Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Adieu Udaipur !

Today is my last day at Access Development Services (ADS). I started eighteen months ago managing Farmer Producer Companies (FPOs) at South Rajasthan. I am very proud of my team, and I wish them well. They have a lot of challenging work ahead. But for me, it’s time to move on.  I’m not going to sugarcoat the reasons for my exit. This might be my last chance to switch sector since I am not getting any younger. I have taken a role of Operations Manager in Chaitanya at Pune that works in the micro-finance sector. I recognize the task before me is neither small nor easy. Microfinance means different work-style and leadership.

The profile of a candidate in the development sector belongs to someone who easily adapts to new environments, enjoys travel and field work, likes to tinker with things, and prefers independence and improvisation to super specific tasks. Strong people management skills is a bonus learning, and much required. One can't always be the smartest person in the room, but one can always be the most prepared person in the room.

I have learned most about networking, human resource management and leadership abilities in this job. I had mostly taken decision in an inclusive way as a part of management. That had lowered efficiency in some cases but have helped in creating an atmosphere of trust with community and co workers. There will always be few relationship more important than hierarchy in the organization. These relationship can be with the field worker or CEO of the organization. They’re worth investing in and maintaining for a long term.

It is vital for me to know my own strength and weakness. I have progressed but have seriously under-performed in terms of its potential. I had missed few professional goals in the journey. This can be attributed to the lethargy and unguided career management. I have a minor trait as bit of mental frustration pile up gradually under job pressure. By intrinsic nature, I struggle to be realistic about my own ability, and importantly, my limitations.



I live by certain ideologies that help me know when I am doing wrong as a rural manager. I take pride in the work. I do and feel equally responsible for the success and failure of how the country and society function. ‘Development’ and ‘benefit’ are not values-free concepts, but rather have different interpretations of each individual & organization. I believe today in dynamic world that development is both the promise of inclusion and equal opportunity on the one hand, and the rhetoric of competition and relative advancement on the other. 

How a little of the word, I know, even at the age of thirty. I saw the cruel fate of millions of their daily struggle for life and dignity. Through them, I learned a lesson in humility and endurance. I ended up being their students and learnt about farming, relations, migration for work and household issues. The places where one discovers his own hidden individuality are never on the map. They are just out there, may be in a remote village or just in the middle of a cosmopolitan city. Udaipur helped me to refine and redefine my capabilities. Real life scenario is always further off the projections when individuals assess their own career plans, partly because their chances, desire to succeed and hard work create a new future.

I want to bid farewell to my ADS team. There is no way I could have achieved all that I have without their help. I have a sense of achievement and happiness over the span of months. I’m thankful for the opportunity that I had at ADS. I learned more than I thought I would. It was challenging to work for donors such as Rabobank FoundationSmall Farmers' Agriculture-Business Consortium (SFAC), World Vision India & Department of Agriculture, Rajasthan Government. I was lucky to have interaction with livelihood experts like Sankar Datta and Vipin Sharma with various representatives from institutions such as World Bank - IndiaFair Trade IndiaHivos InternationalSir Ratan Tata Trust & Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT), IDBI BankAnanya FinanceFriends of Women's World Banking (FWWB), CARE BangladeshMART & Rajasthan Grameen Aajeevika Vikas Parishad (RGAVP). Here’s to new challenges and new opportunities.  I am still on the way to chase profits with purpose as a rural manager and will quote Gandhi's words while taking decisions on career: "Whatever you do will become insignificant, but it is very important to do it." 

Thought of the Day:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Dark World of NGOs

Do you know that only about 10 per cent of the over 22 lakh NGOs file their annual income and expenditure statements with the authorities ? As per given Source- A total of Rs 13,051 crore foreign contribution was received by 17,616 NGOs in the country in 2013-14, Rs 11,527 crore by 20,497 NGOs in 2012-2013 and Rs 11,558 crore by 22,747 NGOs in 2011-2012. Also quoting another Source- The main change is that all NGOs will have to make public each foreign contribution received by them within a week of the receipt, on their official website or a website prescribed by the government.

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)is a regulatory tool that enables monitoring and control of foreign funding. It will be better to know about pros and cons of this tool before going in this debate. PMO has initiated exercise to tighten monitoring over NGOs in the country. Intelligence Bureau has given inputs to "improve oversight and increase transparency" in the working of the voluntary sector in India. The crux of the IB report lies that foreign-aided NGOs are actively stalling development project.The reputation of the NGOs is on thin ice due to corruption but one must look overall problem in context of current government policies.

The paranoia of foreign hands begins with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was extremely worried of NGOs that she assumed to be puppeteered by foreign agencies. The current saga began with the offloading of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai and blocking fund of Ford Foundation. While Greenpeace is instrumental in raising voice over Kudankulam project, Ford Foundation came on scrutiny due to funding of human rights activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO fighting for the rights of Gujarat riot-victim. The success story of Ford’s grant making programme in India are Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Yogendra Yadav, Kiran Bedi and Anna Hazare. In an exceptional situation, both Modi and Left see these foundations as the capitalist interests of the west for different reasons. PRIA has removed an article advocating Ford Foundation as model for philanthropic initiatives in India while maintaining the web link at twitter.

Before demonizing either government or NGO sector, let us look into this matter with open mind. There is surely shift in ole of government aid paradigm. Government of India is funding projects only for service delivery project to NGOs. NGO-isation of India's HIV/AIDS program has widened the field of non profit organizations participation in government programmes. The success of this apparatus is connected the episodic failures in service delivery and addressing HIV-related stigma comprehensively in the present due to lack of government extension staff. Also, the rights-based approach being adopted by state governments in their various Acts has no or little merit in practical realities. There are no funds available to monitor implementation of the rights based laws. The additional nail in the coffin for protesters is lack of fund for human rights, democracy and law enforcement. No organizations in India will go on the wrong side of state by giving funds to protesters (problem groups). This has led to the dependency on funds from foreign donors.

In 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai highlighted three general principles to protect civil space. The ability to seek, receive and spend money is one of them. Current government can't criminalize dissent but they are cleverly having a crackdown on foreign-funded dissent. Current laws fail to define anti national & political activities leading to mishandling of the protesters. And a thumb rule about power in India is that whenever interpretation of regulation is left completely up to the imagination of the state without any establishment of independent institution, the net result is nearly always discretionary and prohibitive.The roots of democracy lie not in the government but in social relations and freedom of speech. The means of protest in the state shows us the real power of citizens and voluntary sector. One must remember words of Vinoba Bhave - "What we should aim at is the creation of people power, which is opposed to the power of violence and is different from the coercive power of state."

But the news isn't good for voluntary sector itself.It will not be an understatement that funding to voluntary sector is largely decided by bribes and political affluence. NGOs are used as siphons to route black money by corrupt entities and individuals! The voluntary sector is a den of corruption and corrupt NGOs needs to be completely weeded out.They must make full and public disclosure of their funding and expenditure. They must also be made answerable under the RTI Act. The era of accountability and transparency has to began in the voluntary sector.

