Revisiting Barber’s Colony

We visited the barber’s colony again yesterday. They greeted us with puzzled looks. Fortunately we had something new to show them – the haybox cooker. So we interspersed questions about the anganwadi program with talk of the wonders of the haybox.

But the facts were clear, in spite of sending a letter to the collector 6 weeks ago, nothing had changed for them. They had received nothing from the anganwadi.

The village volunteers had asked for the list of beneficiaries – first from the sarpanch, then from the Director of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). After the usual run-around (I’ll send it to you in three days, come next week, please don’t write any letters, we are cooperating with you …) came angry comments, “all you people ever do is complain!”

Meanwhile we had heard that some distribution had taken place, but we were yet to find anyone who got anything. We continued showing the haybox in a few neighborhoods. However we couldn’t get anyone to try it out right then and there. One family was really interested but had already cooked. Another family brought out their pot but it was too big to fit in the box. The box can cook up to 1 kg of rice at a time. But some families cook 1.5 kg per meal so we will have to design a bigger size as well. Another family actually bought the box on the spot but would not cook the rice right away because they were fasting that day.

At last we wrote the RTI letter asking basic questions – who are the beneficiaries, what do they receive, who is responsible for distributing it (their name and address) to whom do they complain if they did not receive (their name and address), and where does someone go to get added to list if they are not included? It really helped that the law was called Right to Info – else even we wondered at times if we were asking “too much.”


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