On April 16 this year, a hospital in Bathallapalli in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh was designated as Covid only facility at the request of the district administration. The Government of Andhra Pradesh provided some materials and training to medical and para-medical staff at this hospital for treatment of Covid infections. The hospital was established by Rural Development Trust (RDT) 20 years ago, and is part of the organisation’s work to promote primary health care amongst the poor and vulnerable households and communities in the rural areas.
With financial and technical/professional support from international well-wishers and several large Indian corporations (LIC, Bajaj, Mahindra, SBI, etc.), RDT’s rural health care services were dedicated to prevention and treatment of Covid infections in the region. Over the next four months, this hospital excelled in service for Covid patients when on August 15 (India’s Independence Day), the Government of AP awarded RDT for best Covid treatment facility in the state, and its support (non-medical) staff as the best care-givers in the state. For more than fifty years, RDT has served the people of the region as an active civil society organization.
Recognising the need for early childhood care, the Government of India had launched Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) 45 years ago. An Anganwadi (community) Centre for children 0-6 years operates for 4-5 hours four days a week in villages and neighbourhoods. These centres have been not so well-run, with lack of motivation, training and support of local workers incharge. Over the past years, in Udaipur district of Rajasthan, nearly 1300 such Anganwadi centres were made more functional to reach out to more than 60,000 children by consistent technical and professional support provided by a team of community workers of Seva Mandir (a civil society organization which began five decades ago).
Recognising the importance of reliable day care facility to working men and women from poor communities, the organization also operates 160 full day Balwadis in the area. Its methodology has been adopted by the Government of Rajasthan to scale-up in other centres in the state. Supported by the local business Hindustan Zinc Ltd (and other corporates and international well-wishers), the effective operationalizing of the early childhood care scheme is showing impacts on nutrition and well-being of children and mothers too.
Bricks made from soil erode fertility of land for agriculture. In rural states like Bihar, this can cause reduction in productivity. Brick-making technology in India has not changed for centuries, and its harmful polluting impacts on workers have been documented decades ago. In partnership with Bihar State Pollution Control Board, and with technical and financial support from Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, Development Alternatives has innovated a technology and production process for ‘green bricks’. National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has joined the initiative to provide fly ash for brick-making. Started seven years ago, the partnership has already facilitated setting up of nearly 250 local enterprises producing these ‘green’ bricks. The Government of Bihar is aiming to reach 2000 such enterprises within next 3 years. Development Alternatives, a civil society organization, has been active for nearly four decades.
Each of the above three examples highlights interesting patterns about addressing socio-economic development challenges facing the country.
First element of the common pattern is that the national and state governments have key roles to play. Government’s roles are:
*Setting policies and protocols for their implementation (as happened in Covid response above)
*Designing and financing specific development schemes for the benefit of the vulnerable and excluded households (as with ICDS & Anganwadi programme above)
*Establishing a policy eco-system that drives innovation for sustainable development (as occurred in green bricks enterprise development above)
Second element of the common pattern is the investment of technical and financial resources brought to bear by the businesses, in many different ways:
*Shakti Foundation mobilized investment that enabled new technical solutions to be incubated while NTPC provided the much needed raw materials from their production process (as happened in Bihar)
*Provision of PPE, sanitisers and other equipment were acquired through funds and supply chains of businesses to make rapid response to Covid possible (as happened in Andhra Pradesh)
*Locally established company saw the value of investing in early childhood care in surrounding rural areas such that foundations for healthy development of future human resources are laid (as occurred in Rajasthan)
Third common element in the three stories is the participation of a strong civil society organization which performed several key roles too:
*Community was made aware of benefits of early childhood care and provisions of Anganwadi were actively supported by Seva Mandir team for an extended period of time in Udaipur district
*Outreach to rural community to build awareness about the virus and its prevention was combined with prompt, efficient and humane care provided in the hospital to those infected by the virus in Anantpur district by RDT
*Mobilisation of brick industry (both owners and labour) in Bihar along with technical team of Pollution Control Board to incubate innovation was facilitated by Development Alternatives
The trinity of government, business and civil society performed their distinctive roles well in tandem with each other such that positive impacts were realized for the vulnerable and marginalized households in all the three cases above. Each had distinctive roles to play; each party brought to the situation unique sets of resources, capacities and mandates.
Given that each of the three civil society organisations…..RDT, Seva Mandir and Development Alternatives…had a long history of working with communities, they were able to bring their own social capital to enable the communities to become active participants in co-designing and co-implementing solutions for their own development.
How can such examples of the trinity acting in tandem be multiplied everywhere in the country, for ever?
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.