Power of Cooperatives

1 01 2009

Last Friday, I was at a book shop and the first book I stumbled upon was I too had a dream. I was looking for any books by/on Dr. Kurian for a long time and finally found it. I just picked up the book and began reading. Today, I completed it.I have to rate this a 5 Star. An amazing narration and very well written and compiled.

I didn’t know what to name this post. First, I wanted to name it as “Malayalee.Milk & Movie” (Read the book and I am sure that you would agree with me on the title).

Well for those of you who are wondering what this book is all about, it is the amazing story of Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) and journey of Dr. Verghese Kurian as India’s Milk Man.If there was anything which is a box-office and smashing hit in the Indian Cooperative Movement, it is the story of AMUL. I am definitely not going into the details of the book, but would want to highlight the key aspects of the Operation Flood.

What made me read the book non-stop is how bureaucratic our country has been in accepting the Cooperative methodology. India is a country with more than 70% of the population living in the villages. Since the independence, we have had many Government’s which came and went and also we saw a lot of development in many areas of life. In fact, I would not hesitate to say that no other country has come this far in the first 60 Years of Independence (comparing to countries which have been ruled by some other nation). However, there is a long way to go.

During the course of this book, Dr. Kurian emphasizes the importance of making farmers responsible for their produce, marketing and returns. What this simply means is giving the ownership and the Government playing the role of ensuring appropriate avenues are available. Well, to be very honest, this is the most difficult thing which any country can achieve. But, Dr. Kurian proved that with commitment and dedication we can definitely achieve this. What you need is the Will and the Belief in your dream.

I personally understood one aspect – The Primer Minister’s are people with a dream, and believe me, only people with that commitment get to the position (there are definitely exceptions too). In this book, Dr. Kurian writes about his personal interaction with almost all Prime Ministers since Jawaharlal Nehru to P V Narasimha Rao (after which Dr. Kurian retired). The key aspect is the team which surrounds this super power of our Country.

If you are an aspiring Entrepreneur/Social Entrepreneur, I highly recommend you reading this book.

Also, in this book, Dr. Kurian jumps deep into how Operation Flood, one of India’s most successful cooperative project came into existance and how long it took for them to succeed.

BCT – Visit Report

7 10 2007

On the 19 September, I visited Bhagavatula Charitable Trust, a Not-for-Profit organization who’s vision is “To transform 100 villages in 3 mandalas, viz. Yellamanchilli, Atchyutapuram and Rambilli of Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh into model villages in such a way that all able bodied persons are gainfully employed, that substantive improvements in the state of literacy, health and economic sustenance take place and that local leadership and facilitation is fully developed.”

Here are my notes from my discussions with Mr.B.Sri Ram Murty, Joint Secretary of the organization.

Current Organization strength is around 80.
Villages Covered : 40

Activities of BCT:
Women’s Empowerment
Skill Training for Disabled

Going forward, the organization will concentrate more towards Education and Livelihood training for Children and Youth.

BCT believes in Programs and not in Projects. What is the difference?
Ramesh (as Mr.Sri Ram Murty is fondly called) says “Projects have a beginning and an end which comes with a report on how the project has started, progressed and closed, submitted to organizations/people who have funded/supported the project. However, Program is more longsighted and typically does not have an ending. We believe in designing programs keeping the grass-root level problems in mind and work towards making changes in the program if necessary as it progresses”.

Let me dig a little deep into the current activities and share my observations.

BCT has been into Education since the beginning (infact, the organization started with a School). BCT schools are categorized as follows:
Class 1-5 : 144 Schools
Class 6-7 : 16 Upper Primary Schools
Class 8-10 : 1 Model High School

As per research information, over 45% of Indians are un-employed and over 95% (very high number) of Graduates are un-employable (There is a lot of difference in being employed and being un-employable, I will explain in detail in another post). BCT has identified three main categories in education system and is working towards building the same and implementing in their schools:

A) Academics
B) Vocational Training
C) Values

Academics are important (Social, Science, Mathematics and Language) and taught in all schools and in all classes.

Vocation Training encompasses providing skill based training to children which will add the value of implementing what they have learned through academics. It is not mandatory that what is taught in school should be practical and implementable, but what is practical and implementable should definitely be taught during the school days.
I find this absolutely correct. If we look back, how many of us agree that what we have studied in our school / collage days is what we implement today? I really don’t know and I personally am not implementing most of the things. I did my graduation in Economics and Computer Applications during the days when ‘Career’ is only Engineering/Medicine and both subjects are of use to me today.

Values – The most important aspect of education and bringing up are “Values”. In today’s world, most of us are just being for ourself – me and my family. But, we are part of the society and we do play an important role in living in the society. Are we any time taught the principals governing “Society”. Values are most important aspect of education and this is what BCT is trying to incorporate into their education system.

One basic question I have is that India has attained independence 60 years back and the education system was build over the period of time since then. We are one of the world’s largest democracy. Is there any subject in school/collage which educates children on “Democracy”? We can vote after we turn 18, but before that, are there any classes which teach children on what is Voting? How do you select your leader? What are your responsibilities? (I do know this is what we learn in Civics subject, but that is lot more generic and I do remember what I learned). This is where we need thinking and setting direction.

