Ifsar Stands for Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research, Bikaner, which is an Ngo, registered under The Rajasthan Societies Registration Act, 1958 and working in the field of Education and other social concerns.
Background of the Thar 3
About Gharsisar 8
The issue...primary education 11
And the solution proposed 13
The difference 24
Support solicited 18
Contact us 20
Table of Contents…Table of Contents…Table of Contents…
Background of the Thar…Background of the Thar…Background of the Thar…
RRajasthan is one of the largest states of the country and
the districts of Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Nagaur
spread over thousands of kilometres form part of the
Great Indian Thar.
Bikaner and Jaisalmer share common borders with Paki-
stan. Since only 1% of the total land is irrigated, the state
remains one of the most socio-economically deprived
states of India. More than half of the total ground water in
the Thar is considered brackish and highly saline.
Water has been one of the basic defining components for explaining the settlement pattern in possibly every period of
settlement history of the Thar. Interestingly many settlements were abandoned either permanently or temporarily be-
cause of the drying up of a water source. For most of the villages located in the arid drought prone region, rainwater is
still the dominant source of water for subsistence. Potable drinking water is a serious problem and several villages are
still without their own captive ground water source, having to rely on wells and reservoirs several kilometres away. In
summers esp., the communities have to spend a substantial sum of money in purchasing potable water. Shortage of
fodder is another serious problem and is imported from neighboring states at a higher price Absence of timely rains
means that the farming communities do not even recover the cost of sowing, thus leading them towards debt and un-
able to overcome their poverty cycle.
Big and small dunes amidst the sandy deserts
interspersed by plain and sandy agricultural
lands mark the topography. These dunes are
formed because of the southwest winds,
which blow at great speed from March to
September. Because of these severe sand-
storms, communication links esp. with the
rural areas are badly disrupted, making the
provision of development support services
almost impossible. In the middle of the de-
sert, the vegetation is sparse with only a few
‘Khejdi’ (Prosopis ceneraria) trees and
thorny bushes to break the monotony of the
sand and flat landscape.
Around 85% of the population lives in villages.
A peculiar feature of the desert demography is
its scattered nature. The scattered communities
and their seasonal settlement patterns make it a
challenge to institutionalize any form of service
delivery – whether health, education, or exten-
sion of banking or agriculture related services. A
combination of subsistence farming and semi
nomadic pastoralism based on the utilization of
large tracts of non-arable and marginalized lands
still forms the basis of much of the region’s ru-
ral economy. The majority of the arable is
mono-cropped mostly producing rainfed crops.
The fragile eco-system and typical geo-physical
features lead to fluctuations in production and
peoples’ livelihoods. Owing to poor socio-
economic conditions, a harsh physical terrain
and the presence of recurrent natural disasters
like drought, investment on children at the family level is far from adequate.
The distress migration, though it gives the inhabitants enough opportunity to survive, has obvious long-term repercus-
sions in the spheres of health and education of the family members, esp. women and children. This uncertainty does
not let the people come out of the throes of poverty, which is more marked in case of poor people who have always
lacked access to resources and opportunity.
The Indira Gandhi Canal*
has in many ways been responsible for the disappearing of the grazing lands, severe water
logging and salinity, resulting in the displacement of a large number of farmers. Depleting pasturelands are also direct
fallout owing to the sporadic rise in the number of tractors.
The man's role within this community is one of decision-
making and leadership. Men do not participate in the day-
to-day running of the fam- ily while the women, mostly
housewives, are primarily responsible for taking care of
their families. They also help their men folk in subsistence
farming, during the brief months of the rainy season. The
society of this region is characterised by a patriarchal
order where women have a secondary and subjugated status.
This means that women find themselves increasingly
overworked and socially isolated. Traditional conservative
practices and the persis- tence of the feudal ethos continu-
ally keep the women in the arid zone silenced, exhausted, and
confined to interiors, veiled and secluded from birth to
death. Women, and in particular, poor women, are thus
invisible and unremuner- ated for their household work.
They and their children, suffer the effects of dislocation and loss of income due to forces that they do not understand
or have control over. Further, their economic lives have been mainly subsistence-oriented—to fulfill basic needs. They
have not received their share of education, training, health and livelihood opportunities consistent with their potential,
which will enable them to deal with crises and shocks or improve their well-being.
