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  Atmashakti Trust

Cause: Atmashakti took the intiative of implementation of MNREGA (an Indian job guarantee scheme) in Orissa, one of the declared poorest of poor states in India. Inspite of all Acts and Schemes in place, what was lacking abysmally was an effective implementation of these projects. As a consequence, despite so called "all efforts" poor was getting poorer and migration from the state was on the rise. Seeing the appaling state of affairs, our trustee Mr. Koko Singh, having 20 years of experience in social welfare activities, took the initiative to address this issue which required an immediate attention.

Background: Orissa has a population of close to 42 million people with 22% belonging to the Scheduled Tribe (Adivasi) category and 16% classified as Scheduled Caste(Dalit). The state ranks 24th in terms of per capita income while in terms of poverty rating it is the number one state. According to the Tendulkar Committee report around 62% of the rural population can be classified as Below Poverty Line (BPL) with the urban number being a high 47%. With over 70% of the population living in rural areas this means that in 2011, 57.5% of the states population is officially poor and deprived. If we account for the normal error of underestimating poverty it is safe to assume that 63% of the people in Orissa, now Odisha are in the BPL category, with over two thirds of the rural population falling below the line.

MNREGA is not a new scheme; The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) is an Indian job guarantee scheme, enacted by legislation on August 25, 2005. The scheme which has been there for past 6 years provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage of 125 per day.

Orissa's economy is a classic case of the failure of trickle down. The benefits of whatever little growth that happened have not percolated down and bring about an improvement in the socio- economic conditions of the poor people. It failed to generate employment, reduce poverty or improve income distribution. Even the huge investments in the mining and iron sector, which have been a part of Orissa's history and should have brought about improvements in its Net Domestic product, have failed to do so.


Activist Intervention Staregy: Based on learning from the field in the last 20 years, one workable strategy is to create awareness among the community and provide assistance to them in getting their rights, be it education, rations, land pattas. This can only be achieved by activists who live with and are part of the communities and we are developing a cadre of village based activists to whom we,

1. Impart training in areas such as communication, public speaking,
    geo-politics, history and economics so that a 'perspective' is created about
    the relationship between the microcosm they are working and the
    national/global reality.
2. Provide a monthly stipend equivalent to at least the minimum wage as also
    travel/allied costs so that they can devote themselves on a full time basis
    to their work.

Jansathis conduct door to door survey to collect the data. In this process they will build up a personal relationship with the village people and also create awareness about the Food Security and Employment Guarantee. Each jansathi mobilises upto 2000 families in a year and obtain basic baseline data and impart knowledge about how to also enroll them in the government programmes.

Atmashakti started work in Orissa in 2008 and have their presence in 7 disrticts covering 24 blocks and 280 Gram Panchayats till date. This year we have covered 200,000 families with 71 jansathis, out of which 120,000 families took work and the average number of days of employment was 50+. In comparision, last year the number of families covered was 95,000 with 55 Jansathis out of which 67,000 families took work and the average no. of man days was 34.7, we can see a substantial increase in our work.

Long Term Vision:

We will continue intensive work on MGNREGA, and take up other issues identified in a systematic manner as experience suggests that a short run strategy does not yield good, sustainable results. Our assessment is that the next most pressing issues are food security, streamlining the PDS and obtaining the pattas under the Forest act.

Expected Project Outcomes in a three year period

1. Baseline survey of 500,000 families will be completed. Based on initial
    reports our target population will be approx 60% tribal, 20% dalit and 20%
    OBC, and comprise of men and women in an equal ratio.
2. It is expected that around 450,000 families will be made aware of rights
    under MGNREGA and the Food Security Act when it is introduced.
3. We estimate that over 400,000 families will want to work under MGNREGA
    and we will ensure that at least 95% will be provided with job cards
    and postal/bank accounts.

For more details about Atmashakti Trust, please Click here.
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