Development Cooperation Handbook/Interviews/Dilip Kumar
Youtube ⇒ playlist
Founder Member of Pravah
India, Jharkhand, 3 April 2010
On YouTube ⇒ Millenium Village Project - playlist
The biggest achievement of our organisation is being able to fulfill our vision and mission. And I am most happy when people tell me that, thanks to our organisation, their families now eat two meals a day and that their children can now go to school.
I was part of the political movement started in 1975 by Jai Prakash Narayan and then part of the Janata Party when it formed the government in 1977. I could not stay long in a political party because my mission was to change the social system and local governance. So, I went back to the grass roots and started organising people’s movements. The major issue Bihar was facing during those years was that of bonded labour. So, my companions and I established an organisation and held several massive demonstrations demanding freedom and equal rights for all bonded labour. News about our demonstrations echoed even in the New York and London times. Our movement was very successful. The government established a committee whose findings were made the basis for legislations to free bonded labour.
I have since stayed on and continued to work with people at the grass roots, working on various development and advocacy issues like re-distribution of land from the rich to the poor landless, re-utilisation of waste land for farming, freedom of the press, environment issues. We have been actively working on creating new livelihood opportunities at local levels by improving people’s access to available local resources. There would be times when villagers had to give me meager sums of money, like 20 rupees, just so that I could travel to the state headquarters and represent their interests.
After years of discussions on the value of establishing an organisation and taking funds because this might have destroyed our revolutionary spirit, we finally established non-government organisation in 1992 called Pravah. We will continue to work on people’s rights until we live.
Do you think we need NGOs for development activities around the world?
Development is the responsibility of government. We, as non government organisations, do not have the resources to fund development activities. We can only demonstrate ways to optimally utilise limited available resources so as to live dignified lives within the meager incomes people earn. We show our work and our models to people and help them replicate it. We open a pathway for development and show people how participatory plans are designed and can be successfully implemented so that this process happens elsewhere too.
Unless people participate in planning processes, government plans cannot be successful. And it is usually NGOs, not the government that motivates and facilitates people’s participation in planning processes. And this is the reason why why NGOs and the government must cooperate in order to bring development to the villages.
What is your opinion on aid coming from other countries and cultures?
Taking or not taking funds from foreign donors has always provoked debates and discussions among social workers like us. Our team, for instance, finally decided that we would take money only if we could put it to good use and if we could utilise it to achieve our vision and mission. The foreign funds receive really help us in making the social and economic changes we had always dreamed about. In fact, our efforts to bring positive and lasting changes among communities in 26 villages of our state were successful only because of the donor funds we received for contributing to the achievement of the MDGs.
The prime cause of poverty is in the absence of resources: it is absence of drive and motivation
The main factor of poverty is the poverty existing in people’s minds – for instance, a farmer with 10 acres land who says that he has no food for the next two months. People’s mind sets will need to be changed.
So long as people continue to feel dependency, they will not be able to develop. We will need to uproot the cause of poverty by supporting people in exploring new ways of improving their livelihoods. We need to revive small enterprises run by craftsmen that have been displaced by modern products manufactured by bigger companies, like clay tea cups that were made by potters or ropes that are now replaced by plastic ones made by bigger companies. If we want to remove poverty in the villages, we will have to revive small rural industries, promote these products and motivate the villagers.
What do the MDGs mean to you?
MDGs are not new for us. We have been making these demands for many years. These goals have just been put into a new framework. What is really new and important is that the whole world sat together and fixed targets. The Indian government also undersigned the MDGs. It started many programmes to achieve these goals, like NREGA in India, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. This has made massive changes and impacts. However, the commitment and honesty with which this ought to have been implemented has not happened.
It is not the government that has to implement these targets. Government designs policies and asks people to implement it. Those who have to implement it must be sensitized. It is they who do not know about the MDGs. The government officers themselves do not know about MDGs that their government has committed to at the UN. So, if the government does not adopt the right processes and does not seek cooperation from people, from NGOs, it will not be able to succeed in achieving the targets it has set for itself. Since the MDG programme aims at making changes, if it continues and expands now at a time when people’s awareness is increased, it surely has more possibility to succeed and make important changes.
What message would you like to give to people who give money for these projects?
I would like to share with the donors that their money is being utilised very well among the poor and that their money is being used for achieving the MDG goals. Those who donate funds must not only see documentaries, photographs or reports but must come here and see for themselves whether their money is reaching the most needy or not. Donors must continue to support if they want to respect the commitment for global partnerships- like an elder brother helping the younger brother in need. Isn’t this globalization - that well being must be enjoyed by all, that we must share each other’s resources. We must promote cooperation.
What happens is that the world only sees those few who are massively benefiting from economic growth in India and it does not get a chance to see the numerous poor. The ideal ratio of wealth distribution should be 1:10 but in India today the ratio is 1: 1.5m. We cannot measure India’s development on the basis of the 10% rich. We need to take into account the remaining 90%, half of whom are still below the poverty line, otherwise we will be unjust to the India’s poor. I want to tell donors that each penny of theirs is being utilised well and efficiently and that they must come and see for themselves the impact of their money and where and how it is being utilised.