Orissa villagers opt for 'green fixed deposits'
Orissa villagers opt for ‘green fixed deposits’
By Manipadma Jena   
In a novel participatory partnership scheme the Tata Steel Rural Development Society offers farmers incentives to plant and nurture teak and cashew plantations. Already 35,000 cashew trees and thousands of teak trees are thriving in every square foot of available space
Today, Premsingh Mahato’s world is shining. In 2000, he and three friends -- all in their late-20s and out of work -- begged and borrowed money to secure a government lease bid (till then bagged only by outsiders) for an acre of cashew plantation. That year they made a neat profit of Rs 36,000, after paying off their loans. With the money, Premsingh started a poultry unit and in the last few years has earned Rs 70,000. The villagers, particularly the youth, in Premsingh’s village of Jamdalok in Champua block, Orissa, are fired by his success. Rich in iron and manganese ore, the Joda and Champua blocks of Keonjhar district in Orissa are home to the marginalised Ho and Bhuiyan tribes. The people who live in this rocky terrain have two options: work in the region’s 50-odd mines, or depend on agriculture that almost never sustains a family throughout the year. 

When the Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS), which works in 26 villages in the area, suggested at a meeting with the people of Jamdalok that it would help them grow cashew and teak in a novel participatory partnership scheme, the villagers were receptive but lukewarm. They had heard that an earlier afforestation programme in nearby villages had notbeen very successful. In 1999, the TSRDS, in keeping with the state government’s social forestry pattern, planted long stretches of eucalyptus and acacia (a fast-growing variety) in six villages in Champua block -- Basudevpur, Jodapokhari, Indraprastha, Giridharipur, Sonapalei and Jaimangalpur.
But barely had the plants taken root when goats began nibbling at the leaves. The women of the village carried what remained away for firewood. Although the villagers attended awareness-generation meetings and sat through lectures on how the destruction of green cover harmed the ecology, they did not really identify with the
cause. The reality was that they needed fuel to fire their chullahs every day; for this they had to collect all the bramble and wood they could. TSRDS learnt a valuable lesson: the community had to be involved as stakeholders (equal stake partners) otherwise no forestry campaign would ever succeed. And it had to be a
greening-and-income-generation programme. The villagers had to be able to look forward to substantial returns, otherwise they had no incentive to become involved. So the TSRDS made their offer: “We will give you free high-quality cashew and teak saplings, but you dig the holes in your land to plant them.” Two free doses of fertiliser were given -- during planting and weeding -- and a single dose of pesticide. A family could plant 300 or even 600 saplings if they had the land on which to do so.
The saplings’ survival however was the villagers’ responsibility. But there were rewards too. The TSRDS offered Re 1 for each plant for the first year of survival. If the plant survived the second year too, 50 paise would be given; and for the third year, 25 paise. Although seemingly a very small sum, the villagers were happy. “We are being paid to look after our own trees, what more can we expect,” asks Premsingh. The Joda Champua area has very few natural water sources and irrigation facilities. Consequently, only one annual crop is possible. Arid acres lie fallow, left as grazing land.
People in the five villages were taught that teak required only a single monsoon (plus two to three months of watering) and very little care. That it had a 70-80% survival rate. And
that in 20 years this ‘green fixed deposit’ would bring in a few thousand rupees each. Soon, fallow lands were filled with rows and rows of holes all ready to welcome teak saplings. Backyards, barely able to accommodate 10 trees, were dug up along the edges; so were bunds around paddy fields. One of the reasons teak was chosen is that cattle find its leaves distasteful and so leave it alone. Cashew needed no advocate: Premsingh Mahato’s fortune from a single year’s harvest was common knowledge in the villages. An average yield from a grown cashew plant is 40-50 kg of
nuts. The plant is hardy and burns with a lot of smoke, making it inappropriate for firewood. Today the six villages own more than 35,000 cashew trees, many of them thriving on
what were vast acres of wasteland.
The success of this scheme can be attributed to the right approach to community participation, and small thoughtful changes in the choice of community plantation. Having tasted success the villagers did not stop at teak and cashew plantation. These were
long-term investments; they wanted short-term returns as well to supplement their incomes. Junior national marathon gold medallist Madhusudan Mohanto was reluctant to work in the iron
ore mines. He and 29-year-old Pradeep Mahakud opted for TSRDS training in basic poultry management. Pradeep started out with 150 one-day-old chicks, free feed and vaccines. As soon
as the chicks weighed two kilos each they were sold to the many dhabas (roadside eateries) that dot the Keonjhar state highway catering to hundreds of truckers carrying iron ore to
the port of Paradip. Soon there were dhaba owners queuing up every morning in front of Pradeep’s poultry shed to take delivery. Today, he has two more sheds. He rears 1,000 chicks
in each cycle and earns a net profit of between Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000. Following his example, Madhusudan Mohanto started with broiler chicks and now has a hundred kroiler hens (kroilers are egg-laying hybrid poultry birds, as large as their broiler
brethren but a rich brown in colour. Their eggs too are brownish in colour and sell for Rs 2 apiece, a quarter more than the white variety). Besides Madhusudan, 55 other beneficiaries,
20 of them women, have set up kroiler poultry units. All use their income as rolling funds to operate their business. The TSRDS only offers them guidance inputs.
