24 Aug

Seva Setu’s IT skills training programs

We’re glad to announce that we have now completed four batches of skill training in basic IT and computer skills. Around this time last year, Seva Setu had started off with its skill training initiatives to ensure that people in remote locations get a chance to compete in present day markets. We’d identified stitching and sewing to be one easy to implement training program. The other more important skill which we had decided to focus on was IT and computer skills. Having these skills immediately opens up a host of markets and also ensures they’re host to new and quicker ways for gathering information.WhatsApp Image 2016-08-05 at 12.21.25 AMWhatsApp Image 2016-08-05 at 12.22.49 AM

Late last month, we wrapped the fourth and final batch, all of which took place in Vaishali district. A total of 116 students were a part of these 4 cohorts and were taught general computer literacy and were exposed to basic productivity tools like emails, spreadsheets etc. Classes included both, theory and practical sessions. We now aim to start a set of satellite centers in Phulwari block in Patna district and see how they go.

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One of the students told us how she’s able to now give online competitive examinations, something which she used to miss out on until recently. Another spoke of the wider set of activities she’s now able to get done (testimonial in the image).

With this happy note also dawns a realization that this is just the beginning. We realize that the process doesn’t end here.

One immediate action item for Seva Setu is to facilitate them to get employed – by being the setu (bridge) between those who need IT skills and those who possess it. A simple yet interesting opportunity we learnt was the existence of Vasudha Centers [1] – small computer centers in each panchayat whose aim is to aid villagers to make use of various facilities online. Some of the more entrepreneurial students from our batches can easily set these up and get them running.

Another important lesson for us from this exercise was how opening one center in one central location really did not ensure that a sizeable population benefited from such facilities.  We saw a reluctance in people staying as close as 5-10 kilometers to come over to our centers – those that benefited were all residents of the town the center was opened in. We intend on opening small, low-cost, low-resource satellite centers across various blocks as against setting up a full-fledged training center in any one location. We have seen this to help people overcome their inhibitions of acquiring new skills and making them open to trying out new things.

With this thought, we see that our job has only begun. We are in the process of setting ourselves targets to open more such training and IT training centers. We’ll keep you posted.

[1] – https://www.csc.gov.in/

04 Aug

Empowering Persons with Disabilities

The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities released its annual report for 2015-2016 last year.

http://tinyurl.com/disabilityaffairsgovindia

The report showed that roughly 50% of those disabled in India have not acquired a government provided certificate which would then enable them to avail a number of welfare schemes the government provides (notice how some states like Rajasthan stand out). These welfare schemes vary – from monthly monetary pensions being given out to facilities like motorized cycles, hearing implants etc. which are made available at a minimal cost. This means 50% of those who deserve such facilities simply do not get to avail it;  and most likely 50% of this budget goes without being utilized. 

Category wise number of persons with disabilities as per census 2011

The table shows the percentage population who have been issued a disability certificate by the government. This number if as low as 50% in most states. Normalizing this data with each state's population will also lead to insightful results!

The table shows the percentage population who have been issued a disability certificate by the government. This number is as low as 50% in most states.Notice how Rajasthan is an outlier given how few certificates have been issued. Food for thought - are these government estimates accurate? Can you think of easy ways to validate their number?

Notice how Rajasthan is an outlier given how few certificates have been issued.
Food for thought – are these government estimates accurate? Can you think of easy ways to validate their number?

Seva Setu decided to act on these numbers. Being the “setu” we are, we set ourselves on the task of aiding those who have missed out on this process. We’ve begun by collecting data from the field – by going village to village, with an aim to cover select blocks in the districts of Patna, Vaishali and Katihar by this quarter.

Till date, our teams have visited 6 Panchayats. We’ve analyzed the data from 3 of these Panchayats (Kurthol, Kuretha and Baikunthpur) consisting of roughly 16 villages and this is what we find – 232 people were identified to have at least one form of disability. Of these, only 111 (48%) had their certificates made while the remaining 52% did not know about it/had not made their certificates. Their mean age was 27 and 65% of them had one or more of their legs affected. We have started working on getting the 52% to apply for their certificates and we aim to get them enrolled for these benefits in the next two months.

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We have a rolling target of 2 months to cover each batch of these Panchayats we visit. We want to ensure that there really are no people left who have not been able to utilize these government schemes. With this vision in mind, we march full steam ahead!

The government’s annual report is a prime source to dig deeper into these matters and also ask the government for progress on its promises.

If you’d like to experience drafting and following up on RTIs, let us know and we’ll let you in on the action too! We will also be glad to hear your views on what policy level changes ought to be made in order to reduce this under-utilization of such useful schemes.

We also have attached a video from our archives which highlights a case from a similar drive we had held in 2014.

20 Jul

Child Malnutrition in Bihar

Malnourishment is a condition which plagues our country to this day. Most of us have no real intuition for the severity of this issue. The government’s estimates say that 560 out of every 1000 kids under 5 years’ age are malnourished! That’s a little more than 50%, making that close to 60 lakh malnourished kids in Bihar alone!

The Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers (NRCs) are an excellent initiative by the government to tackle malnourishment. These centers admit malnourished children along with their mothers, pay them to stay there for as long as it takes to pull the kid out of malnourishment. However, we realized that there are many shortcomings to this meaningful initiative. Through a detailed study of RTI petitions we had filed regarding the occupancy of these NRCs in Bihar, we had shown in 2014 that close to 30% NRCs were not being utilized to its fullest capacity when there were just 38 NRCs in the whole of Bihar! Refer to the infographic:

Infographic describing our analysis of RTIs related to the functioning of NRCs in Bihar.

