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Bridging the gap in Banking : Bank Sakhis and BC Sakhis as Doorstep Bankers

Vimala R
Banking has always been a challenging task for many of us. We are often caught signing on the cross mark made by banking officials in a hurry to get our loans or credit cards. Most people are eager to sign on the dotted line to ensure that their dream purchases of a home, car, other luxuries or education materialise. In contrast are our rural brethren who need money for their day to day needs and livelihoods but are largely unaware of banking systems and procedures. Distance from bank branches in the rural areas makes quality and timely access of financial Services difficult. Added to it are issues like overcrowding at branches, understaffed banks which hinders the small loans of SHGs. Therefore getting finance easily is a big challenge for self help groups. DAY NRLM came up with a unique plan for appointment of Bank Sakhis at Bank branches to facilitate banking for members of the self help groups. The Bank Sakhis provide much needed relief to the bank branches and function as a bridge between banks and the community. However they cannot undertake banking transactions. A Bank Sakhi” is someone who is a member of the self-help group and is involved in conducting banking and book-keeping activities of the group. On behalf of the bank she provides a range of financial services to the community except conducting transactions. The concept and role of Business Correspondents(BC) is different from that of the Bank Sakhis and was propagated by nationalised banks with gusto in the last decade. BCs are retail agents engaged by banks for providing banking services at locations other than a bank branch or ATM. BCs enable a bank to provide its limited range of banking services at low cost in remote areas. They are a great support for financial inclusion which is one of the pillars of DAY NRLM. Based on RBI guidelines BCs have to do a variety of functions like identification of borrowers, collection of small deposits, disbursal of small credit, recovery of principal / collection of interest, sale of micro insurance/ mutual fund products/ pension products/ other third party products, receipt and delivery of small value remittances/ other payment instruments and also create awareness about savings and other products. They are also responsible for education and advice on managing money and debt counseling etc.Today MSRLM has more than 2000 Bank Sakhis and 2000 Financial Literacy Community Resource Persons (FLCRPs ) to initiate financial inclusion. However the number of BC Sakhis is limited to 390 BC Sakhis and 503 Digipay Sakhis. DAY NRLM has been propagating the concept of 'One Gram Panchayat, One BC Sakhi. Efforts are being made to ensure the concept gains momentum. With the onset of Covid 19 the need for BC Sakhis has multiplied specially since the Union Government announced release of Rs.500/- per month for 3 months into PMJDY Jan Dhan accounts of women. SRLMs were given the responsibility to transfer the fund with support of the Department of Financial Services and Banks.Government of India also released other DBT funds like Rs.2000/- to PM Kisan Yojana accounts. MGNREGA wages payments had also to be made to address the financial stress being faced by the community.Due to release of these funds through DBT a rush was expected at the Bank premises for withdrawal of these amounts. Therefore after great planning, instructions regarding withdrawal were given in advance by many Banks as to how and who can come to the Bank for withdrawal as per last digit of account numbers. It was at this juncture that the services of BC Sakhis (SHG women working as Business Corresspondents for banks) came to the rescue of banks as their services were utilized for making payments to the rural households in the villages. This prevented crowding in bank branches and also proved to be a boon to senior citizens and differently abled citizens. The BC Sakhis played a vital role amidst lockdown by disbursing financial relief packages provided by Government of India efficiently. The rural community facing socio-economic distress felt fortunate to have access to banking services at their door step in the unbanked areas through the BC Sakhis to meet their daily requirements during the lockdown period. It's a matter of great pride for MSRLM to acknowledge the fact that the BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis have been able to handle over 2 lakh transactions worth Rs. 65 crores.Banks have also understood the importance of BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis and have issued special ID cards to them for Covid-19 as also Lockdown Pass as Essential Service Duty. Some banks have also issued letters and stickers to them for ease in conducting business. MSRLM is exploring partnership with Banks & Corporate BCs in their respective locations for effective implementation of this initiative. It has already signed MoUs with IFDC First Bank, Magnot Services and CSC E-governance Services India Ltd.  