April 1 5 , 2 0 1 3 - E -j o u r n a l Vo l u m e 1 I s s u e 4

Making out a strong case for the Mangal Turbine
Mangal Singh, inventor of quite a versatile turbine, has created the potential of saving millions of litres of diesel a year and of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, apart from helping millions of farmers to irrigate crops at a low cost. This can become reality only if the government takes steps to encourage the installation of Mangal Turbines wherever they are needed. But official apathy seems to be a stumbling block. The bigger challenge is to create a system where ‘farmer scientists’ or ‘barefoot scientists’ like Mangal Singh do not have to suffer


She is an ‘angel’ who brings hope to the helpless



angal Singh, a farmercum-rural scientist in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur District has gained widespread fame for his invention of the Mangal Turbine, which has been appreciated by several senior scientists as well as development officials. Over the years, the value of Singh’s work has kept increasing thanks to the ability of the turbine to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a big way. After getting a patent for his invention, Singh has worked tirelessly for many years in difficult conditions to take his innovation to remote areas, often spending his own meagre finances in such efforts. Despite all that, today he is a heartbroken man whose progress, even survival, has been threatened by acts of injustice. If immediate steps are not taken by the government to

correct such injustice, Mangal Singh, talented as he is, will not be able to realise his true potential. While spending his youth in his native Bundelkhand, Singh noticed how farmers had difficulties in purchasing pumping sets and diesel or in accessing electricity to run them when they had to draw water from rivers and streams to irrigate their fields or for other purposes. Thus was born the idea of a fuel-less water-lifting device, which in times of climate change has great value for

reducing fossil fuel consumption. So, what exactly is the Mangal Turbine or to put it more precisely, the fuel-less Mangal water wheel turbine pumpcum-PTO Machine? The technology is best described by Singh in the following words: “The water wheel turbine machine consists of a water wheel which is firmly mounted on a steel shaft and supported on two bearing blocks fixed on foundation supports. The shaft is coupled with a suitable gearbox through universal couplings for stepping up speed of rotation. Output shaft of the gear box is coupled on one end with a centrifugal pump for lifting water and the other end is mounted with a suitable pulley for deriving power for operating any machine. Design of the water wheel turbine is simple. It is available in different sizes to meet the varying requirements. Operation of water wheel turbine pump-cum-PTO is very easy as anyone can operate the machine by opening the wooden or steel gate valve; the machine is stopped by stopping the flow of water through the gate.” Thus, apart from drawing water, the Mangal Turbine can also be used for several additional tasks. Says Singh, “This is used for pumping water from the rivulets and water streams on which it is installed. The machine can be used for several rural works such as operating atta chakki (crushing wheat), sugarcane, crushing, threshing and winnowing, oil expelling, chaff-cutting, etc. The machine provides a clean alternative (non-conventional) source of energy in remote rural areas for increasing agricultural productivity, income and employment.” By linking the turbine to a generator, electricity can be generated. Several technical experts who have examined the turbine closely have confirmed its value and utility.

The Mangal Turbine in operation and (below, left) another being readied for use. The fuel-less water-lifting device can be operated easily and can be used for several additional tasks as well.
Writing about the device, B.K. Saha, former chief secretary, Government of Madhya Pradesh, says: “I made a detailed analysis of the economic viability of the 'wheel' and its comparative advantage vis-avis alternative methods of pumping water from streams and small rivers for irrigation. The system is extremely cost-effective even after taking into consideration the cost of the stop dam. Where the stop dam is already available, the system is even more cost-effective. Installation of this device is strongly recommended wherever there is flowing water in small streams by constructing a stop dam and installing one or two water wheels as designed and developed by Shri Mangal Singh. It saves on energy like electricity or diesel and is ecologically completely benign.” B.P. Maithani, former director at the National Institute of Rural Development, says the Mangal Turbine is unparalleled in its simplicity and utility value. He adds that its cost benefit cannot be restricted to the extent of the area irrigated and increase in production and income on account of that. “Its benefits are multiple and multi-dimensional. Bundelkhand is a drought-prone area and its main problem is lack of irrigation. Unfortunately, our policy makers and planners prefer big and extravagant projects which allow pilferage and splurge. Mangal Turbine offers low-cost, environment-friendly and sustainable solutions to the irrigation problem of Bundelkhand.” Sadly, despite all the encomiums, Mangal Singh, who has a knack for speaking frankly and fearlessly, particularly when he comes across irregularities or injustice, did not receive due encouragement from the government. Instead, he was harassed to such an extent that his ancestral land had to be auctioned. Today, he is a shattered man who has a bagful of documents to prove how badly he was treated by various officials and government agencies. 

