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Unity is Strength

Keeping in mind and striving to achieve the goal of “families have enhanced income through natural resource management (NRM) and access to market led opportunities”; SeSTA in all of its formal meetings such as annual retreat, planning meeting, team meeting, etc has given this agenda an utmost priority. This however requires huge resources, much of which are beyond the capacity of the families or can be borrowed sustainably. NREGS, with its current focus on natural resource management, deemed to have the scope to provide such large finances. However, given the status of NREGS implementation in Assam, undertaking this initiative was challenging. SeSTA decided to accept this challenge because this appeared to be the only possible bet if the work of asset creation for the poor families had to be taken to the large scale that it deserves.

To begin with, relationship was established with Gram Panchayats, block and district administrative. Subsequently planning exercises were concluded with the involvement of the Panchayat ward members in 6 villages of Rangjuli, Boitamari & Borobazar block. All these village plans were approved by respective Gram Sabhas on 2 October 2016. SeSTA then got engaged with different levels / agencies of the Government machinery viz.(Block Development Officer (BDO), Junior Engineers, MIS Operator / Manager, Panchayat President and Secretary) for incorporation of these schemes. Meetings with the Deputy Director and Project Director of respective districts were also conducted.

The process of implementation started in April. The Junior Engineers and Accredited Engineers (Aes), Panchayat Presidents and Secretaries made site visits, collected the required documents (like khatian, etc) and finally detailed estimates were prepared in Dhanubhanga and Dhantola Panchayat.

When the actual work was about to start in the first week of May, a government notification halted the process. This notification, was issued by the Commissioner, Panchayat and Rural Development Department, Government of Assam dated 18 May 2017, wherein fresh guidelines were issued for participatory selection of schemes under the “Gaon Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP)”. This meant that all schemes across Assam which had been approved before the said notification would have to be revalidated through GPDP which was required to be undertaken within the stipulated time frame.

While this halted execution of the plans, this also afforded a new opportunity to expand the number of villages under our new approach. We sat with the Panchayat Secretaries and showed them how the plans already confirm to the new guidelines and therefore how they could use this in similar fashion when they do new planning under GPDP in other wards (villages). In fact, BDO of Borobazar block (BTDC area) has written to SeSTA seeking help for preparing the Gaon Panchayat Development Plan.

After the GPDP was completed the VO leaders from Fakirpara village got the schemes sanctioned and thereafter pursued its implementation. The Block officials were hesitant to start the individual beneficiary schemes because such kind of work has never been undertaken in the entire district of Goalpara. However, regular pursuance from the community compelled the Block and Panchayat officials to start work on five individual schemes of excavating pond for five families. The community started excavation in the month of March’18, though because of delay in commissioning this work, it could not be completed before the monsoons. However, once monsoon season ends, work on all these five ponds were completed and additionally more ponds will be excavated in other villages of the Panchayats.

Now the Panchayats and Block officials are more confident in sanctioning the individual beneficiary scheme.