Bank of Jawhar, a bank by children

Tribal citizens are often cheated in banking and monetary transactions. Earlier it used to be money-lenders, now it has grown to other spaces. There are some people standing outside banks in tribal towns, who offer to write the withdrawal slips. They charge a flat rate of Rs. 20. The person buying this service often withdraws a small amount say Rs. 200 to 500. Even literate/schooled people do not know how to fill this slip and withdraw money from a bank account. If withdrawal is found so difficult by people, other functions like opening an account, taking a loan, choosing and buying a bank product remain too out of hand.

But the students of high-school in the remote village Medha would not have these problems. Vayam’s team took 20 students to a bank in Jawhar and involved the manager to explain all functions of the bank. These 20 students put up a mock bank in their school and remaining 70 students learnt the functions by actually opening mock accounts, writing withdrawal slips, and so on… Financial inclusion of all Indian citizens in the banking system certainly needs such small and smart activities.

Vayam team is running a ‘Life Skills curriculum’ (जीवन शिक्षण कार्यक्रम) for 9th Students in a remote tribal village, Medha (Tq. Jawhar). This curriculum takes one hour on Saturdays in the high school and introduces many things that the textbooks miss but life doesn’t. It includes techniques bringing precision in agriculture, knowledge of how the local government (Gram Panchayat) functions, deciphering the electricity bill, using scientific methods in rural daily life, and so on.

Vayam is inviting donations and volunteers to continue and replicate this program next year. (write to project coordinator: medeepali at gmail)

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Better nutrition despite drought

The rainfall is low this year. The impending drought is bringing up many challenges. Vayam’s tribal villages face the possibility of rise in malnutrition. Vegetables crop is down and the market prices are shooting up. Many tribal families with meagre resources will not be able to buy vegetables and will simply give up eating vegetables. 

Vayam has come up with a solution with the participation of tribal families and urban donors. The tribal villagers are digging pits (4 cubic meters). A thick plastic sheet will be laid inside this pit. This pit or ‘Jalkund’ will store about 3,500 liters of rainwater. Sufficient to irrigate vegetables for the family for next 8-10 months. People will stitch teak-leaf and bamboo covers to cover this Jalkund and prevent evaporation. 

Vayam is soliciting donations Rupees One Thousand (1,500) per Jalkund. See ‘donate’ page on this blog for details of sending donations.

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1500 tribal citizens celebrating Democracy

October 1: Jawhar (Dist. Thane)
DSC_0819About 1,500 tribal citizens gathered in the tribal town of Jawhar to celebrate Lokshahi Vijay Yatra (Democracy victory) and danced through the streets of the town to the tunes of traditional tribal instruments like Tarpa, Dhol, and Toor. This event was organized by Vayam movement to celebrate the victory in getting information about Forest Rights claims. 1,274 citizens had participated in the RTI Satyagraha organized to bring transparency in the implementation of Forest Rights Act. This event was unique with a big number of tribal people expressing their faith in democracy.
The implementation of Forest Rights Act began in 2008, however tribal farmers are yet to get the ownership of ancestral lands that are in Forest Department possession since British times. Jawhar, Vikramgad, and Dahanu tehsils in Thane district have a huge number of complaints by tribal tillers that they were given only a fraction of ownership thus keeping them deprived of the actual land they have been holding. The additional collector’s office at Jawhar and the Sub-Divisional Officer did not give any information despite 1274 citizens filing RTI applications in April. The case later went to the State Chief Information Commissioner who gave a verdict in favour of the citizens. The SCIC ordered immediate disclosure of information through letters, website, and through Gram Panchayat notice boards. The SCIC also ordered that all tribal claimants throughout the state should be given this information. The tribal villagers participating in the Vayam movement saw this as a victory of democracy. They proclaimed their happiness by the traditional expression of dance.
DSC_0846The Lokshahi Vijay Yatra received a tremendous response from villagers and ten new villages also joined the movement. Vayam’s leading local activists Prakash Baraf and Anil Lohar addressed the mass at the end of Yatra. Mr. Baraf read out the information he had received. He said the Forest Department has filled their forms without making any field visits and the SDLC (Sub-Divisional Level Committee) and the DLC (District Level Committee) had filled their verification reports without informing the claimant. He showed blank reports signed by the committees. Mr. Lohar told the people that the committees had people’s representatives who have blindly signed such reports. He appealed to the people to go and check the representatives’ actions and ‘make them do their job’. Vayam’s organizer Milind Thatte appealed to all villages that they must file community rights claims and conserve the forest for present and future generations. Such claims are already filed by four of Vayam’s villages and they have prepared Biodiversity Registers. All four villages were recently awarded funds by the State Biodiversity Boards for conservation of biodiversity.

