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  Archives » Ongoing Struggle » Letter to Friends - E-NewsLetter Special Edition
 October 2005
SEWA'S electronic newsletter
Special edition

"Respected Government

The funds meant for us are lying with you. We, 12,000 Poor Women have not been paid for six months. Please release the wages due to us...
The earthquake in 2001 was devastating to many households who lost their possessions, their houses, their livelihoods and their loved ones. The affected areas were also some of the poorest areas of Gujarat and recovery was most difficult for the poor households. SEWA's 60,000 members were badly affected in the three districts of Patan, Surendranagar and Kutch whose lives had been shattered. SEWA immediately undertook relief work with the members. SEWA tried to restore the livelihoods by finding markets and training early on.
At this stage, an international organization IFAD approached SEWA from Rome and extended its hand to help. It proposed to SEWA to workout a programme which would enable 40, 000 poorest of the poor people to become self reliant, in a time frame of seven years, with the help of livelihood and social security. After detailed discussions with SEWA members, IFAD worked out a huge programme called Jeevika, SEWA & IFAD both believed in the principal of "sustainable self reliance", thus the involvement of local rural women was considered essential in this programme. Every "poor" and "very poor" household among those affected from the killer quake was identified, and "Jeevika SEWA Mandals" were formed in their villages. District Associations of artisans and agriculture workers promoted by SEWA, i.e. Kutch Craft Association, Banaskantha. DWCRA Mahila Association, &, Surendra Nagar Mahila & Bal Vikas Mandal were already existing in each of these districts, 40,000 affected women from 400 villages were included in these associations. These Jeevika SEWA Mandals and, District Associations were supported by SEWA's other units like SEWA Academy, SEWA's Health cooperatives, SEWA Housing, SEWA Gram Haat, SEWA Unnat Bazar and other units, to do a commendable job of long-term rehabilitation of affected families of these three districts under Jeevika Project. The project developed by IFAD with SEWA, was approved by the Government of India and to be executed by the Government of Gujarat, and implemented by SEWA, to be completed in seven years.
It was a challenge to identify the poorest of the poor families amidst feelings of   fear and instability, to form Jeevika SEWA Mandals of these people, to get cooperation of villagers for these Mandals to establish Gram Samitis (Village Committees), then to work out a need based "village- plan" for the village women, which would generate livelihood and income, to prepare a village budged to suit this plan, to spend accordingly, and to give account of this expenditure. All this work was taking place for the first time in their lives and was not at all easy for them. But this whole process proved to be encouraging, empowering and fruitful for them. And within a time period of two years, some very tangible, achievements were made. They leant to save and take loans and got themselves free from the clutches of private money lenders to run meetings, to reach markets, to go to consumers and sell their goods, to construct structures, to raise plant nursery, they built check dams, deepened the ponds, increased their ongoing embroidery work, increased the production of salt, developed dry farming, subscribed insurances, did animal husbandry, set-up and developed fodder banks & provided food security. They began preparing against any disaster in future, working towards building capacity to face any such calamity in future. All this could be achieved, because of the active co-operation of the Government of Gujarat.
  The families in this area realized that this was a self-help form of employment guarantee for them. They would have enough work for the next years so that they would not have to migrate away but would be able to live a decent life in their own homesteads. For the next few months the village development committees worked hard to ensure enough employment to all in their villages and the families worked hard expecting good returns.

Government of Gujarat felt that the activities should be upscaled and the Village Development Committees along with District Associations enthusiastically developed village level plans and undertook work of check dams, pond digging, embroidery, salt making etc. As the Monsoon approached, Village Committees in every village chalked out the plans, prepared the budgets and by consolidating all the plans and budgets an action plan was prepared and presented before the government. With this the adversities began.
Unfortunately, at this stage Government of Gujarat had second thoughts. We do not know the reasons why. It did not take action on the Jeevika Action plan and decided not to release the money either for the work, already performed or the further employment plans. The action plan of the Jeevika Project was dumped in some cold storage. The account of payments pending with the government is not any small amount. The Village Development Committees had performed work worth Rs. 4 Crores so far. 12,000 families had worked and not been paid.