Photos: Bharat Dogra

Of bleak, desolate lives in the aftermath of eviction 3

Ripples from a village: Rural women take on violence 4

Promoting safe motherhood, through ‘delivery huts’ The harsh realities of rescuing runaway children



Empowered children have touching stories to tell 7 With hungry mouths to feed, they’re in for a long haul



Ap r i l 1 5 , 2 0 1 3

She is an ‘angel’ who brings hope to the helpless
Pankajani Behra is a special person – she is often the only source of hope in times of illness or any other medical emergency for the people of Bhanjachura Village in flood-prone Balasore. An accredited social health activist, she is ever ready to swing into action. She takes her work seriously and refuses to turn down a call. Typical of a selfless worker, she does not look for credit or monetary compensation. And naturally, bringing light into people’s lives gives her enormous satisfaction and happiness and keeps her going
AZERA PARVEEN RAHMAN, Bhanjachura (Odisha)


ean, tall and with a quiet demeanour, 40-year-old Pankajani Behra looks like any other ordinary woman in the village of Bhanjachura, in Odisha’s floodravaged, coastal district of Balasore. But she’s actually quite special. For very often, this lady in blue – she is usually dressed immaculately in a sky blue sari – is the only source of hope in times of illness or any other medical emergency for the people of Bhanjachura. “She is like an angel for me. And why just me, for most of us here. I am here, alive and talking to you, only because of her. My baby is healthy today all thanks to her,” says Tikki Donphat, a young mother. Behra is an accredited social health activist (ASHA) of the government’s flagship programme, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Her official duties include spreading awareness about good health practices, immunisation campaigns and assisting the anganwadi (nursery) worker or auxillary nurse midwives in ensuring that a pregnant woman in the village, and later her child, is

well taken care of, before and after delivery. Behra’s work, however, is hardly restricted to any rule book. Says she, “For the village people, I am the most visible and first point of contact for any health-related issue. So, no matter what the ailment, be it a headache, fever or stomach flu, besides pregnancy-related issues, I get calls for help at all times.” And Behra’s ever ready to swing into action. Like in the case of the eight-months-pregnant Donphat, who went into labour suddenly and started bleeding. It was in the middle of the night and Behra was called immediately. As she rushed to help her, she called for the Janani Vahini, a government ambulance, which eventually transported Donphat to the district hospital, 10 kilometres away. Behra stayed with her for two days and later returned with the baby in tow, amid relieved smiles of the family. She recalls another time when her timely intervention saved a village elder. “A few days back, I got a call from a village elder who

No matter what the ailment, be it a headache, fever or stomach flu, besides pregnancy related issues, Pankajani Behra is always ready for action, eager to help any one in need. Here, she is seated next to a young mother, offering support.

said that he has been having constant headaches and wanted me to take him to the hospital. When I took him there, it turned out that he has a tumour. Thankfully the treatment has begun now,” she says. Behra takes her work seriously. Armed with basic first aid knowledge and a kit that includes oral rehydration therapy sachets, iron and folic acid tablets, chloroquine, disposable delivery kits and condoms, she walks the narrow lanes of Bhanjachura daily, visiting households and interacting with the women and others. “Sometimes there is a lot of work. But when you realise that you are better equipped to tackle a health condition than any other villager, you cannot turn down a call. After all, I took up the work of an ASHA six years back for this very reason,” she says. Although each delivery that Behra assists in is not easy, seeing that she has to make proper arrangements from her remote village, her real test came when Odisha was ravaged by floods last year. Nearly 2600 villages were submerged and lakhs of people affected. And Balasore, a coastal district in which the Bhanjachura lies, was one of the worst-affected. She recalls, “It was in October, right after the floods. I had gone out for a few days on work and when I returned, I got a phone call as soon as I stepped off the bus. It was a frantic call from someone in the village — 13 children had fallen ill and the parents didn’t know what to do.” When she reached the village, Behra understood that she was looking at the beginnings of what would soon become an epidemic. “I mobilised some people to help me provide ORS (oral rehydration salts) to the ill children and then started making arrangements for a vehicle to take them to the Remuna Community Health Centre. However, when I called the medical officer at the centre, he told me that it was full. So I decided to take them to the district hospital.” But that was not all. With water borne ailments spreading rapidly, others in the village started falling ill, too. “It was a terrible situation. There was no one else I could turn to for

help and people were looking at me for guidance. I remember ferrying nearly 50 elders and more children to the hospital, all the time making phone calls and giving them ORS for rehydration. I don’t think I slept at all for three days, and just stayed with the patients,” she says. For her commendable efforts in saving the lives of her village folk, Behra was given state recognition in the form of an award. But she says she would do it anyway. In fact, she doesn’t really go looking for credit or monetary compensation for all the hard work she puts in. “During those days I spent more than Rs 1000 in vehicle charges and phone calls. For a person like me, that is a large amount. But I have not been reimbursed yet,” says she. Incidentally, ASHAs get a performance-linked incentive. For each delivery she assists in, Behra gets Rs 350. Over the last six years, she has assisted in 150 deliveries. So it’s not the money but the commitment that keeps them going. “You need commitment to do a job like this. I am married with children of my own, so I have a full-fledged house and family to look after. But even then, this entire village is like my family and I am at their disposal when they need me,” she says. While the NRHM guidelines state that a village of 1000 population should have one ASHA, until last year Behra had the responsibility of catering to the entire population of two villages. It was only after the induction of another ASHA in the nearby village that her work has eased a little. For the overall scenario of healthcare to improve even further, Behra believes that health infrastructure needs to be developed considerably, especially considering that the state has a maternal mortality of 258 (for every 100000 live births), well above the national average of 212. “We need more ambulances. The Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) scheme promises free transportation to ferry a pregnant woman to the hospital, but there are times when we call the Janani vehicle and have to wait for a long time,

Lean, tall and with a quiet demeanour, Pankajani Behra, 40, an accredited social health activist for Bhanjachura Village, in Odisha's Balasore District, is the only source of hope in times of illness or any other medical emergency for the people here.
because it is busy elsewhere in the block. Once, one woman gave birth at home during such a wait… thankfully everything was normal, but otherwise it would have been very dangerous situation,” Behra recalls. But despite the challenges, the hard work and the odd hours she sometimes has to keep, Behra is happy. She pauses and then comments, “I like my job. Not only does it give me the financial independence and the ability to run my household, it also gives me immense satisfaction. There’s nothing like being able to bring hope to a helpless person’s life.” 
(Courtesy: Women's Feature Service)