The job of NGOs, whistle-blowers and the media is to keep the entire government apparatus humble and they have a universal responsibility for the protection of innocents even that means wrath of state. Corruption in any form must be curbed if we wish to become a developed society' . Robert Klitgaard, a world famous authority on corruption, famously declared that corruption is equal to monopoly plus discretion minus accountability (C=M+D-A ). Both government officials and NGOs have looted funds in the name of poor, disabled, women and minorities. It is important to handle matters of the state and voluntary sector with transparency and accountability. There are tough questions for us citizens to answer now. Do NGOs really know the interest of donors while protesting before government ? Can government go ahead with any “development project” as a rhetorical national interest without consulting all stakeholders? If any citizen disagree with govt and take to the streets, should the IB keep a tab on the concerned citizen? The debate is much recommended, even if it will raise more questions than it can probably answer.

*Please also read articles of Jay Mazoomdaar in FirstpostHarsh Mander in Scroll & Samanth Subramanian in The Guardian dissecting the dark world of NGOs.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Livelihoods Asia Summit 2015

Livelihoods Asia Summit 2015 was being held on December 10 and 11 at New Delhi, India. The Summit sessions were around topics like skill development, impacts of climate change on livelihoods, inclusive value chains, policy innovations, and private sector partnerships among the approaches that offer a pathway out of poverty. The summit has more than hundred delegates working as sector specialists, practitioner and advocates in the livelihood sector. Panel sessions and other live events are great — especially the Q&A ranges from absurd to tricky.


There was focus on policies, programs, private players and potential in poor during the sessions. There was emphasis by panelist to think of poverty as a dynamic and multidimensional phenomenon. There are so many policy level talks on SHG and FPO but the dialogues on next generation of institution was lacking in the summit. The summit also ignored rights-based approaches to livelihood development while there is a strong body of literature exists showing the correlation between empowerment and economic productivity.

There are two school of thoughts emerging in usage of poverty alleviation fund. One views the establishment of the community institution through participation of the civil society organizations while other pitches for direct benefit transfers to the beneficiaries. Government official from Rural development ministry pointed success of universal primary education and connectivity to rural areas through PMGSY. The welcome part was an eye opening session on the impact of climate change on livelihood of ultra poor. Experts suggested that the people need risk transfers and insurance protection for livelihood recovery post disaster.

I enjoyed much of the time in the summit.  As much I got out of the conference, I know there is still more to learn and more to share. Yet, I have always wondered about these summits where every leader talks about what needs to be done! But they are the ones who should be doing it ! The underline of the summit - No one organization can eradicate hunger and reduce poverty alone, only in partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders can all of us achieve the goals.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Inclusive Finance India Summit 2015

ACCESS has hosted the Inclusive Finance India Summit from December 8th to 9th, 2015 at in New Delhi, India. The summit has gained recognition and the Inclusive Finance India Report has been quoted extensively in the Malegam Committee, and working report for the Microfinance Bill. The Summit has facilitated discourse on issues like-policy environment, data analytics in financial inclusion, mobile wallets, BC model, customer protection, impact of JAM, and innovations in the sector. I attended the summit as the delegate of ACCESS team.

The Summit began with release of the Sector report 2015 was followed by several sessions on microfinance and financial inclusion in the country. The buzz of the sessions were around Mudra bank, Payment banks, cash less economy and Small Finance Banks. Eight out of 10 Small Finance Banks which have been given in-principle nod by RBI are microfinance institution (MFIs).  Sector experts are hopeful that Small Finance Banks  fill the "missing middle" in reaching the bottom of the pyramid.

India is an interesting scenario as there is rapid updates in telecom infrastructure, IT services and progressive government spending on digital infrastructure. I was really impressed from a particular session  on use of data in digital financial services.  The main issues were  hurdles faced in data sharing and cashless transactions.  Big Data, Small Credit is a good report quoted by a speaker on the impact of the digital revolution on the emerging markets.  I was impressed with a start up company - Lenddo. They use users online social connections to build their creditworthiness and access local financial services. 

Also, one act in a stupid way while confronting a hero. I was glad to have seat next to Prof Malcolm Harper and was literally at the loss of the words required for having a meaningful dialogue. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference with the hope I can attend again. After coming home from the summit  put on by ACCESS, I am feeling renewed, and energized. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mid Day Meal (MDM) Program

Theda Skocpol, Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard, notes that spending on education and family health care is especially likely to generate social and economic returns. Midday Meal (MDM) program is a school meal programme of the government of India designed to improve the nutritional status of school-age children nationwide. India's MDM program feeds 120 million children and employs 2 million women. It's an initiative that changes lives and provides human-capital investment in millions of children. 

The poorest of the poor are defined as those who can eat only when they get work and who lack shelter, proper clothing, social respect, and means to send their children to school. They have no land, live on daily wages, and need to send school-age children to work in times of crisis. They send children to government schools as this is the only way to ensure one time meal to their wards and the best chance for children to break the cycle of poverty. MDM scheme has many potential benefits: attracting children from disadvantaged sections (especially girls, Dalits and Adivasis) to school, improving regularity, nutritional benefits, socialisation benefits and income support to women .

An impact study has shown that the food stamps alternative or the direct income support is not feasible, for it may lead to adverse consumption choices by the targeted households. This would happen, particularly in countries like India, where educational and awareness levels of the targeted households are low.

Learn more in this animation designed by Rhitu Chatterjee and Mathilde Dratwa.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Livelihoods

What is Livelihood ? Nobody understands this word outside the cocoon of the development sector. The problem with the word livelihoods is that it has overtones of subsistence. It hints that poor people should only have enough just to live – not to prosper. As Kate Magro says : “Why is it that Westerners have careers, jobs, employment opportunities and everyone else has a livelihood?”

Livelihood is a convergence of multiple disciplines of profession leading to the cash flow in the household. Mostly the poor are engaged in a “diversified portfolio of subsistence activities” (DPSA) for earning their livelihoods. Hence, Understanding smallholders' financial needs will be the key step to understand livelihood scenario. A new survey of 1,800 banks conducted by the Initiative for Smallholder Finance reveals that the total amount of debt financing supplied by local banks to smallholder farmers in the developing world is approximately $9 billion.

The first step towards designing livelihood plan for the beneficiary will be to seek information on all of the income sources, various consumption and investments, interplay among cash flows, barter arrangements, credit sources and the financial tools in use throughout the year. Migration is a major livelihood strategy for the rural poor that must be included in the project design. That will give us ideas to better understand their needs, preferences, aspirations and behaviors. This information set must be shared with Donors, Government, Financial Institution and NGOs. The future programs designed to strengthen and develop rural livelihoods must grasp the whole range of vulnerabilities and risks faced by  an entrepreneur or farmer/ artisan.

To understand what NGOs are doing, it is important to understand what they are not doing. There have been various attempts to improve income of farmers & artisans in order to making the value chains more inclusive. While addressing the critical gaps in the respective value chains, the donors put more emphasis on the capacity building than market linkages.  The utter disdain for market forces by such initiatives and short planning without critically looking sustainability factor has led to massive failure till now. Sustainability parameter evaluates the likelihood of continuation of interventions initiated due the project by the community, scaling of pilot activities, leadership development in the community, institutional and financial arrangement in post project scenario. Hence, a livelihood intervention requires a critical first step in the process : Development of a livelihood project, as proof of concept and live workable model on the ground.

Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector has huge potential for growth in the semi urban and rural India. Throughout they also account for a disproportionately large share of new jobs in OECD countries. The rural entrepreneurs operating and managing the solar lighting enterprises at village level constitute the backbone of TERI’s Lighting a Billion Lives Campaign. There are successful cases  make us arrive at a conclusion that with a very little financial help and skill training, the villagers are able to be enterprising. The rural entrepreneur has been enrolled into skill development programs promoted by the government for livelihood enhancement. Now, there must be urgent focus on provision of soft loans and vulnerability reduction funds with  financial tools designed as per the cash flow of the occupation.

Any livelihood programs must build up the physical, financial and social assets of the rural poor using local resources. Empowering communities to take control of economic development is slow, patient work and even end as failure —and people funding or supporting development work need to take into account when designing livelihood programmes.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tribal Affairs: In the name of 'development'



How tribes are often destroyed in the name of 'development'. A new film, ‘There You Go!’, has been launched by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, which takes a satirical look at how tribes are often destroyed in the name of ‘development’.

Indigenous peoples make up around 370 million of the world’s population – some 5 per cent – they constitute around one-third of the world’s 900 million extremely poor rural people. According to a UN report: In Australia, an indigenous child can expect to die 20 years earlier than his non-native compatriot. The life expectancy gap is also 20 years in Nepal, while in Guatemala it is 13 years and in New Zealand it is 11.

Traditional tribal habitats, particularly in mainland India, are rich in mineral and other resources and this has attracted large-scale power, mining, and infrastructure projects. Like any other indigenous communities all over the world, they face issues of brutal violence by police, denial of land rights, dispossession of land and marginalization. Rehabilitation and resettlement efforts have been pathetic, The apathy and slow progress of various departments in taking up the community claims is often resented by tribal communities.Even if they are increasingly recognized for their unique relationship with their environment, they face racism and discrimination that sees them as inferior and uncivilized. They are in process of assimilation by the forces of mainstream with their benefits usurped by non-tribal and government (Revenue, Police, Tribal Development and Forest Departments). There are also instances of the Tribal Sub Plan funds being diverted for projects of little direct benefit to tribal (Detail report). Even where the allocation is sufficient, the money is neither disbursed on time nor programmes implemented optimally due to administrative inefficiencies and corruption.

We conceptualizes development as something done to individuals and communities, rather than with or by them. This paternalism of government/ NGO / Religious leaders is ethically flawed; the fact that it often fails to achieve development outcomes only adds to the case against it. Development is a slow process. As once Russian scientist once said: ‘‘Ice forms instantly, but the process of forming the ice is slow and invisible." There must be feeling of being partners in progress rather than development being thrust from above. We have to ask tough questions - Is goal of development to help developing countries catch up to and copy developed countries ? What is development for a tribal boy ? Is development economic only ? Unless we answer such questions, there isn't much hope in the fast changing world for the tribal.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Career Advice

1. Upton Sinclair -: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. ”

2. Interest on debts grow without rain. :- Yiddish Proverb

3. Ability is nothing without opportunity.  :– Unknown

4. Forget the risk and take the fall, if it’s what you want, then it’s worth the fall. :– Unknown

5. Negative choices are our worst choices. :- Unknown

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Insight into Development Sector

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes


Once a gentleman gave me with incredible insight in the development sector where NGOs follows a simple rule --- "Piss Less, Spread More". This appeared cynical to some extent and sounds profane first. But people had longer career talking on development than doing it. Shows which is easier ! This conversation caused me to look at life from a whole new perspective in the development sector. NGOs are currently less concerned on quality of work and strive for better communication strategy for social media, donors & another players. Brand image of NGOs is made up on good will and less on actual impact of their work. The unfortunate irony is that all too often, rhetoric and symbolism replace logic and action in the hallowed portals of the NGO conferences.

Let us never forget that not all NGOs have been necessarily formed for altruistic reasons!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Udaan : Flight out of Poverty

There is neither Perfect Market Competition nor Perfect Community Cooperation. The middle path of community owned enterprise competing in the market has always both social capital and market presence. The rise of the creative economy encourages self-interest over collective action in the society, but all is not lost. There is a Value-proposition for setting FPO (Farmer Producer Organization). Udaipur Agro Producer Company Limited, (UAPCL) is one such producer company focused on strengthening the livelihoods of the community. Here is the glimpse through this video in which yours truly has small part -

Sunday, July 19, 2015

JPAL Executive Education : Evaluating Social Programs

Do you know about Confirmation Bias ? People more likely to believe information that fits their pre-existing beliefs, but they’re also more likely to go looking for such information. Hence, we are stuck with wrong design of the development programs dooming millions of investment. So, we do not let evidence from the ground guide the policy? Unfortunately, it is hard to get clear-cut evidence of causality. Using evidence to guide aid and social work is crucial to ensuring the efficient use of limited resources. For years, policymakers have debated different approaches to helping the poor and now they have published research paper after a nine-year, six-country study, offers resounding evidence for a strategy that works. Proponents of randomized program evaluation argued more field experiments were needed to learn what worked.

There are also critiques like economist Angus Deaton who suspects that an average bureaucrat might take the results in controlled environment too serious. Any aid to poor really ought to be decided by democratic discussion  between stakeholders while RCTs are often done on the poor without any partnership is hardly an encouraging sign.

This led my interest in the executive education program offered by Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). I was among 31 executives selected for the course held on July 2015. This five-day program on evaluating social programs provided a thorough understanding of randomized evaluations and pragmatic step-by-step training for conducting one’s own evaluation. RCT measures impact of the program by comparing a treatment group to a control group, where the people who get the treatment are drawn randomly by lottery. There was emphasis on building theory of change for seeking an impact of the program.

I enjoyed great atmosphere of learning in those five days. Thanks to Sharanya Chandran, Dechen Zem, Diwaker Basnet, Chandra Shekhar Gowda, Rajeev Kumar and Rajesh Jain. And I learn a valuable lesson that ideas should be funded based on evidence that they work — not hope.



How to build a theory of change for an impact evaluation


Thursday, July 16, 2015

SECC data is out.

As per Prof Cornel West, Democracy always raises the fundamental question: What is the role of the most disadvantaged in relation to the public interest? The catch in this valid question lies in the definition of the 'Disadvantage Class/Caste'. The definition of "Who are they" varies from politicians, academics and policy makers. No major program in any field can be effective without a robust information system. The road to social justice for all should be based on solid data for understanding ground realities.


SECC data is out. This census takes caste into account for the first time in any such exercise since 1931. But the government is hiding OBC numbers. The previous government led by the Congress had also decided to conduct a caste-based census, but not to make the data public. The reasons for withholding this data can only be political.  Data on economic indicators, with special enumeration of SCs and STs, is done by the regular census as well. SECC was commissioned because many parties wanted similar numbers for the OBCs to pitch for political mileage. However, it is always tough to digest that SECC was done to mitigate absence of large-scale, credible and empirical data for public policy. But, its a matter of time that numbers will be made public.

There was once huge hue and cry over caste census as being labelled as divisive by upper caste dominated groups. Prof. Kancha Ilaiah had explained this in his article long back: Who’s afraid of caste census? --- "Caste culture is all around us. In the dalit-bahujan discourse, the upper castes are being shown as constituting less than 15 per cent. This could be totally wrong. Even within the lower castes there are several false claims about numbers. Every caste claims that it is numerically the strongest and keeps asking for its “rightful” share. How to tell them that their claims are wrong? When caste has become such an important category of day-to-day reckoning it is important to have proper data at hand to tell communities that they constitute this much and cannot ask for more than their share. It is true that we cannot distribute everything based on caste. But caste census is the right basis for statistics such as literacy rate and issues like the proportion of representation. Once we cite the Census data there cannot be any authentic opposition to that evidence."

