvesor their biological families, but whounerringly recognise him as a sourceof security and love and through him,
nd kinship in people with whom
they share no blood ties. Vidyaakar’slife has been well documented over 
the years. Sufce it to say here thatthe low-prole, reticent man he was
then could not have dreamed of theshape of things to come way back in1983 when he held out his arms for a scrap of humanity found abandoned in a cinema theatre. That ten-month-
old boy was the rst of many babies
whom Vidyaakar has rescued and nurtured as his own.“I am inspired by Mother Teresa,”says Vidyaakar. “She showed howsocial work can be done from theheart, done with passion. It canalso be done professionally, usingtechniques that have developed and evolved over the years. I have tried to combine both in my organisation.”Vidyaakar completed his master’s inSocial Work from the Madras Schoolof Social Work and went on to acquire
other qualications, such as a diploma
in Psychiatric Counseling fromCMC Vellore, and work experience,including a stint at the Institute of Mental Health, Chennai.Starting with a thatched hut in aninsalubrious slum as base, UdavumKarangal has grown into a multi-unitorganisation with branches in other  places in Tamil Nadu, and chapters inthe UK and USA. In Chennai itself,there are many centres and branchorganisations such as a school and several training centres. Shantivanam,an oasis of peace in the harried bustlethat is Chennai, is appropriatelynamed. Within its walls, many womenand children who have experienced unconscionable horrors which haveleft them battered and broken, havefound the courage to face life withhope again.Vidyaakar has a team of dedicated,
qualied people to care for his
family. There are psychiatrists and  psychologists, social workers and  paramedical staff. They work withhouse mothers and other concerned  people and treat, counsel and guidethe troubled, traumatized and mentally challenged into better lives.Many of the women at Shantivanamare psychiatric patients. Some haverecovered fully, some partially. Many
others are disabled, some signicantly,
others less severely. There are spasticand multi-handicapped women and children who need to be looked after as carefully as newborns.Those who can, care for others lessfortunate. “Ours is an interdependentsociety,” stresses Vidyaakar. “In anormal home, the parents care for the children and encourage them totake on responsibilities and becomeindependent. Ours is a different setup. We are dependent on society, and must take care of each other.”Udavum Karangal is funded entirely by public contribution. It doesn’t doany aggressive fund-raising, nor doesit go after publicity and governmentgrants. But contributions in cash and kind come in regularly, and are put togood use. The buildings housing thedifferent groups in Shantivanam areall spacious and airy, and scrupulouslyclean without being aseptic in aninstitutional way. There is a feeling of home everywhere, and camaraderieamong the residents, young and 
old, t and unt. Everyone wants
a word with ‘Pappa’ and ‘Pappa’gives everyone a patient hearing,addressing each by name, joking withsome, asking a concerned question of another, drawing yet another out totalk about her feelings.Adding to the atmosphere isShantivanam’s gardens and well-laid out play areas for children, completewith swings and slides. They growsome of their own vegetables too.And then there are the animals. Theyare therapeutic as well as functional.
There are ornamental sh, dogs,
cows, goats, hens, rabbits and evena donkey named Karuppiah. Ganesh,who was rescued when he was sevenmonths old with burn injuries after hismother committed suicide, has a waywith animals though he couldn’t copewith his lessons very well. He and some of the less mentally-challenged 
women nd fullment in taking
care of the animals, all of which theyaddress by name.So far, 48 girls have been givenin marriage to people outside theUdavum Karangal family. One of them, picked up when she was justabout a year old, along with her mother, a psychiatric patient, is atrained ophthalmic nurse while her husband holds an MBA degree. Sheis back at Shantivanam now for her 
connement, and Vidyaakar is a
‘Grandpappa’.A sense of happiness and peace pervades the campus. It is a far cryfrom the hut in the slums where thestory began. Nor has the story ended.But it is slowly changing direction,in keeping with changing needsand perceptions. “We do not take inabandoned babies anymore,” saysVidyaakar. Instead, they are referred 
to certied adoption agencies. This
is because there is a genuine demand for adoption. Only babies born to psychiatric patients on campus arekept and looked after, as Vidyaakar  believes there is a possibility of themother recovering, or of the child ultimately assuming responsibilityfor the mother.Also, Udavum Karangal isincreasingly trying to encouragefamilies to be responsible for thecare of their mentally challenged members. “We go to villages, identify people with problems, and helpthe families, the society, to care for them,” says Vidyaakar. “It is easy to pass the burden to us, but that can’t be a permanent solution. Many of these problems are created by society,and it is up to society to provide theanswer too.” Screening programmesare regularly held and children withlearning disabilities and problemssuch as muscular dystrophy are
identied. Their families are advised
how to care for them. A communityhealth centre has been opened,where anyone can receive treatment.The focus is also on equipping theunderprivileged to cope with life.Training centres offer courses innursing, tailoring and computers,helping young men and women to
arm themselves with qualications
that will get them a reasonably good start in life.Homes on the lines of SOS villageshave been set up to house visuallychallenged students from all parts of Tamil Nadu. They are provided free board and lodge for the duration of their education. Also, partnering witha senior paediatric cardiac surgeon,Udavum Karnagal offers free transitaccommodation for poor childrenfrom remote areas needing heartsurgeries in Chennai. A tie-up with acity hospital to provide boarding and lodging for children with cleft palateswho need extended surgical care and therapy is being worked out.The School on Wheels marks a
signicant milestone on the path of 
motivating society to take care of itsown. It was started as an outreach programme for the children of migrantlabourers from states like AndhraPradesh and Orissa. Two teachers,
Vidyaakar, who established Udavum Karangal, says he is inspired by Mother Teresa. His heart drtives him in his work, as does passion and even new techniques. At Shantivanam, animals providetherapeutic and functional relief.Vidyaakar with teachers Shaliniand Neelam and a staff member,against the backdrop of a paintingon a bus used in the School onWheels outreach programme.
