JEEViKA-A STUDY OF RURAL LIVELIHOODS PROGRAMME IN BIHAR. Management Development Institute Gurgaon

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1 JEEViKA-A STUDY OF RURAL LIVELIHOODS PROGRAMME IN BIHAR 2015 Management Development Institute Gurgaon

2 Principal Investigator Prof. Avanish Kumar Management Development Institute, Gurgaon Research Associate Aman Dewan JEEViKA Study Page 2

3 CONTENTS S.No. Chapter Page No. Acknowledgment 4 Executive Summary Introduction JEEViKA s Social Inclusion JEEViKA s Financial Inclusion JEEViKA s Livelihoods The Way Forward References JEEViKA Study Page 3

4 Acknowledgement First and foremost, we would like to thank the Ford Foundation for inviting a group of academicians to work on rural livelihoods under MANTHAN. We would like to thank and acknowledge financial support from the Ford Foundation especially to Ajit Kanitkar and Srinivasan Iyer, whose timely guidance helped us in charting our path. Support from the MANTHAN partners i.e. C. Shambu Prasad, Janat Shah, Dinesh Awasthi, Madhukar Shukla, Ashwani Kumar, KV Gouri and Kalpana Pant, Joseph Satish, Hemanta provided great pace, impetus and enthusiasm to the study. We would also like to make most of the opportunity to express deep gratitude to the Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society for graciously hosting us and giving us administrative support through the journey of the study, especially the field survey. It is imperative to make a special mention of Ajit Ranjan, Jay Kumar Palit, Bobby and to Pramod Kumar, for their immersive, insightful and constant field support. We are also grateful to all the development experts who provided insights during various consultation and presentation at JEEViKA, MoRD, XIMB and the World Bank. We thank Amrita Sandhu for her valuable inputs in the report. MDI considers it a matter of great honour and privilege to be part of the MANTHAN initiative and expresses regards towards all those who helped in making this study a fully-thriving reality. The spirit and energy of this report came from the community that actually engaged with the initiative. All of them were generous with their time and ever-willing participation in discussions and conversations spanning hours. They welcomed the chance to contributively participate in the study and brought large amounts of depth and enthusiasm to it. Our role in this research study was that of a listener and observer. We hope that with our ear-on-the-ground efforts and approach, we have been able to paint and distill an accurate stroke of the kind of impact the initiative has had on the lives of the community. JEEViKA Study Page 4

5 Executive Summary About the Study This study has been supported by the Ford Foundation and coordinated by the Management Development Institute, in the capacity of a MANTHAN partner. This project has been geared towards identifying, distilling and documenting ground-level understanding of JEEViKA in Bihar, via a participatory approach. The focus of the study was on what works, and why it works pertaining to the three thematic areas of social, livelihoods and financial inclusion among the marginalized. The study tools comprised a detailed household survey with a focus on livelihood, social and financial inclusion parameters; along with focus group discussions (FGD) and semi-structured interviews with the community members, beneficiaries, JEEViKA s professionals and community workers. The geographic focus of the study was two adjacent villages in two blocks of Gaya District. These blocks were selected to understand the difference of impact due to spatial administrative exclusion. Barachatti block is at the periphery of the Gaya district, bordering with Jharkhand while Bodh Gaya is the administrative hub of the JEEViKA project. Key Findings This report is a compilation of detailed case studies on JEEViKA s social inclusion model, financial inclusion model and livelihoods inclusion model. Social Inclusion Our findings suggest that social inclusion has happened as a result of the inclusive platform that JEEViKA has created at the community level. The project has helped in creating an identity for unknown women and by increasing their unity. Till date, being traditionally a patriarchal society, norms and values of the society favored the male over the female, thus leading to the JEEViKA Study Page 5

6 blocking of their progress. JEEViKA through its micro-finance program and livelihood creation aims to lower this gap and improve the well being of women. Data from a survey of 84 women beneficiaries showed that 29.8 per cent of women feel that now there is no gender bias in health and education seeking behavior in the village, 57 per cent of the surveyed women attributed this outcome to the functioning of the SHGs. Identity as a prerequisite to empowerment -The study reveals that an increase in the sense of identity in the family, community and by institutions like banks increases the avenues for income generation. Prior to JEEViKA s intervention, women had representative identity mother of or wife of, women having an independent identity were not considered desirable. Identity creation under JEEViKA is universally considered across caste and class of women as an indispensible asset. Social networks and Empowerment - A majority of women (57 percent) believe that SHGs created a positive platform for women s empowerment. A major shift in the community is noticeable in the way the program is being currently perceived by the people of the village. From being reluctant participants in government schemes, an attitudinal shift in men is observed whereby most men encourage women to join SHG s. The state and community being considered a partner for the first time. is Intergenerational equity Impact - Increase in women s self respect can be seen as a direct outcome for the girl child who is now seen as an asset rather than a liability in the village. In the Focus Group Discussions, women revealed that though the difference between boys and girls continues to exist, but gender bias is fast fading away. Financial Inclusion Loan seeking behavior - Average loan taking by the members was highest in areas of Health pegged at 32 percent, then Education at 25 percent, followed by asset creation at 21 percent and marriage. This shows a weak public service delivery in health and education. These expenses for health and education are key barriers that hinder livelihood creation. JEEViKA Study Page 6

7 Improved household Cash flows - JEEViKA has succeeded in removing local moneylenders who perpetuated a cycle of debt to a great extent. Further loan taking has become professional through JEEViKA and does not involve loss of dignity and respect. This has implications on household finances especially related to consumption smoothening. Improved Community Health - Lower interest rates, especially through the Health risk fund, which provide micro loans at 1 percent interest has improved accessibility to better quality treatment. 60 percent of the respondents claim JEEViKA has improved overall health accessibility in the villages. Improved financial literacy - The study results show that 70 per cent of the community members surveyed were aware of insurance, pension and other saving mechanisms. This establishes the Village organizations ability to be a platform for financial literacy, but this awareness has not translated into practice. Livelihoods Inclusion System for Rice Intensification (SRI) Bihar being primarily an agrarian economy, the report discusses case histories of individuals impacted by SRI and details their success stories. The case further discuss on equity implications of SRI among the poor. Poultry Farming - Amongst the livelihood activities that JEEViKA has taken up in our research area, the most popular has been poultry farming. It provides quick returns and supply chain has been instilled by JEEViKA across the area. The study finds that untrained poultry resource persons and ineffective partnerships lead to higher than normal chick deaths and that the business model is being rapidly taken up by the community due to subsidies by the Bihar government. Ineffective horizontal partnerships - The BRLPS has consistently focused on increasing rural livelihood opportunities through self-employment, but this leaves out many who lack the ability to branch out on their own. JEEViKA Study Page 7

8 Women s Livelihood Issues - The loan size, time period, lack of training, inability to market, inability to get dislocated from the village are many issues that rural women face in crossing the bridge from financial to livelihood inclusion. Key Recommendations Strengthening community workers- The community workers need to be sensitized to gender conflicts and the ways of approaching their solutions. Gender sensitization workshops for men showing regular life scenarios in the village are recommended. This could lead to an improved understanding of avoidable and unjust gender disparity and its importance in the overall context of development. VOs should be aware of exclusionary indicators of a local area, so that they can start including members who are being left out. It was found that even in the model villages few families are left out of JEEViKA. Strengthening Social Audits- Health and Education costs cause financial distress to the poor, these costs can be reduced by effective monitoring of the public health and education facilities, this shall also free up capital for livelihood generation. Loan Purpose Regulation- Beyond bank linkages, the poor need guidance on the correct reasons for loan borrowing. If the goal of micro-finance has to be poverty alleviation, active monitoring of loan purpose by SHGs and Village organizations is needed. Tapping at the opportune time 65 per cent of men claim to be supportive of women in becoming active contributors to the family income. JEEViKA is recommended. The recommended strategy would be to run programs for skill development, which do not involve displacement of women from the villages. Even if JEEViKA is not able to deploy resources for holistic livelihood programs, it has been observed that women have been able to face the task of SHG formation for improving financial ability. It is expected that skill development will lead to a change in the ability of women in producing and selling at competitive prices. Brand Creation and Market linkages- Local market supply chains are essential if enterprise development has to be given primary importance, the presence of a mere market is not the solution, the solution lies in building holistic supply chains, where the producer at the village JEEViKA Study Page 8

9 level is able to find a guaranteed buyer, the poor are not always able to find a market for their produce, further the problems lie in extracting the correct amount for their produce, and this should be fixed independently by an outside agency. It is recommended that JEEViKA starts with marketing products in the tourist spot of Bodh Gaya under its own brand as a pilot exercise. JEEViKA Study Page 9

10 1. Introduction to JEEViKA The government of Bihar has initiated a project on rural livelihood promotion with support from the World Bank. This initiative is implemented through a Society registered with Government of Bihar by the name of Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS). BRLPS through the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project, also known as JEEViKA, aims to improve rural livelihood options and works towards social and economic empowerment of the rural poor and women. The BRLP intervenes with the community through the following four themes or JEEViKA Study Page 10

11 programmes: institution and capacity building, social development, microfinance and livelihood. The Objectives of JEEViKA The objectives of JEEViKA are: 1. Creating self managed community institutions of participating households. 2. Enhancing income through sustainable livelihoods. 3. Increasing access to social protection including food security by enabling the rural poor to articulate a more effective voice in the implementation of such schemes. Strategy According to the BRLPS mission, the core strategy of the JEEViKA programme is to build vibrant and bankable women's community institutions in the form of self help groups (SHGs), who through member savings, internal loaning and regular repayment become self sustaining organizations. The groups formed would be based on self savings and revolving fund and not on a single dose of community investment fund (CIF) funds for association given as a subsidy. The primary level SHGs would next be federated at the village, by forming village organizations (VOs), then at a cluster level, to become membership based, social service providers, business entities and valued clients of the formal banking system. Such community organizations would also partner a variety of organizations for provided back end services for different market institutions such as correspondents for banks and insurance companies, procurement franchises for private sector corporations and delivery mechanisms for a variety of government programmes. Working and structure of JEEViKA- State Level- The State Project Management Unit (SPMU) oversees and manages various functions of JEEViKA project at the state level with support from various functional specialists such as state project managers and project managers under the leadership of the chief executive officer (CEO) of JEEViKA. At the state level the society focuses on designing policy, JEEViKA Study Page 11