Photos: Azera Rehman/WFS

Ap r i l 15, 2013

such as those that had dwelt in Ejipura. It’s one of life’s ironies that people who build houses and malls for others are not even guaranteed the basic necessities. In this case (as in many others), the land was acquired unlawfully and forcibly by a private body in collusion with BBMP even while the relevant matter of land allotment was being resolved in the High Court of Karnataka. Illegal land grab (about 20000 acres between Bangalore and Mysore) is a reality even along the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) where thousands of small and marginal farmers and labourers have lost their livelihood with hardly any compensation or prior notice. Residents of Pilagonahalli, a village south of Bangalore with a population of around 10000, impacted by the BMIC, reveal, “We settled here about a decade ago when we heard that vacant government land was available. Over time, some of us constructed a room or two according to our affordability. Some of us even have land titles. The main attraction

Of bleak, desolate lives in the aftermath of eviction
Golibar, Mumbai. Nonadonga, Kolkata. Yamuna Pushta, Delhi. They have made breaking news – the administration breaking down homes and wrecking the lives of the marginalised, providing them minimal or no notice, or compensation. Some of India’s capital cities have become capitals of injustice and inequitable distribution of common resources such as land and water. In January this year, Ejipura, a neighbourhood populated by marginalised persons in Bengaluru, joined the list of places where citizens were uprooted from locations they were earlier provided housing in


hen the demolition began, we managed to salvage only some of our meagre belongings and were unaware where the rest of our things were. We hardly had any time to move ourselves, our children and elders out of the way of the bulldozers,” says 27-year-old Shanti Mary (name changed). She belongs to one of the 1512 families who were given accommodation meant for the economically weaker sections (EWS) in Ejipura by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the Bangalore municipality. The location was convenient for many of Ejipura’s residents as they worked in the informal sector in Koramangala, a vast upmarket commercial and residential hub situated close by. Says Nuzzat, a sprightly girl aged 10, who also lived in an Ejipura house along with her parents and was performing well in her Englishmedium school backed by the encouragement of her parents, “I am missing my classes as some of my books and clothes have been misplaced. Further, I want to be with my mother to support her.” The family has been surviving off the income

earned from the small grocery store that Nuzzat's father runs in the nearby Vivek Nagar and it did not have the option of relocating to another part of the city. To add to the woes, some of the money they had saved was stolen just after the demolition even as they shifted the few remains to a large empty water pipe nearby. This led to Nuzzat's mother fainting from dust pollution, lack of rest and sheer despair. Fortunately, a community health practitioner, Dr Sylvia K. from the Jana Arogya Andolana, Karnataka (a part of the People's Health Movement), who was helping with immediate relief for the evicted, succeeded in reviving Nuzzat's mother in a makeshift rest area, inside another water pipe. Neighbours and an aunt of the family stood by in support. “It was heart-rending to see the hardship being experienced by everyone, especially children, people with disabilities, the elderly and the infirm,” says Sowmya Reddy, a gender and animal rights activist based in Bangalore. She was one of the individuals who provided temporary relief such as food and clothing to the persons whose homes (many were

largely tin sheds) were demolished. Students from one of the well-known colleges in the city provided water and first aid to those who suffered sprains, cuts and bruises from glass, metal or wood pieces lying around. Dorji Norbu, a youth from Bhutan studying in Bangalore, was among those who tirelessly supplied water five mornings, “It is my duty as a human being to do what I can. As I live nearby, I am familiar with the area although I could not do anything to stop the destruction.” Incidentally, as it has been happening in various places in the country where land is being acquired with minimal or no rehabilitation efforts, local residents tried to intervene in a peaceful manner. Twenty-two women were beaten and arrested for two days with false charges foisted on them. Among them was Sabina, a woman in her 30s, whose leg was fractured during the police action, and a few lactating mothers. As the demolition took place in January when the weather was cold, the Ejipura residents lit fires for light and warmth. This added to pollution and breathing problems. Meera Rajesh, an information technology

employee who lives nearby and provided succour to the displaced, says: “Sadly, not many know of what happened to these persons despite

New 'home' in a pipe - a picture that speaks louder than words.
extensive media reports on the issue. And some people believe that the residents of the Ejipura quarters deserve their plight.” The local MLA has promised (belated) that the government would create alternate accommodation for the uprooted inhabitants, in a distant location. It is difficult for the evicted to move to some other neighbourhood as it takes them further away from their place of work. There is expenditure and effort involved in shifting and settling down in a new environment, and often there are socio-cultural adjustment issues. The cost of living could be higher in the new locality. Significantly, the affected persons are compelled to fend for themselves until the proposed alternate government housing is ready. Thankfully though, there are concerned individuals and groups united under the Forum Against EWS Land Grab – Karnataka who are trying their best to reach out to the evicted. Ironically, the nearly 15 acres of land acquired in Ejipura will now have shopping malls and movie theatres. Building all this will require inexpensive labour from communities of this place is that we can save on rent.” Pilagonahalli has no public water supply or government medical centre. There is just one government school for students up to Class VII and a solitary anganwadi (nursery). Some parts of the village are at an elevation and the road going down is rocky and poorly lit at night. People, often former police officers hired by the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise, the company that built BMIC, harass the locals and force them to vacate their homes. The government and police have barely tried to alleviate the grievances of the common persons but never hesitate to register baseless complaints against them. Public transport is unreliable and available only at a distance from the main road. Vehicles and extensive construction have contaminated the air and the Gottigere Lake, the main source of water in the area.