Shalini and Neelam, both recovered  psychiatric patients, are the teachers,and immensely proud of their work.They go to three sites, and teach 30children in each for three hours everyday, six days a week. The programme begins by giving the children, aged  below 7, a good oil bath. Once they’reclean, they’re taught the three Rs for an hour. They’re also given a glassof milk, and then the teachers talk tothe parents about their concerns. Theoriginal idea was that the childrenwould have their classes in the bus.But the construction company wasso enthused about the scheme thatthey now provide space on their sitefor the classes, pay the teachers asalary, and also provide snacks for thechildren. “It has become their project,not ours,” says Vidyaakar.“Hundreds of children have studied and come up in these 30 years”, hesays. “A couple of them are nowin charge of our centres. Many areworking in good organisations, and support us. Some are in moderate jobs, others work as shop assistants or maids. I don’t measure their successin terms of their occupation, but interms of being self-reliant, and beingable to support others.”
    <
   P   h  o   t  o  s  :   S  u  s  a  n   P   h   i   l   i  p
 
February 15, 2013
3
 grassroots
 
Ajournal of the Press Institute of India promoting the human condition
neena bhandari,
Jodhpur 
How a mid-day meal canlight up young lives
It’s a meal that matters. In Jodhpur, thanks to the Mid Day Meal Scheme, children in Classes1 to 5 get 12 grams of protein and 450 calories and those in Classes 6 to 8 get 20 grams ofprotein and 700 calories every day. It’s a scheme that runs even during summer holidaysand in times of drought. The meal is not only an incentive for children to come to school, it isalso the only wholesome meal they get on any given day. More than 3.5 lakh students havebenefited from the scheme. They have learnt to eat with a spoon and respect food. And as thechildren sit and eat together, there are no caste barriers
A
s the clock chimes 11am, Neetu Yadav, 10, and her classmates’ eyes turnexpectantly from the blackboard tothe school gates. As the roar of theautorickshaw carrying their mid-daymeal grows louder, the 35 students atthe government-run Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Ghanchiyon ki Gufa,Saraswati Nagar, erupt into a loud cheer. Jodhpur, located in the vastThar Desert of western Rajasthan, isthe state’s second largest city, witha population of around 3.68 million(2011 Census). The city prides itself on its educational institutions and the average literacy here is 81.56 per cent – with female literacy registering
73.93 per cent. Impressive gures,
given that average literacy rate in thestate is 67 per cent.That’s the reason an initiative likethe Mid Day Meal Scheme assumesso much importance here. No one can put it better than little Neetu. “Themeal is certainly an incentive for meto come to school,” she says with a beaming smile. A Class V student, she particularly loves the
khichadi
(daland rice cooked together with spices)on today’s menu. Her parents, whowere once farmers in Bihar, migrated to the city in search of work. Her father is employed in a steel factoryand her mother does odd stitching jobs to supplement the meagre familyincome.So what do children like Neetueat before coming to school? DoesIndia really need the Mid Day MealScheme? Neetu can only have tea and a couple of Glucose biscuits beforesetting out for school. For her, and for innumerable others like her, the mid-day meal is the only wholesome mealthey get on any given day. At RajkyaPrathmik Vidyalaya, Saraswati Nagar, 54 students are enrolled, butan average of 35 students attend each day. Principal Beena Tiwaridetermines the amount of food required for the mid-day meal on the basis of the previous day’s attendanceand she tastes the meal before servingit to the children.In the adjoining Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya, Madhuban Housing Board,children sit in rows on the cemented  platform at the school’s entrance,as teacher Mooli Tolani is helped  by some older students in carryingthe food containers and serving themeal to the 84 students present. At11 am, this is a sight replicated acrossthe 467 schools in Jodhpur located within a 26-kilometre radius, whichare provided food directly from acentralised kitchen. Other schoolshave their own kitchen, utensils and cook, depending on the number of 
enrolments. According to ofcial
records, a total of 353661 studentsin the 4052 government schools
in Jodhpur District have beneted
from the Mid Day Meal Scheme inDecember 2011.Talking to other children, most of who live in small rented rooms in thecity’s narrow by-lanes, a similar storyunfolds. If it weren’t for the mid-daymeal, Class V student at the RajkyaPrathmik Vidyalaya, MadhubanHousing Board, Kanchan Yadav,
12, who has ve siblings, would go
hungry most times. But Kanchan, and her friend, Pushpa Kumari, 11, would like milk to be included in someform in their meal, either as
kheer 
 (rice pudding) or as a wheat and milk  porridge or as
chhach
(a yogurt drink with salt and 
 jeera
).Milk, fruits and dal (lentil) aremarkedly absent in the normal dietof these children. Under the Mid DayMeal Scheme, there is provision for only one fruit per child per week.With dal presently costing Rs 80 akilo and milk anywhere between Rs20 and Rs 25 a litre, most families canafford to cook one seasonal vegetable
and buy milk sufcient only for tea.