12 planning interventions and framing operational strategies. The Executive Committee compromises of senior government officials and representative members from civil society organizations as its members. Its main function is to guide the project and approve policy framework. The development commissioner is the president and BRLP CEO is the member secretary of the council. District Level- The District Project Coordination unit (DPCU) is responsible for coordinating, implementing and managing project activities across the district under the guidance of the district programme manager. The DPCU is now functional with thematic positions and supported by the finance and administrative staff. Block Level- The Block Project Implementation Unit (BPIU) is a key unit of the project. It is the quality and effectiveness of this unit that determines how effectively the project rolls out in the field with the partnership of community institutions. The Block programme manager (BPM) is the functional head of this unit, he is supported by area coordinators (AC) who in turn are supported by community coordinators (CC). BPIU builds strong community institutions of the poor and subsequently intervene with well designed social and livelihood activities. Introduction to the Report This report is an outcome of the Ford Foundation supported initiative to conduct a field study of JEEViKA in Bihar. The project was anchored by Prof. Avanish Kumar at Management Development Institute, Gurgaon as a MANTHAN partner. Livelihoods MANTHAN is a collective effort of management and higher educational institutions on rural livelihoods in India. The project was geared towards participatory identifying, distilling and documenting ground-level understanding of JEEViKA in Bihar. The focus of the study was on what works, and why it works on issues of social, livelihoods and financial inclusion among the marginalized. The study was conducted in two phases; initially a team had four thematic discussions with the team of JEEViKA at Patna. The team comprised of Ajit Kanitkar (Ford Foundation), KV Gouri (Livelihood School), Kalpana Pant (Chaitanya) and Avanish Kumar (MDI). The second phase was intensive fieldwork carried out by Aman Dewan and Avanish Kumar of MDI. The study employed a JEEViKA Study Page 12

13 participatory multi-pronged approach while covering four villages across in two blocks of Gaya district in Bihar. Gaya is part of the intensive districts from the time of conception, while the two adjacent villages in two blocks are Bodh Gaya and Barachatti. These blocks were selected to understand the difference of impact due to spatial administrative exclusion. Barachatti block is at the periphery of the district Gaya, bordering Jharkhand while Bodh Gaya is a centre of JEEViKA project administration. The study tools comprised a detailed household survey with a focus on livelihood, social and financial inclusion parameters; along with focus group discussions (FGD) and semi-structured interviews with the community members, beneficiaries, JEEViKA s professionals and community workers. The study was carried out with the administrative and technical support of JEEViKA. The specific objectives of this study were to understand the genesis and conditions that promoted rural livelihood programme, JEEViKA in Bihar, further to analyze the role of stakeholders (CSO, Community, Funding agencies) in promoting JEEViKA s objectives, and to identify direct and indirect impact of JEEViKA in the lives of the rural poor in order to recommend issues that require attention in future for communities managing the strategic process of their internal resources to the emerging demands for sustainability. This study is focused on understanding of lessons and learning. The findings are expected to broaden the understanding towards inclusive pathways of state to society models on promoting rural livelihoods among the poorest of the poor. This report includes three cases, they are 1. The Social Inclusion Model 2. The Financial Inclusion Model 3. The Livelihood Inclusion Model The need of the report lay in the positive context that the state of Bihar is being cited as an example that redressed some of the barriers that lead to inclusion, and that it is moving toward inclusive development, through strengthening the development of institutions for the poor, as well as helping the poor have a voice in civic engagement. In this direction, it is pertinent to JEEViKA Study Page 13

14 understand the programme, identify learning and comprehend lessons. With five years of implementation, JEEViKA provides opportunities to understand experiential models of promoting collective action and rural livelihoods. These learning in the context of Bihar are expected to improve understanding on the policies and programs in the context of rural livelihood development across the country and how the lessons that need to be kept in mind to ensure development and inclusion go hand in hand. JEEViKA Study Page 14

15 2. JEEViKA s SOCIAL INCLUSION Social Inclusion According to the official Mandate of the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Programme (BRLP), social inclusion is a result of social development and institutional and capacity building. According to BRLP, the poor suffer from an acute shortage of access to basic public health, education services and other public schemes. As a result, they incur high cost debt to smoothen consumption needs, especially with regard to health. The specific objectives of Social Development are 1. Improve access to preventive and reproductive health care. JEEViKA Study Page 15

16 2. Provide opportunities for primary and secondary education. 3. provide for social risk funds at the Village Organization (VO) for use by members to overcome debilitating risks, and 4. Finance the skill development of health, nutrition and gender activists appointed by the VO. The main thrust of institutional and capacity building according to BRLP is towards 1. Creating awareness regarding livelihood options and approaches 2. Transparent, participatory and accountable institution building process is the key for sustainability of the community institutions initiated. Training Cluster Coordinators (CCs) and Community Resource Persons (CRPs) to introduce issues of social and economic empowerment for discussion at the CBOs is critical. The project would also enable the capturing and dissemination of experiences and learning at the CBOs based on these social and economic interventions. Bihar is the most densely populated state (Census, 2011) with approximately 83 million population, which accounts for one-seventh of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) population of India. With 9 out of every 10 person in Bihar living in villages, poverty in Bihar is significantly a rural phenomenon. According to the World Bank report titled - Bihar Towards a Development Strategy, the challenge of development in Bihar are persistent poverty, rigid social stratification, poor infrastructure and weak governance. Main problem identified is service delivery, particularly in services that affect the poor and where the role of the government is crucial (World Bank, 2005). The need for the creation of Rural livelihoods in Bihar has been due to the neglect of small land holder agriculture. Agriculture is the main stay of the Indian population with sixty five percent involved in it. The contention is that being employed in agriculture itself, does not lead to poverty but under employment, low productivity, lack of irrigation facilities do ultimately lead to poverty (Ministry of Rural Development, 2011). JEEViKA Study Page 16

17 The (World Bank, 2005) reports that agriculture in Bihar has been performing poorly and that productivity was going down by 2 percent per annum in the early 90 s and has been growing at less than 1 percent since 1995, thus reducing in terms of per-capita growth, with 80 percent of the work force, employed in agriculture, poverty in Bihar becomes the norm for the populace. Poverty and social exclusion are complimentary processes and JEEViKA through its intervention is trying to correct both the evils of poverty and exclusion. The adherence to social norms, and the maintenance of social order requires the involvement of the subaltern in the growth paradigm, the failure to do this, has adverse effects on both the community living in these areas, as well as for the country. At the macro level, the marginalization of the subaltern, raises doubts in the minds of the youth regarding the role of India as the nation state in their minds. This structured form of alienation leads to rebellion. In her article, Chitralekha (2010) mentions that the youth of Bihar and Jharkhand, who are not able to join the formal system, due to lack of opportunities, get influenced to join the MCC 1 outfit of the Naxals, in order to secure a better future and lives for themselves and their families, this cadre that joins for money and lack of opportunity in the main stream are termed as Drifters. This youth does not share the Naxal ideology strongly, but they support it for their own personal benefit, this group is vastly different from the committed cadre, which shares the pro poor Marxist ideology, and from the opportunists, who look at naxalism as a means of acquiring and exercising power. The need for social inclusion arises as a way to tackle rebellions within and against the state. It becomes important to give the youth opportunities for the channelization of their energies, while also ensuring that equity is made a virtue of development, and the barriers of caste, class, gender are transcended at each given opportunity. It is interesting to note that a majority of the Naxal cadre fall in the Drifter category, showing a direct correlation with lack of development and the rise of communism. Moving beyond the aspect of conflict, through a rights based approach, social inclusion is considered to be a necessary condition for poverty reduction, as it brings about participation and access. Here it must be noted that poor people have the right to participate in their development plans, and access regular information regarding their plans(cornwall & Musembi, 2004). JEEViKA s strategy to build institutions of the 1 Maoist Communist Center JEEViKA Study Page 17

18 poor is an appropriate strategy, to work from a rights based perspective, because the enforcement of rights requires strong institutional structures, which the poor do not have access to. From the perspective of vulnerabilities we see that in the Tonle Sap lake area, Cambodia which is characterized by high floods, it is found that the community s ability to adapt to unpredictable climate is restricted due to homogenous livelihood, inequality experienced by minorities in the political discourse, and the lack of capacity building needed to help in livelihood diversification( Varis,2010). Thus a holistic approach to social inclusion i.e. building capacities of the people and giving voice to the marginalized in political discourse and linking it to livelihood development is imperative to improve resilience of the poor people from a vulnerability perspective. Introduction to Social Inclusion in the context of BRLPS 2 The main focus of the BRLPS is on mobilizing the poor around livelihoods and to enable them to develop institutions that can sustain their engagement with the newly introduced business models by JEEViKA. To achieve this, it in turn endeavours to develop collectives of empowered group of poor people. These groups of people are expected to be fully enabled to assert access and utilize their entitlements over natural, physical, human, social and financial assets. They are also able to manage their transactions through negotiation, peer pressure and advocacy(bihar Rural Livelihood Program Society, u.d., p. 10). The process of development is seen to be linear, thus social inclusion of the vulnerable is a prerequisite for the development of new livelihoods. Thus, the initiative considers social inclusion to not be an end, but an ongoing activity. JEEViKA, is focused on inducing livelihoods through the process of micro-credit disbursement, the main target group is women from poverty ridden households, thus the impact on gender is a key to understand social inclusion in the context of JEEViKA. 2 Bihar rural livelihood program society JEEViKA Study Page 18

19 Observations and Findings: Social Inclusion as a process is aimed to achieve empowerment as its goal. Here we define empowerment as the ability to feel useful and important. Our finding suggests that social inclusion has happened as a result of the inclusive platform that JEEViKA has created at the community level. The project has helped in creating an identity for the unknown women and by increasing their unity. The women interviewed commonly remarked that hum jeevika ke pehele kissi ka naam nahi jante the, pati ke naam se ya bete ke naam se jane jate the (before JEEViKA we did not know any woman by name, we were called by our husband s or son s name ). A name is an essential part of building an identity, which is a prerequisite to be able to feel important. Absence of identity was considered as absence of desire and dream for a woman in the village. Rekha said, ham aaj apne astitva ko banana chahete hain, hamari aaj ek pehchan hai. (We nurture our identity, today we are recognized). SHG meetings happening once a week became a platform for interaction amongst the women, and also led to a deeper understanding of the common issues that they faced. Beyond the activities of saving and detailing the books of records, the key reason for them feeling empowered is the ability to associate and discuss their lives amongst their peer group. Inclusion should be seen in the larger social context under which it is embedded. Unlike past when women in Bihar women decision to cook was also influenced by the choice of the male in the family, today women are taking decision in family and are participating in village level development. Women of the different SHGs in village came together to decide on the place for boring for water. Woman members at home are part of the collective decision making on issues of crop to plough, sell and decide on their children s education and health seeking behaviour. The collective of women has reduced gender specified culturally defined roles and responsibilities. There are rare families who still discriminate in sending girls and boys to different schools. Sunita Devi said, while observing us in the meeting our daughters ask us why there is an incidence of bias between a boy and a girl. Though JEEViKA Study Page 19