Photos: Pushpa Achanta

The demolished Ejipura site is a picture of desolation and hopelessness.


Ap r i l 1 5 , 2 0 1 3

Ripples from a village: Rural women take on violence
Violence against women in urban India has become commonplace but, apart from episodic bouts of outrage, it receives little public attention. Imagine then how much less visible the issue is in rural India. To spot a banner, as one did, bearing the words, ‘Hinsa nahi, samaan chahiye/ Jaan ka adhikar chahiye (Not violence but dignity/we want the right to life)’ in a small village deep in Madhya Pradesh’s hinterland, would appear implausible. But then, women who are ‘legal volunteers’ in these parts have a strong sense of justice. Ultimately, victims of violence must become survivors of violence and then catalysts for change. The ripples from Padar Village now need to turn into waves
PAMELA PHILIPOSE, Padar (Madhya Pradesh)


he village was situated deep in Madhya Pradesh’s hinterland, just off the banks of the Tawa River, with a largely tribal population in which Gonds dominated. It is precisely in such an unlikely setting that the Narmada Mahila Sangh has taken root. At its general body

Nothing reflects how far the NMS has travelled from being an agency involved in borrowing and lending, to one articulating gender concerns, than the fact that it has set up a Suraksha Samiti (Security Committee) – a paralegal group responding to violence issues, composed of around

During the general body meeting of the Narmada Mahila Sangh in the village of Padar, women display posters highlighting the chilling aspect of domestic violence.
meeting – or mahaadhiveshan as it is termed locally – held in the village of Padar, Betul District, in early March, many feminist concerns were raised, including violence against women. The slogan doing the rounds spoke volumes: ‘Har ek aurat ki yehi maang/ suraksha, suvidha, aur sammaan (the demand of every woman/security, support and respect)’. It all began with a sprinkling of self-help groups (SHGs) in 1998 organised by Pradan, a non-profit working with India’s rural poor. In 2002, women in these groups came together as a federation, the Narmada Mahila Sangh (NMS), named after the mighty river flowing in the region. Over the next decade, it expanded in the two districts of Betul and Hoshangabad, spreading over 217 villages. Today, the NMS has five branches, a membership of 9106 women and a working capital of Rs 2.1 crore. 90 representatives, or kanooni sakhis (legal volunteers). Kulsoom Rashid, programme associate with the Delhibased women’s resource centre, Jagori, which is partnering Pradan in a special project to empower women, supported by the UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, believes things are moving forward. “These women started off as members of SHGs. Today, they are community representatives with a strong sense of justice,” Rashid says. At Betul, we met Asha Atulkar of Sikhar Village, a kanooni sakhi. She explained the first step kanooni sakhis take is to undergo training on women’s rights. This included a training camp conducted by Jagori last year. Each kanooni sakhi looks after around 25 villages, or about 700 women. Meetings are regularly held and women are encouraged to speak. “We talk about how we bring up our daughters to bear injustice silently;

we tell women what should be done if they become widows; we urge them to register property in the names of both husband and wife,” says Atulkar. The NMS members are instructed to report incidents of violence. Once a case emerges, the kanooni sakhis approach the affected woman. If she wants their help, they are there for her. According to Nita Vike, herself a kanooni sakhi, it’s always a learning experience. “There was a time I was too ignorant to say anything. Not anymore. Sometimes lawyers from the offending party try to browbeat us. They say, ‘Let the couple reconcile, otherwise the girl’s reputation will be spoilt.’ We tell them the girl has to decide. Earlier, we wouldn’t have known how to respond,” she says. There are many cases of women eventually compromising, going back to violent husbands or withdrawing FIRs. Recalls Atulkar, “Once a woman who was assaulted during the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities filed an FIR with our help. Later, she dropped all charges. This is a common problem. The fact is that these women come under great pressure, face even death threats, and give up in fear.” Seeking justice has made leaders out of many ordinary women. Take Gita Chauhan, of Padar Village, who got a chance to go to Saharanpur in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, and study how women’s courts functioned there. Today, she exudes a sense of confidence, “We are 90 kanooni sakhis but we want to build a team of at least 200. We have some idea of the Domestic Violence Act and how 498A can be used when a newly married woman is assaulted.” Chauhan has learnt to take reversals in her stride. She refers to a case where a CRPF jawan tried to immolate his wife. The woman went back to her mother’s home and wanted to pursue the case against her husband but, unfortunately, didn’t know where he was posted. Chauhan now intends to go to Bhopal, MP’s state capital, and try to identify his whereabouts. Vishal Jamkar, Pradan’s team leader for the region, hopes the Security Committee will give direction to what were earlier chaotic responses to individual cases. “There are many aspects of justice delivery that need

reform, including the way FIRs are framed in these villages. Rapes, for instance, are routinely passed off as ‘eve teasing’,” he says. Jamkar believes the NMS’s kanooni sakhis are already challenging entrenched interests, “Take the centuries-old institution of the gram kotwar – the