To encourage SHGs and it's members for increasing digital banking transactions MSRLM has taken the responsibility of training SHG members and providing them with support to get IIBF certification. MoRD has initiated a concept of ONE GP ONE BC. CSC E-governance is playing an important role in this by deploying SHG women as DIGIPAY Sakhis. MSRLM is planning to place about 2000 BC Sakhis in 2020-21 It has identified SHG women for the same. On 13th July as a part of the CSC Mahila Diwas celebrations, all districts in Maharashtra celebrated the day and distributed digipay devices. Bhandara,Wardha,Akola,Nashik Districts celebrated the day by distributing Digipay Devices to active SHG members who have been selected as BC Sakhi.The Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad Bhandara, Ms. Bhuvaneswari celebrated the event by distributing 50 Digipay devices. The BC Sakhis and Bank Sakhis have made doorstep delivery of banking services a reality in rural Maharashtra. They are emerging as an alternate model in rural banking. A salute to their spirit. P.S.- 16th July was celebrated as CSC Diwas
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Collaborative approach of Farmers’ Collectives and the Government to ensure economic gains during the pandemic and beyond

A famous Korean proverb says, “At the end of hardship comes happiness”. While this is true, the story of hardship is much more complicated. The world has been shaken to its core due to the COVID-19 virus, a global pandemic that has had disastrous effects on not only the nation’s economy but also has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups such as small farmers. Vrutti has been working since 2016 in Pudukottai district, Tamil Nadu, covering the blocks of Thiruvarangulam and Karambakudi through a Business Acceleration Unit (BAU) as a part of its 3Fold Model ( This initiative, supported by EdelGive Foundation (, promoted 3 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) that delivers multiple services to 2,850 farmers members in building their wealth and resilience.Over the past few months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these locations have been facing the same devastating fate. There are two sides to this story. On the side of the consumers, people have encountered various challenges, including procuring essential commodities, especially vegetables. There has been inadequate supply which has not only created panic among the people but has made them set out more frequently to source these commodities, thus defeating the rationale behind social distancing. Further, people with some vested interests, who were trying to make quick money by fixing exorbitant prices, forced helpless people to pay extremely high prices for their daily needs. At the same time, the story on the side of our shareholder, producers of 3 FPOs depicts a very different picture. Due to lack of transportation facilities from the location, limited scale and lack of cash, they were unable to sell their fresh vegetables. The COVID-19 situation called for the help of the BAU, which facilitated a collaboration between the Government and the FPOs. This led the FPOs to procure vegetables from its shareholders and sell them to consumers in Alangudi town and other nearby locations. To execute this, the team followed the steps highlighted below –Firstly, the team took permission from the District Administration which was mandatory for the movements of goods vehicles and staff members for market operations. The Deputy Director (Marketing) issued volunteer cards for staff and vehicle passes. Secondly, FPOs tied up with the local town panchayat for help in marketing at the town level, ensuring all precautions needed. Lastly, the field staff of the BAU ventured with commitment and dedication to match both supply and demand of the vegetables providing relief to the hardships of the small farmer as well as the common man. The procurement of vegetables was started on 30th of March 2020 from the shareholders in the nearby villages to cater to the local consumers in all 3 FPO clusters. This prompted the FPOs to fix a reasonable price for the vegetables. The FPOs then started reaching out to the farmers in remote villages for procuring their vegetables and arranging the necessary transport. As days passed, the operational cost for the FPOs was soaring high, but a decision was made to move forward for the benefit of the farmers. Vrutti helped the FPO to raise some philanthropic funding through Friends of World Women Banking to support some logistics costs during the initial period. Overall, a total quantity of about 12,000 kilograms of vegetables worth Rs. 1.90 lakhs were procured from 113 farmers. The procured vegetables were sold to a total of 707 households with gross revenue of Rs. 2.21 lakhs during the first two phases of the lockdown period. Encouraged by this experience and the need, the District Administration invited Vrutti and FPOs to sell its products through a ‘buyer-seller’ meet at the district level. These engagements have now triggered interest among the Government and FPOs to continue this as a normal system to provide benefits to both consumers and farmers. Working with the Government departments and FPOs, Vrutti helped 2,155 member farmers to avail cash benefits under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi to address their cash needs. Working with local panchayats, the agricultural engineering department and leveraging MGNREGA support, FPOs took up pond renovations. This not only provided immediate cash support through employment but created key assets for water conservation. 