Payment for seeds, fertilizers, bricks and other inputs, treads, machines have been pending. All these have been already bought by the Village Committee from the small village traders, the payments due towards these heads have to be made. SEWA intervened and repeatedly requested the Government to release the funds. We made every effort from writing applications, making request, handing over letters personally, running for the meetings, telephones, faxes but nothing helped. We see no hope of receiving payments till today, the doors of many high level people have been closed for us.
  As if this was not enough the Government slapped a special audit on SEWA. All our time is being spent on supplying information to this. This was done in-spite of the fact that regular quarterly audits were being conducted by Government appointed auditors and none of these auditors had found anything wrong. Still we have been cooperating with this special audit. Meanwhile, the 12000 poorest of the poor families are in an extremely difficult situation. They say, " We have not been paid for 6 months work. Now we have no work. We thought we will have guaranteed employment. Instead we have nothing. We have not received payment so we borrow grains from each other. Earlier when there was a guarantee of employment, the shopkeeper would give us credit. Now who would give us on credit! After all we also have some respect! Now we try to avoid the shops. In fact, the shopkeeper also charges us the salary of the person he has kept to recover his loans from us".

"We have to put some food into the stomachs of the children and the old people. We borrow money now at 3 to 10% per month. What can we do?  The dreams of eradicating poverty have eluded us! We thought that we would be able to escape this poverty, but now it seems that a poor person's lot is sorrow. There is no work now, and it has not rained, we bought seeds on credit and that is another burden on us. We even have to buy water to drink. Half the people in the village have migrated. We have given away our cattle in charitable asylum for animals, as we have no way to feed them. This is a blow, more severe to us than the earth quake!"

We have never expected this from the government. Are we not included among the five crore people of Gujarat? We request the Government of Gujarat to release the payment for work already done by the poor families immediately and to continue to give employment through the Jeevika project in these difficult times.  

For the District Associations For SEWA
Ramiben Rabari   Namrata Bali
President Kutch Craft Association  General Secretary, SEWA
Ranbai Rauma       Rahima Sheikh
President, Banaskantha DWCRA       Secretary, SEWA
Mahila SEWA Association  
Shantiben Kodi  Jyoti Mekwan
President, Surendranagar,    Secretary, SEWA
Mahila & Bal Vikas Mandal  

Floods claimed lives and homes of SEWA members in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh

After a very hot summer, the monsoon came as a relief. But soon the rains became a downpour which would not stop. The  water in many cases just came rushing to the houses and the fields , not giving people any time to think or plan or  safe guard their valuables -their family members, their houses , their cattle, the crop they waited helplessly, for the water to reseat only to go back and to find all their belongings destroyed.

In Gujarat, the floods affected 8000 villages, the worst affected Districts were Kheda and Anand where 120,000 members of SEWA reside. The river Vatrak overflowed into the villages, the kucha houses collapsed and the pukka ones had water upto their roofs. Some villagers were washed away and so was most of the cattle. All possessions were destroyed and so were the crops. Many people lived on their roofs in pouring rain, for a whole week.

Ahmedabad city and villages, Mehsana, Surat were also badly affected.  SEWA immediately reached out and conducted a survey of damages. Over 18,000 SEWA members lost their homes and possessions.

In Ahmedabad the SEWA relief unit worked with the Municipal Corporation. SEWA sisters took up cleaning operation in 12 affected areas of Ahmedabad where due to water- logging and damage in the gutter line ,the  fear of epidemic has become a concern. With the staff of Municipal Corporation's five different zones SEWA's area wise teams carried out the relief work. They went door to door to create health awareness, cleaned the areas, repaired the broken gutter lines, & distributed some 20,000 chlorine tablets for the prevention of epedemic.It orgsnised 10 health camps and provided 1096 people with medical treatment  

Rural operations were based on planning for rehabilitation, SEWA closely worked with the government, the district head offices the Talukas and the Panchayats. Its Aagewans, (local leaders) & spearhead teams collected the necessary information for the situation analysis and need- assessment to bring out a survey report. Initially in 6 districts it distributed- 3092 packets of food, Khichadi to 4155 people ,  2300 Water pouches. For shelter the SEWA teams distributed 8320 tarpaulin sheetsin six affected districts- Ananad Kheda, Gandhi agar, Mehsana, Surat, & Patan.

