India: Country Strategy Consultations in Raipur, Chattisgarh

May 23, 2012


Discussion Highlights:
  • Participants highlighted some critical issues confronting the state. These included the poor condition of the agricultural sector and of forest-dependent people; diversion of land and water resources to industry; lack of primary health care and education facilities; and the poor convergence, delivery and monitoring of government programs.
  • Participants pointed out the problems faced by NGOs/CSOs operating in areas under Maoist dominance (e.g. South Bastar). There have been instances when these organizations were held in suspicion by the local authorities and this adversely affected their developmental and welfare efforts.
  • Participants strongly felt that the World Bank could support the state in the following areas, among others: Infrastructure directly related to agriculture such as warehousing, village roads, low-cost irrigation, access to credit, marketing support, etc.; Awareness building on government schemes and improving monitoring and transparency; Improving convergence of government programs for development, including service delivery

Details of Discussion

Challenges of working in Maoist-affected areas
The discussion began with a participant representing a field NGO wanting to know whether the World Bank had a specific strategy to work in Maoist-dominated areas, considering that the Bank was keen to work in the remote and backward areas of the state. He explained that NGOs operating in such areas of Chhattisgarh state (such as south Bastar and Dantewara) faced a lot of problems, particularly in the context of a new law on public security and protection.

This point was elaborated by another participant who gave examples of how the authorities tended to view NGOs working in Maoist-affected areas as sympathizers. It was pointed out that a campaign in support of tribal rights and empowerment, specifically for families affected by development projects, or people who had not received benefits under the tribal forest rights legislation, had met with lukewarm response. The participant had also been subjected to harassment and interrogation by the law enforcement agencies on many occasions. The Forest Department was perceived as being unsympathetic to the plight of poor tribals. It was also mentioned that the World Bank had supported the state's afforestation efforts but the participant felt that the policy adopted by the state government was flawed and anti-farmer as there was pressure to growjatropha for fuel instead of food or cash crops.

Concerns Regarding Agriculture and Livelihood Protection

It was explained that the state has three eco-zones, viz., the north zone which has forests and is mineral rich (21 percent of the state's land area); the Chhattisgarh plateau which has forest-rich areas and has traditionally been agricultural, and is now attracting power plants (52 percent), and the Bastar zone that has about 50 percent forest cover and is plagued by insurgency.

Several participants emphasized that food securitylack of irrigation facilities and low productivity were major issues that needed strong support, particularly as the majority of agriculturists were marginal farmers with meager landholdings and dependent on rainfed agriculture.

A participant pointed out that the natural resource base of the state had to be judiciously used and the livelihoods of forest-dependent people protected. The onslaught of industrialization was gradually leading todiversion of farmlands and water to industry to the detriment of agriculture. Furthermore, the agriculture sector suffered from poor warehousing facilities and road connectivity, resulting in a good part of harvested crops going waste.

A participant pointed out that despite protests during public hearings and rallies, the state government was going ahead with the planned development projects. For example, over 40 power plants were coming up in Janjgir district. This had uprooted many farmers and though most were compensated with money, this did not ensure a sustainable livelihood. Rehabilitation would have been more meaningful with allocation of alternative farmland. Also a new dam was coming up in Janjgir district on the Mahanadi and Hasdeo rivers which was not only meant to provide water to the power plants (instead of agriculture) but was likely to lead to flooding during the rainy season, bringing devastation and misery to neighboring farmlands.

Where and How the World Bank could Intervene

On the question of what areas the Bank could intervene in, one participant suggested that as the state needed to focus on agricultureand forests, particularly minor forest produce, it would be worthwhile to consider projects that would lead to value addition to forest produce and help link products to the market.

