Empowering and employing rural Jharkhand

Junaid Kamal Ahmad, the Director of the World Bank in India, might not have even thought that his visit to tribal-dominated Jharkhand could present before his eyes live examples of rural women empowerment and self-employment, courtesy the innovative planning and executional approach of the State government. That he visited various tribal districts in the State and was all praise for the efforts is now an oft-quoted news.

Jharkhand might arguably be the most backward region of the entire Indian sub-continent but the way Raghubar Das’s government, through its various programs, including the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society, has embarked on a mission to empower rural women and enhance the prospects of their livelihood while still staying in the villages, is not only praiseworthy but could also serve as an example to be followed.

Describing the efforts, Bishnu Parida – the CEO of Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Council (JSLPS) – says: “Under rural department, through JSLPS, we are implementing various schemes which are aimed at reducing or eliminating rural poverty and at the same time empowering rural women to take up gainful livelihood activities. The main program we are implementing is the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and through this we are promoting community institutions of poor, for the poor. And through these community livelihood missions, we are targeting rural households all across Jharkhand.”

Elaborating further, Parida says: “We are building their capacities, we are training them to take up gainful livelihood activities and also linking them to financial institutions, mostly banks, to avail credit, which is prerequisite for any economic activity. “

The programs are actually people led programs and the Government has gone a step ahead by even eliminating the NGOs and middle-men from the execution process. The community members are being directly trained with an aim to create a cadre of trained community professionals, who will eventually handhold their neighbours and household members.

Tells Parida: “In the initial phase we have our own professional team who are placed at cluster level, block level and district level, but subsequently we are also grooming and nurturing these community institutions through trained community professionals, and be it social mobilization, financial inclusion or even livelihood promotion, all these activities are being taken care of by the cadres only.” These community professionals have been provided quality technical inputs and then they are disseminating and sharing the knowledge with community members.

Giving further details, Program Manager with the Society Kumar Vikash says that the women self-help groups so created have been given the name Sakhi Mandal. A group of ten to fifteen women from the same socio-economic background, and from the same village, are grouped to form a Sakhi Mandal. While some funding is done by the society, and their micro credit plan analysed, they are passed on to banks so as to meet their credit needs.

Various cadres are being promoted, all of whom have their own success stories. One such cadre is PashuSakhi which seeks to promote livestock (goat/sheep/pig/poultry) rearing as a source of livelihood for rural poor especially women. PashuSakhi is a practicing goat farmer from the community (mostly an SHG member) who is promoted as para veterinary worker in the villages to give services to the goat rearing farmers from within their villagesfor better upkeep of their livestock. This has helped in reducing the goat mortality rate in villages where PashuSakhis are in operation. Till now access to on time, low cost, door-step livestock health care, first aid and knowledge has been a key constraint in livestock production, which has adversely affected poor people’s livelihoods.

Another innovative enterprise by Sakhi Mandals is the Ajeevika Didi’s Café. Through Ajeevika Didi’s café, JSLPS aims at creating a brand for restaurants, dhabas and catering in the form of an enterprise run by women entrepreneurs of Sakhi Mandals, thereby not only creating a chain of quality eateries all across Jharkhand, but at the same time also involving a team of women entrepreneurs from each village, cluster, block or district, to create high income business models.

Four to five Ajeevika Didi Cafes have already started operations while more are coming up. The Chief Secretary has recently issued instructions to all districts to push this innovative strategy on priority.

Ajeevika Didi’s café would be a community owned and managed brand aimed at providing livelihood to women entrepreneurs in Jharkhand. It will be a for-profit venture. Through these cafes, the people can also avail traditional, home-made, and healthy food away from their homes.

TabletDidi is another innovative program based on Narendra Modi’s Digital India program. Consequently, the women of rural India who did not even know how to use mobile phones are working on Tablets today to seek information, are also keeping accounts of others and even playing games and seeking knowledge through the Internet. Interestingly, there are more than 700 women in Jharkhand today who are working as TabletDidi, many of whom didn’t know till sometime back the difference between this electronic Tablet and the medicinal tablet that we consume upon falling ill.

Ajivika Krishak Mitra too are out there telling the poor villagers the latest techniques related to farming and training them in their use. Consequent to these efforts, several rural women have become self-employed and taken themselves out of poverty. Whereas they were unable to make the ends meet despite farming and working as petty labours, many of them are now sending their children to private schools.

Empowerment is the key to poverty alleviation and Jharkhand has realised it far earlier than most Indian states. This empowerment is happening through community institutions in the form of Self Help Groups (SHGs). Through nurturing and strengthening these community institutions and providing them with relevant training through professionals, it is possible to make a significant impact on the rural community.

Seeds of the good work have already been sown and the buds in the shape of results have already started showing!

