Solidarity, Tour

For a Just Society – Visit to Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatan [photos]

Visit to Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatan
Dalit Women’s Collective

Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatan, a Dalit women’s collective, formed in 1999-2000. AID has supported the group through projects, fair-trade marketing as well as solidarity to the Sanghatan in various phases. Along with AID-Bangalore volunteers Chetana, Karthik, Disha & Tamia, Ravi, Khiyali and I recently visited the women to hear their own reflections on their experiences and successes over the years, fighting oppression based on caste, gender and class, as well as ongoing challenges on all these fronts. Here are some photos from our visit with these grassroots partners. Continue reading

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Questions

Should the ICDS serve packaged food?

In the 2010 Seattle conference we held a debate on the question:  “Should the ICDS serve packaged food?”  Volunteers broke up into small groups and tried to argue for and against this proposition.   Afterwards one person came forward to argue in favour and another to argue against in a debate before the entire group.

Two points are worth mentioning from this exercise

– People found it very difficult to find any points in favour of procuring and serving packaged foods through the ICDS.

– After the session, one person came to me, as the facilitator of the session, and complained that the entire session was a waste of time because it was simply a “no-brainer” that the government should provide food grains or freshly cooked food and not processed and packaged foods through its welfare programs.

All the same, Amartya Sen, Jean Dreze and many others others have spoken out publicly against the proposal.

Yet this no-brainer proposal continues to come before the Ministry of Child Welfare and several states have in fact introduced packaged foods through the ICDS.   The packaged food industry markets and lobbies for their product very aggressively.  Using the same tactics that worked fifty years ago in the US, the industry first persuades people to think about nutrients rather than foods, and then prints nutrient information on their labels and advertisements.  Unlabelled and unadvertised food does not boast such nutrient information and may come up with lower numbers even if someone calculated specific nutrients.  But there is a world of difference between nutrients occurring as part of food and nutrients added in a factory.

See also: ICDS gets packaged food for the malnourished.   Down to Earth, March 15, 2008.
Hot meal for kids? Renuka sells ready-to-eat.  Telegraph, Oct 3, 2008.
Keep industrial food out of ICDS

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Notes

Knock, knock

SO the enquiry has begun.  SO have the threats.  “Are you ready to face the consequences?” a voice said on the other end of the phone line to one village volunteer.  Villagers may also have succumbed to pressure to say anganwadi was ok …  But locks don’t lie.  When the officials knocked on the doors of the anganwadi in Dallavalasa, it was closed.

Meanwhile public support for the campaign is growing.  One anganwadi worker followed the village karyakartas as they went door to door for the ragi distribution work, watched as they weighed babies, talked to mothers.   Afterwards she invited them to her home.  Now villagers recognize AID India workers as people who can help them bring grievances to the responsible officials.  In Appalagraharam, where anganwadi is supplying grains, a few have come to show that these grains have worms in them.  Since the new Collector seems to be sincere, we will continue conveying this information and support those anganwadi workers who also want to improve things and have had difficulty given the prevailing modus operandi.

Meanwhile Surya newspaper has published an artice on March 23, pg. 3 detailing the extent of corruption in the anganwadi system.

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Notes

visit to Collector (again)

Three of the village karykartas went to meet the Collector, Srikanth Nagulapalli, again. The ICDS project Director Vidyavathi was also present when they reiterated their complaint that the anganwadis were not functioning since several years. They told him what the MRO told them (”anganwadi is like that only”) and the Collector called the MRO and asked him how dare he reply like that?  The MRO denied saying any such thing and the Collector said, “the villagers are right here, do you want to talk to them?”  He declined.  The Collector  told him to conduct a proper enquiry.  He scratched his head and asked, “where are all those supplies going?”

Varahalanaidu filled him in.  “pappu kunchem vanda rUpayalaki ammutunnAranDI.”  [They are selling the dal for Rs. 100 / kunchem].  He was not familiar with “kunchem” a local unit of measure so they explained that it was just under 3 kg.  Similarly they told him the going rate of the oil, rice, etc.

They emphasized that they needed to find out from the individual households and not just go by the papers filed.  It so happened that Surya Telugu Daily had just ran an article exposing the extent of corruption in ICDS.  The author of the article passionately appealed to the Collector, as a new, young person, to correct this injustice.

Editor of Surya Telugu Daily can be reached at:

Nukarapu Surya Prakash Rao
Editor, Surya Telugu Daily
Door No 3-6 Kommadi village
Madhuravada  VIZAG 530041

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Notes

MRO gives clean chit

The villagers learned from the MRO that he got back a report saying that Anganwadi services were running fine. They asked how can he believe that when so many have signed the letter to the collector? He replied that anyway we don’t expect everything to run perfectly. “You know that, right?” he added.

Some important information:

Srikakulam srkcoll@ap.nic.in 08942 222555, 222648

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Notes

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. Continue reading

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