Of the 10 women’s self-help groups (SHG) in the area a few opted to start up goateries or piggeries. The Kotgarh village SHG, with only 20 members, grows tomatoes, spinach and brinjal on family lands, irrigating them with temporary earthen check-dams and marketing their products at the local haat. In the last six months alone, it has repaid Rs 6,000 of a Rs 50,000 bank loan. Now, it is in the process of buying a mini truck to save costs and
increase profits. Not many women venture to get so enterprising. “In the beginning we too were afraid that elephants that visit the ripening crop would destroy everything. But when we took the
initiative, our husbands were motivated to keep watch,” says Maguni with pride. Elephants are not the only risk they run. Last summer, a whole crop of ripening tomatoes was
destroyed when the entire area was lashed by a hailstorm for two hours. With no cold storage facilities, this is a real problem. “Hard calculations have to go into deciding how much
land must be cultivated for such cash crops,” say the women farmers.
Motivated by the TSRDS team, many of whom belong to tribal communities, the villagers are getting more inventive with each passing month. In October 2002, Sahadev Mahakud and his
wife planted 260 banana saplings on an experimental basis. When all the fruit ripened together, Sahadev wondered where he would sell all of it. They need not have worried. The first batch he and his wife took to the residential colonies was sold in two hours. They
took more in the late afternoon. Those too vanished in no time. That season they made a neat profit of Rs 22,000. This year they have planted 500 banana saplings. Like Premsingh Mahato, Sahadev Mahakud’s success has farmers in neighbouring Marsuan and
Jamnalia villages clearing their fields, even backyards, for a banana bonanza.
(Manipadma Jena is an independent journalist based in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.)
Survey shows Tatas are biggest spenders on social sector 

In Orissa, where Tata Steel has a major presence, the Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) and the Tata Relief Committee (TRC) play a crucial role in the socio-economic
development of the local people

According to a survey conducted by indianngos.com, the Tatas have spent Rs 150 crore on social services -- the highest by any corporate house in the country during 2001-2002. The thrust area was rural development, which includes community health, basic education and vocational training.
The corporate house, which also spends on basic infrastructure and resources such as drinking water, irrigation and farming, disburses money through various charitable trusts and relief and reconstruction societies.
In Orissa, where Tata Steel has a major presence, the Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) and the Tata Relief Committee (TRC) play a crucial role in the socio-economic development of the local people. According to the survey, the TSRDS and TRC have spent around Rs 100 crore in Orissa, over the past 10 years. While the TSRDS works in the periphery villages of the Tatas’ area of
operation in Sukinda, Joda and Gopalpur, the TRC provides relief and rehabilitation in the form of pucca (permanent) houses for families affected by natural calamities.
The TRC built 435 houses and 14 school-cum-cyclone shelters for families affected by the Orissa supercyclone.
Source: www.newindpress.com, January 21, 2003   website :infoexchange

Hundreds of people born with cleft lips or cleft palates have been operated on, for free, through ‘Operation Muskaan’ a project initiated by steel giant Tata Steel. It’s a small operation that has made a huge difference to people’s lives   
‘Muskaan’ Bano would look into the mirror every day, take a needle to her mother and ask her to stitch up her upper lip. Her mother could only shake her head helplessly. Some days she would go into the kitchen and weep silently. All little Bano, born with a cleft lip, wanted to do was to be able to pronounce her name loudly and clearly. Clear enough for everyone in the ‘basti’ (hutment colony) to hear her and stop teasing her about her slurred speech. She tried ever so hard, but her name never came out the way the other kids’ names did. When the other children began going to school, Bano stayed at home. Her parents did not insist she go to school.
That is, until the Tata Steel doctors at the Tata Main Hospital (TMH) in Jamshedpur gave Bano back her name and her smile.
Since Bano’s operation, and in less than two years, the Tata Steel doctors have repaired -- free of cost -- the cleft lips and cleft palates of 775 children and adults. All belong to underprivileged families in Jamshedpur, in Jharkhand’s East Singhbhum district, and Gopalpur and Belpahar in neighbouring Orissa. There have even been referral cases from Haldia Port Trust in West Bengal.