Infographic describing our analysis of RTIs related to the functioning of NRCs in Bihar.

This fight of ours turned ugly three months back when the NRC in Patna city was found to be closed, a travesty to say the least. For the last three months, this particular center, which serves a couple dozen panchayats, has been shut.

We got onto this with all guns blazing – we first hunted down reporters in the region who could cover this for us. We showed one journalist around villages where there were families ready to get their kids admitted to these centers but who were being denied this facility – we had at least 15 such families ready. We started following up with the medical officers at the block and district level to know when this would be resolved and made our presence and urgency felt. We also filed a complaint at the Lokshikayat center, a newly formed and seemingly effective public grievance center operated by the government of Bihar.

Our frantic attempts have borne some fruits. Prabhat Khabar, a leading Hindi daily, covered a series of reports on this condition after we showed around one of its reporters the situation on the field (see two such reports).

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We have a date finalized with the Lokshikayat where the Additional District Magistrate will adjudicate this matter. Only last week, we got a phone call from the medical officer-in-charge of the NRC informing us that the center had opened. On visiting the center, however, we realized that there’s a lack of funds and it’s not really operational yet.

We’re pleased that the system sat up and took note of this grave matter.

We will continue to fight tooth and nail till these fundamental issues are resolved. Full speed ahead!

Please let us know if you want to be a part of this initiative and remember…

Together we can.

 

13 Jul

Hunarbaaz Babli!

Today, we introduce Babli, a newly elected ward counselor of Muradpur village from Bhulosa Danapur panchayat, Patna.

We first met Babli when we were associated with World Health Partners to ensure that drugs to check TB were being consumed in a timely manner by those fighting it. Babli had seen Seva Setu’s active involvement in this program and had walked up to us asking whether she could be a part of the action. A couple of discussions later, she was on-board, active as a field executive.

On having worked actively on monitoring the government’s VHND programs and getting malnourished children from her neighborhood admitted to the local Nutritional Rehabilitation Center (NRC), she took up Seva Setu’s Skill India program and helped set up stitching centers in three villages in her panchayat.

Babli receiving a certificate of training for stitching from another of our field volunteers Abhay Anand

Babli receiving a certificate of training for stitching from another of our field volunteers Abhay Anand

Babli and the team she helped assemble to get trained in stitching.

Babli and the team she helped assemble to get trained in stitching.

Babli today has a vision for where she wants to see her village in five years’ time. Her stint with Seva Setu has exposed her to a number of ways in which women and children from her village can live healthy lives and also double up as income generators for their respective households. Setting up a robust drainage system, connectivity to nearby towns through well-connected roads and ensuring each house has a toilet are a part of her immediate action items. We are pleased to aid her in setting up the initial capital in getting some of these projects started off.

We see a fantastic opportunity to help the Bablis of tomorrow. At Seva Setu, the range of activities we involve ourselves in, invariably exposes our field executives to the various pain-points the common man suffers from. Additionally, our model also shows through actionable work on how some of these pain points can be circumvented. The hope and aspiration we see in Babli’s eyes fuels our drive to be the “setu” we envisioned to be – between those willing to serve and those who cannot help themselves.

Pleased to hear about Babli? Want to meet many others on the ground who are as active and determined to bring about a change? Want to lead a team of such spirited individuals into building something worthwhile? Drop a note right away – we’ll be happy for you to be involved!

Work done with: Abhay Anand ji

03 Jul

The seed of entrepreneurship is sown! (Danapur, Patna, Bihar)

The hallmark of a true entrepreneur is an irresistible urge to grow his/her enterprise; to constantly think of new ways to reach a wider market and in order to do so, to constantly acquire new skills as well.

Meet Neetu ji – one of our first stitching trainers we had on board to teach a group of 15 local women.

Neetu ji showcasing some of the designs she has made!

Neetu ji showcasing some of the designs she has made!

Neetu ji has both, party wear and daily wear in her catalogue of clothes she designs!

Neetu ji has both, party wear and daily wear in her catalog of clothes she designs!

 On having completed the three-month training course we set up some time back, Neetu ji now sees an untapped opportunity here and has gone ahead and opened a full-fledged stitching and tailoring center with the help of those whom she trained. She went to the Ministry of Industries (Udyog Bhawan) in Patna and on utilizing the Pradhan Mantri Employment Generation Program, which helped her take a loan, has bought electric sewing machines and a store to run her activities. She now is actively looking at markets to cover so that people buy their produce. She is particularly eyeing entering Big Bazaar and its likes.

One of Neetu ji's associates whom she'd trained through Seva Setu's stitching training initiative

One of Neetu ji’s associates whom she’d trained through Seva Setu’s stitching training initiative

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Another of Neetu ji's associates whom she'd trained

Another of Neetu ji’s associates whom she’d trained

This is probably the best realization of the vision Seva Setu had when we started off this initiative. We consider this to be the right model to replicate with our other stitching training centers. Full steam ahead on this!

If you want to be a part of this initiative to help these local entrepreneurs in growing their markets, do drop a line here – we’ll be happy to connect you to them (we are after all a Setu [bridge] on a mission). Generally, it’s an information barrier that’s a show-stopper for them. We can ensure they make the best of what you have to offer in terms of domain knowledge and expertise.

It would also be great if you could share this post with as many to help spread the word!