Life is hard and much
is a question of hope
and survival. The in-
habitants here have
been living here since
generations and their
way of life is steeped in
tradition. The native populations of the Thar rank as so-
cieties that have one of the lowest literacy rates in the
country. In particular, literacy among women in the rural
areas is abysmally low. The area also has one of the
lower sex ratios in the country.
The absence of flow of scientific knowledge, ideas and
expressions and non existence of opportunities has made
conditions unfavorable for adolescents and young people
too. As a consequence, the rural-urban divide is quite
stark and evident in the regions of the Thar.
Development programmes, in the true sense, have rarely
reached the poorest families in the region, having had to
filter through a more educated and richer class of people.
The situation is compounded by the persistence of the
older feudal ethos where caste hierarchy and status attract
prestige and hegemony. This has made the poor, the
lower castes and women even more vulnerable to the
manipulations of quacks, market forces as well as the
The disruption and breakdown of the traditional mosaic
of material cultures and social communities, ecosystems
and their boundaries, rangelands, bird lands, wildlife,
biodiversity etc., is a part of the on-going process.
The Thar Desert has never been hospitable to large per-
manent settlements due to environmental constraints. In
the ongoing conflict between nomadism and civilization,
prejudices as civi-
lized human be-
ings has not only
made us greedy,
tures, but has also
made us tragically
oblivious of our
with the nomads.
About Gharsisar…About Gharsisar …About Gharsisar …
Village Gharsisar is a small settlement on the outskirts of Bikaner.
History says that about 200 years back, it was one of the districts in the republic of Godara Jats in Jangladesh, whose chief
was Pandu having 700 villages in his state with capital at Shekhsar.
For administrative purposes, although Gharsisar has come under the city limits since about two years now, yet it continues
to resemble a loosely underdeveloped and impoverished village.
The inhabitants living in the 400-odd households of Gharsisar,
mostly belonging to minority communities, primarily Muslims,
are from a poor socio-economic background. Parents and children
toil for daily wages in factories, homes, in agricultural fields and
as unskilled construction workers that usually do not even meet
their daily requirements.
On an average, the families dependent on daily wages get em-
ployment for about 15-20 days in a month, which again, to a large
extent, is dependent on the agricultural cycle, rains and the pre-
vailing market. The average income for a family here is small
and they are only able to buy the very basic necessities. Most
families have borrowed money from money-lenders at high inter-
est rates, which add to their vicious debt cycle. Amongst other
factors, the exceptionally low level of education and social aware-
ness make them vulnerable.
Bikaner, also called the city of camels, is a 500-year
old desert district in north western Rajasthan. It is situ-
ated at an elevation of 238 meters above sea level with
coordinates 27°58'49"N and 73°18'30"E.
Potable drinking water is a serious problem and Gharsisar like several other villages still has to do without its own
captive ground water source, having to rely on illegal water connection outlets. One can see women and children
walking to the nearest water point with mud pitchers precariously on their heads. Even the smallest children take part
in this regular and time consuming task. There however exists a community water harvesting structure built by the
ruler of Bikaner which is now in a pretty bad shape, lying uncared for.
Access to basic amenities like primary health care, drinking water, primary education, large family size and lack of
opportunities of securing adequate livelihoods have emerged as the major problems faced by the poor households. The
houses belonging to poor families have one or
two semi-pucca rooms, which the inhabitants
themselves build using locally available materi-
als like unfired mud bricks and plastered with a
mixture of mud, cow dung and mud. The
houses do not have toilet facilities and the fam-
ily members have to go out in the fields. They
cook food on firewood and cow dung cakes
collected from nearby fields. Very few houses
have underground water storage tanks (Kunds).
Of late, illegal tapping of electricity has be-
come a widely ‘accepted’ practice here.
Chewing of Gutka is common phenomenon in
Gharsisar religiously practiced by both, young
and the old, men as well as women.
The communities have been living here for generations and their
way of life is steeped in customs and traditions. A traditional prac-
tice in the rural Thar is that girls post marriage go and stay with
their husband’s family. In the Thar, it is a practice to get the girls
married off very early but she continues to stay with her own fam-
ily. By the time they are 14-16 years of age, a small ceremony
called ‘gauna’ is performed and the girls are sent to her husband’s
family. It might be noted here that the average child bearing age in
the rural regions of Rajasthan is around 15 years.
