Seva Mandir has always believed and worked towards empowering communities to take accountability of social transformation as the most sustainable way of moving ahead. Seva Mandir has nurtured its village development groups into spaces where people are able to actively participate in the decisions which directly affect their lives.
To further empower these village groups, the groups have been amalgamated into federations. These are multilayered, self-governing community institutions created by Seva Mandir to resolve larger-scale issues. The federations work on the social as well as financial issues of the region and liaise with various government as well as non-government agencies.
Jhadol is 50 kms away from Udaipur and is inhabited by mostly tribal population. Seva Mandir has been working very closely with village communities in Jhadol for over 40 years and that has resulted in strong village groups and federations in the region. The federation meets every month to discuss issues pertaining to their zones (each zone comprising 10-15 villages).
In May 2019 , Ogna zone in Jhadol proactively worked on an issue that helped not only the daily wage laborers of their zone, but for the entire region.
In order to ensure employment in village, government had launched a programme called Mahatama Gandhi Employee Guarantee Act (MNREGA) under which 100 days of guaranteed employment is ensured in villages. However, along with labor, the act also ensures other conditions like availability of a shady area for rest, toilet, crèche for children and first aid kit should also be ensured at the work site.
While working on one of the construction sites for a road, a woman got severely injured on her head. There was neither a first aid kit available nor a resting place on the work site and she had to be immediately rushed to a hospital. Despite terrible blood loss, the woman could be saved but the incident was an alarming situation for the federation. The federation collectively wrote a letter to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) appraising him about the situation and demanding a medical kit at each work site for the region. The CMO also responded immediately to it and within a month, medical kits were made available at all MNREGA work sites in Jhadol.
In another effort by Phalasiya and Madri zone federations, a very old and regressive social ritual was collective discarded. During the festival of Holi, every year for a period of 15-20 days vehicles on highway used to be stopped by women and children to demand money from passengers. It was very risky and exploitative for people to travel during these areas. The federation members launched a campaign against this practice and discussed it with every village group. This year the number of cases reported dropped by 80% and the federation have committed to uproot this tradition completely by next year.
The federations are slowly transforming to highly active and responsible action groups which are challenging social norms and demanding quality in government services. They will be very instrumental in ensuring development remains ‘by the people’ and ‘for the people’ in the region. The localized understanding of these federations about grass root challenges is multi faceted and empowering them to take collective action can bring profound changes in the lives of people.
We would like to thank you for letting us meet our commitments in the field. All this has been possible due to your consistent support and trust in us.
Atul Lekhra & the Seva Mandir Team
Follow us on www.facebook.com/sevamandir