Infrastructure for agriculture
There was general agreement that the state suffered from lowconvergence of government programs resulting in limited reach and impact of each program. A suggestion was made to find out how programs like the employment guarantee scheme (NREGA) could be used to create private assets. One participant pointed out that often payments under this act were not made on time or delayed indefinitely, and these cases took a lot of effort to resolve. There was general agreement that many parts of the Chhattisgarh state suffered from lack of employment opportunities and basic infrastructure like water, roads and health facilities. But the overarching plea of speakers was for supporting the agricultural sector, the forest dependent people and ensuring food security and sustainable use of the state's natural resources. A suggestion was indeed made that the World Bank should earmark a part of its infrastructure funding for building or strengthening agriculture-related infrastructure in backward states such as Chhattisgarh.

Local governance issues and women's empowerment
On the question of local governance, several participants spoke on the need for capacity building within panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) which in many cases were unable to use the development funds madeavailable to them. Even when development plans were prepared through consultations in the Gram Sabha, they were rejected by the district authorities for being technically flawed. The lower bureaucracy also needed training. Women were now participating in panchayati raj institutions but there were gender issues and strong independent women holding important positions in the panchayat were not easily accepted. A participant pointed out that the common people lacked awareness of the importance of the Gram Sabha in local governance and Gram Sabha meetings were poorly attended. This implied that the bottom-up planning approach envisaged under the PRIs was not functioning properly.

On the matter of gender and 'voice', most felt that NGOs were quite successful in taking the views of people to the authorities, but the impact was limited. One participant pointed out a very interesting practice: often poor, marginalized women faced persecution as dayeens or witches from the local community due to superstitious beliefs, and they had very little protection even from the authorities who needed to do much more. A strong plea was thus made to ensure 'real' empowerment for women at the village level. Another 'unrepresented' and unorganized group mentioned was the security guards doing duty at ATMs, who were facing constant exploitation by their contractors.

Another point made was that decentralized planning suffered from the lack of a basic authentic database on primary aspects like population and resource location etc. This was a great hurdle in planning development projects on the ground. There was also no effort from the state government to enhance public awareness of constitutional rights of tribals under the recent panchayati raj legislation (PESA) and critical issues like tribal forests rights under the 2006 enactment. This was needed on a continual basis and not just for a year or two. Several participants felt that these were areas where the World Bank could focus and provide technical assistance and expertise.

Education and health concerns
One participant spoke on the poor education outcomes due to the flawed policy and execution. Surveys had found out that village children went to school only for mid-day meals and no one was interested in actual education. The automatic promotion of children upto class V also de-motivated pupils from studying. This foundational weakness also had an impact on secondary and higher education outcomes. Health and nutritional problems faced by people in remote areas was also brought up, particularly the inability of Primary Health Centers to provide medicines to the ailing. One participant talked of the lack of government schemes targeted to physically challenged people who could not benefit from government schemes to provide employment and vocational training, among other things. It was generally accepted that the Bank could play a vital role in awareness creation on government schemes and entitlements and also intervene in capacity building at various levels. Attention also had to be given to improving the convergence and monitoring and evaluation of government-sponsored programs.

World Bank Response

The World Bank team responded that the Bank was interested in working in remote and backward areas even if they were under Maoist influence. The Bank, primarily a development agency, would look for solutions through the development lens. It was mentioned that community participation, training at the village level, remote monitoring systems and local job creation were some of the tools used by the Bank for projects in remote areas. It was also emphasized that the local community would be involved from the planning stage itself in any proposed Bank project and that all efforts would be made to see that the local population benefitted from the project from the implementation stage onwards. In fact, the Bank was already following this principle in its development projects, many of which impacted a large number of people.

It was further stated that Chhattisgarh was an important state for the World Bank. The Bank was engaged with the state government to determine what projects would work, as well as to establish the most effective methods of monitoring and evaluation of projects.

Comments and suggestions can still be sent at the following email address:consultationsindia@worldbank.org

City-wise Consultations

Raipur, Chhattisgarh - May 23, 2012
Guwahati, Assam - May 29, 2012
Bangalore, Karnataka - May 31, 2012
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh - June 13, 2012
Delhi - June 26, 2012