The society here persists to
be largely pre literate aural
culture where the written
word either has a limited penetration or is understood by a few. While on paper, it might appear that primary schools
exist on paper in almost every village of the district and that there is nearly cent-per-cent enrolment and retention of all
children attending school, however, if we move beyond the ‘official’ records, one would be revealed a different and a
more complex picture. It is widely spoken that in some schools, even absent children are also marked present, espe-
cially when distribution of dry rations is linked to attendance! There are very few Govt. run upper primary schools/
middle schools in the rural region.
Further, although the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) conceives a vibrant partnership with the communities, this is not
the case. Frequent teacher absenteeism, lack of educational materials, discriminatory behaviour of teachers or peers,
use of language that is alien to the language that is spoken at home, absence of female teachers, lack of ability to meet
the school’s academic demands, a poor learning atmosphere, lack of enthusiasm amongst teachers etc. are some of the
other reasons discouraging children’s participation in schools. Pushing
children from one grade to the next (no detention policy) without ensuring
learning not only defeats the very purpose of schooling, but, as voiced by
people, is actually cheating the poorest. There is growing evidence to show
that those who can so afford are already taking recourse to private tuitions
or private schools.
Children from poor households tend to absent themselves for a range of
reasons. Parents say it is difficult for them to ‘force’ their children to go to
school, especially when ‘nothing much happens there’. One can easily spot
young girls as well as boys playing cards on the roadside.
The Issue…Primary Education...The Issue...Primary Education...The Issue...Primary Education...
When it comes to the overall enrolment rate in schools, girls lag far behind. The gender division of work and added
responsibility of household work (which includes taking care of the siblings, attending to milch cows / goats, fetching
fuel wood / fodder, water, running errands and looking after sick family members etc.) on girls in the family directly
impacts on their learning abilities. Given the nutritional status of most poor children, energy levels are low and impact
upon children’s ability to concentrate in school.
Enrolment and attendance is not only determined by economic
situation but also by the social status of groups. The attitudes and
prejudices of teachers and chil- dren regarding social and community
identities of marginal groups in the school also play an important role
in defining educational out- comes for the latter. Despite all tall
claims and the fact that exists a Govt. school here, education is still a
distant dream for many a chil- dren, especially girl children.
These issues are related to ac- cess, the quality of education, existing
social support systems which is coupled by the geophysical, socio-
economic conditions peculiar to the Thar.
Adverse conditions at home and the prevailing social structure hold
back these children from asso- ciating themselves with the main-
stream educational system. This has resulted in serious social implications, both within the family as well as within the
society. The well being of the next generation also depends upon these factors.
And yet…Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research is convinced that ‘There is a notable willingness amongst the
poor to pay (although ability is often limited or non-existent), and to make sacrifices for what they perceive to be good
quality education at an affordable cost’.
Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research
(IFSaR) is a not-for-profit organisation pro-
moted by committed individuals who have
extensive knowledge and working experience pertaining to the life, culture, issues and challenges faced by the socially
and economically vulnerable and marginalised communities of the Thar. The organization was registered in the year
2006 under the Rajasthan Societies Act, 1958 with a view to find innovative solutions to some of the fundamental
issues faced by the poor and deprived communities.
The organisation aims to empower the rural communities in the harsh, predominantly barren and remote desert region
of the Thar by offering them strategic support and guidance that would initiate and sustain socially just and optimum
ecological practices. Activities vary according to the needs and situation of the specific area.
In order to bring about qualitative change exclusively in the lives of
the children coming from a poor socio-economic background and
with a view to reduce the wide gap between urban India (the
‘technology-rich’) and rural Bharat (the ‘technology-poor’), IFSAR
Upper Primary School, a day-boarding school was established in vil-
lage Gharsisar, Bikaner in 2009. The school is recognized by the Dept.
of Education, Govt. of Rajasthan for providing education up to class
VIII and follows the State Govt. Board’s curriculum. This establish-
ment was conceived not merely as a school but as a rural centre for
And the Solution Proposed...And the Solution Proposed...And the Solution Proposed...
Convincing and motivating parents…
As most children happen to be first time school goers, the school has a difficult task in con-
vincing and motivating the illiterate parents to send their children esp. girl children to school.
It’s a tough call for the parents too as they have to make sacrifices too – sending their wards
to schools means that they now have to forego whatever additional income their children
would otherwise bring home. On the contrary, they now have the additional burden of shell-
ing out money towards tuition fees and some very basic stationery.