RTI Satyagraha ends victorious!

Vayam’s village volunteers have scored a massive victory in making our democracy work. The RTI Satyagraha that was launched in April by 700 tribal citizens has finally succeeded. These citizens were seeking a vital piece of information that the government was expected to give proactively. The government (i.e. Committee headed by District collector) defied the people by giving irrelevant answers and pressurizing the appellants during RTI hearing. People wanted to know why their rights to ancestral land were denied despite the law being in their favour. The first RTI applications were filed by 1272 people. 457 followed up rigorously and filed the first appeal. When the first appeal didn’t deliver, village assemblies met and decided to send 10 representative appeals to the State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC). People contributed money for traveling of these 10 representatives.
The SCIC heard the appellants and gave a verdict that all 1272 people must be given the information they had sought. The PIO (public information officer) of the concerned offices were given show-cause notices; i.e. they have to explain why they couldn’t give information; failing which they will be fined heavily. The PIO was also ordered to pay Rs. 2,000 each to all 10 appellants as compensation for making them file appeals.
We thank Shailesh Gandhi, ex-CIC and RTI activist for his phenomenal role. Cheers to Vayam! Cheers to Democracy!

We thank our friends in media for a good coverage:

the Hindu: Tribal people use RTI for info on land titles, MoneyLife: RTI battle of Jawhar tribals get a fillip, the DNA: Put forest land info on website for tribals, the Times of India: Tribals to get info through RTI, the Mumbai Mirror: Finally, Thane tribals to get info about land titles, Lokmat: आदिवासींनीही वापरला आरटीआय, वयममुळे मिळाला न्‍याय, and Loksatta for appropriate publicity to this success of democratic struggle.

Volunteers invited to work/play with children

our kidsVayam is beginning a children’s activity at a tribal village Kogda-Patilpada (10 km north of Jawhar, 145 km from Mumbai, 90 km from Nashik). This activity is nicknamed as “Bin Booka Ya  Shika” (come, let’s learn without books). We are inviting young volunteers to participate and conduct activities with children. Volunteers between 17 to 25 years of age are most welcome. Prior experience of working with children and a special skill e.g. Origami, clay work, rope mallakhamb, gynamstics, story-telling, dramatics, field sports, making toys and tools etc. would be a great advantage. If you love to be with children, you are fit for this.

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That’s our logo 🙂

Copy-paste the following text in a word file. Fill the blanks and mail it to us.

वयम्

Volunteer enrollment form

Name:

Date of Birth:

Education:

(Note: mention year passed if you are a college student)

Postal address:

City:                                       PIN:

Email id:

Mobile no.: +91

Mobile number of a family member: +91

Family member’s name and your relation:

Information about medical fitness

History of recent or current illnesses:

Physical disability, if any:

 

Write a few lines (max. 100 words) about each of the following points:

Your experience of working/playing with children (age 6 to 12)

Why do you want to volunteer

Any prior experience of living in a village

What would you like to teach or facilitate

Any special skill or liking; e.g.  Origami, clay work,  storytelling, Rope mallakhamb, gymnastics, sport,  etc.

This volunteering opportunity is open for volunteers (17 to 25 yr old) willing to live at our residence in the village Kogda-Patilpada (140 km from Mumbai, 90 km from Nashik) for minimum 4 days (inclu. 3 nights) to a maximum of 8 days (inclu. 7 nights).