20 boys and girls are sent to school, but bias was observed at the time of private tuition. Boys were sent for private tuition, while girls were expected to study on their own. Sending girls to government school and boys to private school is a past phenomena, Chandni devi 3 remarked that our group members will ask the reason if anyone does such a thing. The original idea of self help groups as a collective for peer accountability to repay loan on time, is reaping social inclusion as interest. We first start with understanding the groups which suffer from social exclusion and the reason behind it. Traditionally speaking, women, the scheduled tribes, the lower castes and the poor people are the ones who get excluded from the development paradigm. Though the economic marginalization among the upper caste is not the same as lower caste, but among the poor, caste as a barrier for multi-caste SHGs is abridged. Literature suggests that the feminist authors (Thampi & Devika,2007) are still critical of microfinance as the key to women emancipation, they argue that women empowerment is dependent on a number of factors like water and sanitation, healthcare, food insecurity, power structures, lack of basic education and the effort to consider micro-finance as the sole technique to overcome these bottlenecks is fairly utopian(sengupta, 2013). The exclusion of women from the paradigm of development has been due to a variety of reasons. Being traditionally a patriarchal society, norms and values of society favored the male over the female, thus leading to the blocking of their progress. The specific issues that the patriarchal and caste based society led to are a lower level of education, a restriction to be engaged in gainful employment, an inability to access healthcare, and a lack of freedom of choice and opportunity. Stratification based on caste and patriarchy is a social construction which has over time encouraged that women be submissive, it has conditioned women to exercise least amount of power and progress, in the areas of male dominance. The compliance of unequal non competing roles between male and female gives stability to societies but roles which are inherently based on exploitation for a particular gender cannot be sustainable in the long run. 3 Name changed JEEViKA Study Page 20

21 Programme Strategy of Social Inclusion The BRLPS aims to institutionalize inclusion by the process of making women groups in the form of SHG s. The self help groups are created on a basis of affinity, homogeneity and proximity of location. The logic is to develop strong social ties, and this is done by reinforcing the already existing ties in the village rather than creating a whole new relationship pattern(pramod, 2014). In terms of homogeneity, it is more important that similarity in economic class be present rather than the caste similarity. The strategy is to form SHGs more on spatial proximity. It leverages the administrative efficiency of SHG management and social capital of neighborhoods makes it more sustainable as a group in the village. However, in areas where a particular caste is present in large numbers, it is preferred to form a same caste SHG. In areas where not enough members of one caste are out of SHG fold, multi-caste groups are formed. The strategy is to prioritize spatial and social overlap as a strategy of group formation. Through these two lenses; caste and location, BRLPS aims to create SHGs and thus induce social inclusion, in the form of collective bargaining and empowerment. The strategy of spatial and social overlap strengthens unity towards common cause of the area and their social cause. Affinity amongst the group was present as a result of their proximity of households, but considerable work was needed to convince women to save money in the SHG and that the money would remain in their hands only, and that BRLPS will not have access to their money.(pramod, 2014). JEEViKA Study Page 21

22 Programme structure at the community level- Block Levek Federation Three members from each VO in a block join the block level federation Main role is to strenghten the VO's and liaison on behalf of the community for better public services and help in avaling of pro-poor schemes Village organization(vo) 10 SHGs come together to form a Village Organization VO is the organization head of the Social Audit Comittee,Bank Linkage Commitee,Social Action Comittee and Repayment Committee Self Help Group Groups of 8-10 women made on the basis of affinity, who come together as a a collective to access micro finance services Governed by five rules- weekly meeting, weekly savings, regular lending and borrowing, timely repayment of loan, maintaining books of record acccurately The process of social mobilization and creating women collectives requires a definite strategy. JEEViKA team member upon entry into the village, starts with a social activity, like a village cleanliness drive, they then take up residence with the poorest families, to show their clean intentions and build trust amongst the community as a partner, thus by showing the poor dignity and respect, and through this mechanism JEEViKA wins people s trust(pramod, 2014). In order to extend its coverage, the program uses Community Resource Persons (CRPs) 4 to help in formation of SHGs and VOs 5. CRP s are members of the community who were in the same situation as the current intended beneficiary but now are in a better social and financial situation due to JEEViKA. Thus, the CRPs are able to influence more members to form and join SHG s due to their personal history. Expansions happen through the CRP s and village organizations. Village organizations are a group of ten-twelve SHGs who come together to form a larger group with a different set of responsibilities. Initially when a group of SHGs make a VO, 4 Community resource person 5 Village organization JEEViKA Study Page 22

23 their handholding is done for a period of six months JEEViKA, after which the VO becomes independent. The main role of the village organization is to make the poorest members of the community join, and make sure that no household is left out. Thus, village saturation is to be left to the VO, which makes it extremely important to build on the capacities of the VO. The other important responsibility with the VO is that if any member has any problem based on caste, VO directly engages in dialogue with the offender, this is a key reason to improving intercaste relations, as VO is a major deterrent against caste exploitation. VO s also tie themselves with the government schemes like pension, insurance, etc. Data Analysis The study focused on the changes that JEEViKA had brought about in terms of social inclusion of the disadvantaged group, with a particular focus on women. A survey of 84 women beneficiaries was conducted using a semi structured interview and focus group discussions. It was to come up with a set of issues which the women of the village consider success and identify hindrances in the movement of women in moving towards gender equality and social cohesion. The key identified issues were unequal educational status and need, unequal health needs and access to care and cure, unequal independence from domestic roles and family restrictions. Analysis of the data showed that 29.8 per cent of women feel that there is no gender bias in health and education seeking behavior in the village, 57 per cent of the surveyed women supported this outcome to the functioning of the SHGs. However, 27 per cent of the women felt SHGs made an impact but gender bias is still present though they consider the situation to be continuously improving and they felt that women are marching towards increased freedom and empowerment. The problems that the women face were considered to be unequal independence followed by uneven education and healthcare access. See table 1 for details. JEEViKA Study Page 23

24 Table 1: Social Inclusion Issues Frequency Percent Uneven education Unequal health care Unequal independence Family restrictions No disadvantage Total Figure 1: Five Key Reasons for Inequality On being asked, how they thought women were treated unfairly in comparison to men, the highest percentage of women felt (30 percent) that no disadvantage in the community was present. Unequal independence which is a result of patriarchal norms was given importance by a similar 28 percent of women. The other reasons cited for inequality were uneven education and healthcare. JEEViKA Study Page 24

25 Identity as a prerequisite to empowerment In this section, we look at an understanding of empowerment based on the notion of self, we theorize that for a group or gender to be empowered at various levels like at the household level, community level, and at the political level, the first prerequisite is to create a strong notion of self, which we understand as personal empowerment. This pattern of empowerment is not dependent on others and is an internal process that women develop and strengthen(rowlands, 1997). The ability to have their own voice in matters, was related to the ability to think for their own selves, and their aspirations, like Sonu Devi commented JEEViKA ne hume aapna pehchan or sapne dekhne ka mauka diya hai (JEEViKA, has given us a personal identity, as well as the ability to dream for ourselves ) Identity and income help in reducing insecurity, we show this through the following figure JEEViKA Study Page 25

26 The following table shows the difference before and after JEEViKA Identity Income Insecurity Without JEEViKA Domestic identity,(wife, daughter). No recognition in village No say in household financial matters, no decision in asset planning, no role in asset improvement or creation, and only very poor women worked for income supplementation Lack of Identity, lack of health care access, no say in matters related to own marriage, extremely dependent on father, husband. Domestic violence With JEEViKA SHG member, VO member, recognition in village Have a say in household financial matters, use JEEViKA loans to improve asset quality, and to create assets, women from all backgrounds encouraged to take up jobs within the village boundaries Increased power in domestic decision making. Ability to participate in collective bargaining Improved selfconfidence. Ability to raise voice against domestic violence JEEViKA Study Page 26

27 Multiple identities are created, woman as a self, identity of the group with reference to SHG that they belong to and part of JEEViKA, often called as JEEViKA ki didi. Member of JEEViKA (Programme and Purpose Identity) Member of the VO (Organlisation and Income + Community Identity) Member of the SHG (Group and Solidarity Identity) Woman as a Self Figure 2: Multiple Identity of a woman in JEEViKA In our study nearly all respondents echoed the thought that Hum Samuh banne se pehele ek dusri didi ka naam bhi nahi jaante the, ab hamari ek pehchan hai. (we did not know the name of other women before joining the SHGs.) This quotation reflects the lack of identity women suffered from in the villages of our study in Bihar. The respondents mention that a woman had no identity, she was referred with reference to dominant male of the family. The unmarried girls were referred to as daughter of father s name while married woman were referred as wife of husband s name. Prior to JEEViKA s intervention, having an independent identity was not desirable. The notion of self is an ingredient of empowerment; while self is an amalgamation of identity, income and insecurity. The study reveals that increase in identity in the family, community and by institutions such as bank increases options for income. Rise in identity and income reduces insecurity promoting empowerment. Studies at various levels have considered that a strong sense of self within a JEEViKA Study Page 27

28 collective milieu is what leads to personal empowerment.(lord, 1997). Traditionally women of the villages, without their identity, suffered from acute powerlessness due to their inability to create independent social space. The study reveals that the ability and desire to follow one s own needs and wants constitute the critical component of empowerment. However, it can only happen when individual identity of the self is created. A notion of self linearly leads to an ability to bargain for the self. Social networks and Empowerment JEEViKA s engagement over the past few years in the village is seen by the community as a major milestone towards their emancipation. A major shift in the community is noticeable in the way the program is being currently perceived by the people of the village. From being reluctant to participate in government schemes, today most men encourage their women to join SHG s. It is for the first time that the state and the community are considered as partners. The state often considered the community as patron, but never reached the marginalized. Sita said, sarkar pehli bar samaj ke beech hai. Pehle ham sarkar ke paas jate the, aaj sarkar hamare paas aati hai (It is for the first time the State is within the society. Earlier we use to go to the State, today the State comes to us). Social networks create a sense of belonging for a certain group of people. By seeing their lives through the eyes of their peers, a new level of awareness is achieved. As they see their lives from the perspective of others, by routinely discussing issues which they otherwise would not have spoken of women realize if they are going through any unfair practices at home or if the girl child in their house is being treated unfairly Figure 2 below shows the impact as perceived by the women. A majority at 57 percent believe that SHGs created a positive platform for women s empowerment. (The responses stated in the graph below were answers to the question posed to women what was the impact of the formation and engagement of SHGs on your empowerment levels? Here Not applicable is used for those women who see no difference between men and women empowerment, thus do not consider SHGs to be a changing force. JEEViKA Study Page 28

29 Figure 3: Impact of SHGs on Women Empowerment Lord(1997) argues that social networks lead to support relationships which help in empowerment. This network of relationship works mainly in two ways - it provides moral support and the women can leverage the platform to share and solve their problems with their group members, which in turn strengthens ties between members. The group members mentioned that sharing personal problems strengthens emotional bonds and helps us to differentiate between common social problem and individual problem. Secondly by a method of guidance, which we see platforms like village organizations provide. It is not uncommon for the SHG or for a village organization to help a member in personal and family issues, if a member so desires. Gayatari Devi 6 mentions that her daughter s marriage had a lot of complications involving dowry, the SHG members convinced me to not go ahead with such an arrangement, I later found a more suitable match for my daughter Thus, it can be noted that strong social networks are fostered by moral support and guidance, which the SHG and the Village organization in the villages provide respectively. 6 Name Changed JEEViKA Study Page 29