case of Imartibai from Betul town, who was shot dead for protesting her daughter’s rape by a local goon. The NMS women realise the dangers and try to involve the larger community in their interventions. The approach seems to work. Recalls Chauhan, “Once when we went to stop liquor sales in a theka (pub), we were told we were destroying many livelihoods by our action. We replied, ‘Yes, but remember that you are destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of families, so it’s better you look for other ways to earn’. Slowly, our views are being heard.” She wishes though, that kanooni sakhis are taken more seriously by the police. A typical case is that of Batlibai Podar, from the far-flung Sohagpur Village lying within the Satpura Tiger Reserve of Hoshangabad District. Her husband accused her of having another relationship and would beat her when he was drunk. That’s when the kanooni sakhis stepped in. Reveals Batlibai, “They talked to people in my village, and with them confronted my husband. There is some difference in him now. He still drinks, but within limits.” Nilanju Dutta, manager of Jagori’s violence intervention unit, who has been involved in providing gender training to NMS women, maintains

Women members of the Narmada Mahila Sangh met recently for its general body meeting held in the village of Padar, Betul District where many feminist concerns were raised, including that of violence against women.
third most important functionary in a panchayat (a village council), who traditionally addresses law and justice issues. They are invariably upper caste and function in a very feudal manner. So when women set up their own justice delivery institutions across caste lines, the nature of justice gets transformed.” Alcoholism and violence are concerns even the collector of Betul District, B. Chandrashekhar, acknowledges as being ubiquitous. Remarks Chandrashekhar, “In many ways, development work is relatively easy. It is sociological change that’s difficult to achieve because it involves changing mindsets; and if mindsets are to change, women have to be involved.” But this is easier said than done. Taking on violence in regions like these is fraught with difficulties. Recently, the media reported the that although there’s no denying the progress, the women here still see violence in terms of maar-peet (hitting-slapping). “Emotional or psychological violence is just not recognised. Also domestic violence is perceived in the context of the marital family – not the natal family,” says Dutta. She also points out that the norms of feminist counselling are sometimes absent in these interventions, “Principles of confidentiality and choice must always be kept in mind. Survivors must understand the root causes and nature of the violence they face and decide the course of action for themselves.” 
(Courtesy: Women's Feature Service)

Photos: WFS

A p r i l 15, 2013


Promoting safe motherhood, through ‘delivery huts’
elivery Huts, an innovative scheme in Haryana, is aimed at improving birth outcomes by providing services for institutional delivery. The scheme promotes safe motherhood by providing skilled birth attendants and adequate infra-support, backed by close coordination with the community health workforce. This article is based on narratives captured in focus group discussions (included medical officers and husbands of women benefiting), the objective of


which was to understand the views of the community and stakeholders. Twenty-five stakeholders participated and the group discussions provided insights into different aspects of the scheme. Investing in maternal health provides long-term benefits not just for the woman, child and her family but for the entire health delivery system. About 30-40 per cent of neonatal and infant deaths result from poor maternal health and inadequate care

Health statistics pertaining to the village displayed at the delivery hut.

during pregnancy, delivery, and the critical immediate postpartum period. A review of the interventions targeted at maternal mortality reduction demonstrates that most developing countries face tremendous challenges in the implementation of interventions, including the availability of unreliable data and the shortage in human and financial resources, as well as limited political commitment. Evidence from parts of India and elsewhere demonstrates that it is possible to substantially reduce maternal mortality by addressing health system factors alone, to ensure that all women have access to safe delivery services. To address the problem of maternal mortality and related issues, including institutional delivery, anaemia in pregnant women, antenatal and, post-natal care, the State Government of Haryana, under the National Rural Health Mission, conceived the Delivery Hut Scheme by providing skilled birth attendants and adequately equipped hospitals. Existing health sub-centres in the villages were modified to a functional ‘delivery hut’. Studies show that women feel secure and safe in the vicinity of their homes and among familiar health workers. Keeping this in view, the huts were set up within the villages for providing 24-hour delivery services. An effort was made to engage the community health workforce such as the auxillary nurse midwife and accredited social health activist (ASHA). According to the status report of the scheme, institutional deliveries in Haryana rose to 53 per cent (till August 2007), from 28 per

The public health centre building, home to the Delivery Hut Scheme, under renovation.
safe child birth. She added she was provided comprehensive ante-natal care, in the form of regular checkups, iron and folic acid supplements, immunisation, and that there was effective interaction with the staff. A medical officer pointed out that the scheme recorded 100 per cent success in terms of numbers, women’s response, staff job satisfaction and overall state of health in the Badshahpur Village. The scheme had

Women in Badshahpur Village discuss their health concerns with the medical officer (not in picture).
significantly reduced maternal and infant mortality rates and, indeed, this was one if its aims – providing safe and hygienic methods of childbirth through institutional delivery. “Although no casualty has occurred in the Badshahpur delivery hut since its launch, yet what we foresee as a potential gap is the referral system, especially when a C-section is required and the doctor is not present. Time factor plays an important role here,” the officer pointed out. The availability of ambulance services 24x7 was a major factor for

A ‘lady health visitor’ (left) giving iron folic acid tablets to an eight-month pregnant woman.
cent the previous year. On an average, 34 deliveries a month took place at the delivery huts studied. During discussions, the beneficiary group firmly asserted that the scheme was a change agent in making motherhood a safe and a secure experience. Uma (name changed), one of those who benefited and who was eight months pregnant, said the services at the delivery hut were satisfying and she was confident about the scheme’s success. Free health check-ups, registration and financial assistance were some of the other factors mentioned by the group. The doctor and ‘lady health visitors’ acknowledged the services of ASHA workers who were constantly motivating the women to opt for institutional delivery. As a result, no child birth at home was recorded and all deliveries occurred at the delivery hut. 