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COVID-19 Response by Samaritan Help Mission: By the Community, For the Community

It was the 21st of March 2020 when a sudden nationwide lockdown put the brakes on to save the country from the spread of COVID-19. This led to a series of complex questions we had never encountered. Almost all economic activities came to an abrupt halt. Educational institutions and offices were to close until further notice. What followed was catastrophic, that changed the course of many lives. The domino effect saw a disruption of the food supply chain, loss of income generation machinery for the daily wage earners and migrant labourers of the community. It fuelled a large-scale migration from cities to villages, with many stranded at bus and train stations with their families.Fear spread like wildfire in the slums of Tikiapara and Bankra in Howrah. Access to food supply and essential medicines became a big question for the residents of the slums. Mamoon Akhtar, founder of Samaritan Help Mission, sensed the anxiety among his fellow community members and resolved to try his best to provide some relief. He reached out to the youth from these slums and asked them to take a simple pledge.  The Pledge: By the community, for the communityThe focus group included neighbours, daily wage earners, senior citizens, single or abandoned woman and the goal was simple, not to let them sleep without food and medicines. Each of the volunteers had to ensure that a month's supply of ration in addition to financial support was available for those in need.[SK-E1]This informal arrangement of volunteers solidified into a Youth Pressure Group. They were entrusted with the task of ensuring that the administrative bodies are informed about the proper functioning of the ration shops around the slum areas. The team also assisted in opening 2651+ new bank accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) to ensure that slum dwellers get easy access to cash in their accounts, to buy food and other essentials.Soon, the SHM team reached out to Howrah City Police and District Administration to extend their support. The Police department helped in disseminating the contact of volunteers across the city so that anybody in need of food and medicines could directly reach out to them. Meanwhile, the team, in collaboration with City Police started a community kitchen for the migrants stuck outside Howrah Railway Station. At Howrah, the medical infrastructure collapsed with almost no availability of doctors. This proved to be a setback for people suffering from different ailments. To ensure that no lives were lost due to lack of immediate medical help, SHM set up their medical unit to keep basic healthcare services continuously running across the communities. Today, it is also serving as a dispensary for patients.In this challenging environment wherein people have lost their jobs and career opportunities are minimal, SHM explored Vocational Training for creating livelihood opportunities for the youth with a futuristic approach. The SHM team has also initiated short-term vocational training on 19 trades for youth, to create livelihood opportunities. Cyclone AmphanSuper cyclone Amphan wrecked the state of West Bengal, which was already battling COVID-19 pandemic. 700 families of Tikiapara in the Howrah district of West Bengal were severely affected with infrastructural, crop and livestock losses. All the resources mobilised by the SHM team perished during the night of the storm. With no electricity or drinking water supply, the situation took an ugly turn for most residents. A rapid response team of 100 volunteers was able to evacuate approximately 400 families and shift them inside a safe government school building. The team constantly worked to stabilize the situation, arrange dry food items, and facemasks for those affected.To keep a check on the steadily rising number of cases, SHM wrote to the Chief Minister's office and offered their Rebecca Day Care Hospital for setting up of the Quarantine Unit and Rapid Antibody Test Centre in the hotspot zone of Howrah.SHM youth leaders and the community together, have displayed the strength in the indomitable nature of human spirit. The enthusiasm and hard work of the volunteers has made their venture in the uncharted territory of crisis and disaster management successful. About Samaritan Help MissionSHM, a secular non-profit organization, is working in the slums of Tikiapara and Bankra under Howrah Municipal Corporation since 2001 against all the negative social aspects with the objective to build awareness and empower the underprivileged, especially children, girls and women, while generating employment opportunities through quality formal education, skill development trainings and proper healthcare services. To know more about SHM, visit: https://samaritanhelpmission.orgAbout EdelGive FoundationEdelGive Foundation has been supporting Samaritan Help Mission for its educational initiative for underprivileged children since 2013. EdelGive Foundation is a grant-making organisation, helping build and expand philanthropy in India by funding and supporting the growth of high-calibre small to mid-sized NGOs. EdelGive makes, receives, and manages grants, to empower vulnerable children, women, and communities via a zero-cost platform.To know more about EdelGive Foundation, visit:
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Gamified Learning Reaches Remotest Children In India With STEPapp

Being a career educator with 22+ years of experience teaching and mentoring the brightest minds in the country through their journey to cracking IIT JEE, NEET, and other prestigious national and international competitive exams, I have witnessed the inconsistencies in the opportunity provided to different students originating from different backgrounds.For many children in this country, reaching the starting line is as difficult as finishing the race is for other children, academically speaking. As a son of a farmer myself, and having been raised in a socio-economically challenged family as a child, I have always felt that one of the primary goals of Indian education system must be to create a level playing field in education.The rich and the affluent are not at fault for leveraging their wealth to provide their children with the best teachers, the best coaching institutes, and the best supplemental study programs to ensure their success. Every parent wants what is best for their child. But we fail as a society if we can’t ensure the right to quality education for every child. It is with this thought in mind that my team of 400+ IITians and Doctors and I built STEPapp: a gamified learning app that provides conceptual clarity to students in Math and Science.The idea behind STEPapp was simple. What if educational content created by my team of India’s best teachers, who are IITians and Doctors themselves, was accessible to every child in India? And going a step further, what if the children could learn in a fun and engaging way through that content being provided in a gamified format? With this thought in mind, we roped in some of the best technology experts and built STEPapp. We caught the attention of many thought leaders in education, and several popular private schools like GD Somani Memorial School, Mumbai, invited us to have students play STEPapp and get feedback from the end-user directly. Shri Amitabh Bachchan joined STEPapp as the brand ambassador and has been a monumental support to us throughout our journey.STEPapp launched with a great public reception, racing to the top trending spots on Play Store and App Store within one week of launch, and amassed 4 milion+ downloads and counting. It became quite clear to us that STEPapp solves some very real problems in education:Concepts are available to students in the smallest conceptual quanta, promoting bite-sized learning.Content is mapped to school syllabus of all major boards, ensuring test-readiness for all students.The app tests learning outcomes in real-time and students can relearn concepts as many times as they need, making learning self-paced.All stakeholders in education – students, teachers, parents, and policymakers – get the report on learning outcomes, bringing everyone on the same page.With STEPapp reaching students across the country at highly affordable prices, our work still felt half done. The vision of a level playing field in education could only be accomplished when we could provide high-quality gamified learning to the remotest child. And for that, we needed the support of the various state governments and the central government of India.Our first breakthrough towards that end came in the form of Eklavya Model Residential Schools. The Tribal Development Department of Maharashtra adopted STEPapp in 14 EMRS Schools. The learning outcomes of the students were unprecedented, and 15 EMRS students got through the first round of NTSE for the first time ever. There was a marked improvement in conceptual clarity and STEPapp received tremendous feedback from EMRS teachers, principals, and students alike. Following that, STEPapp was implemented in all 25 EMRS schools in Maharashtra.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs of India followed suit and mandated the implementation of STEPapp in all tribal schools across the country, and now STEPapp is available to students in all tribal schools in India.The government of Tamil Nadu signed an MoU with us, mandating the implementation of STEPapp in government schools across Tamil Nadu. This implementation brought STEPapp to 1 million students studying in Tamil Nadu government schools.600+ JNV Schools across the country have also had STEPapp implemented, and our mission to bring high-quality gamified learning to every child in India is going strong.To learn more about STEPapp, visit STEPapp is available for download on the Play Store and the App Store.