Some children are a little fortunate.“We have milk with a spoonful of ghee and bread for breakfast. Myfather pays a monthly sum to the
kirana
(grocery) store so we can pick up a packet of Maggi noodles onthe way home from school to havewith afternoon tea,” says PanchuSingh Rawat, 14. He is the eldest of four children, all studying at RajkyaPrathmik Vidyalaya, MadhubanHousing Board.The food provided under the National Programme of NutritionalSupport to Primary Education – commonly known as the Mid DayMeal Scheme – is customised to localtaste. When the scheme was launched on August 15, 1995, students weregiven
ghughari
(boiled wheat porridgewith jaggery). Since 2002, cooked meals are being provided comprisinga set menu of local favourities – dal-
bati
, dal-roti, roti-
sabzi
, sweetor savoury rice and 
khichadi
, on aweekly rotational basis.Approximately Rs 6 per child  per day is spent by the governmenton each meal, with the CentralGovernment contributing 75 per cent,and the state picking up the rest of the tab. Costs are kept down by usingsubsidised food grains from the publicdistribution system (PDS). Under thePDS, wheat that is sold at Rs 21 per kilo in the open market is priced atRs 4.15 and rice otherwise sold at Rs25 is subsidised to Rs 5.65 per kilo.The cooking conversion cost, whichincludes fuel, oil and spices, of 100grams of wheat/rice given to everyClass 1 to 5 student per meal is Rs2.89, while the cooking conversioncost of 150 grams of wheat/rice givento each Class 6 to 8 student per mealis Rs 4.33.The Mid Day Meal Scheme has
 brought several benets in its wake.
Anita Rohatgi, principal, RajkyaPrathmik Vidyalaya, MadhubanHousing Board, makes an interestingobservation, “Our students have learntto eat with a spoon and respect food.”Watching the children carefully washtheir hands and steel plates usingmugs from water stored in buckets- in the absence of tap water in the
school - qualies her statement. She
recalls a time, before this scheme wasintroduced, when children were lessactive and often fell ill.“The scheme is helping tosupplement nutrients in the daily dietof our children. One balanced meal
every day has reduced deciencies
of vital nutrients like vitamins and calcium, making them less susceptibleto diseases,” says Rohatgi. The StateMedical and Health Departmentconducts a regular medical check-up
of students, and those with deciencies
are given medical assistance as wellas micro-nutrients like Vitamin A,iron, folic acid, and multi-vitamins.There is room for improvement,though. The machine made rotis fromthe centralised kitchen are rather stiff and the children have to eat itas biscuit or break it into pieces and soak it in dal or vegetable curry
(“rotichur ke”
). Rohatgi suggests thatrather than using machines, if womenare employed to make the rotis, itwould not only improve the texture of the rotis, but also become a source of income for the women.Despite the occasional complaint,
the efcacy of the Mid Day Meal
Scheme, as a source of supplementarynutrition and a stimulus to schooleducation, cannot be denied.According to Jodhpur DistrictCollector Siddharth Mahajan, “Thishas been one of the better schemesfor its usefulness and effectiveimplementation. It has also helped  break caste barriers since all thechildren sit and eat together.” But hisclinching argument is that the mid-day meal has emerged as a major source of nutrition for many whowere getting very little to eat.Mahajan says, “If there was nomid-day meal, children in Classes 1to 5 would not be getting 12 gramsof protein and 450 calories and thosein Classes 6 to 8 would have beendeprived of 20 grams of protein and 700 calories. That’s the reason wehave been running the Mid Day MealScheme here, even during the summer holidays and in times of drought.”
<
(Courtesy: Women's Feature Service)
 Anita Rohatgi (fth from left), principal, Rajkya Prathmik Vidyalaya,
 Madhuban Housing Board, Jodhpur, with students. Rohatgi feels that the one balanced meal every day, thanks to the Mid Day Meal Scheme,
has reduced deciencies of vital nutrients such as vitamins and calcium
in children, making them less susceptible to diseases.
   P   h  o   t  o  s  :   N  e  e  n  a   B   h  a  n   d  a  r   i   /   W   F   S
Children sharing the mid-day meal. For innumerable children in thedesert city of Jodhpur, the meal is the only wholesome one they get on any given day.

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