Photos: Sunaina Batra


Ap r i l 1 5 , 2 0 1 3

The harsh realities of rescuing runaway children
There are hundreds of runaways and truants, mostly boys, who land up and live wretched lives on railway platforms across India. How do runaway children find shelter on railway platforms and eke out a hand-to-mouth living unless they automatically veer towards a life of crime? How do they save themselves from random abuse, criminal acts, and other social victimisation? Is it possible to reunite some of them with their families? Can they be helped to open a fresh page in their scarred lives and begin life anew? Can we find rational answers to these pressing questions?
n 2005, Mohammad Sultan, then 11 years, regularly faced violence at home. He ran away to Asansol. He worked in hotels near the station and lived on the railway platform. No one knew who he was, where he came from or what his family was all about. He was just one in a sea of


back; ashamed, because he had run away from a good family and lived a life of humiliation and poverty. The social workers finally discovered that Sultan came from a reasonably affluent and respectable family based in Park Circus, Kolkata. He was counselled to participate in a

Photos: Shoma A. Chatterji

A child ties a rakhi (wristband) on a police inspector. Gestures such as this enable children to understand human values better.
helpless children who had run away from home for one reason or another and landed on railway platforms across India. When a Kolkata-based organisation approached Sultan he refused to open up. It took three long years for social workers to get him to talk about his background. Sultan said he was terrified of his family and afraid to go back home. Terrified, because he had no clue whether his family would take him muktangan (expressing yourself freely in an open space) programme that was part of the several projects run by the NGO. Some volunteers went to meet his family. His father and brother were persuaded to meet him and take him back. Now 19, Sultan is happily involved in the family business. There are few organisations that are exclusively devoted to the cause of runaways. Not all stories end

Runaway children benefit immensely from workshops such as this one, as their attentive faces show.
happily like Sultan’s did. Gopal was eight when he ran away from home in Kathiawar, Gujarat. He lost his mother when small. His father had a younger brother who was trying to usurp the property. His father refused to acknowledge the problem. Gopal failed to cope with the rising anxiety and ran away. He later learnt that his uncle had poisoned his father. Suresh was another runaway – from Nepal. He came to Mumbai because of a step-parent. Ten-year-old Vijay arrived in Mumbai three years ago from an Ahmedabad slum. "My stepmother would beat me black and blue and my father scolded me all the time, egged on by my step-mother. I was never sent to school and was forced to do all the household jobs. I just felt like walking out." He ran away again and again till he came to the Mankhurd Children's Home in Mumbai. Mahindra, too, had stepmother problems which forced him to run away. "It was my father who treated me cruelly at my mother's sayso. After a point, I could not put up with the ill-treatment." A study of rag-picking children conducted by Catherine Meena Barnes of Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai, revealed that 35 per cent of Mumbai's street children were runaways. In psychological parlance, the syndrome is known as truancy. The children run away because of daily squabbles at home resulting from insecurity of jobs, unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, family breakdown, parental neglect, peer influence and the lure of city life. Most of them start working before they are nine. Barnes adds that burdened with the responsibilities of adulthood at a tender age, the child's physical and mental development are affected. Economic constraints, unhygienic living conditions, dirt and squalor leading to tensions within the family make the child feel disgusted with its immediate environment. Father Placie Fonseca, director, Sneha Sadan, a home away from home for runaway children in Mumbai, ascribed truancy among children to more or less similar reasons. He too stresses on family breakdowns, collapse of marriage, girl abuse by fathers and ill-treatment by step-parents as the major reasons for truancy. Neela Shroff, faculty member, Nirmala Niketan, points to unemployment in rural areas as a reason for truancy. Many runaways in Indian metros are from rural homes, who have come in search of solace (Continued on page 7)

Child rights, a neglected area
Organisations working with runaway children must work towards establishing a childand-youth friendly society that acknowledges full citizenship of young persons and teaches them about their rights. The child’s right to protection is one of the most neglected areas of intervention in work with children and young persons. The patriarchal ideology of men as breadwinners often drives children from lower socialeconomic groups away from home to earn their own living at a young age. It understands that violent and reckless practices are often seen as markers of masculinity that are socially constructed rather than being an inalienable aspect of men rooted in nature. The persuasive sway of this association of masculinity with violence urges many boys to experiment with drugs and renders them susceptible to substance abuse. Adverse family circumstances compel children to run away; the intent, therefore, is to identify the problems and discuss these with them. A survey of 100 children conducted by Praajak in 2007 revealed that 35 per cent of children had run away again. To change the dismal situation, the organisation is trying to involve local people to create child protection committees to look into the affairs of the children and their families. 

