| Development as Unleashing Potential Efforts : the Bhagavatula Charitable Trust (BCT) of Yellamanchili in Andhra Pradesh (1995) |
|Section 2 BCT - its organisation and functioning|
BCT feels that its beneficiaries are preoccupied with the effort to satisfy their own immediate needs and as such their horizon is limited to immediate vicinity and immediate future. BCT feels that its beneficiaries needs to be helped to formulate long term goals and objectives, first, for their own individual families. Even though much discussion about and modification of activities take place based on such discussions, much of the goal setting and modification takes place without direct participation of beneficiaries.
"BCT’s philosophy is to develop human resources by developing the physical ones - Our projects are just facades to reach the people," says Dr Rao," tremendous resources, both physical and human, are lying wasted in the villages."
BCT, as a trust, originated from the idea of a single individual who tried to gather individuals of similar mind and development ideology to have a collective organisational form to provide services which are expected to unleash potential of human and natural resources in a specified area that benefits the populace at large. It is also born out of the feeling that development efforts of State in the area are not resulting in the desired results as people are expected simply to assume a passive role and programmes are not designed to help individuals utilise whatever resources they have at their command.
BCT tries to co-opt prominent persons, who are sympathetic to its cause, in the expectation of increasing its prestige and of their meaningful contribution to strengthening its ability to raise resources and use them effectively for the purposes.
BCT’s concept of development as unleashing potential of natural and human resources has led it initially to activities related to agricultural services with emphasis on utilising hitherto unutilised land, water and labour resources and to programmes aimed at eradication of illiteracy and abolition of alcoholism.
The same concerns, subsequently, led it to non-formal education, training and primary health education and care. BCT now has a comprehensive programme with all these elements to systematically cover the entire needy population in its area.
It may be necessary to reconsider its decision to work only with women as resource base under their control is quite small and hence the likely impact of working through them alone would be very limited on improving the economic conditions or employment potential.
BCT has to build a base among select men to embark on a comprehensive post-harvest processing and marketing programme with appropriate forward and backward linkages leading to enhancement of production and income from the major rural resources namely land, water and labour.
The fact that there is a graduated sequence through which the persons and their groups can traverse to achieve sustainable growth and development must be recognised in carefully planning and executing the programmes which simultaneously build the capabilities of people to handle their development needs.
In February 1993, a two day workshop was held by BCT’s governing body to redefine goals, examine the successes and failures of the last 15 years. Based on the review, the governing body mapped out a strategy for better intervention in future. They have come out with the mission statement and identified the areas of intervention by BCT.
"Bhagavatula Charitable Trust, popularly known as BCT came into existence and continues to function with a mission to create opportunities in the villages for the villagers for continuous self-improvement in the quality of their life by generating their leadership in solving their problems through utilising their resources more effectively. The guiding principles for the activities of BCT are creation of awareness, creation of self-confidence and self-reliance that invariably result in the progress of the individual."
BCT perceives present lack of progress as a result of wasted resources, both natural and human. BCT identifies that human resources are wasted due to lack of avenues for gainful employment and potential of human beings remain curtailed by unawareness due to lack of opportunities for meaningful education, skill development and by sickness because of lack of access to balanced diet and proper health care facilities.
The consequence, of unawareness on the part of human beings of their own potential and of their limited and narrow understanding of the world around them, is the waste (neglect) of natural as well as human resources. BCT sees its effort as leading to restoration of self-confidence and self-reliance in people by creating awareness in them so that they can utilise their resources more effectively, in a sustained manner for their own progress.
This review exercise was apparently undertaken to foster uniform understanding of the over all philosophy and objectives of the organisation and the articulation of it was prompted by the efforts to reduce dependence on individuals, mainly Dr Rao and as a pre-requisite to decentralisation. With ever increasing demands on the time of Dr Rao drawing him away to work on issues at the State, national and international level, the organisation is trying to reduce its dependence on him by streamlining its management, formalising its methods of functioning and establish planning, implementation and control processes leading to standardisation of rules, procedures and explicit job descriptions.
BCT tries to coopt prominent persons, who are sympathetic to its cause, in the expectation of increasing its prestige and of their meaningful contribution to strengthening its ability to raise resources and use them effectively for the purposes. Such persons are invited to become members of the trust.
The governing structure of BCT consists of a general body and a governing body. The general body of BCT ordinarily meets once in a year to review progress, to receive annual statements of account and to issue guidelines on planning, implementation and budget.
The governing body consists of elected members, advisory members, representatives from Mahila Mandals and staff. President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Joint Secretary constitute the Office Bearers of the governing body and only elected members hold these positions. President provides the necessary leadership while Secretary functions as a Managing Trustee.