There is unquestionable value in a general policy of reservation as merit can't be only criteria for granting subsidy and reservations. Social Justice and economic barriers needs to be fulfilled also for deciding such national/state level policies. Despite of deep affiliation for caste groups, public is ready and eager to advance toward a more transparent and accountable society. And, making SECC data publicly available would improve transparency in the political debates if not direct action leading to better governance.

The bigger question isn't the availability of the data but the lack of will power to implement the policy. There is all required data available for STs in census yet there is siphoning of funds allocated to SC/STs. (Systemic denial and diversion of budgetary allocations). Many departments have failed miserably in allocating funds and even spending that minor fund for the TSP as per the proportion of tribal population of the state. The manipulation made by the bureaucracy and political leaders in taking decision of diversion of the TSP fund showed huge contrast between public policy and data based evidence. Also, there is a deafening silence on Gender Budgeting (GB) in the corridors of the power. So what we have a country where no-one pays heed to independent minds seeking for evidence base policy in social sector. In such a political system, one has to learn to manipulate rather than simply putting the case.

A pure functioning meritocracy would produce a society with growing inequality, but that inequality would come along with a correlated increase in social mobility. Is this really happening across caste and religion ? We can only guess as there is not yet sufficient data  for planning on caste based issues. SECC data would even regenerate healthy debate between two groups proposing - either 'caste-blind &class-based'  or 'caste & class based' type of affirmative action. The best way to improve quality of a debate is through providing individual with the data to make informed choices in a democratic country. SECC data is crucial for making sound evidence-based plans,it helps us understand what is merit and social justice  so that appropriate policy can be made for the Disadvantaged class/caste. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Migration Series -3

Let me move ahead in the last part of Migrant Series. (1 and 2) .Whenever someone comes with an idea on research on the issue of migration and informal sector, there is complete lack of valid data on the nature and terms of employment, particularly in the informal sector. This is directly linked with the state’s unwillingness or inability to use resources for counting the large number of informal sector workers including child workers, bonded labour, migrant workers, home-based workers, domestic workers, and manual scavengers.

A person migrate to a prosperous region due to low employment opportunities at home, low agricultural productivity, deeply entrenched feudalism, and negative industrial growth of the region. Due to irregular cash flow nature of agriculture, a household has no other option but to seek credit at exorbitant interest rates from the local money lender during an emergency situation. The household requires huge money for repayment that isn't much available in returns from the agriculture. That is one of the reasons of the migration in any part of the India. This migration is facilitated by contractors and relatives. They are even willing to accept any distress wages that are offered as long as they have access to employment. In the dire need, they neglect the problems of not having an identity cards, lack of awareness about potential employers or favourable working conditions. The share of agricultural households among rural households varied from 27 per cent in Kerala to 78 per cent in Rajasthan. And, an accurate mapping of agricultural household and migrants can show the true picture of migration in India.

According to a recent census report, three out of five people in Indian cities live in slums; the increasing migration will make that four out of five within the decade. Covering over 4,000 towns, the report reveals a figure of 65 million living in unauthorised squalor. "Unrecognised" slums have no access to safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation. Chakarpur village in Gurgaon is a hub of migrants from Bangladesh and West bengal. Such migrants always have a sense of vulnerability and social isolation that is exacerbated by their ignorance, illiteracy and the alien environment. Urban middle class populations who generally hold negative views on migrants. Local Rajasthani and Punjabi is considered as “indigenous and authentic” whereas the migrant from Bihar is a sinister criminal in New Delhi. Low skilled workers are utilized in construction sector, domestic servants, chauffeurs and gardeners while women and child are working as maids, rag pickers, and scavengers with low and irregular income. These slum residents provide cheap labour as their average wages are just 40-70% of the local labour. There is a CARE report on such pathetic living conditions.

Mosse et al (2005) highlight the fact that most formal channels for protection of seasonal migrant workers such as the Minimum Wages Act (1948), the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (sic) Act (1979) and the Construction Workers Act (1996) among many others have demonstrated a bias towards formal sector workers and hence failed to deliver. As a result most informal sector migrant workers rely on contractors and agents to cope with socio-economic risks. Most of these insurance products sold by agents (usually friends and acquaintances of the migrant) have limited knowledge of the product themselves. The reliability of such agents is always in doubt and rarely case is heard about claim settlements through employer. Exhaustive working hours, poor nutrition and occupational hazards (injuries occurring at the workplace) always push migrants back to the source. Early return is a complex and multi-layered issue that often destabilizes the social, economic and psychological well-being of a migrant.



Bonded labour is rampant in brick kilns, stone quarries, beedi manufacturing, carpet weaving and construction, and child bonded labour in the silk industry. Bondage has been rampant across the state, but the government denies the fact. While thousands of bonded labourers have over the years been released, only very few of them were issued release certificate by the authorities concerned. The bigger question is “whether the state is willing to abolish the bonded labour system?” Since no release certificates are issued to those released and no legal case filed against those who keep bonded labourers, hence there is no persecution.

In this last part of the series, we will give focus on Distress Migration and Human Trafficking. It must be kept in mind that trafficking is different from migration. There are important fundamental differences between migration and trafficking. Trafficking of women and children is one of the gravest organized crimes and violations of human rights done either through deception, coercion or debt bondage situation. Human trafficking is also up in India for the similar reasons -- a lack of economic opportunities, a corrupt state, and the rise of terrifying social pathologies. There were hundreds of thousands of migrants, nearly all male, who did not have wives or girlfriends with them, and having an expendable income. This made a much more fertile environment for prostitution, and hence human trafficking in India. There are various pull factors for destination are Jobs, promise of marriage and a better life, demand for young girls and finally access to sex trade.

Immigration has become symbolic of the disruption of communities, the undermining of identities and the fraying of the family values. It is an outright violation of the right to mobility when government stop people from emigrating for better life. But it is a quite impossible task and also not desirable to stop people from migrating voluntarily. However, there are strong voices that objects to migration. Immigration is clearly one of the most fiercely debated and toxic issues of today. Even in policy circles, there is a disconnected emphasis on remittances alone and less about social factors. In the short term migration may result in the loss of local financial and human capital, but it can also be beneficial and contribute to the long-term development of rural areas. Remittances generate significant indirect benefits to the community at large.

Do migrants really have a choice between two such different worlds, between aspiration and deprivation, power and powerlessness? There are no words for me to write on anger, violence and frustration of the migrant worker. The topic of gender, trafficking and migration has been around for a while, but substantive work on this topic that go beyond the anecdotal is yet hard to find. Those who are interested in basic study can look upto : An overview of migration in India, its impacts and key issue.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Migration Series - 2

Let us start from Migration Series - 1. Once there was a popular myth: in the Government and Development Sector: Migration of 'poor' rural population is bad idea. Even when higher caste population was migrating towards cities for education, the government was launching various schemes on poverty reduction in the villages to prevent people from moving to the urban areas. So, why is the Migration Issue ? Migration – when it is safe, legal, and voluntary – is the oldest poverty-reduction and human-development strategy [Migration, Development and Poverty Reduction in Asia] . As per Wiggins & Keats [Stepping out of agriculture] - "Migration takes various forms, distinguished by:  Destination – international versus domestic, rural to urban, rural to rural and urban to urban; and, Length of absence – permanent moves of a year or more, and seasonal moves – to which might even be added daily commuting."

