As a student of Social Entrepreneurship at IIMB, I had
the privilege of listening to a few accomplished
individuals from the social sector. This write-up is my
attempt to summarize the thoughts, ambition and
lives of these great people, so that it serves as a source
of inspiration for myself and other like-minded people.
Social Entrepreneurship SeminarSeries
Speaker: Nikhil Dey, MazdoorKisan Shakti Sangathan
One rupee per day - that’s the daily wage paid to poor people
employed under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
(NREGA) in Rajasthan. One rupee (2 cents in USD terms) paid for
eight hours of strenuous physical labour.
This is happening in India now as we speak when these people should be paid at least Rs.
100 (USD 2.22) according to our Minimum Wage Act. When some of the activists
brought this fact to Government’s notice, guess what the Government did – It passed a
resolution saying Minimum Wage Act doesn’t apply to NREGA! That’s the tragedy of
India. Nikhil Dey is one of the activists involved in fighting this resolution and restoring
justice to the lives of poor people in Rajasthan.
Nikhil’s tryst with social development started way
back in 1987 in Rajasthan. Rajasthan being a desert
area, the only choices poor people had to earn a living
at that time was to work at the government work
sites. The labourers were always underpaid at these
work sites. When they demanded to be paid minimum
wages on public works, they were refused on the
grounds that "they did not work." When the labourers questioned the authorities, they
were told that the proof for the fact that they did not work
lay in the records. The records in question were
"measurement books" which were filled by the Junior
Engineer. The labourers who demanded to see the records
were told in no uncertain terms that they could not see the
records, because according to the Official Secrets Act, a
colonial legacy, all these records were state secrets and
could not be opened up to the public.
In a bid to find a solution to the problem Nikhil along with
Aruna Roy, an IAS officer, and fellow social activist Shanker Singh moved to Devdoongri,
a village in Rajasthan and started living there. In 1990, they have setup the Mazdoor
Kisan Shakti Sangathan ("Workers and Peasants Strength Union") to fight for the rights
of the poor. MKSS began a grassroot movement advocating the public's right to
scrutinize official records in order to check corruption and hold public officials
accountable for the irregularities. This was the first seed sown of what became the now
famous Right to Information Act.
Nikhil says the biggest problem of this country is political apathy. He says most of us
well-educated “cityzens”, want to be apolitical and non-controversial. We are so busy
with our lives that we don’t even have time to vote. He opined that India’s dream of
democracy will be fulfilled only when we raise our voice to make the powerful truthful.
Hamara paiseHamara hisaab
Ee paise hamaareaapka
Nahikisi ke baap ka
Har haatko kaammile
Har kaamka daammile
Social Entrepreneurship SeminarSeries
Poor people in Indian villages walk an average of
six kilometres everyday to get a pot of drinking
water. If this is the case with drinking water then
imagine what would be the fate of agriculture,
which is the livelihood for a majority of poor
people in India?
India was a country endowed with a lot of water
bodies from as early as 5th century. Several dynasties that ruled India built a large
number of tanks and robust water harvesting mechanisms to insulate the country from
water scarcity. But alas, the situation is quite different now. Huge industrialization has
resulted in contamination of ground water in many areas. Rapid infrastructure
development is leading to disappearance of tanks. For example, the recent 4-lane outer
ring road laid in Tamilnadu eliminated close to 160 different water bodies. Worse, the
state is encroaching upon some of these tanks to build government properties. In
Madurai 40 tanks were used to build the corporation office, police station and district
M.P.Vasimalai, a 1983 passout of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad has
determined to change the state of affairs. He started the DHAN foundation
(Development of Humane Action) with the aim of restoring the water bodies in India.
DHAN foundation has so far adopted 1500 villages and successfully carried out the
restoration of water bodies. It’s Vasimalai’s belief that restoring the water bodies would
improve the livelihood opportunities by facilitating agriculture, cattle rearing & fishing.
The organization is currently involved also in developing an ‘enabling model’ of
microfinance to empower women and address poverty. DHAN foundation at present has
USD 86 million dollars of mobilized funds and 29 million USD of savings from the
various self help groups touched by the organization.
Vasimalai says that the success mantra for any development organization are –
Grass root action
Building people for building people
Work on income generation & livelihood
Never give up core values
He also cautioned that development work is not a quick fix solution. Development work
takes time to show a real change in the lives of the people, so the social entrepreneurs
should continue to do good work and be patient.
Social Entrepreneurship SeminarSeries
Speaker: Dr. Balasubramaniam,Swami VivekanandaYouthMovement
India is home to the highest number of children dying under the
age of five. According to the latest UNICEF estimates around
17.26 lakh kids died in 2009 before reaching their fifth birthday.
What’s even worse is the fact that a majority of these child deaths
could be easily avoided. Access to pure drinking water and
sanitation facilities can decrease the child mortality rate by as
much as 68% As a country, India is such a strange paradox. At one
end of the spectrum we are making rapid strides in technology,
sending rockets to the moon and so on. At the other end we are not able to fulfil the
basic needs of the people of this country. One end we are lavishly spending billions of
dollars to announce to the world that India has arrived. On the other hand, millions of
people still die of poverty and lack of basic health care.
Where is the problem? Is lack of resources the problem or lack of commitment?
These questions troubled Balu, when he first witnessed the inhumane conditions in
which tribals of Chinnadagudihundi village were living in during 1984.
Balasubramaniam, or in short Balu, was a young medico from the Mysore Medical
College and was posted on duty in the tribal village. Having read the complete works of
Vivekananda, and being a protégé to Swami Achalanandaji of Ramakrishna Mutt, these
stirring questions spurred Balu into action – Teaming up with a few like-minded friends
Balu started a not-for-profit, non-religious, non-political, voluntary organization called
Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement. The organization vowed to make a difference in
the lives of the tribals, poor and marginalized by setting up community based health and
education projects and undertaking various community development initiatives.
Today, 26 years down the line, SVYM is one of India’s leading development NGOs that
execute over 60 projects every year and reach out to nearly 5 million people across the
entire state of Karnataka. Apart from running schools & hospitals for the tribals, SVYM
also conducts vocational trainings for the tribal youth and contribute towards the socio -
economic empowerment of these people.
Balasubramaniam says - Poverty is not lack of money. It is the lack of opportunity to
work to sustain oneself. The subsidies and loan waivers provided by the government
makes people “cope” with poverty. In the sense that the poor eternally becomes
dependent on the government for their basic needs. What the Government should
instead do is create opportunities for the poor. When the opportunities are available
people work hard and extricate themselves from poverty & suffering.
He concluded the session with these words – Be grateful that the poor man is there. Be
thankful that you are allowed to exercise your benevolence upon him, and thus become
pure and perfect.