Now, let us look at what BCT has in its syllabus for inducting Vocation Training and Values into their education system.
Academics – Andhra Pradesh State Syllabus is followed
Vocational Training – Orientation in Agriculture (Bio-Intensive Gardening)
Values – Moral / Ethical / National Values

What is Bio-Intensive Gardening (BIG)?
This is interesting, Each student / group of students are given a 100 Sq.Foot area in which they would need to grow vegetables for a family of 5. All the required education, seeds, medication are provided by BCT and the student(s) have to grow vegetable themselves. This teaches students to be self-sufficient as they grow.

BCT also has KVK (Krishi Vidyana Kendra) which concentrates completely on Agricultural Research.

I have also visited their Baking Department where children are taught to bake biscutes and cakes which are sold in the local market.

They have a campus for Disabled Training program which concentrates on training disabled children in paper-bag making, stitching etc.

Please note that all Vocational Training Programs which generate any money will go to the person/child who has earned the same. Each child has bank accounts which are opened by BCT and any monetary benefit will be deposited in the account.

You can see few pictures of the organization at my flickr account.

If you are interested to know more/contribute to any of their programs, please contact:

Bhagavatula Charitable Trust
BCT Farm Complex,
Haripuram – 531 061
Visakhapatnam District
Andhra Pradesh. India
+91.891.255 0084 Phone

PHC’s in India

26 08 2007

Statistics of PHC’s (Primary Health Center) in India:

There is 1 PHC for every 25,000 population
PHC for – Promotive, Preventive, Curative and Rehabilitative Care
This implies offering a wide range of services such as health education, promotion of nutrition, basic sanitation, the provision of mother and child family welfare services, immunization, disease control and appropriate treatment for illness and injury.

Each PHC is a hub for 5-6 Sub-Centers.
Each PHC is covers 3-4 Villages.
Each PHC is coordinated by a ANM (Auxiliary Mid Wife)

PHC’s will be referral centers for Community Health Centers (CHC), which is a minimum 30 bedded-hospital or higher at the Taluk or District Levels.

WHO Report
According to WHO, PHC’s in India specifically attribute to deterioration of quality services due to parameters like – lack of political commitment, inadequate allocation of financial resources to PHC’s and stagnation of inter-sectoral strategies and community participation. Also in the list of reasons are bureaucratic approach to HealthCare implementation, lack of accountability and responsiveness from general public.

Key Points to observe:
1. PHC’s through out the country have the same number of ANM’s even though the fertility rate varies in different parts of the country.
2. Political interference in creating PHC’s.
3. Government departments are more involved in ensuring government norms are implemented, salaries are paid and minimum facilities are available rather than concentrating on measuring Health System Performance.
4. The DHO (District Health Officer), responsible for implementation of Public Health Systems are not adequately trained.

Strengthening the capacity for Public Health Management at the District and Taluk level is crucial to improving public sector performance.

Why the system is not working as required?
1. Lack of accountability in the system.
2. No formal feedback mechanism to ensure proper implementation of the system.
3. No incentives for Doctors to work in the Rural areas.
4. Irresponsible mind-set of ANM’s (this happens as there is no feedback mechanism)
5. Lack of resources (staff).
6. Current budget allocation of Rs. 75,000 / PHC / Annum is very less when considering the population each PHC has to cater to (5000 people).

What do we do?
1. Periodic HealthCare Education in Schools, Panchayat/Taluk Offices – NGO, Private Institutions and Social Entrepreneurs.
2. Community involvement – Government / Private Partnership
3. Public Health Training programs for DMO’s and other staff – Government / Private Partnership.
4. Appropriate and functioning feedback mechanism to ensure people understand that they are cared for and their feedback is valued for betterment of the system – Government

I will revisit this topic of what we can do better in my forthcoming writings.

Due credits to Neesha Patel, author of Evaluating the role of Primary Health Centers in India.

7 Types of Poverty

4 08 2007

Bhagavatula Charitable Trust (BCT), runs Innovative Experimental Primary Schools (IEP) in 72 Villages in Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh, India.

What is the difference between IEP and regular Government Schools?
IEP schools, apart from regular academics, work towards education children in the age group 11-15 on the 7 types of Poverty which are required to uplift the quality of life. Our usual assumption of Poverty is only Economic Poverty. However, this is just one of the kinds. We have to even look at the following types to ensure quality of life improved:

1. Economic Poverty
2. Bodily Poverty
3. Mental Poverty
4. Cultural Poverty
5. Spiritual Poverty
6. Political Poverty
7. Societal Poverty

Now, it makes more interesting to understand these aspects. Even though the above are talked about in the BCT Project homepage, I will write again here in my own words and understanding.

Economic Poverty – Lack of monitory demands for providing themselves with Food, Cloth and Shelter. Please note that money need for only the mentioned attributes falls under this category.

Bodily Poverty – Lack of property physical health and access to health living conditions.

Mental Poverty – Lack of thinking, which is resultant of lack of access to education and knowledge.

