Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Building a movement for Development

Vikas Bharti, the NGO, has its roots in the backward and tribal dominated Bishunpur block of Gumla district...

Sopan Correspondent / Ranchi

Four people saw a dream of development in the late 1970s and early 80s and set out to realize it in the tribal and backward areas of what is now Jharkhand. The fruit of their labour is Vikas Bharti. What began as small exercise in tribal and rural development is now a force to reckon with the organization spreading its wings all over Jharkhand.

The non-government, non-religious, non-political, and non-faith based voluntary organization established on January 14, 1983 has its roots in the backward and tribal dominated Bishunpur block of Gumla district.

The dream which Ashok Bhagat, Mahesh Sharma, Rajnish Arora and Rakesh Popli saw has seen thousands of tribal families get better livelihood, better returns from agriculture, access to credit, vocational training, education, sports, culture and strengthening of the tribal system as prevalent in the area for the betterment of all in the last three decades.

Aiming to ensure the prosperity of the person standing at the lowest rung of the society, Vikas Bharti under the guidance of Ashok Bhagat has acted as a catalyst to accelerate the socially relevant and economically viable community-based development programmes and improve the livelihood of the rural people.

“We try to do what we can. Tribals identifying development with Vikas Bharti in the region is a big reward for us. We will continue in our endeavour,” Bhagat, who assumed a tribal surname from the Tana Bhagats to work in the area, says.

Bhagat says conservation of indigenous technology and promotion of use of local resources based on training of tribal youths, enhanced agricultural income, promoting credit linkages of tribal farmers with leading banks and financial institutions, empowerment of tribal women through their involvement in economic activities, bringing about 28000 tribal boys and girls into formal schools through specific courses based on accelerated learning has been some of the features of the movement so far.

The organization started with small interventions, mostly community mobilization activities in 24 villages linked with the weekly Bishunpur market. The focus was on the development of the various Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) residing in the hills of Bishunpur like the Birijiyas and, Asurs .

Bhagat realised quite early that the root cause of inaccessibility to services like education and health was poverty and limited livelihood opportunities and the team started thinking on how to promote livelihood improvisation strategy amongst the tribal communities. They realized that the major stakeholder who is associated with health, education and livelihoods are the women folks of the community. Therefore Vikas Bharti Started mobilizing the women in the villages around Bishunpur and started forming women’s Self Help Groups. These groups were linked to various financial and technical institutions which can take care of both investment and skill building of the women groups. Food processing unit was established for providing an assured market for these groups.

CAPART supported Vikas Bharti and made it the technical resource centre for the state. This was a huge leap for the organization as it got the opportunity for skill or technical training of a large number of youths in not only Gumla district but also the adjacent districts.

Now the organization has expanded its outreach to all the 24 districts of Jharkhand even as the development of tribal communities, especially the PTGs are its priority. During the early days the organization survived mostly on small government funding and donations. It was started in Bishunpur from a small hut and now has reached a stage where it is self sufficient in its resources and infrastructure.

The NGO also runs ashrams for tribal boys and girls who are either orphans or very poor and thus cannot afford a decent human living, runs formal schools for imparting quality education to poor and disadvantaged groups and impart life skill education to adolescent boys and girls so that they can stand in their own feet besides tracking drop-out students and continuation of their schooling.
Over a period of time, various village level institutions like mahila mandals, self help groups, kisan clubs, village health committees, village education committees, forest protection committees etc. have been formed. Advocacy of social issues and those concerning the tribals in the state in the entire country is the new mantra of Vikas Bharti.

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