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MP Farmer Builds Irrigation System Using Waste Glucose Bottles; Now Earns in Lakhs

For many years, and several monsoons, the farmers of Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh looked to the skies for showers. As they witnessed their crops die, lands go dry and families starve to near-death, many abandoned their villages to migrate for daily wage jobs in urban areas. Ramesh Bariya was one such farmer.A native of Rotla village in the same district which is characterized by undulating topography, rainfed farming, shallow and eroded soils, low and stagnant soil productivity, fragmented and empty holdings and low income from ancestral farming, Ramesh was as frustrated as most of the farmers there.All his attempts at farming were being undone by the unpredictable weather and water shortage, forcing him to wander across Gujarat and Rajasthan as a daily wage labourer.“I had to feed my family somehow and the land was doing me no good. So I had to do whatever job I could manage to prevent my family from starving to death,” shares Ramesh, who had to return home after a few months due to the lack of livelihood opportunities.While this is an unfortunate story that has become all too common, what’s different is Ramesh’s solution to all his woes — a unique DIY drip irrigation technique that not only solves the problem of water shortage but also recycles waste. From almost nothing to earning Rs 25,000 in a single yield in the first year, he soon became an example of change for the entire district.And his journey began at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Jhabua.New Beginnings for a FarmerBack in 2009, an initiative called the National Agricultural Innovation Sub Project (NAIP) under KVK was introduced to help enhance income of the farmers in the area. The objective of their integrated farming system was to sustainably improve rural livelihood in undulating and rainfed areas of Jhabua and Dhar districts of MP.Ramesh was one of the beneficiary farmers who under the guidance of NAIP-KVK scientists began vegetable cultivation in a small area of 0.1 hectare. Encouraged by them, he prepared the land and in 2012, sowed seeds of bitter gourd and sponge gourd.But after an initial profit, the delayed monsoons and an acute shortage of water pushed his farm to the brink of crop failure. “Around the same time, we were made to visit Balaram Patidar’s farm. He is a well-known papaya farmer, and it was incredible to be surrounded by healthy trees. He even encouraged us to pluck some fruits and taste them. As the rest of the group of farmers proceeded to the next location with the KVK guide, I just stood there in awe. Then Balaramji approached me and asked me why I was so silent. I told him my dire situation and how shocked I was to see the absolute opposite in his farm. That’s when he showed me his drip irrigation technique using matka or earthen pots. Later the NAIP scientists also guided me to adopt this innovative technique using saline bottles,” says Ramesh.However, at the time, Ramesh could not even afford to buy so many earthen pots for his farm. They were breakable as well as expensive to buy in large quantities and so he adopted the DIY technique of reusing plastic glucose bottles instead.“In hospitals a single bottle of glucose can help revive a dying patient, then why can’t the same bottle be used to revive my dying crops? This idea made total sense and so I started to ask around and bought 6 kgs of plastic glucose bottles (total of 350) for Rs 20 per kg,” he says.Dr IS Tomar, from Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) near Rajgarh Naka, Jhabua shared how this method by Ramesh was the first trial for a cheap and effective way of drip irrigation that could be replicated.“For farmers like Ramesh who could not afford to buy drip irrigation systems, this was an innovative alternative. The only challenge was the hard work that went into it and lots of patience,” he says.Installation and MaintenanceThe technique involved cutting the bottom portion of the bottle with a sharp knife and hanging it upside down from a wooden stake next to the saplings. The bottom flat part now positioned on top is the inlet through which water is poured into the system. A plastic tube with a nozzle is then made to touch the ground near the root system of the plant for a regulated discharge of water.Instead of directly having to pour the water on crops or channeling it through the field, this system allows the water to continuously drip making the surface moist at all times. Not only does this ensure that the roots have a continuous moisture but also reduces water wastage significantly.“Almost the entire family helped out in the installation and maintenance of this system. In the morning all the kids in the house would line up near the field and begin pouring water into the bottles from 2 drums that I had already filled up using the well-water or the hand-pump. We would repeat this again in the evening. So daily, each of my crops would get two litres of water,” he explains. His total expenditure including the cost of drums was around Rs 500, and in a matter of months with the crops he managed to earn a net profit of Rs 25,000.According to a report in Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), this method can help tribal farmers like Ramesh get about Rs 1.5 to 1.7 lakhs income per hectare in a single season of vegetable cultivation.A popular technique in several African countries, Dr Tomar encourages more farmers to learn from this. With his guidance and Ramesh’s success story, many farmers in the region are now replicating this technique.Ramesh’s efforts on the other hand, were recognised by the District Administration and Minister of Agriculture of the Madhya Pradesh government with an achievement award of Rs 10,000. In the next few years, KVK also helped him install a full-fledged drip irrigation system for free.“I was once a man who was neck-deep in debt, hardly earning Rs 5 a day. But now, I earn around 2 lakh a year only through farming. Today, I am a happy man as a father of 3 naughty boys and a beautiful daughter, because I know that with this I can hope to give them a better future,” he concludes.The story has been extracted from