Many moves are not permanent, but vary from seasonal and circular. The reasons for out-migration can vary as a result of debt at home combined with high unemployment level and poor wages for jobs in the village. The availability of temporary jobs in the nearest vicinity with boom in urban development leads a huge circular migration pattern daily. Temporary migration is a routine livelihood strategy for the poor in India  rather than coping strategy to “keep the wolves at bay".

Migration Pattern in India
There is migration from landlocked BIMARU state towards places having either industrial hubs or agricultural prosperity.The tussle between migrants and ‘people of the soil’ has given rise to political right parties in Maharashtra.


Migration Pattern International 
Taking the estimates available, it seems that just over 3% of the world’s population are international migrants (UN Population Division, 2013), while domestic migrants are at least 12% of world population (Bell and Charles-Edwards, 2013).


Remittance Market

Remittances provide the most tangible link between migration and development, a relationship that has only increased in importance since the economic slump since 2008. Let us compare the Official remittance flows compared to other large monetary flows in 1990–2016 projection for India. The graph is constructed with World Development Indicators and World Bank Development Prospects Group. The remittances from the migrated Indians have played a major role in the development of India from 1990's to present day. Personal remittances are estimated towards value of above 70 Billion Dollars leading to major boost in local consumption. Even when FDI and portfolio equity has dipped during recession era of 2008, the personal remittance has grown in a major way in India.

Internal remittances are part and parcel of livelihoods for many poor families in the developing world with migrant members working in big cities. Internal migrants within far outnumber international migrants but the internal remittances, however, are often small.  Rural areas often receive the lions’ share of remittances. As rural-urban wage differentials grow, the returns from migration increase. India has the second largest domestic remittance market in the world (Tumbe 2011). It is also estimated that of the total domestic remittance flows in India only 30% are routed through formal channels. This is in stark contrast with China where 75% of the remittances are formally routed (ibid).

Are internal remittances contributing to poverty reduction? Remittances from urban employment are mainly used for such purposes as immediate consumption, repayment of loans, health care expenses, education and meeting other social obligations. Investments by migrant households in housing, land and consumer durable are common, and migrant income is also used to finance working capital requirements in agriculture as well as small businesses. . Those who are interested can  read World Bank report on The Remittance Market in India(PDF).

Remittances need to flow directly into the hands of the people who need it most. There is a lot of policy gap for this goal that must be addressed on urgent basis by the government.  Policy initiatives by the government and banking institutions have achieved an important result - Most remittances is flowing  through formal channels. India need to revamp their apparatus for issuing passports and regulate agencies that recruit unskilled workers. And internal migrants also need a lot of entitlements and services from the government and better mechanism for fund transfer through financial institutions. The social impact on the lives of migrants will be discussed in the last post of the migration series.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Capacity building of capacity builders

The heading of the article doesn't seems to confuse reader who are working in development sector. Its a fancy word on the training of field staff. The major component of any development project is institutional and human capacity development in the community. Training the larger development community to more effectively support community-driven efforts requires a field staff with local networking, trust and suitable skills. There are six factors to be considered while managing field staff in the development project.

1. Recruitment of LRPs - In this phase, mostly NGOs go either for references or prefer an experienced candidate. The most preferable candidate is not the most smart one from the community. Honesty, non political nature, perception in public and hard work are the traits to be seen in the recruitment phase. With some expectations the leadership is concentrated in the hands of elderly people. The style of functioning of these elderly people exhibits authoritarianism and frustrates younger generation. 25-45 is the most suitable age for the field worker as the community have a certain level of trust and sees maturity in these candidates. Conflict of Interest must be considered before hiring of any worker. The experience of person who has worked recently in fraudulent chit fund will make NGO dubious for the community. Job profile, terms of the payment, and attendance must be clarified in the interview.

2. Knowledge Transfer - Knowledge is a powerful tool. Knowledge transfer requires a detail knowledge on the name of the Project, the Implementing agency, the Funding agency, Area of operation, deliverable of the project, total projected outreach, role of field staff, organization hierarchy and a brief project note. The major hurdles in information dissemination is the language of the medium. This is a huge problem at all India level as the necessary level of English is not known to the field staff. All the training modules and IEC material must be in local language.

Trainers used custom charts, posters, pamphlets and a video for the training session. Short movie clips is the best medium for the transfer of the knowledge. Digital Green has done significant works in this area. Training session in leadership, team-building and core objectives of project require a detail article in itself. There are ways like role play, puzzle solving, group discussion & storytelling depending on the skills of the trainer for knowledge transfer in the training session. Through exposure visits also, field staff gains a lot of insights on hurdles in implementing project.

3. Data Gathering - Honest data collection is one of the rigorous task performed by field staff. Its easy to  criticize but difficult to gather data in rural India.  Hence, the continuous monitoring of processes of change, and scientific evaluation to track the progress of the project depends on the shoulders of the field staff . While going in for a survey it is always a good idea to get to take input  of the local staff as they are the one needing most clarity. Perhaps one of the most common mistakes is not to understand that the rate of collection of data in the rural area differ from an urban setting. The whole process is a lot slower as the villages are really really spread out, migration issue and the low connectivity. The scope of data which has been actually and more importantly properly collected in our villages very low.

4. Gender Issues - ‘Feminisation of development’ is a fancy phrase referring to the recent trend of seeing women as both beneficiaries and agents of change in development. There must be combination of male and female staff to provide capacity building support to the community. Effective two-way communication engage in dialogue and debate on issues ensures proper outreach.

5. Transparency & Ethics - Transparency International's website and their definition of corruption is "Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain" and it "depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority". A disgruntled field staff can go back and sow seeds of distrust in the community. Hence, transparency in decision making with community involvement is a better option rather than handling a post crisis situation. One of the instruments for achieving trust of the community is more transparency. Right to know rules & tell rules are pillars of ethical high ground for any person and institution. 

6. Incentive & Rewards - Employee motivation is a continual challenge in traditional ‘command and control' structure of NGOs. ; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applies for small NGOs. All field workers aspire for recognition of work. They look for responsibility when they can either see advancement in salary or non monetary reward for good work.

7. Monitoring -  The reporting officer must  visit their operational sites, observed their activities, witness their implemented project, participate in their committee meetings and interact with numerous ordinary villagers – both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries as well as village leaders. This community-level information will immensely effective in analyzing the implications of these organizations at the grassroots level. Not only this will give the hold of grassroots by these interactions, but also minimize chances of bogus reporting by the field staff.

Working in non profit sector doesn't give us excuse of inefficient manner. Nonprofits often have limited resources to invest in staff training on effective project management. They are also in fear of personnel who may shift to another big NGO after taking training from it. The flip side of inadequate trained staffl due to lack of funds will take toll on the community as well institution. Last of all, never pretend to know great fundas of development in front of field staff. You will have a bad time.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Of Reading and Documentation in Development Sector

In every field of endeavor, the one who reaches the pinnacle will be found to have built upon the knowledge and experience of someone who preceded him. People in development sector feel obliged to submit report to donor organization with complete focus on grants.There are suggestions from the expensive government project reports that end up just gathering dust on a shelf in India. Thousands, of reports on policy, poverty and development issues are released each year world wide. A lot of recommendations, solutions and findings are keep on piling in a PDF version. The citation of paper doesn't imply that it has been read. Even the reader looked only at downloads and citations to gauge the use of these report. The key question that comes in mind: Who will ever read them?