By allowing the girls to enroll themselves in schools, the mothers would now have to do
without additional domestic help back home. But the biggest beneficiary is perhaps the girl
child herself, whose marriage is deferred at least till the time she is in school.
Again, those who are willing to educate their children are faced with two choices – either
send the children to Govt. schools, in which they see ‘no purpose’ or send them to private
schools where the cost of education is virtually out of bounds for the economically weaker
sections. IFSAR Upper Primary School charges a nominal fee (between Rs. 50 - Rs. 100 pm)
primarily to cover the rental / electricity costs and to ensure ownership and commitment of
the parents. Preference is given to girl children.
How is this school different...How is this school different...How is this school different...
The school does not
assume that it can end
illiteracy once and for
all; or that it can pay
adequate attention to
all aspects of educa-
tion. It can at best act
as a catalyst, contribut-
ing to illiteracy reduc-
tion through strategic
The school aims to
make quality and ho-
listic education acces-
sible at an affordable
cost to children from
of the society through
a variety of innovative
community based in-
terventions. Over 80
children are currently
benefiting from this
Thrust on vocational education…
Children in classes VI and above are al-
ready being exposed to skills in English
proficiency, basic computers and other soft
skills. Once children complete class VIII,
they would have the option of opting for a
vocational course of their choice, if they so
desire i.e. To start with they would be of-
fered traditional courses like electrical fit-
tings, plumbing, tailoring, masonry, com-
puter skills etc. The list would be upgraded
with time in tune with the market relevance
Social and economic empowerment of
Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research
realizes that it is vital to work with those women who
have sent their children to school. Accordingly, the
mothers of these children are members of Self Help
Groups initiated by the organization.
Besides inculcating the habit of regular savings, ef-
forts are also undertaken to find alternate and digni-
fied sources of livelihood for these women. In times
of emergencies, these women can now borrow money
at minimal rate of interest. An increase in their in-
come levels improves the probability of the children
being sent to school with relative ease.
In the days to come, the school would have its own
captive sources of income generation. Needy chil-
dren (in the order of priority) would be made partners
(subject to the parents’ consent) in the programme,
wherein the children would put in about an hour’s
work either before or after school hours. This, we
believe would supplement the family’s income and
would act as an incentive to send the children to
schools instead of to factories or other work places.
throws up a good
reason for the
school to link
with the Open
tem for classes X
and XII. Along-
side with voca-
regular and me-
ing / coaching
would be offered
to the children
who opt to ap-
pear for Board
Health camps are organized
once every 4-6 months
wherein the children (of the
school), their parents and other
members of the community get
free checkup and treatment.
For those suffering from com-
mon ailments, medicine is
offered free of cost. The Hb
count of those children (esp
girls) suffering from anemia
(quite common amongst girls
and women in this region) is
noted at regular intervals.
A school devel-
opment and moni-
has been formed
which is ade-
sented by mem-
bers of the com-
munity and par-
ents. This committee meets at regular intervals to discuss and
review the functioning and progress of the school.
Also, children are involved in the decision making process
wherever possible. They are consulted on the school timings,
the examination dates, the annual vacations etc. This is cru-
cial because most children assist their parents during the agri-
cultural season and in other household activities. To compen-
sate for this, the children opted for a mere 15-days annual
vacation in June 2010.
By handing over the lock and the keys of the school to the
children, faith is entrusted upon them. This gesture has incul-
cated the habit of honesty (and responsibility) in children.
Very soon, a rural learn-
ing centre that would re-
main open after school
hours and managed by the
school children them-
selves is to come up in the
school premises which
would initially have
books / indoor and outdoor
This step would arrest the
tendency of these children
to act as mischief-mongers
on the streets. Further-
more, the children of this
school would be involved
in imparting literacy to
members of the commu-
nity. Topics on health
awareness and social
awareness and legal aware-
ness would also form part
of the curriculum.
The school realizes that in the future it would need to strategically tie up with training institutes, agricultural institu-
tions / business establishments (construction/tailoring/hospitality etc. to name a few), Govt. bodies and NGOs if it is to
nurture into a complete rural learning centre.