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Gender Inequality in the modern world, but has to change

Times have changed, but there are some old social issues still prevailing in societies. Gender inequality has been existing all over the world for a long time back. It recognizes that men and women are not equal. Even though they do have biological differences, discrimination is done based on socially constructed divisions. Some of the common reasons that cause gender inequality are patriarchy, misogyny, religion, and self-interests. A gender discriminated victim goes through pressure, poor-treatment, stress, and disrespected other times.Women are the one that suffers a lot because of gender discrimination against men of society. It’s an old folk tale when we talk about how women have faced a lot of problems in different communities due to gender biases. Many times a woman is not given the same respect or inclusion in family-related decisions at home, or not equal pay or position as compared to men professionally, treated as subordinate and harassed, not given equal opportunities in education or another field. They are also prone to being a victim of a brutal rape, molestation & harassment. Even though the world is becoming modern & there’s progress, the minds of the people are still taking time to understand the importance and need to eradicate gender inequality for a better society. It’s not just women now, but the LGBTQ community as well. They are still judged based on their sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression by society in all areas of public and private life.The United Nations member states adopted Sustainable Development Goals, an urgent call for action by all countries to bring prosperity & peace. To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls is the 5th SDGs. It has also been able to achieve significant results in advancing gender equality. To look for infographics on where women stand against select SDG targets (click on the link). There have been laws by the government for equal rights to women. Also, a lot of NGOs/movements are working for protecting their rights & promoting awareness about it with people as well.To eradicate gender inequality from every society, changes from a community level should be the beginning. Evolve foundation is one such enterprise that tries to bring gender equality through their small acts. Founded by a woman, it aims to empower other women and girls from villages. The enterprise provides the village women job opportunity by asking them to make plantable products. Working for the business makes the woman self-reliant as well. It also promotes Rural Shiksha and provides workshops where they teach the kids about sustainable living and other topics. Libraries are set-up using the profit earned by the business. To become an Evolve member (click on the link).What can an individual do to reduce gender inequality?Each individual be it a girl or a boy or others should focus these key points to make sure there is gender equality.1- Listen & consider- Every woman or even any discriminated person should be vocal about their thoughts & others should listen to their opinions.2- Respect- Give equal respect to each other and always remember we are humans before our gender. Do not demean or bully anyone.3- Empower and encourage- woman & others at the workplace. Support mothers & parents as they teach the same to their kids as well.4- Help gain power- Be kind and help each other by working together.5- Watch for signs of any violence- Never allow, agree or let anything wrong happen due to gender discrimination & always stand against it if you’re in the situation. Violence against women needs to stop. They should not be objectified by anyone as well.6- Equal responsibilities at home- Help in household chorus & taking care of the child. Make sure there’s an equal division of labour at your home.
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Securing Livelihoods of Marginal Farmers amid the Challenging times of COVID-19 in South Odisha

Back in March, a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country became a cause for increasing concern. Perhaps a complete nationwide lockdown was the only possible solution to flatten the steadily rising curve. However, the sudden enforcement of the lockdown and subsequent travel restrictions tremendously affected the small and marginal farmers hailing from the remote areas of Koraput District in Odisha. Sale of vegetables at the weekly markets is the primary source of income for these farmers. For nearly two weeks, there was no movement of vehicles, and people were sceptical about heading out of their homes. Farmers found themselves in distress as they neither could reach the market nor could reach the local traders to sell their produce.Tears of hopelessness swelled Harischandra Gadaba's eyes as he saw the vegetables rot in his field. He is one among many tribal farmers of Jhilimiliguda village in Borigumma block. With no cash at hand and the fear of contracting the unknown virus, he estimated a loss of INR 4000 within two weeks as the tomatoes and brinjal cultivated by him matured for selling. Like Harishchandra, the mobility of several farmers in the district was curtailed.At this critical juncture, Dangar