Christened ‘Operation Muskaan’, this Smile Train project was flagged off in October 2002 by the Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS), Tata Steel’s NGO community service arm.
The TSRDS realised the urgent need for this form of reconstructive surgery at various health camps. At one weeklong camp in Ghatsila, doctors treated 108 cleft cases; in Deoghar, 149 people requested surgery. The New York-based non-profit organisation Smile Train, which works across countries to eradicate cleft lips and palates, is the TSRDS’s main partner in Operation Muskaan, providing financial support to the tune of Rs 6,500 per patient and ensuring updated
infrastructure and trained medical professionals.
A cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of the lip. This separation often includes the bones of the upper jaw and/or the upper gum. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth in which the two sides of the palate have not fused, or joined together, during the
baby’s development. Cleft lip and cleft palate are not as rare as people think they are. Together they constitute the fourth most common birth defect. One out of every 700 newborns is born with a
cleft lip and/or cleft palate. In 45% of cases they occur together.
It is widely believed that people with cleft lip are cursed (the curse of a moon in eclipse/the curse of god on the unborn child when a pregnant woman is out on such a night). “‘Bachua ke honth mein grahan lag gaya (‘The eclipse has left its mark on the child’s
lip,’),’ is the thought most parents harbour, and this must be removed before we can think of eradicating cleft,” says Dr R Bharat, senior specialist at the burns and plastic surgery
department at the Tata Main Hospital, who has spearheaded the cleft project. The superstition extended predicts that if a cleft is rectified the curse shifts onto the entire family, the reason why many people, sadly, do nothing about their child’s condition.
Parents sometimes even abandon their children to escape the so-called curse.
Like Shabo Khatun’s parents did. Only a few days old, Shabo’s parents dumped her with her grandmother, a widow, in their native village. They never wanted to see her again. When Shabo was three years old, her grandmother heard that a child in the nearby village had had his cleft lip repaired at the TMH for free. After she was successfully operated on, Shabo’s parents returned to claim their daughter. Sanjay Yadav from Dugdha village in Gamaharia block in West Singhbhum district places the blame squarely on his wife. “Somebody has done paap (sin), but it is not me,” he said when he saw his newborn son. Mothers are often blamed for giving birth to children with clefts, and, as a consequence, they suffer a lot of the social and psychological trauma their children go through.
Sanjay did not bother to accompany his 10-month-old son Roshan to the TMH. His wife Sanju Devi, 22, took her aging mother Rajmati Devi along for support. Like his elder sibling, Roshan was delivered by Caesarean section. Sanju and her mother earnestly explain that while the elder child escaped unscathed, Roshan’s lip had been sliced during the operation. A 45-minute cleft lip (not palate) operation costs Rs 12,000 at a private clinic in Jamshedpur, Rs 20,000 in Ranchi and thrice as much in any metropolis. That’s a huge amount for a poor family to spend on a facial deformity that, they console themselves, is not life threatening. The best age to operate on cleft palates is when the child is below 18 months (for cleft lip, when the child is two to three months old) so that subsequently the face and speech are allowed a chance to develop normally. The social stigma, the cost and the lack of awareness about repairing clefts are factors that deprive children of a good education, marriage and a normal social life. Twelve young
women were able to get married after we treated them, says Dr Bharat. An added reward for the steel major is the community’s response. Children returning home after a couple of days in hospital, looking and speaking almost normally, are viewed as
nothing short of a miracle. A growing number of companies in developed countries are recognising that globalisation is
transforming corporate social responsibility (CSR) from a choice into an imperative. Besides taking care of their bottom line, corporates must now adopt measures for sustainable growth through their labour practices, environmental habits and protection of community interests. While India Inc still calculates the pluses and minuses of good corporate conduct, corporate social responsibility for the Tatas and the Birlas is an old tradition. The Tata Group invested more than Rs 150 crore on the social sector in 2002, the A V Birla Group Rs 57 crore, Reliance Rs 30 crore and Infosys Rs 5 crore. Tata Steel sets aside as much as 12-14% of its profits after tax (PAT for 2003-04 is Rs 1746.22 crore) for welfare activities. So
that many more children like Bano may be gifted a precious smile.
Contact: Tata Steel Rural Development Society
               ‘E’ Road, Northern Town
               Jamshedpur 831001
              Tel: 0657-425999/430306
              Email: tsrds@jsr.tatasteel.com
--By Manipadma Jena
(Manipadma Jena is a senior development journalist and consultant based in Bhubaneswar,