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)




Jharkhand: Bringing smile to farmers’ face

The efforts of the Jharkhand government to take development and benefits directly to the farmers have not missed anyone’s eyes. Not even the eyes of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi!

The initiative of Jharkhand Government, under the leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, to usher in a single window facility for farmers, has drawn the praise of Shri Narendra Modi, who saw it as an attempt by the Jharkhand government to bring smiles on the face of the State farmers. Speaking at a function in Jamshedpur, the Prime Minister said: “Everyone has talked and heard about the single window (facility) for industries, but your CM has come up with the novel concept of (creating a) single window for solving all the woes of farmers. You people are lucky to have government ready to fight and die for farmers.”

Needless to say, taking cue from Jharkhand’s initiative, several other states in the country have tried to follow this unique concept.

There remains no doubt whatsoever that the efforts of Chief Minister Raghubar Das for Jharkhand farmers are unprecedented. Referring to these efforts, Puja Singhal, Secretary in the Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Cooperative Department of the State says that in the last two and a half years, under the guidance and leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, her department has taken several initiatives. She further says that in the next two years, her Department is preparing several new interventions for the benefit of State’s farmers. Speaking on the single window scheme of Chief Minister, she says: “The scheme launched by our Hon’ble Chief Minister about one and a half years back was a unique initiative in the country and I think we are the only state in the country having such a scheme.”

Chief Minister RaghubarDas’ efforts, aimed at providing farmers with crucial information on government schemes, weather, pricing of agricultural products, soil health cards, seeds, fertilisers, crop insurance and loans, complements the Prime Minister’s push for the KisanSuvidha App, a farmer-specific mobile application and eNAM, a national electronic marketing platform for agriculture products. The KisanSuvidha App is a mobile application that provides weather forecasts for the next five days, besides information on process of agricultural products at 50 nearby mandis (agri-markets); diseases likely to affect crops; advice from agricultural experts; technologies; and dealers in agricultural equipment. Any farmer can download it for free.

Under the Single Window scheme, the agriculture department has started providing all kinds of information related to agriculture under one roof. The executional and financial targets of implementation of this scheme have been given to the districts. In many districts, grand information buildings have been constructed where officers and experts of agriculture, cattle, animal husbandry, fishery, land conversion, agriculture science centre, etc. sit twice a week and solve all the problems of the farmers.

Apart from this, all information related to agriculture is being given to the farmers by SMS. If the crops gets infected with worm, what will be the favourable time for cultivation of crops, fish farming, animal husbandry, information related to livestock breeding including cows, poultry, goat, piggery, duck, etc., their vaccination and treatment, various schemes of Government from which farmers can  benefit, how to make them self-dependent through adopting to agricultural work, income growth solutions, what to do if the animal becomes ill, every such information is now available on phone.

Puja Singhal points out that about 28 lakh farmers are dependent on farms in Jharkhand. There is total of 79 lakh hectares of land, out of which 38 lakh hectares is arable land. Out of this arable land, only 25 lakh hectares of land is being cultivated. Nearly 13 lakh hectares of land lies fallow. Under another very beneficial scheme, the Government has set a target to convert the fallow land into fertile arable farms; the work has already begun to meet these targets.

And to create greater awareness among the farmers, the Government has started the Agri Festival RathYatra, so that farmers are provided with up-to-date information about agriculture. The Government has also started supporting the farmers in areas such as crop and seed production, procurement and sale of crops, etc. Kisan Mitra have been appointed who are ceaselessly working to solve the various problems being faced by the farmers and help them increase the production of crops.

The use of solar energy in water harvesting operations, seed production, pulse production, soil health card, agricultural equipment bank and operation of agricultural machinery and irrigation pumps are other schemes being carried forward. Beej grams have been set up for farmers in the State so that farmers do not have to wait for paddy seeds. At the same time, special focus is being levied on pulses and oilseeds as rabi crops.

Elaborating on the other major interventions by the Jharkhand Government, Puja Singhal says “another major intervention has been that we have a separate agricultural budget for the last two years in running and the agriculture budget focusses not just on agriculture but also components from water resources department, component from energy department, components from rural development department and various other departments from which everything has been converged into a separate agriculture budget, to show the kind of focus which has to be given to agriculture.”

She further states: “The Government and the Agriculture department are committed to the development of farmers and for this all these schemes have been worked upon. Attempts are being made to implement many novel schemes for the benefit of the farmers.”

There remains no doubt that these programs which the Government has launched are reaping greater benefits for the farmers and due to these freshly launched policies, unprecedented development is already visible in the agriculture sector.

As Chief Minister Raghubar Das had said on an occasion that the water of the village will remain in the village and the water of the farm will remain in the farm. The depth of this sentence was not realized until the Chief Minister started implementing the various unique schemes for the betterment of farmers and took to developing agriculture in the State in a mission mode, so that the faces of the farmers of the State always remain smiling.

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)