Sustainable rural development is essential to the economic, social and environmental viability of all nations, especially in a developing country like India. Not only is it essential for poverty eradication (since throughout the country poverty is overwhelmingly rural), it would prevent mass migration from rural to urban areas for greater access to education, health, and employment, which further results in extreme poverty, exclusion, vulnerability, marginalization and criminalization.
In the last decade, Sri Aurobindo Rural & Village Action & Movement (SARVAM) in its poverty alleviation and economic development programmes has focused on providing better livelihood opportunities through innovative programmes of wage generation and self-employment. by conducting workshops, providing financial literacy and granting financial aid to the most vulnerable in the villages. As a result of these programmes, two major results can be evidently seen:
• The employment, basic amenities and infrastructure facilities of the people in the villages under the SARVAM programme have increased drastically.
• Through effective participation of local people and communities in the management of their own economic, social and quality-of-life objectives, the rural populace (particularly women, youth, persons with disabilities and the socially marginalized) has been greatly empowered.
Economic Development Programmes of SARVAM
SARVAM started its work in 3 villages, increased its area of operation to 7 villages and recently expanded to include 18 villages. In the new villages and some old, there are pockets of population which still suffer from severe poverty, unemployment and lack of even basic facilities. In order to provide income-generation opportunities to this relegated inhabitants, SARVAM continues to organize income-generation activities. Some of the recent livelihood enhancement and income-generation activities are as follows:
Workshop on Importance of Self-Sustainability and Livelihood Activities
On September 12, 2017, SARVAM conducted a workshop for 35 women carefully chosen from all the villages. The workshop aimed to improve livelihoods skills of the village community by providing them training on the importance of productive livelihood, goal-setting, basic business planning and management skills for rural enterprises, marketing skills, basic accounting and sustainable livelihoods approach to bring villagers work individually and together in their income-generation activities. The workshop was facilitated by Mr Lenin, a very experienced trainer registered and working with a number of government, quasi-government and non-governmental organizations. In the role of grassroots participation in decision making, workshops such as these play a very important role.
Workshop for the Vulnerable, Marginalized and Deprived
Many vulnerable, marginalized and deprived people (including the physically disabled, widows and orphans, socially marginalized or aging couples with no support) were considerately selected for a workshop to motivate them to overcome their adverse circumstances. They are suffering because of social exclusion and domestic violence. Apart from providing counselling, training, financial assistance and health-care activities, SARVAM extends an almost family presence with the volunteers and coordinators. The workshop was conducted by Ms Sundari, a renowned motivational speaker and life coach, who conducts many such workshops for the socially vulnerable. Through such workshops, they are made aware of their roles and rights to ensure that they life a confident, fruitful life.
Providing Financial Help to Severely Deprived and Impoverished
For the past few years, with the help of some philanthropic endeavours of corporates, such as L&T Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd., grants and financial aid are being given to the people living in abject poverty, with no source or hope for making a living without external support. This programme also helps to alleviate their financial suffering, build self-reliant communities and address basic needs as an enabling factor of people’s engagement in productive activities. In a programme conducted on September 13, 2017, 50 women were awarded grants worth Rs 6,000 each, amounting to a total of Rs 3 lakhs. This assistance would go a long way to establish their financial viability and economic independence.
Financial Literacy Programme for Rural Women
Financial literacy encourages villagers not only tap the financial systems and schemes available to them, but to discover the opportunities that have not yet been explored. It can protect villagers from aggressive money lenders who may exploit the borrower’s lack of financial knowledge and literacy.
Indian Bank, as partner of growth and change at SARVAM villages, periodically conducts financial literacy programmes at different locations for the rural financial development through their rural self-employment training institute Indian Bank Self Employment Training Institute (INDSETI). On September 14, 2017, one such programme targeting especially women entrepreneurs and even homemakers was organized in which more than 100 women participated. Mr S. Loganathan, Financial Literacy Manager, Indian Bank, Puducherry explained common financial instruments, such as bank accounts, loans and interest payments, savings and insurance, in simple and comprehensible terminology. He elucidated how financial knowledge empowers consumers, making them informed about finance in a way that is relevant to their lives and allowing them to use this knowledge to evaluate products and make informed decisions. Those who are financially literate are more likely to save and engage in safe financial products, helping them to become economically strong and self-reliant. He also made the women aware of some of the existing government schemes and programmes which can benefit them immensely. The programme was also attended by Manager—INDSETI, Ms. Amirtha Valli, and Director—INDSETI, Mr. Akilan, who also gave very relevant additional information to all the members.