A p r i l 15, 2013


Empowered children have touching stories to tell

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arginalised children from three districts in Rajasthan – Bharatpur, Alwar and Chittorgarh – recently narrated in Jaipur their tales of suffering and struggle and gave voice to their dreams, all through the media. The objective was to empower children to claim their rights in the remote villages and to provide them an opportunity to share firsthand their experiences with larger world. International advocacy group Save the Children has been working in the three districts in association with nongovernmental organisations – Alwar Mewat Institute of Education and Development, Consumer Unity & Trust Society International, Society for All Round Development and Prayatn – to address the issues of social exclusion with specific focus on children. Over the past four years, the organisations have undertaken initiatives in villages, with the project focused on a ‘stronger voice to excluded children in government and NGO policies and programmes’. Empowered children from the project area covering Bharatpur, Alwar and Chittorgarh shared the approaches and strategies adopted for social exclusion issues, including the aspect of child rights. The

children touched on the subjects of child marriage, child labour, gender-based discrimination, biases related to caste, right to education, malnutrition and government schemes for children. They provided a picture of positive change brought about by the establishment of Baal Mandal and Baal Manch in their villages. Pushkar from Chittorgarh touched everyone when he told the story of his family’s poverty, his father’s addiction to liquor and his mother

working as a labourer on agricultural farms. He spoke about his desire to study and narrated the experiences of attending a global conference in New Delhi two years ago when he rubbed shoulders with VVIPs. There was Satish from Bharatpur, who was able to study in Class 10 thanks to the efforts of Baal Manch. Shaukat from Tijara in Alwar described how he saved the children in his village from the clutches of child labour and connected them with schools.

Photo: Kalyan Singh Kothari

Meera of Bharatpur explained how she had taken the initiative to stop child marriages in her village. Madhu from Chittorgarh succeeded in getting a new high school for her village while Mukesh from Bharatpur extended cooperation in upgrading his school and constructing a boundary wall for its building. Udai Lal from Chittorgarh narrated a moving story of having suffered a heart disease and going through an open heart surgery through the chief minister’s Jeevan Raksha Kosh programme. He added that he wanted to study hard and make a mark in life. Madhu from Chittorgarh, and Komal and Jai Kishore from Bharatpur, also narrated how the project played a major role in monitoring the progress of government schemes through Bal Adhikar Manch and Baal Panchayats. The manch (platform) has been placing demands before government officers and elected representatives. The children occupying posts in these bodies have also taken up causes of their fellow children. 

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A young boy tells the audience how he overcame the odds.

Rescuing runaway children ....
(Continued from page 6) in a heartless city. Some come in quest of the pot of gold at the end of the mythical rainbow. Says Shroff, "Children who have landed on the streets because they have run away, are aware that their decision to leave home for strange, unknown places is highly risky, even frightening. But, they display remarkable courage and determination in the face of danger. Truly, by age alone are they children." Praajak, a Kolkata-based NGO, works exclusively for and with children living on railway platforms. It works in close collaboration with the Railway Protection Force and the Ministry of Railways. It trains and educates RPF personnel on the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and engages them in annual sporting activity and other collaborative initiatives that engage the children. The initial reaction, however, was very negative; they would be suspicious of NGOs, even speak abusively of them. But after repeated visits and sustained effort from workers, the RPF was interested in getting associated. The RPF saw the positive changes that the muktangan programme brought to the children’s lives – dropping crime rates, and making the children more manageable. They realised the benefits of being associated with such initiatives. Working towards reuniting the children with families is not enough one such project for a year, insists that all organisations, governmentrun or NGOs, need to focus on related issues such as juvenile crime, gender violence, sexual abuse, gambling and substance abuse because the children

The creative skills of children come to the fore at open-house sessions.
because not all children’s families can be traced and many might be orphans or abandoned by their parents. Romit Choudhury, who worked actively on are very vulnerable to social and criminal elements. The organisations need to understand that the social problems are partially constituted by

the social construction of masculinity as a violent practice. It is necessary to work with runaway and truant boys so that they can come out of the conditioning of masculinity being equated with violent practices. “When I worked with runaway boys living off railway platforms in West Bengal, I realised that we should not just think about rehabilitation without thinking about social reconditioning so that these boys can contribute towards workable alternatives that could help in wiping away at least some gender discrimination that exists in society,” says Choudhury. Runaway children hesitate to share their problems. To tackle the unease, workers in Praajak conduct different psychosocial workshops and interactions to help them open up and then understand their problems. “Once we feel we have understood their problems with their families, we suggest ways of tackling these. When the children share their house addresses with us, we go and meet their families to see what situation exists, whether it is feasible to ask these children to return. This review of the family is then given to the children. The decision, whether to return or not, is taken together,” sums up Chowdhury. 

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Ap r i l 1 5 , 2 0 1 3

With hungry mouths to feed, they’re in for a long haul
In most backward regions of India, food security is a major worry. Although there are programmes in states like Odisha aimed at providing children and the elderly one cooked meal a day through the year through a network of anganwadis, on the ground reality is marred by irregular and less food supply, poor quality of food grains, leakages, exclusion and inclusion errors in beneficiary listing, and profiteering. However, determined to ensure no child goes to sleep hungry, grassroots women leaders are making a difference and rural India is benefiting greatly from their efforts


he emergency feeding does not come to a halt any more on Sundays in Silva Gram Panchayat in Komna Block of Odisha's Nuapada District. It all started when ward panch (chief) Sabita Pradhan decided to raise her voice. She asked

Like many other panchayats of Nuapada District, the anganwadi at Sabita's village was also plagued by irregular food supply. Children were the worst affected. The quantity of food served was less than the amount stipulated in the government order.And