Even world bank is pondering over this question (Which World Bank reports are widely read ?) Recent findings suggest my fears:


The researchers contribute to their discipline's knowledge with the deep optimism of shaping decision making ability of the practitioners. However, practitioners very rarely read articles published in peer-reviewed journals. One of the ironies of development sector has been that researchers have envied practitioners and practitioners have undermined the academia. Practitioners label reports as long, boring, incomprehensible jargon and full of technical language.

Knowledge sharing takes place in many different settings—through seminars, presentations, & blogs. The slow pace and complexity of poverty, gender and development meant that the blog is more for enthusiasts and casual readers. In the eyes of detractors, such trend leads to the the art of reading the superficial books and blogs. But we must look for a long term vision and expanding the base of readers. The popular and easy will boost people's reading list, among many of whom are working with limited knowledge even with high literacy levels. These readers can gradually move towards domain oriented journals. Journals are essentials but have limited ability for the academia to engage people with all types of opinion ranging from stupid to innovative. There is an urgent need to promote new ways to increase impact and spread of the knowledge.

Why don't we see more books/films/blogs like this coming out of development? They do exist; we just have to seek them out and make them available for more than handful of readers. Practical knowledge is interdisciplinary, not confined to narrow pockets of domain. There is an open-access movement in access of journals that will allow practitioners from reading and understanding them. Through books, op-ed and blogs, there can be reach to a wider set of practitioners, journalists, citizens, students, entrepreneurs, civil society experts and other development actors. Even the most talented thinkers have to reach masses for shaping future's public debates or influencing policies. A good idea need to see the light of day. Only the eloquence and wisdom of the author's passion in writing can lead to the compelling reach of such idea for mass audience.

Still and all, most books published in the private market have few readers, most music fails to reach an audience, and most movies fail. Any popular medium of spreading knowledge like blog is no exception of this rule. However, marvelous an idea may be – cannot, on their own change very much the widespread believes. Working in isolation strongly holds back progressive causes and the effectiveness of enlightened minds and seasoned practitioners.

I have written a blog on list of books and list of movies aimed to spread basic ideas to all rather than tiny size of the intended audience. One can look for Understanding Economic Development Reading List by Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, Arvind Subramanian. Suggested Blogs for those who are still interested :

Organizations : World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Oxfam, CGAP , IFMR.
Academician : Illa Patnaik, Swaminomics, Ajay Shah. Tyler Cowen.
Practitioners :  Arvind Kumar, PMRDF.
Magazines : Down to Earth, India Together .

Friday, April 10, 2015

Naive Advices to Rural Manager

Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn't have it in the beginning. --- Mahatma Gandhi

I am driven by personal ambition and not selfless heroism. I look for perpetual returns with a field work backing up degree in rural management. Few Rural Managers work towards the development of the rural folks. One doesn't has to be born and brought up in villages and small towns. Empathy and an open mind will do the job really well.

Trial at the field level is much engagement and full of frustration for any rural manager while it's occurring, and and many can vouch for this. When the task is accomplished, the afterglow does provide a lot of satisfaction. Self Motivation is the key to perform in whatever condition one is placed into. As an rural manager, I learned that the most important thing is to listen and to be willing to re-invent himself. There are 11 pointers taken from the job :

1- Can you listen? No one has managed people by silencing dissent. So, Listen with patience all their complaints, stories and sorrow. That is the most important thing one can do for the people. In this field, one can't solve most of the problems of the people. But listening to the grievances, difficulties with empathy is one compassionate act that can be done by an individual. This part of job is non-glamorous but it is essential.

2- Please demonstrable integrity; Half baked promises will erode the trust and words really spread like the plague. That is why never promise what one can't deliver. Even a person managing the ground force of sales team will agree on this.

3- A man's intelligence can be tested by his ability to explain complex problems in simple terms. Rural Manager must be able to establish communication with target audience by giving examples from their real life and surroundings; I did learn few metaphors such as describing seed capital as a seed of plant and investment as nurturing tree. Simple example makes sense and attracts attention rather than pouring of bookish knowledge.

4- Go Vernacular, Become “Unprofessional” in interaction with people. Most of us can become functionally able of speaking/listening a new language but rarely are those who are intellectually and emotionally excel in new language. It is better to live with the community for a brief period of time. And, one should never presume to lecture people about the choices they make. They make that choice with a lot of thought.

5- Have a Positive Attitude and communicate daily with your mentor and seniors. It is not necessary to like the people, but you must learn to enjoy the interaction itself. It is necessary to behave calmly and reply on the merit of comment not be overshadowed prestige of the person.  Hence, oft-heard "that's the way I do work" is simply not good to survive in this field. There is need of agile mind and quick action in every task performed.

6-  Few times, we have a tendency to dismiss or marginalize people we don’t understand. To live and work in rural areas requires special qualities: open dialogue, an interest in culture, a sense of curiosity and an immense energy. Baggage of degree from premier institute holds no good here. Basic knowledge of festivals, songs, taboos i.e. local culture will be a great asset and often can be used to break the ice between strangers (mostly women) at the field. It is needless to emphasize upon to be gender & caste sensitive.

7- I always assume that knowledge will always help in seeing the broader prospective. One must always know in detail the relationships among agro-climatic conditions, natural resources, production systems, markets and livelihoods of rural people. Theoretically valid ideas taught in close classrooms might not be implemented exactly as planned and that practices that worked well in one region might not be replicated to other domains. Even one is well versed with a degree, expanding into areas where they have no competence, do harm, not good. Don't confuse ignorance with originality

8- Leadership happens when people grow and develop under you. Give credit where it is deserved; a public acknowledgement wins more faith rather than monetary compensation. Any leadership with underdeveloped teams lack strong internal sounding individuals for ideas and concerns. In order to succeed, one must be given a chance to fail. That can one do for helping the subordinates.

9- Respect is something, a rural manager has to have. Preach what you practice. Example is little controversial but never drink in public and then lecture about ban on alcohol. Wrong person however close need not to be defended, sympathized with and passed over in silence. It will lead to conflicts whose resolution depends only on your respect as neutral. Unless one is just without becoming aggressive and dominant to every body, one will never gain respect.

10- Don't watch the trees too closely, you will miss seeing the forest; One must not work in haste in drawing conclusion on seeing few individuals, lookout for the ecosystem which nourishes/exploits them. Simply, it means so involved with the details of a situation that he loses sight of the larger issue. The reverse may also happen true where one can't see the trees for the forest. It is also possible to be too broad (macro) when looking at a situation. Never act like top managers who make impossible demands from subordinates. It will only suggest a complete unfamiliarity with the complexities of a project.

11- The best of rural manager is to knew when to be theoretical and when not to be. Education is not just about reading. It also involves observing and wearing down the nonsense through rational responses. The success depend on the capacity for hard work and an enormous interest in meeting people and absorbing whatever they conveyed. It takes a village… to make a rural manager.