30 Collective Bargaining and Social Networks Collective bargaining has traditionally been used in trade union studies(jerry, 1985). In context of this study, the ability to form a group and use the group platform to collate voices for the betterment of public good and to create opportunity for self is considered to be collective bargaining. The male respondents in our study villages mentioned that there has been a marked shift in the way the voices of women are being heard within the family and in the village. This voice is not limited to empowerment of the self or the group. It is used to demand better services from PDS 7 fair price shops (FPS), and other services. Thus the benefits are accrued to the whole village members. Collective bargaining has lead to women taking control of management of FPS in the villages of Bhagair and Sekhwada, peaceful demonstrations have been ongoing in the village of Bara, but the results are yet to be awaited. The Public Distribution System in these villages was marked with a high level of corruption, the respondents mentioned that they were able to access their rightful monthly ration only three to four times a year. Similar situation still exists in Bara village, thus actions are being taken by the community members by using peaceful demonstrations as a tool for advocacy. In the villages where this change has already taken place, the effectiveness of the PDS has gone up as the poor women form the village organizations and take charge of it. For the men, this comes as great respite from the resistance that they met earlier when they visited the higher government officials. A proud husband of one of the woman leaders exclaimed - Hum aadmi jaate toh yahi baat mahine tak chalti. Hum toh ek do karke alag alag jaakar milte the, kabhi saath mein ikatha hokar toh gaye nahin, isliye hamari baat bhi kabhi suni nahin gayi. Mahilaon ke ekatrit hokar kaam karne se hi toh hamari itni tarraki hui hai. (If we men used to one by one on our own then no one ever paid heed to what we were demanding. Moreover, the men never thought of going as a group. By the women getting together as a unified force we have seen such prosperity had it been left to the abilities of the men, the same thing would have taken much longer). 7 Public distribution system JEEViKA Study Page 30

31 There has also been a very positive impact on the nature of the community s relationship with the government. Namita Devi 8 expresses We all have learnt the benefits of collaborative partnership with the government. From being reactive and rigid, men folk from the village fought regularly with government officials, we have now shown how we can peacefully and legally bargain through collectives in front of authorities and get our work done. Access and Control Access and control experienced by women in the villages is an important indicator to study their empowerment. Access refers to the ability to use a certain product or service, and control refers to the ability to decide and make informed decisions regarding issues concerning daily life. Rural women had access to limited goods and services and lack of ability to control resources within and outside family. The conditioning of women towards a set gender role formed by society leads to a situation where many key aspects of their life fell beyond their control (Dube 2001). Women s decision making roles related to matters of assets and property are crippled, due to patriarchal society with an over-emphasis on dowry, and an underemphasis on education and productive work. The current study understands how women are viewed by their families as adding to their family expense pressure, while completely ignoring their capability of income generation. How women s role and recognition beyond cooking, caring in family has changed due to JEEViKA. Our study indicates that the nature of gender relations has started to change with the advent of JEEViKA, due to entitlement to access loan at two percent interest rates, which are far lower than interest rates of money lenders. Though income generation is still the priority of males, women do control its success and failure. Women mention that overtime there has been a positive co-relation between SHG s and their decision making pertaining to household expenses, deciding their children s marriages, their ability to access health care, and their ability to make decisions regarding family assets. It is important to note that amongst the elderly women, a majority of the decisions regarding assets are still being made by the men, but the rise of decision making space amongst the younger age group has expanded drastically. On enquiry about relocation due to income option outside 8 Name Changed JEEViKA Study Page 31

32 village, husband of Rani said hum bina apni patni ke nahi kah sakte hain (we can only decide after discussing with my wife). However, women empowerment is not merely presence or absence of participation in economic activities. It should be understood with as a choice or compulsion. It is noted that women belonging to very poor families have to work in order to meet the income requirements of the family. It is more out of necessity rather than choice, it does not necessarily mean empowerment. It does not replace her roles within the household, but increases the responsibility outside family too. Thus we understand that productive employment of its own is not necessarily an indicator of women empowerment, the ability to choose is an important factor to remember. The figure 4. below shows that in terms of access and control most women have the ability to decide over families expenses, this is also partly due to the fact that the pressure to run the kitchen and manage household necessities is on the shoulders of women. It is important to see that a extremely high majority of women are being able to have important role in matters related to marriage. Although women decision making has increased in some key areas, but areas such as asset and income still depicts inequality. 60 per cent of women still consider themselves to have a say in matter related to family assets, but when seen in comparison with access and control in other areas of life, this figure seems to be low % 80.00% 60.00% 40.00% 20.00% 0.00% Household expenditure Own and Children marrige decisions Family Assets Ability to be active income contributor Figure 4: Gender Empowerment at Household Level JEEViKA Study Page 32

33 At the level of the community, the study shows that women are still hesitant in participating at the Panchayat level, with only 25 percent of the women claiming that they were ready to fight elections, if given a chance. It is essential to distinguish between economic and political empowerment at the community level. Though women are actively participating in the process of accountability and access of public services, they are reluctant to replace men in local self governance (Panchayat). It can be seen that at the household and the community level, vast differences exist. The results of household level empowerment are far more impactful than those of empowerment at the community level. Initiating structural changes in villages can only be possible with active participation of women without making men insecure of their power in public. The process of social change in women s role from private (household) can ultimately influence the roles in public i.e. at community level, however, the vice versa can results in conflict and resistance. 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Empowered to contest Panchayat Elections Active participants of Social Audits Aware of Government Schemes Empowered to contest Panchayat Elections Active participants of Social Audits Aware of Government Schemes Figure 5: Gender Empowerment at Community Level Figure 5 shows that the members are aware of government schemes, as compared to awareness regarding participation in social audits as a tool of accountability. High level of awareness about government schemes is mainly due to the control of PDS by the village organizations in two of the four villages studied. In the VO meetings, the entitlement of the members is routinely discussed. Unfortunately women are still working within the silos, the collective is yet to convert into demand for quality and timely health care and education JEEViKA Study Page 33

34 through social audit. Only 35 percent of the members are active participants of social audits. It was observed that women collective are yet to confront the rural elites. Panchayat represented by powerful families and other public services are in connivance. As a result, women are unable to impact upon the poor services of health and education. It will be possible when impetus to resist is orchestrated by JEEViKA. The Role of SHGs in Promoting Inter-Generational Social Equity To incorporate the effect that JEEViKA s programs, the study tried to understand the liberal future for the girl child in the study villages. As social inclusion is an ongoing process, it is important to understand the effect of JEEViKA on future generations, by analyzing the worldview of the current generation. A common but silent preference for boys exists. This preference is believed to arise due to the ability of boys to contribute to family income and take care of parents in their old age and girls being considered a weaker gender due to increased burden of dowry without the ability to add income of the household. This culture of gender discrimination is ingrained in the thought processes of women too. A discussion with the beneficiaries of JEEViKA brought about the insight that female oppression is not merely a phenomenon due to the male members of the society. Mohini Devi 9 expresses earlier women used to make high demands for dowry and preferred to educate their sons, a mother was the daughter s biggest enemy. An accepted behaviour or thought process that becomes a part of the dominant culture starts to be seen as a norm in the society. In Baradi, the women feel that a change in attitudes has started taking place and the SHGs of JEEViKA are seen as the catalyzing force for this change. In the villages of Barachatti Block, borrowing money was primarily men s prerogative. In the initial phase, there was apprehension about the need of women to build such savings group and enter a primarily male bastion. Also the increased mobility of women out of the household was a cause of concern. The interest rate differentials offered by micro-finance was the original attraction, which made men agree to this addition of roles to the women s work load. In about 9 Name changed JEEViKA Study Page 34

35 a year s time, the change in the way women saw themselves started to arise. Mohini Devi 10 a health worker with a local NGO exclaims that the SHG was a key reason due to which my husband allowed me to go outside the village to work. Earlier it was not just his traditional mindset, but fear that I would not be able to work in the outside world. Many such important cases point to the fact that women are now taking responsibilities beyond their traditional roles. This confidence on self for the ability to perform is an important process of empowerment in the current context. Women now mention in a majority of the Focus group discussions, that the difference between boys and girls although exists, but gender bias is fast fading away. They attribute it to the change in the mindsets of women more than it is to do with male oppression. Caste The formations of SHG s group identity along with the rising identity the women have led to the thinning of caste barriers. This should be considered an indirect effect, for reasons explained below. Intercaste acceptance of food has been a recent phenomena. VO meetings, weddings are major melting pots, although at the personal level there is still some hesitation in accepting kaccha (unoiled) food from lower caste. Fried foods are accepted in most settings but it is difficult to say if this is an outcome of SHG formation or schooling, and other common sources of interaction. However, SHGs have played a major role in reducing caste barriers. JEEViKA s strategy is more based on poverty and proximity of location. According to an interview with JEEViKA Staff, SHG making is done on the basis of proximity of locations, the preference from JEEViKA is to form homogenous caste group SHG. In case a single caste is not concentrated in a geographical location then, a heterogeneous group of similar economic status are considered, reinforcing the caste alliance. This strategy of social mobilization initially instills horizontal cohesion within the caste followed by inter-caste integration between the SHGs resulting in a cohesive community (Pramod, 2014). 10 Name changed JEEViKA Study Page 35

36 In terms of religion, in Bhagair village Muslims are also present. Their SHGs are of the same community as their settlement pattern is also clustered as caste settlements. Challenges of poor Muslim women into collectives are different due to wide segregation in roles and expectations from women and high community cohesion. Thus it can inferred that inter-caste integration has increased more than the inter-religious. It is also important to note that caste still plays an important role as an identity, even after reduction in untouchability/oppression of lower castes especially in marriage. Marriage outside caste is unacceptable. Intra-village marriage is also considered taboo as village is thought of as one large family. The Current Situation, Challenges and Ways Out The exposure and experience of the women of JEEViKA has made them find a place of dignity for themselves in society. Women remark, JEEViKA has truly helped us in gaining a voice and we are no longer afraid of demanding action from Sarpanch, BDO or police inspector. Earlier we were extremely scared of government officials, they used to speak extremely rudely with us, now we had a meeting with the Chief Minister of Bihar. Our belief in ourselves has increased many times. People like you and from foreign countries also come to visit us. Women experience greater autonomy and higher participation in decision making at the household level. At the village level also participation in decision making has increased as women have taken control of PDS. There is still a lot left to be desired out of the situation at the community level and in empowerment for better access and utilization of basic public services. The knowledge regarding tools like social audit, is fairly limited and the awareness regarding new government schemes is below the expected level. Women s participation in social audit needs to be strengthened.village segregated data points to the fact that at 40 percent awareness and participation, Sekhwara and Bara village have a higher degree of participation in social audits, than the villages of Bhagair and Baradi, where awareness and participation of social audits is a mere 15 percent. In Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, studies argue that the process leading to the social audit and the follow-up after the social audit are as important as the audit itself, and as social audits are a qualitative process, they need immense efforts at JEEViKA Study Page 36