Kindly fill this form and mail it to: vayamindia@gmail.com

This year at Vayam (2012 annual brief)

Dear friends of Vayam,
Ram-ram!
Image2012 has been a great year for us and we wish to share the joy with you. Here are some highlights: 
This year at Vayam:
+ Vayam believes in free sharing of knowledge. The ideas and methodologies of empowering youth in tribal villages developed by Vayam are shared freely with other organisations, individuals, and volunteers. Vayam field team provided knowledge inputs to other organisations; viz. Aerohan (Mokhada taluka), Shramik Vikas Sanstha (Jawhar taluka), Pragati Abhiyan (Nashik district), Maharashtra Prabodhan Seva Mandal (Nashik district), Adivasi Vanvasi Jagruti Sanghatna (Raigad district), Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (Maharashtra), Communist Party of India – Marxist (Jawhar taluka), Pragati Pratishthan (Jawhar taluka), Sah-Astitva (Ganeshpuri, Vasai taluka), and State Government of Goa (Goa).
+ We shared our ideas-that-have-worked with all the organisations mentioned above; specifically we could help them with People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBR), Community Forest Rights (CFR), Right to Food through PDS and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The way we empower village youth to take these issues up is appreciated and adopted by many of our friends.
+ Knowlege sharing has certainly been a two-way process. We have learnt many more things from our friends mentioned above.
+ We conducted two leadership camps this year, both having a mix of new and seasoned volunteers. Keeping with our tradition, both camps were conducted on contributions given by the participants.
+ We have embarked our second lap. The villages where law-based-advocacy has succeeded in empowering the youth, it is now time for the community to take up self-driven initiatives. We have begun a new project coined by local volunteers as “Aplyach Gaavaat Apan Sheth” (translation: we will be rich in our own village). AGaAShe is entrepreneurship development project. It’s skill-training component is being supported by Vigyan-Ashram, Pabal.
+ This year also saw a huge challenge taken up by our village volunteers. They came across a dam that was planned to be built submerging the villages. The government had flouted the rules of law and had not even informed the affected citizens. Our village volunteers formed “Khargi Hill Dharan Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti” (resistance committee). Eight villages united under this banner and told the government to follow the law. The Samiti has declared that negotiations must be held with entire Gram Sabha (village assembly) and not in closed-door discussions with political leaders. This lawful agitation has brought the dam to a standstill.
+ Our urban volunteers have been active in raising awareness in cities about dams, displacement, and injustice to our weakest brethren. An online signature campaign and a trek through the submergence area has had a handsome response from our city friends.

Thank you for supporting us all through. Of course we know you will continue to be a part of Vayam family. With this, we wish you and us (that’s Vayam) an amazing year ahead!

ram ram,

– the team

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Youth leaders march further

Our third Netrutva Shibir (leadership camp) in Jawhar concluded last week. The 3-day residential shibir was hosted by the Vayam’s Mandal in Kokanpada village. Two new villages – Hateri-gaothan and Ayre joined this shibir. The shibir focussed on learning the relevant laws (NREGA and FRA) and on learning community mobilisation skills.
Resource persons from Pragati Abhiyan helped in the learning of NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and also provided excellent learning material. Vayam’s own resource persons taught the FRA (Forest Rights Act). Participants spent one full day in learning the process of filing community claims to protect and manage forests. They used the case-study of two villages of Gadchiroli district to understand the process in detail. N-CAS (National Centre for Advocacy studies, Pune) has published the case studies in the form of a book in Marathi. This book proved to be a good textbook for learning the process.
The final day of the shibir was marked by all participants making their village-action-plans. Kokanpada, Ruichapada, Hateri, and Ayre have prepared plans for next six months. The plans are targeted to improve the Jal, Jungle, and Jameen (water, forest, and land) in these tribal villages.
The most remarkable plan is that of Kokanpada where people are likely to plant trees in thousands!
As is the regular practice in Vayam’s shibirs, all the costs of the shibir were borne by the participants. The hosts i.e. our Mandal of Kokanpada giving a lion’s share.