The challenge as a rural manager is to develop high level skills through education and on-the-job experience that cannot be outsourced. Am I cut to be a working in rural areas ? If not, I must develop few qualities that can help others. I think that's any rural manager's responsibility really, to make world a better place and to leave the rural India an easier place to work for; to set foundations and guide with advice to upcoming managers and entrepreneurs. Somehow the belief that your work is helping improve someone's life by an iota makes it all worthwhile.But at the end of the day I think job is very simple: to work with the best of our ability, so that to inspire younger generation to excel given standards. Legacy, Career are of utmost important but life is about loving what you do and doing what you love, while gaining fresh pleasure, wisdom and maturity.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

GoI circular on FPO

GoI had issued a circular for Farmers producer organisations (FPOs) on 11th February 2014. As per circular, FPOs may be treated at par with cooperatives and other quasi- governmental institutions providing common service facilities to the farmers/users in Rashtriya Krishi vikas yojana (RKVY). Please check the circular on the government website.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Young Professional @ Odisha Livelihood Mission--- 2

Young Professional (YP) is a short term work opportunity (three years) to experience development and gain exposure to the government operations and policies. Panchayati Raj Department, Odisha is the agency in implementing National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) program delivery and interface in Odisha serving to the marginalized section of the population. While government is always reluctant to share or de-valuate power to community, NRLM has tried to build sustainable community institution at Panchayat level. YPs served either at district or block administration level. In simpler words, YP is just another name of Management Trainee in government agency doing contractual job without any power.

Why I joined Odisha Livelihood Mission?  One can't have the right to voice their disappointments unless one understand the functionality of the government. I have also considered government as the biggest development agency in India. Hence, it is utmost importance to understand governance in India. Corporate look into so many people as consumers and term them as "Bottom of Pyramid" . In contrast, OLM was trying to build capacity of people without throwing away subsidized schemes. These are few of the many reasons why, I was able to work with the state.

I always wanted to have balance between theoretical and practical work. It is different to know name of something and actually observe or experience it. A course in rural management doesn't offer subjects that make their students ‘understand’ the rural people. Even with a bit of knowledge acquired in the college, I was looking for a job as practitioner not professor. I have written in detail on this topic previously Young Professional @ Odisha Livelihood Mission.

I worked as YP in OLM from April 2013 to January 2014. This work gave me opportunity to work with the Government and the community jointly. This time span has good, bad and even ugly moments. I was able to show true character and talent by taking up the challenge and worked with a zeal to learn.

The Good:

The single strongest predictor of group effectiveness is the amount of help that peers do to each other. A bunch of YPs were no exception of the rules. Our workplace has qualified men and women with diverse professional, academic and cultural backgrounds from educational institutions like TISS, NIRD, IIFM, XIMB, XISS, & KSRM recruited as YPs. Diversity is reflected in our inclusive environment that embraces all sort of values and ideas; The best part was having people who weren't sycophants rooting for their college brand rather than cross-engaging for new collaborations.

I developed decent understanding of Odiya language. Rural India has been transformed over the last half-century, the people are more free and filled with aspirations; but the old values continue to extract a toll. What I saw was how significantly social networks influence people’s decision-making. There are people out there who didn't get the option to graduate or study in regional medium alone but have sound knowledge on development. There is also a feeling of powerlessness and an inability to make themselves heard in the corridors of power.

To counter the dimension of being voiceless, I tried to reach out to many people as possible and ask tons of questions. Typically, people don’t like to be questioned, but it is essential to engage with people in a friendly way and listen to them. It's a bit like an investigative journalist checking narratives of the beneficiaries, non - beneficiaries, government officials, & elected representatives. I was also lucky to interact with Dr. H.K. Pradhan, a senior faculty member of XLRI spearheading an initiative in Balasore. And yes, there are government officials doing honest work in thankless job.

Ours simple assumptions like simplifying schemes, running awareness campaigns and make the public goods widely available were critically assessed in the light of new evidences. There is a wide gap between community, market and government - like coordination problems, and inequality in access to power and information. I was able to oversee as an insider working of Indira Awas Yojana, Mo Kudia, Mo Pokhari, MGNREGS, Gramsabha, social audit of government programs, and Panchayat administration. I learned two lessons on public policy and government.

1.Efficiency isn’t always the goal of policy as one has to give attention to social and cultural complexity. Public policy requires fairness, that do not lend to the most efficient policy, but are virtues nonetheless.

2. Government is anything but well-tuned, acting coherently and consistently in pursuit of a well-defined set of objectives, captured by a single social welfare function. Government is a crucible of interest groups, rather than a black box of noble intentions.

The Bad:

It is necessary to get the first step right to reach the solution to the problem. Once the first step incorrect and the entire problem gets way too complicated. A sharp glance on the old schemes of the central and state government shows more tweaking rather than innovative design of new programs. Hence, the failure rate of government is utmost high. There was quite low emphasis on Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) job. Too much emphasis was given on framework of old government programs; I have written in detail on this topic : Why Government Schemes Fail? and Why Government Schemes Fail? -2

Even Lord Curzon has complained, "Round and Round like the .... revolutions of the earth goes file after file in the bureaucratic & daily dance, stately, solemn, sure and slow". Guidelines, plans, programs or projects tend to be neatly prepared for submission, but agencies and individuals return to business as usual once it comes to implementation. Meetings are important as they give part of thought process of various govt department. But in short, there was more time wasted in aligning process than measuring qualitative results.

The Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has established that unfairness is a larger motivator for action than fairness. YPs were assigned different salary even with same job profile that is unfair and issue was pushed down under carpets. It puts the act of cohesion and coordination in jeopardy.

The Ugly:

Appointing consultants on contractual basis, instead of employees on the rolls, is a common practice adopted by companies but most NGOs as well. It is done to evade the responsibility of providing PF benefits which are mandatory under labor law. And, this was done to YPs by an agency working behalf of government department.

The problem isn't that the staff don't contribute, it's that the official who take feedback don't think of themselves as ignorant enough to learn something new in face of new proofs. Even officials are not cold to the problems faced by them but they are more tied in the tight framework of government norms. But, it was indeed an hierarchical institution with less space given to honest feedback as it may undermine the authority and raise questions. Shooting from the hip in presentation is easy way out, but do dig a little deeper people will tell real story on the field. There was more tendency of risk aversion than performance in the staff.

Why I left Odisha Livelihood Mission? Personal reason to work close to home was the primary factor behind the decision. Due to being vocal initially, a lot of negative image was build in the central team. Yet, lack of mentorship, not clarity on the role and working without powers was frustrating experience to me as professional. Hence, the scope to take any concrete work was quite limited. I am a work in progress and don't want to stifled in starting phase of career. So,I shifted to another grass-root organization.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Funding Mechanism for Farmer Producer Organizations

Progressing with previous discussion of FPO:Public Policy & Value Chain Development, we are looking into credit accessibility of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs). India is successful despite of the government because of the entrepreneurship,energy and ingenuity of the Indian people. Our smallholder farmers not as marginal recipients of charity instead as customer entrepreneurs. Even with the linking of small and marginal farmers to FPOs, the question of reliable and affordable sources of financing for capital requirement of Infrastructure and operation always lingers for the farmers. There is always issue of access to credit in agrarian sector. There are many donor agencies like International foundations, Domestic Foundations, Business related CSR and government schemes for financing credit to FPOs. But search for such donors with big pocket for solving problem is an elusive and unsustainable way.