37 grass root mobilization and preparation of the community to understand the process of social audit and the needs it shall fulfill (Ambasta & Shah, 2008). Organizing trainings for the VO which in turn shall train the SHGs would be the advisable way forward. This training should not be a one off event but a continuous process till the audits start becoming successful. Guidelines from JEEViKA in this direction will add pace to the process and participation of women in improving the accountability of public services through social audit. While looking at the fact that there is an increase in the voice and visibility of women in the community, we should remember there is a long way to go in removing the limitations to their growth as empowered individuals. It first needs to be clearly stated that empowerment like social inclusion is a means and not an end to livelihoods and empowerment. Every benchmark of success today becomes the baseline for tomorrow. Therefore, at no point it can be said that women have achieved full or absolute empowerment. The quest for women empowerment is a journey, not a destination. Gender roles have not changed over time, and additional duty of groups and micro finance, has been added to the existing responsibilities of women. Women in the study area are responsible for all domestic duties as well as collecting fodder and water for the household and livestock, this stagnancy in gender roles show that micro-finance within itself, is not capable of changing these predefined roles. Issac (2002) states that micro credit or micro enterprise building can facilitate the process but the real challenge lies in creating awareness and societal implementation of more gender neutral roles. Paterson (2008) in his study of women empowerment in Balochistan emphasizes the role of recreating every day roles of men and women through specific training programs. However, as a strategy, income generation for women can only be successful when it allows her to perform her traditional role. Women indicated that income generation options ideally suited are the ones that are located in physical proximity to their households. Relocation is a possible option for men with high income gain; women s preference is to opt for income generation options permanent relocation in order to avoid role conflicts. not involving JEEViKA Study Page 37

38 For mainstreaming the poorest of the poor, capacities of the VO should be built, in terms of social inclusion through participatory poverty assessment. VOs should be aware of exclusionary indicators of a local area, thus members being left out, will also start getting included. It was found that even in the model villages few families are left out of JEEViKA. In the section Access and control it was stated that women had more access to productive labour, especially in cases where the family situation demanded money. This leads to a gendered understanding of women s labour. Interviews with the respondents and FGDs lead to the understanding that the ability of women to spend money on their own self is extremely limited. The earnings of the women are meant for the family, and thus societal expectation of self sacrifice from women does not let her escape from the poverty she faces on account of being a woman. However, women collective do provide a venue for social collateral to change the status of inter generational inequality by reducing bias against the girl child. Another major challenge for social inclusion is the lack of toilet coverage in the village. The total sanitation campaign provided a certain number of toilets in the village but the inability of SHGs to convince the men in the community to build toilets combined with the reduction in open defecation space, shows that a lot needs to improve in terms of women empowerment. We conclude by saying that SHG formation has brought in collective bargaining, now specific strategies need to be developed for men and women groups separately. It is imperative for the community to understand the gender roles being played in daily life while aiming for a more egalitarian society through gender guided workshops and training programs. The community mobilizers need more training in helping solve issues of gender conflict, and specific sensitization workshop for men can be recommended. Social inclusion has taken place due to the aim of financial inclusion, its time that empowerment of women is looked into separately as a key to social development. The rise of mobilization entails rise of linear upward movement, without government institutional design to make system gender neutral, the process may not achieve sustainable outcome. JEEViKA Study Page 38

39 3. Financial Inclusion The Context- Practice and Policy The assumption that poor can come out of poverty, if they were organized as a social collateral and given the opportunity for financial inclusion through formal institution such as banks and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) led to the rise of the micro finance movement. The successful implementation of this model by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has resulted in wide spread experimentation across the world. By definition, microfinance aims to provide permanent access to an appropriate range of high quality financial services, including not just credit but also savings, insurance and fund transfer (Christern & Rosenberg, 2004). According to JEEViKA Study Page 39

40 Sinclair(2001), micro finance has emerged as a solution to financial exclusion. A widely accepted definition of financial exclusion is "the inability to access necessary financial services in an appropriate form" (Sinclair 2001). In India financial inclusion has been a priority for the Reserve Bank of India. In 1977, the Indian central bank policy made it mandatory for banks to open four rural branches in unbanked locations for every new branch in an already banked location(burgess & Pandey, 2005). Though the policy lasted till 1990, it led to a major expansion of rural banking network. Despite clear policy direction, it unfortunately did not achieve the desired goal. In the budget the then Finance Minister of India P. Chidambaram mentioned in his speech that just 22 percent of the Indian population received financial services from the formal sector(dev, 2006). The goal of financial inclusion through formal banks could not be achieved for a number of reasonsvulnerability of small and marginal farmers, the lack of education of the borrowing group, the inability to provide any form of collateral the indifferent attitude of the bank staff and high consumption of loan in non-income related activities such as health, education and marriage. In 2005 the Rangarajan committee declared that rural banking must be friendly to the vulnerable and marginal farmers. It stated that rural banking needs to be differentiated from commercial banking. Since it is a mix of social and commercial development, the work ethos of rural banks must be developed accordingly (Rangarajan 2005). Recognizing the increase in need of banking services and change in policy and practices, banks have started to follow a more inclusive approach to the financial sector. This is also supported by the RBI introducing no frills, zero balance bank accounts in A good example would be states like Bihar, as they have arrived at an agreement with the banks to provide a loan of a minimum amount of Rs. 50,000/- irrespective of the consumers paying capacity. One of the poorest states in India, Bihar is characterized by a high incidence of rural poverty, which at 41.1% is far higher than the rate of urban poverty at 24.7%.(World Bank, 2005). The lack of institutions for the poor to organize themselves has also inhibited their economic growth. Rural savings in the context of Bihar were characterized by unscrupulous chit fund JEEViKA Study Page 40

41 operators, which despite being officially banned, continue to operate in various guises throughout the state, further increasing people s lack of trust in investing, or parting with their money. A study by BASIX (2007) on the Status of MFI 11 highlights that the key reasons for Bihar to be put on the map of financial inclusion are : : Presently one bank exists for every 22,224 of the population,where as Punjab, Maharashtra and West Bengal are much better with a bank existing for every 9000, and respectively. 37 blocks of the state don t have a single branch of commercial banks. 700 to 800 bank branches are functioning with a single person on board. The credit deposit ratio is pegged at 32.10% much below the national average of 57%. High debt due to informal lending and under servicing of the population by banks in Bihar, coupled with a lack of faith of people in banks regarding formal credit and savings instruments, are one of the important reasons that lead the Bihar government to initiate a microfinance program based on mobilization of the poor. The Bihar Rural Livelihood Program Society (BRLPS) became the corner stone for livelihood generation, by using micro-finance as a stepping stone for poverty alleviation and alternate livelihood generation. Strategy The BRLPS aims to achieve economic mainstreaming of the poor and the vulnerable and to break the cycle of low investment, low return and low consumption (Bihar Rural Livelihood Program Society, 2007, p. 7). The use of micro-finance as a weapon is directed towards three objectives according to the program mandate of BRLPS. The objectives (BRLPS, 2008, p. 14) state that micro-finance should be able to: 11 Micro Finance Institution JEEViKA Study Page 41

42 1. ensure that assets are created and incomes are improved for the community based organizations (CBOs) established or strengthened in the project; 2. facilitate the poor to convert their secure asset base into an economically viable, improved and sustainable living; 3. facilitate book-keeping and accounting systems for CBOs for promoting transparency, accountability and ambience of faith for other stakeholders. Amongst the various forms of micro-finance programs, the BRLP uses a SHG- Bank linkage model in order to boost financial inclusion. In this model, a group of members make one single SHG, the group members pool savings and indulge in inter-loaning amongst themselves and they are then linked as a collective to a bank which provides them with loans. The loan amount in general is limited to four times the cumulative savings of the group. The repayment in JEEViKA is done on monthly basis, and members take loans based on urgency of needs and by turn. Once these loans are paid back, the credit rating of the SHGs increase and they in turn get entitled to a larger loan. The bank and SHG linkages are facilitated by Bank Mitra (Friend of Bank). She is a member of the community and receives salary based on performance incentives from the community. At the level of policy JEEViKA addresses livelihood finance. It is accepted that micro-finance can only marginally solve the problem of poverty alleviation and that a complete solution can only be found if investments are based in the areas of livelihood generation like leveraging natural resources, capacity building, improving education and skills (Mahajan, 2005). In our field study in the villages of Bara, Sekhwara, Bhagar and Baradi, the impact that JEEViKA SHG program had on being able to provide a sound base for the financial progress of its members has thrown up a list of interesting observations. We also tried to understand the gap between vision of JEEViKA and the practices on the ground. Why People Take Loans The ability to access formal credit in rural areas is dependent on the nature and size of the assets and the occupation the borrower is involved in(united Nation, 2006). Barman in his JEEViKA Study Page 42

43 study argues that informal lending is highest amongst marginal farmers, followed by small and commercial farmers(barman & Kalra, 2009). Marginal farmers with extremely small land holdings could not provide identity and collateral to bank for loans. Marginal farmers along with their families who were excessively debt ridden became the primary target audience for BRLP. The program aimed to help them in creating income generating assets and options. Thus, the program intended to use micro-finance and self help to break the cycle of poverty. The main reasons for which the poor access loans can be classified under two categories, one is personal need, the other is social expense. Personal need involves health care emergencies; money requirement for education, social expense involves money used to celebrate birth of a child, marriage in the family, and other occasions where a high degree of money is spent without return. In our understanding the two major common avenues for loan taking were education in the family with eligible children and health care expenses of family member with serious or chronic illness, followed by marriages; in this case we study the implications of these. Average loan taking by the members was highest in areas of Health pegged at 32 percent, then Education at 25 percent, followed by Asset creation at 21 percent and Marriage. This nature of loan taking has implications both positive and negative in trying to eradicate poverty. The positive aspect is that loans taken for education will lead to a creation of sustainable human capital that will have the potential for creating a better standard of living in the future. In case of illness or accident requiring health intervention, JEEViKA has introduced the health risk fund. The fund allows to take money at the rate of one per cent per month. Since public health facility is not available on time, it is found to be an effective strategy in helping people access better quality doctors and treatment. Most respondents claim health, education, and marriage to be their biggest expenses. It is ironical that the debt is caused due to no or lack of public health facilities not working. Linking effectively with government schemes continues to be an issue. In those villages where the VOs have not taken over the PDS system, the cost of food and fuel also becomes a deterrent factor in the expense list of the household. Despite all odds, members are taking loan for setting up enterprises. Often the choice of the enterprise is an extension of the existing skill sets and occupation. Like a tailor improves her earning by moving JEEViKA Study Page 43

44 away from hand driven stitching machine to motorised machine, while some are into ornament business. Artificial ornaments are sold in the village and in the local haat (local market). Figure 6: Distribution of Loan Purposes A majority of the respondents were financially illiterate when the bank SHG model was introduced. JEEViKA s intervention filled the gap by simplification of the process and partnership with the bank. Over a period of time, the success stories of women in the village started emerging and with sustained initiative, at the branch and bank level, it led to a considerable growth in the number of women joining SHGs. JEEViKA then started the practice of organising a camp where branch representatives are invited and the bank accounts are opened. On an average there are 50 SHG members in the camp. The ability of women to take loans at low rates (current private lending are at the rate of 10 rupees interest per 100 per month), while not needing to provide collateral, made the appeal of the program strong. The financial inclusion in JEEViKA also improved on the account that the women started to receive support from men in the family, who were the actual end users of the loans. This aspect of women beings carriers of loans is also discussed in a study on the Grameen model(karim, 2008). JEEViKA Study Page 44