Advisory members are members by invitation and the term of office bearers and the governing body members is of one year. The governing body meets usually every quarter of a year to review the progress and accounts. It provides BCT moral and advisory support in implementing its plans.
The governing body has always been a body consisting of eminent social scientists, economists, educationists including Vice-Chancellors, senior members of Indian Administrative Service and professional experts in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry, health, etc. "There are occasions when the members were severely critical of the management of the programmes and when they pointed out the weaknesses of the approach and the ineffective performance of the functionaries. There are also several occasions when the members came forward with highly practical and feasible suggestions for improvement," - records BCT reports.
The central hub around which BCT and its activities revolved is provided by the person and personality of Dr Parameswara Rao. This became all the more so because the other elements of BCT are constantly changing ones. Other persons who stayed long enough to establish an identity of their own are Dr Kanna Rao, who looks after BCT farms and Shri YR Reddy, who worked earlier in exploring ground water resources and is currently looking after Child Labour Rehabilitation Programme. These two names, along with that of Dr Parameswara Rao, are strongly associated with BCT.
There are numerous others who made their contributions, may be only for a short while or in areas which are not directly visible. The members of its general body and governing body also seem to change, apart from a small core. This is equally or more true of its staff too. "Introduction of provident fund and gratuity benefits reduced the turnover of middle level staff especially of Community Organisers a bit," explained Shri Raghava Rao, who himself worked as a Community Organiser and is presently looking after training services of BCT.
Frequent changes in the people entrusted with key functions in the organisation, gives a feeling of constant change and does not help in building and nurturing stable dependable relationships between the organisation and the beneficiaries with whom it is working. This is evident from the strong association of BCT with Dr Rao, who provided the necessary linkages between the past and present and who is at the centre coordinating and directing the efforts of several individuals who appeared briefly on the scene of action making their contributions.
There was no systematic effort in the earlier years to collect data to establish benchmark and work out definite indicators of performance or effectiveness. BCT is now trying to establish a computerised data base by obtaining information through a comprehensive survey of all the families in the villages with which it is working. With its own research wing established, a systematic effort to monitor and evaluate all its programmes is now being built into the activities of BCT.
Much of the past activity and its results can, however, be grasped from reading through the volumes of BCT News, a weekly publication of BCT, in Telugu and English, since 1978. Ms Ursula Walker, an American journalist, was the indomitable spirit behind its launching then and also was its first editor. The Telugu version called Grama Vikasa Vani is supplied to villagers at a reasonable and affordable cost.
Accumulation of thrift, regular repayment of amounts borrowed, use of credit for productive and income enhancing activities, additions to investments in productive resources and freedom from dependence on money lenders for credit and marketing are set as performance indicators and periodical review is undertaken. Annual performance evaluation is also based on the above indicators to some extent, apart from performance related to other activities.
BCT is very clear that its success is because of its close rapport it has established with the people concerned and that itself has been possible because of the manageable span of its operations. It resisted temptations to extend its area far and wide by recognising limitations of manpower and organisation.
BCT is conscious that in view of the paucity of good and successful voluntary organisations in the country, there is a tendency to overload the few with more and more programmes and responsibilities. BCT cautiously deals with the new demands that are being made increasingly on its scarce resources of manpower and organisation and guards itself against the danger of being led astray from its self-appointed tasks. It resisted temptations to work in far away places.
On the other hand, it helped seriously interested individuals to establish voluntary organisations on their own to serve in their chosen area. There are about 8 of such organisations in AP which have sprung from inspiration of BCT.
a. Generating employment opportunities locally
BCT area of operation is characterised by intense demographic pressure on land and high worker participation that of women too which is an index of poverty. Low land productivity, low intensity of cropping and considerable unemployment during Rabi season can be noticed. Thanks to the efforts of BCT, which was instrumental in getting five branches of nationalised banks opened up in the area, access of small and marginal farmers to institutional credit is better when compared with other villages. "But mounting overdues are blocking further flow of credit from institutions and people do rely on money lenders for credit at high rates of interest and usually by tying up produce or land or labour on exploitative terms," cautions the results of a survey.
Integrated agro-social forestry projects of BCT and promotion of allied activities and salt-making and fish farming created employment and self-employment opportunities for many villagers. BCT employs mostly local people in all its work and only when people with requisite qualification are not available locally, it tries to recruit them from other areas.
