In rural Madhya Pradesh, the Jai Bharat Shikshan Sansthan is helping communities get closely involved in local self-governance.
A group of ten people or more, men and women from different occupational backgrounds, meet in a small village in Katni district every day. They discuss issues that the village is facing – issues of livelihood, resources, sanitation, gender and more. Kothi village is not the only village to witness these daily village-council like meetings. Nineteen other villages, trained under the Jai Bharat Shikshan Sansthan, hold similar meetings every day and with the larger village community every fortnight.
“When we started out, the aim was to educate as many people as we could with the limited resources we had,” says Bharat Namdeo, leader of Jai Bharatiya Shiksha Kendra. Eighteen years later, the organisation is working on issues of rural development and governance in a holistic manner and what is special about its approach is that it is completely participatory.
Jai Bharat Shikshan Sansthan is tirelessly working with the village residents in the villages of Katni to reclaim the local communities rights to the land and forests in the area. And the results are here to see. After the organisation held rallies in the villages to create awareness about the new Forest Rights Act of 2006, many local residents filed applications and started getting ‘pattas’ or land holdings that they were entitled to.
“The new law rectified the injustice of the old law (Indian Forest Act, 1927) in three ways. It ensures individual rights and communal rights to the land and rights to the forest resources to indigenous communities,” says Bharat.
Each village now has a Gram Vikas Samiti or a Village Development Committee which meets, ideates and executes economic and welfare programmes. Authorities from the block-level are also getting involved in the work of the committee now.
“If there are any conflicts, or prevalence of alcoholism or any law and order problem, the committee intervenes and resolves it,” says Jagat Singh Maravi, from Kothi village.
One of the most important fights that the people of Katni district are fighting is that against illegal mining. In an age and time when mining is controlled by big corporates and often backed by the state, reclaiming the forest resources, especially minerals, is not an easy fight.
The Jai Bharat Shikshan Sansthan is enabling the local communities to claim what is rightfully theirs. What began as an initiative in the field of education is today setting an example in the field of participatory and holistic rural development.
Video by Community Correspondent Saroj Paraste
Article by Alankrita Anand, a journalist in the VV editorial team