45 Improved Household Cashflows Access to credit at lower interest rates than what were historically available can be counted as a blessing for the members of the community. The study aims to understand whether financial well being is a short term gain or micro-credit is really pulling people out of poverty. Lower interest rates help in boosting household cash flows, thus a short-term well being is garnered by people when they are associated with micro-finance institutions. But the big question that remains unanswered is whether this sense of well being lasts and if not, what could be the possible strategy to increase the life of well being with minimum negative consequences? Financial inclusion is directly related with livelihood inclusion, thus both the goals have to work in tandem in order to create a long lasting improvement in the lives of the community. Historically speaking, the only source for money people had in these villages were the local money lenders. The money lenders charged exorbitant interest rates and their loan recovery methods involved coercion. These high interest rates starting from 10 percent per month, led the poor into a vicious cycle of debt and poverty. In most cases, the informal money lenders were the only option and were easily accessible without formalities.. but for some situations like consumption smoothening, people did take small loans from relatives, neighbours. Trust and reciprocity played the key role in defining terms of loan with relatives, but there was a certain loss of dignity as exclaimed. Shanta Devi 12 said Haath phaila ke paisa maangnge mein aur samhu se 2 percent par utha ke wapas karne mein bahut antar hai.rishtedar ko paisa vapas karne ke bavjood bhi karz nahi utarta hai ( there is difference between asking for money with extended hand and taking it on a two percent interest rate and returning the amount To the relatives money can be repaid but the debt remains forever). Increase in dignity and money at the time of need for poor women can most certainly be attributed to JEEViKA bank linkage program. 12 Name Changed JEEViKA Study Page 45

46 Impact- Cases for Financial Inclusion Kanti Devi 13 explained, When you take a loan from relatives you are always under pressure to return the loan at the earliest, banks are very difficult to approach, but taking from the SHG is different, we can return the money during the monthly meetings, thus there is no inconvenience of even going to the bank The cooperative attitude of the staff of JEEViKA is heart warming. As we have gained the trust of our group members and of JEEViKA team members, we will now pay heed to their advice regarding savings, insurance and other financial well being instruments. Kanti devi s case shows that financial inclusion promotes dignity and self-respect. The ability to borrow money from safe and reliable sources without facing humiliation is one of the major reasons for the widespread acceptance of the SHG model. It also signifies that any programme can be successful if poverty is not treated as stigma. She further comments that compulsory savings also help her in creating a base for her future, this habit inculcation by joining the SHG s has been life transforming. Shiela Devi mentioned that in 2005 her husband was compelled to take a loan from a mahajan (local money lender) for his sister s wedding. In which the mahajan charged a 10% interest rate, and her husband was expected to completely repay the principal sum and interest at the end of one year. He had no other source to go to for such a big amount, she explained. After JEEViKA made its presence felt in the villages, they joined an SHG. She mentions that What I liked the most about JEEViKA bank linkage was that we could repay the interest as well as the principal simultaneously in small installments. JEEViKA s nominal interest rates have directly impacted their ability to save for future and this has had a remarkable clarity on the opportunity cost involved. We save a lot on the interest that we used to pay at the rate of 7-10 percent to the Mahajan. Our savings capacity has thus improved significantly. She mentions that my husband now saves Rs 500 per month regularly in his bank account for our daughter s wedding and other contingencies, a practice that they never followed earlier. 13 Name changed JEEViKA Study Page 46

47 Repayment of Old Debts Farmer indebtedness has been a major issue in the expansion of financial inclusion. This indebtedness hinders many clients in developing commercially viable assets which can provide a foundation for future income. Even when supply of credit is provided by micro-finance institutions problems with demand persist, these are due to low productivity, risk and vulnerability of marginal farmers, poor market linkages for the non-farm worker(dev, 2006). Many members joined SHGs being excessively debt ridden by taking loans from informal moneylenders for family expenses such as weddings and illnesses. JEEViKA credit offered an alternative to high interest rates and lump-sum repayment requirements that lead to cycles of debt and poverty. The majority of JEEViKA s clients responded that they no longer struggled to make both ends meet. This ability to tide over difficult financial times is being attributed to the compulsory micro-savings that has been initiated by becoming members of self help groups. Among the members, the regular saving practice creates both corpus and confidence. Improved Health Accessibility The study focused on health in terms of improved financial accessibility, quality of health care, and speed of availability. The improvement in health has been carefully added as a direct benefit of financial inclusion by the JEEViKA health risk fund. The health risk fund has improved health access in the villages, the poor now have the ability to borrow money on one percent interest rate and seek the best possible treatment. The urgent need for healthcare facilities and money to avail them are one of the major breaking points for the poor. Availability of Health Risk Fund has reduced the risk of losing family members without being attended to, due to struggles of poverty. Only the people who have not accessed the Health Risk Fund at a time of health emergency responded with no impact and can t say on being asked about the impact of JEEViKA. Due to no episode of illness in their family, their perception about the benefits is different from the majority. However, due to the Health Risk Fund, it was noted that affordability has increased, however, this cost is completely avoidable if the public health system is made to work for the poor. JEEViKA needs to strengthen the collectives for better access and utilization of education and public health services in the villages. JEEViKA Study Page 47

48 Figure 7: Impact of JEEViKA on Community Health Unbanked to Under-Banked Respondents mentioned that other than weekly savings in the SHGs the use of personal bank accounts is still minimalistic. The situation has changed for the community from being unbanked, to having a bank account but they do not regularly access it or use it to save money due to lack of knowledge about the advantages that bank savings provide in the form of interest rather than keeping their money at home. For improvement of this situation, JEEViKA needs to improve awareness regarding savings and using banks for gaining access to remittances. A prominent reason cited for keeping money at home is uncertainty of untimely demand and lack of 24 hour access to banking facilities. An ATM in proximity of the village can enable the practice of saving money in banks. Future development policy might focus on direct cash transfers and thus the need and ability to access bank accounts increases in importance. Under-banked members use of banks for savings account is higher, but their ability to access a variety of financial services is still very low. The Focus group discussions revealed that the biggest fear of the community pertained to their old age. They feared facing lack of money for survival and with changing times lack of support and care from children settled in cities. Yet people have rarely opted for any pension JEEViKA Study Page 48

49 schemes. Another significant concern is lack of micro-insurance services that offer the poor with the necessary safeguards against unforeseen circumstances. This area of Bihar being completely rain-fed, crop insurance plays a vital role as community members suggest that income from farming cannot be predicted and changes on a yearly basis. Challenges to Micro-finance Informal Financial Committees - In our study, in all four villages, it was understood that microfinance program of JEEViKA had not completely replaced informal lending in the villages. Although the amount and extent of funding given by the Mahajans 14 has drastically come down, but there is a strong presence of financial committees especially in the village of Baradi that exist amongst the men. The system of committees is similar to that of a cooperative, the men pool a certain amount of money on regular basis in a common pot. The interest of this money is auctioned weekly depending on need of an individual who picks it up at the highest bid. Rest members distribute the interest. The average amount auctioned in committess is between 25 to 50 thousand rupees. The main financial advantage is that the interest accrued in this system is enjoyed by the members. There are certain advantages that these committees provide -a strong social capital base, the lack of need for any formal paper work, and trust which is a direct consequence of social capital. The community members mentioned that there are three main factors which make the committees advantageous, the first being getting money on time, without the formalities of approval. Time is a crucial factor favoring the committees as, the respondents state that from the committee we can get a loan in two hours if there is an emergency, for many situations it is not possible to wait for your turn to take a loan in the self help group. Secondly the size of the loan and interest rates also play a major factor, the loan size in SHGs are comparatively small, and thus it can act as a catalyzing agent to an already existing business, it does not encourage holistic enterprise development. The interest rates are a maximum of two percent per month in these committees but for amounts exceeding Rs one lakh, loans are available with one percent per month interest rate. However, the poorest of the poor are excluded from these committees due to a certain minimum level of affluence 14 Traditional money lenders JEEViKA Study Page 49

50 required to participate. In some ways committees are like exclusive clubs of the affluent and to address poverty JEEViKA will have to smoothen the lending process to provide timely loans without complex formalities. Going by the number of transactions it can be safely said that the poor people prefer taking loans mostly from JEEViKA. We understand that depending on the extent of money required at the time of emergency alternate systems of loan or money lending need to be in place. Lack of entrepreneurial training- The provision of microfinance can only move people out of the debt cycle, if it is used for asset creation or service provision which increases the income of the households. The case of Chanda Devi provides further explanation, Chanda Devi s primary occupation is that of a tailor. From this occupation she has barely been able to save any money for the family s future needs. Her husband s primary occupation has been farming but due to small land size, the gains from farming are only able to meet subsistence needs of the family. She mentioned that to improve the family s financial state, they decided to start a tea shop in the village. A loan of Rs 8000 was taken by them for this purpose but low demand, and inability to keep costs down led them to closing their tea shop. This experience has made them fearful of any further ventures, they mention that they have been saving in the SHG but have never asked for a loan again. This case indicates that people have strong reasons for their lack of ability or awareness to start ventures which also push people away from financial inclusion. Women are often seeking low risk enterprise, The discussion of this case led to a remark by a group of women that there should be some mechanism in place to cope with the failures in business.the poor families inability to take risks became evident. Therefore, creating sustainable income generation options requires risk mitigating strategy either in the form of skills through constant mentoring or insurance. 15 On this aspect of financial inclusion, Rangarajan (2005) comments that rural credit needs to be given along with a host of on-farm and off-farm advisory services. It is also emphasized that 15 The idea is to only provide a suggestion after observation from the ground, the authors do not recommend any actions without a complete analysis of its feasibility. JEEViKA Study Page 50

51 lack of a holistic approach is harmful and that micro finance without identification of livelihood opportunities, selection and motivation of the micro-entrepreneurs, business and technical training, establishing of market linkages for inputs and outputs, and building of common infrastructure, does not do much for poverty reduction (Mahajan, 2005). The concerns expressed here although are in place in JEEViKA s policy but the situation on the ground does not reflect it. The speed of micro-finance expansion is not coherent with livelihood expansion and capacity building in the programme. In the study, the authors made a clear distinction between income enhancing assets and sustainable livelihood creation. When asset creation is done for a long term objective clubbed with establishing a systematic procedure, it can be considered as sustainable livelihood creation. Otherwise it is considered as a one off case of income enhancing asset purchase. The results in figure 7 show that only 21 per cent of the community members have accessed loans for livelihood creation, while 40 per cent have taken loans to buy income enhancing asset. Further inquiry into this trend, reflected that the lack of capability was a major deterrent to start new businesses, and not inability to create assets. 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 40% Income Enhancing Asset 21% Systematic Livelihood Creation Income Enhancing Asset Systematic Livelihood Creation Figure 8: Asset Strengthening vs. Enterprise Development: A Result of Loans Financial literacy - A crucial aspect of financial inclusion is the concept of financial literacy. Financial literacy is the ability to make informed decisions while choosing amongst a range of financial and saving products in order to maximize personal benefit. In the study, a need for JEEViKA Study Page 51

