Facilitating Advocacy, With People’s Participation In The Lockdown

On 24th March, 2020, our PM declared a country-wide lockdown for 21 days, as India witnessed a surge in corona virus positive cases, since physical distancing is the only way of breaking the Covid-19 infection cycle. During the lockdown, people are restricted to step outside their homes, all transport services – road, air and rail were suspended with exceptions for transportation of essential goods, fire, police and emergency services. Shutting down large territories for an extended period is painful but necessary. Since then, the lockdown has been extended thrice.

CORO’s initiative to help the daily wage workers affected during the lockdown began immediately after the first lockdown was announced.

Till April end, we supported 10168 needy families.

Our relief mission initiative is currently active in eight regions of Maharashtra and three regions of Rajasthan. And, Western Maharashtra is one of the regions. During the kit distribution process, we were in touch with many grassroots organisations that we have previously worked with (through our Grassroots Leadership Development Program). These organisation wanted us to help them with kit distribution to the families of their villages. We were not able to extend our support to them because our distribution drive was mainly active in the villages our Fellows come from. Only then, we began discussing the possibility of facilitating ‘People’s initiative’, an advocacy where the village people themselves take ownership of helping the people affected by the lockdown, which will be led by the grassroots organisation, in those regions. And, CORO’s role here would be facilitating the grassroots organisation. This advocacy began with the Gram Panchayat emailing the key persons from the village, Tashildar and Prant Officers. Since there was a nation-wide lockdown, it was impossible to meet them in person. Simultaneously, information collection drive took place, where we discussed the structure of this advocacy. During these discussions, some organisations raised questions, asking what if the Gram Panchayat refuses to help by saying that ‘there are no enough funds’? We needed to come with a solution where we are in the position to put pressure on the Gram Panchayat, as this whole initiative was suppose to be led by them. Along with building pressure and raising questions, we also needed to come with solutions for the same, so that they don’t refuse to participate in this process and to make sure that the decisions are taken by the system. Thus, we began a dialogue with the BDOs, in Western Maharashtra. This is when we got to know that every Gram Panchayat usually exhausts 80-85% of their funds and it has some funds reserved in their Rural Welfare Funds - 10% funds for SC/ST communities, 10% for women and children, and 3% for the disabled. That sums upto 28%. Thus, we decided to make use of this opportunity. We planned to create a list of - the needy families amongst the SC/ST communities, 2. women suffering from some sickness, live alone, have family to look after, are single women, 3. disable people who are the bread winners of the family. These people will be benefited from this process. The other marginalized communities would be helped with the remaining Gram Panchayat funds, from the previous year’s balance funds, along with this year’s funds reserved for them. This is how the entire structure was planned. We decided that our grassroots organisations will be sending a letter to 10 Taluka BDOs, 10 Tashildars, 6 Prant Officers and 4 CEO. These organisations mentioned CORO’s name it in, thanking us for facilitating this process.

This ‘People’s Initiative and Participation’ process took place in 17 villages of Maan taluka (our Water Program is active in this taluka), and yet 105 villages and 98 Gram Panchayats will benefited through this process because the order was taken out for these many villages.

We were also able to take out orders for Sangola and Atpadi block, as CORO has strong hold over these villages, through our Water Program. 300 villages were benefited through this process.

Residential BDOs, mentors, leaders, village key person played a vital role, in making sure this process happens smoothly. Our team in Satara, did a great job in facilitating the entire process to the grassroots organisation of the other blocks.