For health the SEWA's Anand and Kheda office alone distributed 11,850 Chlorine tabletes and 71 ORS pouches 

In second stage the organisation provided the economic securities to the flood affected people through Livelihood Security Scheme and Vimo SEWA (micro-insurance). Vimo SEWA has passed claims of 1,700 flood affected policy holders and given 4,000 compensation under Livelihood Security Scheme.

In Madhya Pradesh the districts of Sagar, Damoh, Tikamgarh and Chatarpur, which have a large SEWA membership were badly affected by floods. In Majota village 250 people were washed away. In Sagar the lake overflowed and washed away SEWA members kacha houses and their cattle. The villages in all these districts were cut off by water and for two days the village people had nothing to eat or drink. Damoh district was the worst affected, people from 13 villages were totally washed away and the people spent two days in living in the trees. SEWA's team completed the survey work of flood affected people. It held health camps in all these districts. SEWA also took its survey to the State Government and worked with the Government to reach food relief to the affected families. Sadly, there is no plan for their rehabilitation.

SEWA members honoured by President

President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad honoured 45 SEWA members for using ICT for rural and self development at the grass-root level. They were among the 130 grass-root people selected across the country as the academicians of their villages by Jamshedji Tata National Virtual Academy at M.S.Swaminathan Foundation. These academicians would act as the torch bearers of Mission 2007. The project aims at establishing knowledge centers in 6 hundred thousand villages of the country by the 60th independence day of the country. In a function organised at Delhi President of India Dr. Kalam gave away certificates to 15 recipients -one from each state. From SEWA Jomiben Jayrambhai Ayer, a traditional embroider of Patan district and member of SEWA executive committee received certificate from Dr. Kalam. 650 women passed out from SEWA's literacy classes this year

SEWA runs 58 literacy centers in 18 urban and 26 rural areas of Ahmedabad district This year 650 self employed women and their teenage daughters passed out from these classes. These women were given certificates in functions organised in different areas. The women coming to these classes put up exhibition of their drawing and craft work and shared their experiences. 
  Among them were a construction worker Meena, whose husband would spend all the money she earned. After coming to the class she opened an account in the bank , now her husband can't waste her hard earned money. There is another Meena who is a mentally challenged child, she could not go to school for normal children but in SEWA's literacy class she was treated with patience she learned to read and write.Rasilaben is a teacher in one such center. Earlier she used to work as a house- maid. She took teachers' Training and became teacher.

SEWA gets a breakthrough: Bidi workers wages increased by Rs. 4 per thousand bidis

SEWA union got a success when it negotiated a raise of Rs.4 for its bidi roller members. This is for the first time in last four years that a raise of Rs.4 could be achieved in bidi roller' wage. With this, the wage of bidi rollers has become Rs. 40 /1000 bidis. This will benefit 15, 478 SEWA members who are home- based bidi rollers. SEWA union was successful in convincing Bidi Companies to chip in Rs. 55,72,000 extra annually towards the wages of its members.
SEWA Bank's M.D. Jayshriben Vyas appointed in NHB's Board of Directors

SEWA Bank's Managing Director, Jayshriben A. Vyas has been appointed in the Board of Directors of National Housing Bank (NHB).Established in July 1988 by National Housing Bank Act 1987, NHB functions as the principal agency to promote Housing Finance Institutions (HFIs) in the country, and to provide financial support to such institutions. Jayshriben joins the board with 16 other directors mainly coming from banking and finance sectors.

SEWA organiser Sairaben appointed in Lok Adalat Committee

SEWA's coordinator at Radhnpur, Sairaben Baluch   has been appointed in the five member advisory committee of Lok Adalt (local courts). She was given this hounour due to her experience and wide grass- root reach as SEWA organiser.


HomeNet -India's First Annual General Meeting Held

HomeNet -India , the Indian chapter of HomeNet south Asia held its first Annual General Meeting on 22nd  of August. Eighteen founding organizations, representing 55,000 home -based workers, came together from all parts of India. Ms Socrro from UNIFEM, the international agency for women, was present as the Chief Guest. HomeNet –India is a network of the organizations working for the homebased workers, it does advocacy for legal rights of homebased workers, especially ILO Convention 177, lobbies for their social security and helps provide market linkages to the homebased workers.
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