52 insurance came across. JEEViKA must continue promoting insurance amongst the vulnerable by using various techniques like financial skill building workshops, capacity building of community mobilisers, development of soft skills during gram sabha meetings. This will ensure that people are able to take advantage of the various schemes the government of Bihar has been introducing for their benefit. Angelucci (2013) in their randomized control trial suggests that although microfinance has not been detrimental to clients, its advantages vary according to the past experience of the clients and their level of education ( see Hudon & Sandberg, 2013). Roodman (2012) in the study argues that expansion of microcredit leads to over-indebtedness and it is necessary to explain the advantages and circumstances in which loans must be taken if it is to be used as a poverty alleviation strategy. It is important to note that officially financial inclusion talks about giving formal credit to the sections of the society which have been historically denied, however, the corelation between micro credit and poverty alleviation is not always positive and independent steps are needed to ensure that microcredit helps in fighting poverty. The study results show that 70 per cent of the community members surveyed were aware of insurance, pension and other saving mechanisms. This establishes the VO s ability to be a platform for financial literacy, but this awareness has not translated into practice. Thus there is a need to bridge the gap between awareness and practice. JEEViKA has been promoting the government supported JSBY 16 insurance in the villages. In JSBY multiple stakeholder meetings with the community have been organized. Constant deliberations were held at the VO level. This has resulted in some understanding and accessing of the JSBY life insurance, but other forms of insurance or crop insurance are not being accessed. The data in figure 8 reflects that awareness is higher but on enquiry, members are not aware of the benefits they have with JSBY. As a result need for other forms of insurance is not visible.awareness on adequate advantage of different savings and risk mitigation instruments needs to be created. 16 Jan Shakti Bima Yojna JEEViKA Study Page 52

53 Figure 9: Awareness of Life Insurance and Its Importance Key Recommendations Strengthening community workers- JEEViKA has been promoting insurance coverage and the effort to link the community to the national pension scheme is also under-way. But in order to ensure success, the ability of community workers to communicate and seek the advantages of various schemes at the time of need is to be enhanced. It is common for respondents to refuse acknowledgment of having any kind of insurance, later changing their responses after consulting the community mobilisers. This shows that the end user is not in sync with the insurance policy and benefits. The lack of awareness also leads to choosing a savings strategy which in place of being helpful might work against the beneficiary. It is important for other forms of insurance like health and crop insurance to be promoted amongst the community as this will ensure in reducing their vulnerabilities. The present insurance coverage is only focused on life insurance, which is important but does not help in reducing seasonal vulnerabilities faced by farmers and poor people. Improving public delivery mechanisms- Inefficiencies in public delivery mechanisms and low or rather no public action are some of the key reasons for persistent poverty. The study analyzed that education and health are key factors for which people need to take loans and this JEEViKA Study Page 53

54 dependence is purely avoidable. Lack of proper functioning of government schools, public hospitals and other related schemes will always bring back the community into the poverty trap. Sunanda Devi exclaimed that the doctor in the government hospital sent me away by telling me we do not have machine. We do not have instrument to check blood pressure. On our surprise visit none of the government hospital had doctors, it was being managed by the paramedics. The increase in the spread of private doctors and teachers without prerequisite skills is making the community poorer and without appropriate outcome. Students have to attend tuition to do homework as parents are illiterate. This example shows the abysmal state of health and education services in the area. A majority of the respondents, who claimed improvement in health services, were users of private hospitals. Although it becomes necessary to mention JEEViKA as being a key factor in raising people s ability to access private health services by giving the loans under the health risk fund at one percent, rather than the standard two percent. It is also common for the community to send their children to boarding schools in Gaya where the cost of education is exponentially higher, and thus causing percent of the household expenditure in education alone. Effective social audits and tools of accountability are a small but important corrective step in the right direction to move out of poverty. Although social audits have started being initiated, familiarity of the community with the benefits in Barachatti is still a question. The situation in Bodhgaya is better, where effective social audits have been taking place and the community is aware of the importance of their participation. During the study a camp was organized in Bodhgaya to enroll for MGNREGA and hundreds of women surrounded the government representative. Activities of this kind are not common in Barachatti. The study results on social audit and public action depict grim picture of ground reality. Only 33 percent of the people in the surveyed community ever used it as a tool, the rest of the members were not aware and had never participated in a social audit process despite the ICDS program making social audit a mandatory activity every fifteen days, to be conducted under the supervision of women. Thus the focus on building community partnerships with government and effective ways of gaining access to public services need urgent attention. The programme needs to move from community mobilization to partnership with effective use of accountability tools. JEEViKA Study Page 54

55 Loan purpose regulation- High interest rates on microloans have been a much discussed issue amongst development workers, banks, academia, and financial institutions. It is seen in recent studies that the poor can afford much higher interest rates due to the law of marginal return on capital, according to this the smaller the starting capital, the higher the relative returns on investments(armendáriz & Morduch, 2010). The high operating costs of MFI s does not allow interest rates to be brought down, but as Armendariz and Murdoch (2010) point out that unlike conventional businesses, the poor can afford to pay back the loans using micro-businesses. The problem arises when the loans are not used to create further income. In the study, authors noted that the community was borrowing on a regular basis for marriages, visits to private doctors, and other expendables that did not accrue any return on investment. This lack of guidance and awareness about the activities for which loans must be given priority, leads to a situation of debt for many community members. Although the amount of debt is lower than that accrued from money lenders, we can thus say that because of microfinance the intensity of the problem of debt cycles has gone down. However, the nature of the problems remains the same. The inability to pay back coupled with peer pressures from the group leads to defaulting borrowers who return to relatives or money lenders, to pay back the borrowed loan from the SHG leading to a state of over indebtedness(shylendra, 2006). Thus beyond bank linkages, the poor need guidance on the correct reasons for loan borrowing and active monitoring of loan purpose by SHGs. The village organizations with the collective of SHGs on ground should be able to create public action against poor public services, while JEEViKA can work to influence policy by advocating passing of laws that empower SHGs and community organizers to take charge of public service delivery to reduce the avoidable financial burden. JEEViKA Study Page 55

56 4. Livelihood Inclusion The Context The NRLM s aim for poverty eradication requires a multi-prong growth strategy especially because it focuses on the rural poverty. NRLM is based on the understanding that as extreme poverty has been coming down, the focus needs to shift from purely welfare and aid mechanisms towards creating an ecosystem where the poor can fully participate in the economy and through their participation break the vicious poverty cycle. The poor need an inclusive approach for their growth as poverty is a result of multiple issues, ranging from lack of self-confidence, to skills, and absence of assets. The Tendulkar committee estimates rural JEEViKA Study Page 56

57 poverty to be at 42%, which is an extremely high rate of poverty incidence. Although extreme poverty has been decreasing, this does not hold for poverty in general. We observed that the number of rural people living on less than Rs.50/- (US$1) a day decreased by 2.9 crores between 1981 and 2005 while the number of rural people living on less than Rs.62.5 ($1.25) a day grew by 3.5 crore during the same period (Ministry of Rural Development, 2011). The changing nature of the problem requires a new approach to providing solutions. To eradicate poverty India needs to move towards more growth opportunities in the rural areas as rural areas have huge pockets of poverty. As the approach in NRLM has been to mainstream the marginalized poor, the path of rural livelihoods becomes the most desirable path in tackling the challenges of poverty in the poorer and populous states such as Bihar. Bihar is the most densely populated state with approximately 83 million population accounts for one-seventh of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) population of India. With 9 out of every 10 person in Bihar living in villages, poverty in Bihar is significantly a rural phenomenon. According to the World Bank report titled - Bihar Towards a Development Strategy, the challenge of development in Bihar are persistent poverty, rigid social stratification, poor infrastructure and weak governance (World Bank 2006). Bihar is fundamentally an agrarian society and the current shift has been towards a growing phenomena of diminishing returns from agriculture and the resultant need to strengthen both off-farm income generation and improve on farm practices has become essential. It is also important to note that skill development was an important criteria judged for the development of Bihar as a majority of the poor are migrant labor without skill. According to the World Bank while skilled labor got twice the wages, the majority could not break out of poverty. However, remittances from skilled labor is an important income source for Bihar(World Bank, 2006) It was in these circumstances the Bihar government formed the Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society (BRLPS) for the development of the rural poor. JEEViKA Study Page 57

58 Strategy The Government of Bihar, paid due importance to the past government programs considering key learnings and lessons that can be further improved. Under the same light, the history of JEEViKA can also be traced to the Swashakti project of the Bihar Government. The BRLPS implementation plan states that experiences of previous empowerment programmes like the Swashakti project and other programmes that did well in formation of large numbers of SHGs and their capacity building, but unfortunately, most of them could not be linked systematically to the banks, which affected livelihood promotion activities. Thus in the current strategy of JEEViKA, financial inclusion through bank linkages is seen to be a major area of involvement which BRLPS plans to tackle through the program. The program mandate of the BRLPS suggests that its strategy for livelihood inclusion is to enhance sectoral size and productivity growth in key livelihood sectors for employment generation of the poor. The mandate further states that it shall be done by creating market linkages, giving technical assistance and improving service provisioning for the rural poor. For this purpose BRLPS commissioned a study, to understand livelihood patterns and needs in the six districts in which it functions in Bihar. The study revealed that about 80 percent of the people are able to secure livelihoods from a mixed bag of occupations, usually related to farming and subsistence animal husbandry. The livelihood patterns suggest that paddy is the most important crop of Bihar and this has implications in ensuring and improving food security, for the poorest people of Bihar. This understanding led to the initiation for a system for rice intensification and promotion programme under the JEEViKA program. Apart from the system of crop intensification, depending on local needs each district has been studied separately to come up with livelihood solutions suiting the local context, the list of options created by JEEViKA Study Page 58

59 JEEViKA is shown below: Livelihood Solution Rice Intensification Dairy Participatory varietals selection and promotion Programme Honey Makhana Fishery Poultry Banana Incense Stick Madhubani Painting Textile Identified Areas All selected districts All selected districts All selected districts Muzaffarpur Madhubani, Purnia Madhubani, Purnia Gaya Purnia Gaya Madhubani Nalanda, Purnia, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani Source: SCI: Perspectives from the Ground The BRLPS in its efforts to facilitate livelihood inclusion has adopted the system for crop intensification as a key strategy towards its goal. It is important to note that along with migration and diversification, agricultural intensification is considered to be one of the main pathways of rural livelihood expansion (Scoones, u.d.). The crop intensification program was started initially for wheat and rice in the context of Gaya. Thereafter, BRLPS partnered with PRADAN for the training of village resource persons (VRP), who were to handhold the farmers JEEViKA Study Page 59

