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Bringing prosperity in Dalit land

Jun 25, 2009

As part of its corporate social responsibility, a pharmaceutical company has come forward to promote self-employment among dalit villagers in western Indian state of Rajasthan. Women’s self-help groups are manufacturing ready-made garments and other items to augment family income.

Jaipur: The Dalit-dominated Nagala Harchand village in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan has taken up self-employment ventures in a big way to drive out poverty and bring prosperity to each household, thanks to the intervention of a pharmaceutical major as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative.

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Joint efforts by the local community and the Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation – a CSR wing of drug manufacturer Lupin Limited – have seemingly paved the way for unity, courage, hard work and success in the small village situated near Kaman town.

Less than five years ago, the villagers – most of whom were agricultural labourers – could hardly see a ray of hope for their economic development. Whatever they earned, they spent on liquor and gambling. Some of the villagers worked in Kaman on a daily basis and most of the children were out of the formal education system.

Lupin Foundation adopted Nagala Harchand at 2004-end with the objective of initiating a holistic development process. It determined the priorities for development on the basis of villagers’ demands at a series of community meetings.

“The meetings were initially not taken seriously and were rather poorly attended. They gathered momentum once the villagers were convinced of our intentions,” says Lupin Foundation Executive Director Sitaram Gupta. The first decision taken in 2005 was to start a school and build roads for transport.

Gupta says the Lupin Foundation established a “parallel panchayat” and entrusted it with the responsibility of developing the village. The first pledge taken by the villagers was not to consume liquor and refrain from gambling. If anyone was found violating the resolution, a fine of Rs 121 was slapped on him.

The work for providing basic facilities to the villagers started with the construction of a primary school and roads. As a result, the number of school-going children rose by 70 to 80% within the first year. According to Gupta, 100% admissions were secured subsequently through continuous efforts and persuasion.

While identifying new sources of employment, the Foundation hit upon the idea of manufacturing tulsi garlands for sale at religious places such as Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandgaon and Barsana in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Realising the scope for profit in the business, trainers were arranged from Narigaon in Mathura districts for the first batch of 60 women.

The Foundation arranged for loans on easy terms from Rashtriya Mahila Kosh and other agencies for this vocation. Almost all women in the village are now earning from this profession. An agent regularly visits Nagala Harchand with raw material for making tulsi garlands and purchases the manufactured produce.

Four model dairies, five poultry farms, three general merchant shops, eight loading rickshaws and six sugarcane juice machines were provided to the village youths for self-employment after arranging loans from various financial institutions. Farmers having sufficient land for agriculture were supplied with high-yielding seeds and fertiliser for vegetable production.

According to Gupta, the Foundation gave financial help to youngsters who wanted to go in for higher education. Following the insurance cover provided to villagers against accidents and natural death, the next of kin of three persons who lost their lives in road accidents received timely compensation.

Women’s self-help groups in the village are now engaged in manufacture of ready-made garments and sewing and embroidery work. The accrued savings are deposited in their bank accounts, while the SHGs also provide loans to their members.

Source : The Hindu
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