Formal financial institutions (FIs) are wary of lending to these bodies, largely due to the absence of collective land titles (for collateralization) and credit tool for customer assessment. For a nascent FPO, FI’s require collateral and three year balance sheets. That sums up tragedy of the situation. There are proposed funds coming up for the support of FPOs. I am enlisting them as per my knowledge. But the author is not legally liable with the information provided here. This is collected through various online sources and workshops.

Grants:

1. Equity Guarantee Fund- The Equity Grant Fund enables eligible FPOs to receive a grant equivalent in amount to the equity contribution of their shareholder members in the FPO, thus enhancing the overall capital base of the FPO. The Scheme shall address eligible FPOs, which have paid up capital not exceeding Rs. 30 lakh as on the date of application. Equity Grant shall be a cash infusion equivalent to the amount of shareholder equity in the FPO subject to a cap of Rs. 10 lakh per FPO.

2. Sectoral Fund- Under NRLM, there is provision that states agencies (SRLM) develop partnerships with major government programmes and build synergies to address different dimensions of poverty and deprivation. Every Producer Organization will receive Sectoral Fund (SF) up to Rs. 20 Lac, in two installments, to invest in value chain development for livelihood promotion. The first installment of SF will be given to the PO within two months of its formation (mini. 100 members) with minimum paperwork. This installment can be up to Rs. 5 Lac. On completion of the establishment phase, the PO will submit a Business Strategy Report to RRLP together with a requisition for release of next installment. The second installment can go up to a maximum of Rs. 15 lac.

Loan Product:

1. With Collateral- NABARD has created a dedicated corpus to provide loans to producer organizations. Yet, NABARD demands FPO to offer collateral (15%of  loan amount) at the interest rate of 10.5~ 11.5 %. There is clear impact on collateral offered over the interest rate. Since, most of FPOs are formed by small and marginal farmers, they lack collateral.

2. Without Collateral- Interest computation on daily principal outstanding of drawn amount. Flexibility to use the funds only when required thereby leading to huge savings on interest cost of (13.5-14.5) %. The agency (mostly NBFC) will take 1% upfront processing fee and SFAC will charge 0.85% of guarantor fees. There is NO collateral required for the loan. Though setting up of Credit Guarantee Fund, SFAC has enabled few credit institutions to provide collateral free credit to FPOs by minimizing their lending risks in respect of loans not exceeding Rs. 100.00 lakhs. The lending institution shall be bound to comply with such directions as SFAC may deem fit to issue from time to time, for facilitating recoveries of the guaranteed account, or safeguarding its interest as a guarantor.

3. Warehouse Receipt Finance- It seems a feasible option when the working capital crunch is over. FPO is targeting in commodities like Soya bean, Cotton (including bales), Mustard, Maize, Wheat, Sugar, Paddy, Cashew, Castor, Chilli and Turmeric only.

All the grant and loan appraisal process is designed with various parameters depending on policies of FI's. They all focus on high representation of women in membership as well as in Board of Directors(BoDs). Hence, a small step in the direction of empowerment of women is taken. Thus enabling women participation increases chance of wealth ownership and leadership. Structural discrimination of Women, Dalits, and Adivasis can be prevented by giving voices in such forum linking business with social change.

It is right time for financial institutions to come up with innovative financial products targeted at FPOs. On banking parameters if not adopted, FPO policy can't be scaled up. The transformation of FPO can only happen in phases from Grants, Soft loans and then linkage to mainstream banking institutions. Banking institutions and the rural community have a lot of ground to cover for implementing FPO policy on the ground. Even with so much of changing policies, FPO model deserve tax holidays in initial years to build surplus and reserves. Taxation policy of FPO (30%), insurance and, license issues are more complex topics to be discussed in upcoming blog posts.

Sources ---
1) Equity Grant and Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme For Farmer Producer Companies
2) Financing and supporting Producer Organisations
3) Project Implementation Plan(PIP) Manual of Rajasthan Grameen Ajeevika Vikas Parishad (RGAVP)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

FPO: Public Policy & Value Chain Development

A basic concept can be read here:2014 - Year of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) before going further ahead in this topic.

Public Policy: There is always so much talk on FDI in retail, so it seems good state channel the same money for farmers’ producers’ cooperatives and ensure they get good margins and market access. Government of India (GoI) already invest Rs 275,000 crore on agricultural subsidy budget that is constantly touted needs to be unpacked. Who is the real beneficiary of these subsidies, farmers, or seeds’, fertilizer’ manufacturers and agricultural banks ? That is where a good public policy comes into the play.

Government of India (GoI) is promoting concept of Farmer Producer Organizations going in a right step to engage and adapt agriculture to market system. The primary objective of collective mobilization of farmers into FPOs, is to enhance production, productivity and profitability of especially small farmers in the country. FPO will be positioned as a gateway agency between the farmers and markets. The complete Policy and Process Guidelines for Farmer Producer Organizations; is a good framework. FPO policy will give auxiliary advantages like women’s empowerment.

Policy guidelines are the first step but we need awareness on this novel concept among a diverse range of stakeholders: the farming community, State Governments, Banks and other financial institutions, Civil society organizations, the media and elected representatives of the people. Policies that impede the growth of FPOs, such as APMC laws, tenancy provisions, cold storage, etc. must be amended with changing times.

Value Chain Development : With the below diagram, we see that how Value Chain is different from Supply Chain.


 Value chain development interventions focus on improving business operations and relationship (even contractual) at the level of primary producers, processors and other actors in the chain. Production, harvesting, procurement, grading, pooling, handling, marketing, selling, export of primary produce comes under the scope of value chain. It can also include preserving, drying, distilling, brewing, venting, canning and packaging of produce of its members.

Value chain analysis starts with mapping the volume of products, number of people engaged in, geographical flow of products, value at different levels of value chains, The supply and demand side of business can be understood with the result of analysis only. Only then, we can start with the business planning of the enterprise. All the members of FPO are primarily farmers only but we need to build their capacities on trading, accounting and hoarding practices over time. Farmer Producer Organizations can only result in more sustainable and better-performing business plans when farmers has good understanding of a value chain systems.

FPOs are nee steps towards organization having higher financial autonomy and lesser government subsidy. Possibly the biggest failure of GoI is the promotion and formation of good organization in agriculture sector. Let us look for the big question in the livelihood sector: Is a full-fledged value chain development project through FPO is the best way to bring about development ?If not, then what is an alternate !

Friday, January 9, 2015

Development Sector

Salary is one of the most critical components of a human resources strategy even in development sector. It is unreal, and perhaps even unfair, to expect that a development professional is going to do good to society at a loss to himself. This path has produced few rare exceptional people, but its not a sustainable way of growth. I think job anywhere is very simple; to work with the best of our ability, and inspire younger generation to excel given standards. Compensation, Experience , Commitment and Skill set creates the Job Profile. But there is always huge gap between supply and demand in development sector. The reason is below:

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Statutory Warning

This Blog is meant purely as a personal diary of a rural manager in making. It exists to record information, experiences and opinions about various issues encountered in the line of duty. Any person, institution and organization mentioned here doesn't assume any liability for its contents. This is not a deliberate attempt to defame anyone. And if you have actually read all that is written in the blog and aren't mad at me, then thanks for your time and patience !

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