Dei Farmers Producer Company (FPC), facilitated by Pragati Koraput, proved an angel in disguise for the farmers.The intervention brought respite for Harischandra, as well as other 18 farmers of his village. During the lockdown, he could earn INR 19000 by selling vegetables through the FPC. It was quick, easy and a hassle-free process, as one or two farmers would gather the produce and brought it to the selling centre.The FPC has created marketing opportunities for 2805 farmers from 32 villages. Stalls operate every day as per the schedule set by the district administration. Few farmers take the initiative to bring their vegetables to market. It relieves the pressure on farmers travelling from one place to another, especially at the time of COVID-19. While selling their produce, FPC members strictly ensure precautionary measures like the use of masks, social distancing and hygiene.During the Kharif season, the farmers could access agri-inputs – seeds, organic manures, farm equipment with the FPC's assistance. "I no longer worry for the marketing of my produce or purchase inputs as I am a shareholder of Dangar Dei FPC. I also got the opportunity to hire threshing machine at a subsidized price during the lockdown," says Harischandra.The success of DangarDei FPC has inspired and paved the way for 5 other FPCs facilitated by Pragati in Koraput District, Kotpad and Nandapur Block. As the country is still reeling under the COVID-19 crisis, the FPC model can be a successful intervention in addressing the hardships faced by small and marginal farmers.About Pragati KoraputEstablished in 1994, Pragati Koraput has been working in the remote areas of South Odisha with the base of pyramid population, the tribal communities and among them the small and marginal farmers for ensuring their nutritional food security and economic well-being. Pragati Koraput’s interventions are focussed on Natural Resource Management, Sustainable Agriculture, Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.We believe in working with Community-Based Organisations and in collaboration with Government Departments and PRIs. In a wake-up call to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have responded to immediate needs like awareness of precautionary measures and distribution of essentials to families in need. However, we continue to focus on the livelihood of communities passing through this critical stage. EdelGive Foundation has been supporting Pragati from 2018 to ensure the nutritional food security of the small and marginal farmers in Koraput District of South Odisha through sustainable agriculture, climate-resilient farming systems and eco-friendly irrigation.Visit for more information. 
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How TBI Readers Helped Fund India’s First Signal School

Every year, thousands of people migrate to the city of Mumbai in search of a better life and better employment opportunities. Unfortunately, many fall prey to unemployment and poverty and end up living on roads. The children are expected to move from one traffic signal to another to beg or sell knick-knacks and do whatever else is needed to bring back some food for the family.Government laws like the Right to Education Act have seemed to elude them, with nearly one out of four in the school-going age, remaining illiterate.At the time of inception, Signal Shala had four full-time teachers, one attendant and several volunteers who kept dropping by to help.The students were not just taught but bathed, groomed and fed a healthy meal every day. Apart from learning regular subjects, the students also participate in arts and crafts activities. A regular reading habit was also being inculcated in all children.In 2016, The Better India along with Samarth Bharat Vyaspith, launched a campaign to identify families and children staying at Teen Hath Naka signal in Thane and raise awareness and funds for the Signal Shala school.Check :[/embedyt]They shared the stories of parents living on the streets, stories of their children, stories of how Signal Shala’s task was not only to set up a school but also empower these families and show them the need to send their kids to schools.With the support of our readers, who generously contributed towards the cause, we were successfully able to raise over Rs 6 lakh for Signal Shala to take care of initial costs. The funds were used towards the salaries, healthy food, stationery and toiletries for children and commuting expenses for signal kids.A similar situation existed at the Teen Hath Naka signal in Thane, as several drought-hit families from Beed in Maharashtra’s Usmanabad district had migrated there. In some cases, as many as three generations of a family have grown up here without access to good health and sanitation, healthy living conditions and education for their kids.As a step to overcome this issue, a Pune NGO named Samarth Bharat Vyaspith set up Signal Shala, India’s first-ever registered Signal School under a signal flyover in a shipping container that was turned into a classroom.What started as one classroom in a shipment container now has four classrooms, a science lab for grades 4th to 10th and a computer lab. The school has also started a sports compound where a lot of games like kho-kho and kabaddi are played.The Cultural Ministry has recently awarded Signal Shala with the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Antyodaya Best Practices Award. This is presented to organisations or models that have roots and history of achieving success while working at the grassroots. They were also given the title of a ‘Model School’ by the Maharashtra State government, for bringing street children into mainstream education.The story has been extracted from