Ward panch Sabita Pradhan (left) of Silva Gram Panchayat in Odisha's Nuapada District has ensured that emergency feeding - a state government initiative aimed at providing food security through the anganwadis - does not come to a halt on Sundays any more.
anganwadi (nursery) workers a question: "Where will the children of poor families eat on Sundays?" Starvation is common and rampant in Nuapada District and Komna Block reflects in a microcosm all the problems that have plagued the starvation-prone region over several decades. With 78 per cent of its population belonging to below poverty line (BPL) families, Nuapada figures in the list of the poorest and most backward regions of India and food security has been a big worry here. The emergency feeding programme, one of the several initiatives of the Odisha Government to address the concern, was aimed to provide food security to the old, the infirm, the children and the indigent, by giving them one cooked meal a day throughout the year through the network of anganwadis. no food was being served on Sundays. The Hunger Project, of which this writer is the director, had trained over 90000 elected women representatives in eight states, including Odisha – women like Sabita – in governance norms and procedures. Sabita used her new learnings to urge the other elected women representatives of her panchayat to send a written complaint to the Right to Food Court, thereby setting off a chain of events. The court ordered the secretary, Women & Child Development Department, to look into the matter. This was then put before the district collector. The Child Development Project officer was asked to take strict action and, as a result, today most of the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) centres here are functioning properly. Having struggled to raise families of their own, women panchayat

members are eager to ensure no child goes to sleep hungry. Over the centuries, women have played a crucial role in ensuring food security. Their multiple roles as food producers, keepers of traditional knowledge, food processors, food preparers and food providers are well documented. But poverty, coupled with social marginalisation and other vulnerabilities, have pushed many families (read women) in the rural hinterland to lower their dietary and nutritional intake, and become increasingly dependent on the public distribution system (PDS) and other state sponsored programmes such as the ICDS and Midday Meal Scheme. When Sabita and her one million other women colleagues in 240452 gram (village) panchayats across the country won the panchayat election they stood for, they inherited the monumental challenge of providing food and nutritional security not only to their families but also to their constituencies. That too at a time when agricultural output has performed well below expectation. While several food-based schemes have been implemented as per the recommendations of the Eleventh Plan, even a brief stay in any village will reveal the high level of leakages, the exclusion and the inclusion errors in beneficiary listing and the poor quality of the foodgrains received. Is food security, therefore, the outcome of only production and distribution decisions? Women sarpanchs (panchayat head) and panchs say that good governance plays an equally critical role in ensuring food security and curbing starvation deaths in remote regions. Take Bidar in Karnataka, which falls in India's list of 100 worst districts. Out of the 18 PDS shops surveyed in 20 odd villages, only three were functioning properly. Rates were not displayed; shopkeepers added transportation and other charges. Bidar can ill afford this breakdown of service delivery as it registers the lowest per capita income in the state of Karnataka. However, ward panch Sudha Mohan of Koppa gram panchayat in Chikmangalur District argues that though profiteering is common, regular monitoring and action by the panchayat helps. She should know. She used her authority

to issue a notice to the shop owner in her village and demanded he keep the ration shop open at fixed times to ensure supply of foodgrains to daily wagers. She even sent samples of adulterated grain to the concerned food inspector, executive officer and

If children today eat properly, they won’t fall ill. I don't understand where all the food stuff goes," she says. Bai’s sentiments are echoed by other elected women from other parts of the country who explain that corruption is extensive and many deserving BPL families are being deliberately deprived. In Bihar, 18 BPL families approached Mainamanti Devi, upmukhiya (deputy chief), Sulemanpur Panchayat in Jehanabad District – a district that has made national news for starvation deaths – to inquire about their ration cards. Mainamanti recalls, "Without ration cards they might as well be dead. I took up the matter with the panchayat secretary and the male mukhiya. They had colluded together and not released these cards. When I threatened to sit in protest along with the 18 families, the ration cards were immediately handed over to me." Sarpanch Premlata Raita of R. Udayagiri block in Odisha's Gajapati district agrees with the need to be pro-active, "People are corrupt and want to make money at the cost of the poor. My role is to constantly monitor and continuously update the citizens of their rights and entitlements." But

Photos: Sriparna Ganguly Chaudhuri/WFS

An elected woman representative interacts with children and their parents at an anganwadi. Good governance plays a critical role in ensuring food security and curbing starvation deaths in remote regions.
tehsildar. Her initiative has improved the quality of material supplied at the ration shop. In Madhya Pradesh, the number of underweight children under three years had actually increased from 50.8 per cent in 1999 (National Family Health Survey-2) to 57.9 per cent in 2005 (NFHS-3). In addition, more than 10 lakh children face severe wasting. Despite this, sanctioned quantities of food do not reach the Ladwani Panchayat in Samnapur Block, where 46 children between three and six years visit the local anganwadi regularly. During one of their monitoring visits, ward members Sona Bai and Kunta Bai noticed the children were being given very small quantities of a local sweet known as sonpapri. Both women reported this to the department of Women and Child Development after which immediate remedial actions were taken. The slightly built Sona Bai is furious. "I did not get enough food as a child, so I remained short. while women Panchayat members taking great interest in ensuring the proper implementation of schemes related to issues of hunger, they also know that tackling only the issue of nutrition is not enough. Take the example of Saraswati Devi of Manyava Gram Panchayat in Jehanabad. She mounted a spirited campaign against child marriage. Devi reveals, "A 12-year-old girl was being married off in our locality. It would have meant early pregnancy and a lifelong battle with poor health. I am thankful that I was able to stop that marriage with the help of other women panchs." Her words reflect a deep realisation that issues like child marriage and discrimination against girls are closely related to malnutrition, stunted growth, and reduced productivity in later life and that good governance requires interventions at various levels. 
(The writer is director, The Hunger Project. Courtesy: Women's Feature Service)

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