Pahal: Shaasan Sudhaar Ki Ore
Transparency International India is implementing a grassroots initiative, Pahal: Shaasan Sudhaar Ki Ore in four districts each in four states, namely Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar since April, 2009. This initiative is the next logical step taken after the TII’s India Corruption Study, 2008 carried out to measure the extent of bribes paid by the rural below poverty line (BPL) households to avail the eleven basic (PDS, Hospitals, School Education, Electricity, Water Supply) and need based services (Land Records, Housing, Forest, NREGS, Banking & Police). The findings revealed that the total bribe amount paid by the BPL households in a year was Rs. 883 crore, this, however, doesn’t include operational irregularities or corruption not involving rural citizens directly. The average amount paid by a BPL household in India was Rs.550 per annum in 2007.
Under the initiative we are working for the poor and marginalized rural masses to empower them to demand and access their entitlements and public services with the knowledge and use of the tools of good governance like RTI, social audit, revived gram sabhas, citizen’s charter and e-governance. Pahal also works towards people-centric, transparent and accountable governance through greater participation of women and disadvantaged sections in local self governance, increased responsiveness from local administration towards Gram Sabha (people’s assembly for self governance) and tools of good governance and active role of Panchayats in bottom-up planning and monitoring.
· Right to Information Campaign : Some volunteers are identified and trained to make rural masses aware of the Right To Information and RTI applications are filed to facilitate common causes and service delivery.
· Citizens’ Charter : A charter is made in consultation with local govt offices and departments to publicly display a minimum crucial information about the duties of officials, their names, contact numbers, details of services offered with time limits and deadlines, etc.
· Village Information Centre : A local information centre is set-up that houses information about govt schemes and services and tools of good governance, applications formats for various services, etc. The villagers can approach this centre with their problems and get them solved locally with the help of local RTI volunteers.
· Village Camps for Training, Awareness & Facilitating Service Delivery : Regular camps are held in rural areas to raise awareness about local governance and tools and to help the marginalized rural communities access the basic services through filing their applications for various govt schemes, RTI etc.
· Facilitating Gram Sabhas : The villagers are motivated to participate in the Gram Sabha for active planning of village projects, selection of beneficiaries for different schemes, budgeting, monitoring and social audit.
· Social Audit : The district administration is provided with necessary support to conduct Social Audits in the Gram Panchayats in the prescribed manner.
· Voter Awareness Campaigns : The voters are motivated through awareness campaign to elect responsible and capable representatives to ensure holistic development of the area.
· Studies & Publications: Few studies have been conducted on service delivery and communication materials have been developed on Governance and Decentralization to spread the message to the classes and the masses both.
· Advocacy for pro-people reforms and legislations : Pahal advocates with the government, PRIs and local civil societies for pro-people laws like RTI, PRI, etc and supports the positive reforms in local governance, administration and service delivery.
Broad Project Outcomes
Promoting tools of good governance: Due to training and awareness generation activities, villagers know about the tools of good governance like RTI, citizens’ charter and use them to demand services and emoluments from government officials and elected representatives through written applications instead of making verbal appeals.
· Facilitate Government Services Delivery: As advocacy efforts, the government machinery is sensitized to answer the RTI queries, display Citizens’ charters and other information in various government departments, facilitate social audits and deliver services timely and efficiently.
· Strengthening Local Self-Governance: In most of the places, Gram Sabhas are not properly conducted. TII aims to make the villagers aware about the local governance processes and make them participate.
· Sustainable Information Flow to rural areas: Village Information Centre acts as a hub for information dissemination-cum-community action for 4-5 adjacent Gram Panchayats. After the first pilot in Chhattisgarh, similar centers are being established in Orissa and Jharkhand as well.
· Creating Community Leadership: TII volunteer teams trained through this initiative act as catalyst in every village and spread the awareness on tools of good governance. They, in turn, motivate several others, too, to join the movement for improving governance in villages.
Summary of Work Done under Pahal
We have nurtured about fifteen Model Gram Panchayats (GPs) in three states where people are well-informed, use the tools of good governance and participate in democratic processes. We have developed Village Information Centres for information dissemination, assistance and grievance handling at the Panchayat level, as well as formed a group of village leaders (especially including marginalized groups like women, tribals, etc) who are trained in use and dissemination of tools of good governance like RTI, citizen’s charter, social audit. We have, in coordination with government officials and elected representatives, facilitated fair, hassle free and timely delivery of government services for more than 2000 rural poor.
In Jharkhand, we focused more on delivery of services, keeping in mind the stark poverty and lack of local democratic institutions in the state and helped more than 735 individuals apply under various government schemes. In Chhattisgarh and Orissa, we extensively used RTI and filed more than 200 RTI applications to avail information on public issues, facilitate common causes and to expose corruption. We conducted seven social audits in cooperation with the local authorities.
We have started working in Bihar as the fourth state and launched the activities in Madhubani and Darbhanga districts.