60 through the full crop cycle. The system was designed to boost inclusion, thus differential payments were made to VRPs ranging from Rs 20 a month for initiating a general caste category farmer to use crop intensification techniques, to Rs 35 a month for initiating a scheduled caste person. The process of initiating farmers into the system for crop intensification was focused in a way that a maximum number of farmers get involved, thus a procurement committee of the VO was formed, which purchased agricultural equipments like weeders, sprayers, fertilizer, pesticides and the distribution of these were done on the basis of the size of land owned by the farmers. The most influential strategy that worked in adoption of crop intensification was success in the field of VRPs. The tangible benefits enabled VRPs to sensitize community members towards the new form of cultivation. The details of the change in crop yield and the effect it has on livelihoods has been described below with a case example. A Case for the System of Crop Intensification- Jitendra Prasad 17 and his wife Mohini 18 Devi have been traditional agriculturalists since The family land size at the time was four acres. This farm was their primary means of subsistence but it never generated any surplus income for them. Being primarily into rice cultivation, the dependence on monsoon rains in their irrigationless region was also immensely high. The years when the rains were delayed, the whole crop would be destroyed. Eventually they got a tube well installed for their water needs, but that also dried up. Another tube well was dug which acts as their current source of water. Out of four acres of land, only two were being actively cultivated. There were many constraints water, seeds, the lack of ability to procure fertilizers and the lack of ability to hire large amounts of agricultural labor. In 2007, the family was introduced to the system of crop intensification (SCI) from JEEViKA. Since then, their land holding has increased from four to six acres, out of which a little more than five acres are under cultivation. Mr. Prasad claims that the plan from now onwards is to increase an acre every two years. 17 Name changed 18 Name changed JEEViKA Study Page 60

61 He claims this change has purely occurred due to the SCI 19. Prior to 2007, the output produced by them used to be one mann 20 in one Khatta 21. Post SCI, they produce three mann in one Khatta (120 kg). Also, from being purely rice growers they have branched out and are using SCI to grow mustard and wheat as well. Apart from taking care of their water problems as SCI requires a limited amount of water, the ability to cultivate most of their land also arises as the labor input demand is reduced by half. Further analyzing the input costs we see that one Beegha 22 required about forty kilos of seeds for a successful produce, now with this system one beegha only requires 1.5 kg of seeds. Thanking JEEViKA s intervention, he beamed that the income of the family has quadrupled, and as a result, the stress of arranging finances for their daughter s wedding is absent. Marriage options available to the family have increased due to the improved financial status of the family. He mentioned that the children of the household, who went to Patna and Faridabad for jobs, have returned back to the village and are into farming now 23. This system of farming has brought the family closer and made it financially sound. He further explains that there continue to be problems which reduce its feasibility, for example, extremely small land holders would prefer a job outside the village but SCI has come as a boon to those who are able to take advantage of it. The community mentioned that SRI 24 is a system which has immensely benefited some farmers who are able to use it to their advantage, but it is plagued with equity issues. Farmers having enough capital to install a submersible handset are able to benefit, as the water is claimed to be at least 70 to 80 ft in depth. SRI requires irrigation on a timely basis, and farmers dependent on rain to meet their farming needs cannot take advantage of it. 19 System for crop intensification kilos khattas= one beegha 22 Local land measurement 23 It is important to note that reverse migration shows development and improvement in the standard of living, even though incomes might be marginally higher in cities, the major difference in living expenses, influences people to return to their village. SCI can be credited with this improvement. 24 System of Rice Intensification JEEViKA Study Page 61

62 Issues and Challenges with SRI: Perspectives from the Field The use of new technology brings along a set of bottlenecks that need to be overcome in order to make it relevant for a particular place and context. Our observations from the field in Barachati and Sekhwara in BodhGaya block of Bihar, suggests that although the system of rice intensification has positive implications in improving and generating livelihoods. It also has indirect implications in maintaining, and in the process worsening the income gap between the rich who can use it and the poor with limited land and water sources who cannot. Therefore its impact on social inclusion is questionable. The context and place of observations is of utmost importance, as the findings should not be generalized. SRI does not create social divides by increasing the gap between the rich and the poor in all situations. Its impact on livelihood creation in other areas is well documented, but conditions specific to Gaya paint a different picture. FGDs in the field led to the knowledge that only percent of the farmers in Sekhwara village are currently using SRI. The families using it, benefit immensely but there are challenges in widening its user base among the farmers. The practicing members have reduced, and poor farmers are finding it difficult to use it for their benefit. SRI has two prerequisites for being successful a large amount of labor, which is abundant in rural Bihar and timely access to water throughout the year. These two factors that ensure the success of SRI also pose a serious challenge to equity in the use of SRI among different socioeconomic classes. The area of our research being purely rainfed, does not receive government help regarding the availability of water for irrigation. Support to efficient irrigation systems like drip irrigation are also not being promoted. The able farmers have installed submersible handsets, which are capable of accessing water upto 75 feet in the ground. Beyond the initial capital cost, there is also the cost of diesel involved in running the pumpsets, thus operational costs are also at a high. Technology tends to bring its own set of social implications with it and is not socially neutral. Therefore, development work needs to take this fact into consideration. BRLPS may provide and control a few borewells at the village level to improve the situation for the poor, but the feasibility of that needs to be ascertained. JEEViKA Study Page 62

63 Poultry Farming- An Understanding from the Field Amongst the livelihood activities that JEEViKA has promoted in our research area, the most popular has been poultry farming. It provides quick returns and supply chain has been instilled by JEEViKA across the area. In the initial stages a micro plan was developed to assess the demands of poultry business which met with a warm response. Respondent interviews repeatedly dwelled on the understanding that the scheduled and backward castes are not averse to the poultry business and as our field sites consisted primarily of scheduled caste populations, the proposal of a poultry business from JEEViKA was widely accepted. It can be safely stated that it is essential that livelihood options are culturally acceptable as it determines their acceptance by the people. The village of Barachati was our primary site for understanding the agriculture and poultry business promoted by JEEViKA. The community members mentioned that the process started with making a detailed micro-plan of the way the business will be run, the external support required, and its viability. After the business plan was ready, each member joining the program got 45 one day old chicks and a cage worth Rs 1000 as a loan, which was repaid in easy monthly installments of three months. Currently about 200 members have joined the poultry business. In a village with a household strength of about 700, one third of the households in a common enterprise signals a strong trend and success rate of the business. Discussions with members who are not involved in the poultry business lead us to an understanding that members who have insufficient space to keep the chicks, find it difficult to enter into the poultry farm business. Space is an important concern in rearing poultry. For the initiative, JEEViKA tied up with Kegg Farms Pvt Ltd., one of the oldest poultry breeding organizations of India established in It is best known for pioneering genetic breeding of poultry stocks in India since Kegg farms have also been selected for the Bihar innovation forum high impact awards. They supply one day old chicks to the cluster level federation for Rs. 17 which keeps it for 21 days and then supplies it to members at Rs. 25. Members mention that the Bihar government in order to promote poultry has subsidized the costs and supplies chicks to the members at Rs. 10. Members responded that a large number of people joined 25 JEEViKA Study Page 63

64 after the announcing of the subsidy but in the long run this might affect sustainability of the business. This subsidy will last till each member gets 150 chicks in six lots of 25 chicks each. The Challenges of Poultry Business Untrained poultry resource persons- The poultry resource persons were unfortunately not adequately trained in feeding and vaccinating the chicks as they require three vaccinations in 21 days. This fact was also accepted by an ex-poultry resource person who was forced to leave her job as many chicks died under her care. The cause of the debacle lies purely in poor training and lack of skill development of the poultry resource persons. However, the most important weakness lies in not establishing partnerships with the government animal hospital. An incentive based model can also be evolved with the animal husbandry doctors available in the block headquarter. Subsidizing the poultry business- At the current rate of Rs. 10 for a one day old chick, most members are bound to earn good profits from the business but this might lead to ineffective ways of managing chicks on part of the community members. When the chicks were being distributed for Rs. 25, many members did not take part in the business, even though after including food costs of Rs. 30 till the chick reaches one kg of weight, the members make a profit of Rs. 45 by selling a chick for Rs 100 per kg. This number of Rs. 45 is variable as many members claim to sell the chicken to wholesalers for Rs. 85 per kg thus reducing their net profit to Rs 30 per kg. Interactions with members provided the insights that poultry farmers who are unable to find market for their produce at a regular basis consider the option of selling to a bulk buyer as a more appropriate one. Finding a market is a challenge due to a multitude of factors, but the primary reason seems to be time constraints and mobility outside the village boundaries. Another important reason for the community not taking up poultry farming enthusiastically without the subsidy is the high mortality rates of chicks. This reiterates the importance of imparting training to the participating members in the right practices of poultry farming as inadequate medical care with wrong feeding habits are the main causes of chick deaths. JEEViKA Study Page 64

65 Challenges within the Broad Livelihoods Paradigm Bridging financial and livelihood inclusion- There is a need for systematic shift in development strategies, and microenterprise development cannot be seen as a necessary outcome of financial inclusion and it has to be worked on separately (Mahajan 2005). Microfinance and livelihood promotion are facilitative in nature but there is a need for specific policy focus to develop the latter. The community mentions that the average loan sizes are far too small to meet the need to start independent business. Many members expressed hope in finding suitable jobs as they lack the will to be entrepreneurs. The points mentioned above are being taken up by JEEViKA but the need of the hour is speed rather than intent. The lack of knowledge and skill sets in a majority of the population leads to a situation where microfinance can help only a small number of people with the required skills and knowledge for a certain trade or enterprise. The findings of the study agree with the definition that microfinance is a necessary condition for enterprise development but does not suffice on its own (Mahajan 2005). Ditchter (2006) also finds that microfinance is used most often to cover basic consumption needs and not to fuel enterprise development. Ineffective horizontal partnerships- The BRLPS has consistently focused on increasing rural livelihood opportunities through self-employment but this has left out many who lack the ability to branch out on their own. It must be understood that the poorest of the poor might not be in a condition to develop microenterprises despite being able to raise funds from microfinance institutions. The ability to develop confidence to start self-employment is only partially dependent on microfinance and the need of the hour is to develop convergence with the Mahatma Gandhi Nation Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Overdependence on microenterprise development for alleviating rural poverty comes with a host of unresolved issues. In a study Ruhiga (2007) notices that income from microenterprise is not enough to meet the family needs, the reason being high competition among women as they often choose work in which they are naturally skilled. The important point to note here is that the whole community chooses similar enterprises leading to a boost in tailoring, poultry, JEEViKA Study Page 65

66 knitting and the lack of market demand coupled with high competition leads to enterprise failure. Wage employment continues to be important especially for marginal farmers who suffer from periods of extreme deprivation and hunger. It is important to remember that collaborations with other government schemes is an important task so that the poor are able to take full advantage of the schemes that have been launched for them. The ground scenario regarding employment with MGNREA seemed like a disappointment as very few respondents claimed access to a job card in the districts of Gaya and Barachatti. The suggestion here shall be to effectively empower the community mobilisers, who can become important links between the community and the government schemes. JEEViKA Study Page 66

67 5. The Way Forward Tapping at the opportune time JEEViKA s financial inclusion strategies have led to the smoothening of household cash flows, resulting in an increased ability to employ capital for the betterment of the family. The respondents put forth that 65 per cent of the men in the study area are now supportive of the women if they plan to take up employment or start a business. This change has been brought about by a change in the ethos that has resulted from the social mobilization of women by the state managed development oriented JEEViKA program. The collective of SHGs, suggests that government agency with participatory planning and implementation; attitude towards partnership and dignity and being respectful of the poor are the key reasons due to which women are looking forward to becoming self reliant by developing their own business. Women JEEViKA Study Page 67

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