Since its inception, Vidhayak Sansad has been involved in social issues like release of bonded labour and providing them alternate means of development. Vidhayak Sansad needed help from the Government to start projects which could provide gainful employment to released bonded labourers and others who were just managing to survive. “CAPART’s help in the form of a sanctioned project came to us when we wanted it most,” says general secretary, Ms. Vidyullata Pandit. With CAPART’s help, Vidhayak Sansad started projects like social forestry, fish breeding, dry stock farming, and others in the field of income generation.
In the social forestry project small and marginal farmers were chosen as beneficiaries. Apart from this, the project was also implemented on gram panchayat and forest department’s land. Released bonded labourers and landless labourers along, with small and marginal farmers were given jobs. Under this project, a village in Vasai ‘taluka’. 12 villages in Wada ‘taluka’, 43 villages in Bhiwandi ‘taluka’, 2 villages in Shahapur ‘taluka’ and on a village in Palghar ‘taluka’ were chosen by Vidhayak Sansad. In all, 67 villages and 595 people were benefited by this project. Being well aware of the area’s social as well as geographical conditions, these people were better equipped to implement this project by consulting Vidhayak Sansad. “Vidhayak Sansad was spared the necessity of providing.”
CAPART also sanctioned a project for migrant labourers who work in brick kilns. “Vidhayak Sansad has been active in their welfare and CAPART was the first to provide financial aid to us to help them get alternate employment.” says A.B. Dhamankar, joint secretary, Vidhayak Sansad. “The brickkiln project was sought to be converted into a fish breeding project by us and CAPART obliged us by doing this.’ says Dr.S.V. Modak. Dr.Modak adds that this helped them in catering to the needs of the people who were most needy.
Rehabilitation of bonded labourers has been the top most priority. DRDA sanctioned a project for rehabilitation of selected bonded them training in social forestry. The people got gainful employment which in turn helped Vidhayak Sansad to take root in the area and gain the confidence of the people”, Not only this, Vidhayak Sansad, chose to plant fruit bearing trees on private lands of small and marginal farmers. This helped them to further increase their income. Kaju, lemon, pumpkin and perennial fruit bearing trees were grown on private lands, whereas on forest land and gram panchayat lands,eucalyptus, casurina, babool, tamarind and bamboo were planted. These plants are extensively grown in this area.
Vidhayak Sansad is been working for the Agriculture Initiative since its inception, during the campaign for release and rehabilitation of bonded labor, once these laborers declared themselves free, they discovered that they were out castes in the community. Without skills, land, or government support, they faced serious challenges in making a living. Vidhayak Sansad assisted them in organizing co-operative farms on hired or donated land. The organization set up a revolving credit fund that allowed farmers to purchase seeds, fertilizer and insecticides. Experts provided technical advice. A grain bank allowed the poor to take interest-free loans of grain during lean periods, when they would have otherwise had to borrow from landlords at extortionate rates. All of these measures helped freed bonded laborers get on their feet.
Later, in recent time’s vidhayak Sansd along with its allied organization struggled to get title of forest land under FRA Act, VIDHAYAKSANSAD succeed to avail title of forest land towards more than 15,000 tribal families; VIDHAYAK SANSAD also struggled to get water in scarcity affected areas. On the large part of land we succeed to avail the water schemes run by government.
Vidhayak Sansad is now focusing on the Agriculture; we are working with Tribal farmers group to explore livelihood opportunities through agriculture development. Thane and Palghar district has a high migration ratio amongst tribals. Tribal’s from the backward blocks of Thane and Palghar District migrates to urban areas, brickkilns and on construction sites in the search of jobs. It badly affects on the socio- economic empowerment of tribal. Thus we have decided to work on the agriculture development which will indirectly help them to empower socially and economically. We are organizing them,assisting them to avail benefits of government designed schemes, to selection of crops, availability of markets, providing the training for farmers and creating the models, creating awareness about organic farming.
Currently we have created approx 300 farmers group from the Thane and Palghar Block.
ICICI – Vidhyak Sansad proposed Tree Plantation Project
We will cultivate cashew plants in selected areas. 300 tribal families, who are the holder of forest land under FRA will be selected under this project. These families received the title of forest land under Forest Right Act, but due to the lack of resources they are not in position to utilize this land. This project will be an opportunity for these tribal families to utilize their Forest land as well as to obtain economic stability.
Malnutrition Eradication Program :–
Vidhayak Sansad is running Malnutrition Eradication Program in Mokhada block, we are working to implement government schemes already in place, and working directly with local PHCs and the families in their service area. To work for long term solution we are working to create local employment through Employment Guarantee Scheme, this will stop seasonal migration which is an important reason for malnutrition. We are also working for strengthening Public Distribution System (PDS), Health agencies, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) through this Program. As a part of this program we have implementing kitchen garden project in the surroundings. We are selecting the families, helping them to avail the seeds, fertilizers .
Jetropha Cultivation :-
Vidhayak Sansad built a new agricultural livelihood program for the rural poor centered on the jatropha plant. The oil from seeds of the jatropha plant can be processed into an effective bio-diesel. The plant can grow in degraded, hillyland, which many tribal and other impoverished farmers possess. Therefore jatropha plant cultivation has the potential to become a major source of income for these farmers. We are aware of the controversies surrounding jatropha cultivation, especially that government incentives to produce a non-edible crop cut down on food production, but we find that for farmers possessing otherwise unproductive land, jatropha cultivation can be an important source of income with limited to no impact on the local food supply.
Vidhayak Sansad successfully lobbied the Maharashtra government to include the jatropha plant cultivation in the state’s Employment Guarantee Scheme. The government now provides financial benefits to impoverished farmers who grow this plant. Vidhayak Sansad have created a nursery for the plants and are engaged in the process of distributing the plants to impoverished farmers. The organization is also the planning phase of developing a plant to refine the oil of jatropha seeds into bio-diesel, which will be owned and operated by a local farmers’ co-operative.