For the moment, the school has four teachers and operates from a rented building. In the days to come, the school
would strive to :
• Enhance the quality of teaching by hiring the services of experts and professionals, including counselors
• Apply appropriate emerging technologies (and this would include ICT based interventions like radio/mobile
phones/computers/internet etc.) in the realm of education
• 2010-2011:- Shift to its own premises which would give the school a permanent address and so that vocational
training activities might commence
• 2011-2012:- Develop hostel facilities for the benefit of children from remote and far-flung settlements
• 2012-2013:- Establishment of Industrial Training Centre (commencement of vocational training activities)
• 2014-2015:- Establishment of Teachers Training Institute
Here’s the break-up of expenditure (approx.) involved in the
running of the school for the period July 2010—June 2011
(based on actual cost at current levels)
Support Solicited...Support Solicited...Support Solicited...
Head Details Amount
Salaries for Teachers 2 teachers @ Rs. 2,500/- pm and 2 teachers @ Rs. 3,000/- pm 1,32,000
Salary for Clerk cum Acct. 1 person @ Rs. 2,500/- pm 30,000
Rent Rental incl. electricity and water @ Rs. 3,000/- pm 36,000
Transportation For teachers / volunteers @ Rs. 3,000/- pm 36,000
Stationery Routine school stationery incl. photocopy, printing @ Rs. 600/- pm 7,200
Communication Telephone and internet @ Rs. 1,200/- pm 14,400
Events Independence day/republic day/Id celebrations/competitions @ Rs. 2,000/- p.a. 2,000
Misc. Contingencies 3,000
Note:- The present rented school building has three classrooms. To provide for more spacious seating arrangements,
we are currently in the process of adding four more classrooms by constructing asbestos sheds (with a layer of locally
available grass/mud at the top to keep away the heat). The cost for this is expected to work out to Rs. 10,000/-
Set of requirements for improved functioning of the school…
• Computer incl. printer scanner—01 no.
• Maps & charts (standard requirements)
• CDs/DVDs (science, space, geography, health, other relevant mtrls. stories of inspiration)
• Desks and benches (2-seater) for children in class VI & above (20 children)
• LCD projector (with screen) – 01 no.
• Sports mtrls. (indoor – carom, chess, scrabble, jigsaw etc. & outdoor – shuttle, rings,
flying disk etc.)
• Simple telescope & microscope – 01+01 nos.
• Individual volunteers who can (understand the prevailing socio-economic conditions of the
communities and) assist in (i) documentation, (ii) making case studies and (iii) preparing a
roadmap/ business plan for the school
• Individuals who can assist us in designing and printing of brochures
• Professionals who can design a web page and offer space on (web) site
• individuals who can arrange for tie-up with institutions that can impart vocational skills/
training to children (for girls and boys who have completed Cl. VIII and above)
• Books for library & other teaching / learning mtrls.
• Maruti-omni van for all transportation purposes—01 no.
• Land (Three bighas approx 81,675 sq.ft.). One bigha or 165 ft. x 165 ft. (27,225 sq.ft.) is
the standard measure and would cost around Rs. 8 lacs at prevailing land prices.
As against the actual cost
incurred in running of the
school, what we get by way
of tuition fees is meager,
barely enough to cover the
cost of rent and electricity/
IFSAR Upper Primary
School humbly solicits your
encouragement, support and
continued patronage so the
children of the Thar may too
realize their potentials…
You too can support the school by :
• making available the above mentioned
requirements (either in cash or in kind) in
part or in full
• sponsoring the education of a child @ Rs
300/- per child per month (half-yearly
feedback report would be made available)
• making a direct contribution
• opting for a fixed deposit in school’s
name (based on a mutual agreement be-
tween the school and the depositor).
While the principal amount would be re-
turned to the depositor on maturity, the
amount earned by way of interest would
go to the school
We genuinely believe that together we can
make a difference in the lives of the children
from the socially and economically disadvan-
taged communities. Those of whom are in-
terested may kindly get in touch with us for
any further details or clarifications.
Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research
Bank of Baroda, Sardul Ganj, Bikaner-334003, Rajasthan (India)
SB A/c No. 18650100008561
RTGS / NEFT IFSC Code : BARB0SARDUL
Note : Contributions are exempted from tax under Section 80-G of
the Income Tax Act.
Institute of Fundamental Studies and Research
Amita / Viswanathan Deepak (+91 94132 65010);
Manoj Kumar Singh (+91 94134 81081)
I-7, Ballabh Garden, Rajmata Sudarshana Nagar, Bikaner-334003,