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Making at-risk children Resilient and Life-ready through Play

Samarth tells Toybank's Program Officer, “I miss my friends and my teachers. Summer vacations at the Play Centers were all about playing for long hours, but that is missing. I have difficulty understanding anything in our online classes. I want people to visit us; but then again, I don't want them to because I am scared. Didi, will you call me tomorrow also?" This resonates with not only every Toybank beneficiary but also other at-risk children in the lockdown due to COVID—surviving amid economic hardships, away from learning, playtime and social interactions. So, as soon as India was on lockdown in March, we knew we had to mitigate these adversities. Ergo, we pivoted into action with great alacrity and modified our Play2Learn Program into a digital model as #ToybankPlayAtHomeKit.  Even though times are unprecedented, our one-point focus hasn’t shifted from promoting our children’s mental well-being and holistic development through Play. We are making sure they do not lose out on playtime, learning and most importantly, they become resilient to face this crisis and any adversity with grit, self-confidence and skill.In the throes of tough timesFrom spending time in the safe spaces of our Play2Learn Centers, our beneficiaries had to be indoors—usually one-room facilities with heightened risks of infection and no scope for physical distancing. Loss of livelihood, fear of uncertain future and frustrations exposed these children to anxiety and stress. School shutdown and separation from peers threaten their socio-emotional development. And the repercussions are already becoming visible. A study in a recent webinar (Charcha 2020) revealed that 37% of parents have confessed that the pandemic and lockdown have adversely affected their children's mental well-being and happiness.  Other numbers are just as alarming: 31% increment in unemployment may push more children into child labor, which as it is, stands at 10 million (Census 2011). Despite homeschooling, inadequate education among 77% urban and 70% rural population is preventing their learning. Taking all this into account, we collaborated with our partner organizations and formed support groups on WhatsApp consisting of teachers and parents. Through these, we deliver two activities daily to our children, in the morning and evening, to keep them engaged and distracted from negativity caused by the pandemic.Adjusting to the new normalDuring the initial phase of the lockdown, our beneficiaries were still making sense of upended routines and the new normal. So, our  activities such as Make a Routine and DIY games such as Sock Toss kept them engaged, brought them mental relief and a healthy schedule. As Parth says, “I like games that make me move,” as he indulged in ‘Tail the Animal’ several times back-to-back for three days. Or Kavi, who had turned lethargic and unhelpful at home had her energy restored when she started doing the activities. Our PlaytHome Kit enabled our beneficiaries to adjust for more than two months with meaningful engagement, mental stimulation, and helped them build a routine. In June, the activities have graduated to continued learning and aligned with academics as they would have returned to classrooms by now.  Curbing learning lossesA UNICEF report has revealed that the pandemic and lockdown have impacted 247 million Indian children in elementary and secondary education, besides 28 million children in Anganwadi centres. Our beneficiaries' learning has also been affected, and to bridge that gap, we have carefully curated activities that include shape, colour, number and letter recognition as well as categorize and sort things. The Toybank PlayAtHome Kit is also packed with Science experiments about air pressure, water molecules and suchlike, Word Search puzzles on States and Capitals to revise geography, and puzzles to enhance numerical and literacy skills among others. Just like at our Play2Learn Sessions, children are learning about managing their emotions and forming good habits through ‘What am I feeling?’ and ‘Good Habit or Bad Habit?’ and many such activities.  Simple yet impactful#ToybankPlayAtHomeKit playsheets have had a profound impact on our kids. While Vikas from a tribal region in Madhya Pradesh enjoys games that he had never before played, kids in Latur were excited by the colourful drawings on the playsheets. A teacher states, “Initially confused about online studies, students rarely responded to notes and homework. But the exciting play activities caught their attention. They recognized the Toybank logo, and it made them so happy that they started completing the activities.” Primary school students struggled to recognize shapes from their text-based online class. But Toybank’s activities on shape recognition encouraged them to practically draw, cut the shapes, and colour them by themselves. “Giving the children control of their learning makes it more exciting for them,” one teacher observes.We’re going the distanceAt the moment, we are impacting 44,000+ children every day (as of 24 July, 2020). We have gone beyond Maharashtra and are reaching out to children in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Ladakh. We have formed a nexus between 1,943 teachers, 6,501 parents in 383 support groups and us. Going back to school will need readjustment after months of being at home in a lockdown. Since our Play interventions have kept the children patiently engaged, the transition will be easier. After the disconcerting experience of the pandemic, children will need to be strong in more than just academics. Equipped with resilience and mental relief, they will be not only school-ready but also life-ready. 
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