Realising that money is very dear to the people it is working with, it adopted a salary structure, which can not be considered very attractive. But, for the local people, the offer of work and remuneration on a regular basis itself is very attractive. BCT finds it easy to find replacements whenever people with low skills leave for a better opportunity as there is a reserve of people with such skills.
b. Attracting people at the other end of work life
BCT finds it difficult to attract a post graduate to work as a Community Organiser; if able to attract, BCT finds it even more difficult to retain them. When it comes to people like qualified doctors, it is all the more problematic.
BCT tries a novel method of attracting people who are at the other end of their work life. BCT finds that many of them have made their mark in life, are relatively unencumbered with family responsibilities, not oriented to any further career building and much devoted to work with undivided attention to contribute their bit when attracted. Almost all the present Coordinators are thus attracted to the work of BCT and they lend a very strong support to its activities and credibility. BCT very consciously pursues this strategy to its great advantage.
However, this sometimes leads to discontinuity at fairly senior level, jeopardising its activities for a while. But the very same process ensures bringing into the organisation expertise, skills and knowledge backed by commitment to contribution which rejuvenates the organisation. In the constant flux of people coming and going, BCT has the constant presence of Dr Rao, coordinating and chanellising their contributions towards achievement of the objectives of the organisation till recently as Secretary and at present as President.
It may not be far from truth to say that the relationship established between beneficiary groups in the village and BCT as an organisation are largely between Dr Rao and them. With the kind of structure of Mahila Mandals that is emerging now, it is likely that they will soon have a distinct identity of their own as more or less permanent organisations commanding significant resources of their own mobilised from their members in the form of regular savings tied to long term purposes.
"It is important for BCT to have a matching, stable and steady core team dealing with community organisation within itself to interact with and guide the development of Mahila Mandals. In the absence of which it is very difficult to sustain concerted and coherent effort for achieving results. Too frequent changes in the persons dealing with this work can be treated as a major problem facing BCT," reflects Shri Ramana Murthy, who joined BCT after retirement and presently works as Coordinator, Community Organisation and also serves as Coordinator(Finance).
c. Switching over to contract service system
Recently, BCT changed over to a contract system of employment and it has accordingly changed its staff service rules. Under the changed system, all BCT employees are on a three year contract with an annual evaluation and are offered benefits like gratuity and provident fund along with a contracted amount of monthly honorarium with entitlement of three days leave per month with pay. All the new recruits will be on a probation for six months at the end of which they enter into a three year contract on mutually agreed terms and conditions. Project based staff like NFE instructors, etc., are also on similar contract for the period of the project.
"This change was brought in to facilitate a more realistic assessment of the envisaged duration of association and suits well, both the older generation and younger generation, though, may be for different reasons. We are happy with the results and there is a marked change in the work environment because expectations have become more explicit and clear," explains Shri B Venkateswara Rao who joined recently as BCT Chief Coordinator. He was formerly in Ford Motors of USA for several years.
Shri Kameswara Rao, who also joined after retirement serves as Coordinator, Non Formal Education. In all, about more than 150 persons are directly employed by BCT and except those who are working in Community Organisation, Personnel and Administration and Maintenance Cell, rest are all related to projects under taken by BCT. Indirect employment opportunities because of BCT are many.
In 1977, the relief and rehabilitation work was done with the help of CARE and OXFAM. Irrigation, cattle breeding, salt manufacture and toy making projects were supported by EZE while afforestation, plant bank, community health, and technical consultation projects were supported by OXFAM. LIC of India gave special community award of "Hospital On Wheels" to BCT.
Initial support for Grama Arogyalaya Trust came from Health Clinic International. Its literacy activities are supported by India Literacy Project of USA. Non formal education project is supported by the Govt. of India and child labour rehabilitation programme is supported by ILO. Its research activities are funded by IDRC of Canada.
At present about 60 % - 70 % of expenditure on its core structure is generated from within and the support services are assisted by the government and voluntary organisations from within and abroad.
BCT also realised that the problem of development is not so much of "scarcity of resources" but frittering away the available limited resources. The Trust earns from its commercial activities, taken up as demonstration using hitherto unused or under used resources, like salt-fish farm production, cashew orchards and raises loans from banks for these activities.
"Becoming financially self-sufficient is vital because there is no point in doing all this unless what we do here can be repeated," says Dr Rao.
In some ways BCT’s methods of financing its core structure through generation of income from demonstration of activities that it wants its beneficiaries to undertake and benefit from are unique to itself. Also rare are the systematic efforts it makes to attract and use persons, who are at the other end of their work life, with high qualifications and rich experience in its work by providing them suitable opportunities.
BCT seems to have achieved that difficult balance between a grassroots base and the grafting of modern technology and skilled professionalism. It seems to marshal the expertise of science and technology and also obtain people’s participation.