Cultural Poverty – Lack of coming together in a society. No collaborative activities taking place which leads to disconnect between people.

Spiritual Poverty – surprising right? Yes, lack of feeling of togetherness/brotherhood plays an important role in bringing people together.

Political Poverty – Lack of understanding of how system works. The basic problem is the understanding of how to cast one’s vote and elect their leader.

Societal Poverty – Lack of social connectivity.

Conversations – Part 1

23 06 2007

Recently, I was having discussion with Dr B.V.Parameswara Rao, founder of Bhagavatula Charitable Trust. We were discussing on Social Entrepreneurship and tried to address two areas – Micro Financing, involvement of Technology in Rural Development.

Dr. Rao feels that this has changed the life of a farmer. This is just not helping him to come out of his miseries, however adding to them. Why? Micro-Financing is providing loans to the poor to help enable them to spend more. What is happening here is, instead of providing avenues for the farmer to add more money to his savings, we are drastically increasing his financial burden. Until recently, if he earns Rs. 10 / Day, his expenses were nearly Rs. 8 and at least on an average, he would save Rs. 2. But, with micro-financing coming in, now he need not run behind banks for a loan. Loans from these institutions come a bit conveniently and add up to his burden. As his loans are increasing, his savings are coming down (Micro-financing institutions also have their eligibility criteria which take care of over-burdening too)

Moving away from Farming
Today, there are many farmers who are selling their land and moving to towns nearby for more money. If on an average, a farmer earns Rs. 40 per day from the crop he has brought up, today, he is working as a daily wage laborer for around Rs. 60. He is looking at the Rs. 20 which he earns more than his usual earning which comes only after he sells the crop, but he is not looking at what he is loosing. If this continues to grow, then one day we will definitely be short of food grains to eat and this would impact one and all.

So, what can be done different to help?
We would need to educate and help rural citizens to realize what they can do and provide a helping hand for the work they would do. We need to tune them to help themselves instead of showing them the colours of easy money. This would have a deep impact on them as an individual and also help strengthen the economy.

Government should only do Governance!
An interesting and very simple thought. We have Government to streamline various activities and provide support to public needs. However, today, Government is getting into various activities and diluting the main cause of its existence. If the Government can concentrate on streamlining funds, providing support to its public by strategic investments, it would help benefit the society.

When China decided to concentrate on providing education for all, it had a very good foresight. During that time, they ensured that every citizen of their country is educated which would over a period of time ensure 100% employment which would strengthen their economy.

Today, in India we have a good education system in place – Right from the Government Primary Education centers to pursuing high degrees. However, there are challenges which are obstructing the quality of education. As an example, today, for 4 teachers appointed in schools at the Primary Education Centers, only 2 are available.

Spend Time in Villages
Today, we have quite-a-few people who live in towns/cities who are showing interest in contributing to provide support to the rural poor. The best way to solve or address rural problems is to understand the actual life of people in villages. We need to spend time with them in person to understand the problem and provide required support.

Note: Thoughts and views mentioned above are purely of my choice. There is no correlation to any activities which happen today or any organizations which participate in any of the above mentioned activities.

Reality of Life

31 12 2006

My latest reading is “End of Poverty” by Jeffery Sachs. This is a very good book giving details on reality bites of Poverty. I am just 25% done with the book, but am getting to understand few grass root concepts of Poverty. Probably, by the end of the book, I can get few ideas on how I can personally contribute to the idea of Ending Poverty in our life times. Poverty is not about living above the poverty line and making a living. Poverty in terms of quality of life. We have always known the 3 basic necessities of life – Food, Clothing and Shelter. However, I would like to add 1 more necessity which can address the above 3 with umberalla activities – HealthCare.

When I started to dream about entrepreneurship, I always wanted to create something which can improve the Quality of Living of individuals along with making money for myself and others around me. As I started 2006, my dream was coming to reality, we registered our organization and were very strong in our minds that 31 Dec 2006, we would be working for ourselves. As on date (31 Dec 2006) our dreams many not have matured physically as an organization, but sure we have matured as individuals and drawing a blue print for our future.

Reality Bite
I was speaking to my cousin couple of days back and discussing aspects of Social Entrepreneurship. He works with a charitable organization and his area of focus is primary education in rural areas of Visakhapatnam District in Andhra Pradesh. When speaking about “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”, he mentioned that he is not too excited about the idea. I was curious and continued our discussion. He mentioned, “Look, we are speaking about e-Choupals and selling small quantity of branded goods to consumers in the rural areas and there by organizations making a forture, but let me tell you a reality – Will you believe that the cost of a bag of rice has not changed in the last 14 Years!” I was dumb struck. I still cannot believe this, but he said that this is the truth. Cost of seeds, pesticides and rent of land have been increasing with the increase in consumer goods costs, but the farmer is still getting the same price for the bag of rice for last 14 years. As I was on a phone line, I could not get into the statistics and facts, but when I meet him next time I am going to understand more of this and share with you all.
PS: The above context is with respect to Indian and espically local to Andhra Pradesh.

I wish all my readers a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2007. May this year bring in more light to all our lives.