DATE: Jan, 2014

A Very Happy New Year!


The last five months have been unusually hectic, considering it was the monsoon and peak agricultural season. 

Cyclone Phailin struck the Odisha coast in the third week of October and its impact combined with two severe depressions in rapid succession led to severe flooding in large swathes of the state, but with maximum intensity in Ganjam district, famous for its beach at Gopalpur and being the cashew nut capital of the state.

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DATE: July, 2013

Highlights of our Intervention
Highlights of the results of our intervention in facilitating effective implementation of MGNREGA

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DATE: Feb, 2013

TAt the outset, we extend our apologies for the long gap between the last newsletter and this one. The leap year has flown past us but we were unable to make the transition to institutionalizing the process of generating updates on a quarterly basis! As always there is some good news and some bad from our operational area.


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DATE: May, 2012

This newsletter gives you a look at the last quarter as well as an overview of the year 2011-12. There is an outline of our plans and strategy for the next year as well so be forewarned you have an extra page to plough through!

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Hope your Diwali was sparkling and full of festive fervor! May you be blessed with peace and prosperity around the year!

We at Atmashakti are happy to share with you that in the last quarter, the entire Atmashakti team has worked very hard to bring a smile on the faces of our less fortunate brothers and sisters in Orissa (now Odisha) who were faced first with shortage of rainfall and then had to battle with floods!

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DATE: July 29, 2011

As we complete the first quarter of 2011, it is my pleasure to share with you that Atmashakti Trust has grown in the last two years! The way our work has taken roots in the field is very encouraging and we are now working in 10 districts in Orissa and covering almost 3 lakh households living under less than $1 (Rs. 45) a day!

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DATE: MARCH 22, 2011

A QUICK REVIEW OF 2010 - 2011

Dear Friends,

No. of families covered 95,000 200,000
No. of Jansathis (field workers)
55 71

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Greetings from Atmashakti Trust!

At the outset, please accept apologies for the delay in sending you this update. The reason for this delay is that certain field activities got pushed back by 4-6 weeks and we awaited their completion so as to give you an almost complete picture on the job demand front this year.

We are pleased to inform you that progress has been very good as is reflected in the figures given below:

95,000 households
165,000 households
Percentage Change 74%

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A decision was taken not to continue with work by field level staff as our partner Lok Chetna Manch has achieved something unique within the MGNREGA ambit. On July 20th work to start revival of ten van panchayats of Tarikhet block (Almora) was officially inaugurated by the Commissioner. The activities in this project are spread over a five year period with around Rs50 lakhs being the budget, and is possibly one of the first NREGA works being implemented by a NGO.

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Its the season for results and with the spate of corporate results out we thought it time to present you with our achievements too! This current report is confined to Orissa and we are using government data as the base for our final figures.

Considering this is the first year of our intervention we are reasonably confident we will be able to raise the coverage per Jan Sathi this year.

2) Vis a vis actual employment provided, approximately 67,000 families were able to procure work. A detailed analysis of the reasons for the gap between demand and supply suggests that this is due to:

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Dear Friends

Unfortunately implementation of NREGA is very poor in many areas. In Uttarakhand during 2008-09 no work was carried out-- possibly the only ZERO state! In Orissa only 20% of those enlisted got work and that too for only 25   days.

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3. Since harvesting and grass cutting has just been completed there is no pressing urgency felt by most people to seek work immediately

4. The men feel that the wage rate should be Rs.120/- per day and are also resentful of the fact that women are being equated with them. As a result it is largely women who are enrolling.


Work continued at an accelerated pace during Dec/Jan and the quantitative achievements are summarised below:

Job cards: Over 95% of the 165,000 families we have covered now have job cards. This means our combined effort has resulted in over 50,000job cards reaching the people in the last three months.

Bank/Postal accounts: Starting from an extremely low 25% who had accounts we are now at a much better level of around 75% which means that around 80,000 new accounts have been opened. In most areas we have been assured that if a job card holder applies for work, the panchayat/block will take care of the account opening process.

Committee formation at the village level: We are covering over 3500 villages/hamlets and we have selected volunteers and formed committees in over 90% of these.

Job demands: Following the mass applications in Dec 2009, another 20,000 people applied for work in Jan 2010 bringing the total number to around 65,000. We do not have an accurate system of tracking the numbers who have actually got work, but raw data suggests that around 60% have started work.

During these two months we made two field visits, reviewing progress and strategising at the individual team level. In addition review meetings were held with all the team leaders/field coordinators in Bhubaneshwar. We also had continued interaction with government officials at the block/panchayat level as also in the state secretariat.


a. The common strategy that has evolved is to:
b. Try and ensure that all those who have applied for work get employment.
c. To expedite payments of wages.

e. To document the process with case studies.
f. To start village level training as also orientation for the volunteers.
g. To conduct a three day training for the jansathis in March.




Greetings from Atmashakti Trust -- at the very outset we would like to wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2010


On November 15th I attended a review meeting of the Himsainiks in Ranikhet. Of the 9 Himsainiks, 7 had achieved their targets regarding survey and identification of those who expressed a desire to work. With this process ending we have completed the first leg of our work in three blocks; Tarikhet, Hawalbagh and Dwarahat (all in Almora district). They were several problems encountered while surveying Bhikiasian block and a decision was taken to defer working here for the time being.

Three Himsainiks, backed by Geeta and Girish our field coordinators, had attempted to mobilise work in Tarikhet block. However the result was extremely disappointing; although over 40 sarpanchs were contacted to organise village meetings and create mass awareness regarding NREGA only four actually did so. The team reported that in many cases the sarpanch actually discouraged them from trying to hold meetings. An alternate strategy was worked out during the team meeting and it was decided that:

1. The Sarpanch would be bypassed if he was not cooperative
2. Other local leaders would be activated (Ex- Sarpanchs , school teachers, and other active citizens)
3. A pamphlet highlighting the benefits and procedural details of NREGA would be distributed to all interested households.


In the new areas being taken up by us our strategy called for the formation of village committees and selection of volunteers. This first stage of community organisation was completed in 645 villages, which is around a third of the new areas being covered.

Using these committees and sustained interaction with Panchayati Raj functionaries as also government officials we were able to make substantial progress in getting job cards to the interested families. During the month around 33,000 job cards were made available to the people, bringing the coverage close to 90%. Regarding the opening of savings accounts the progress has also been quite good ---- 41,500 accounts were opened and this takes the cumulative figure up from a lowly 26% to over 60%. Although this still means a large chunk are theoretically ineligible for work, in several places government officials have promised to open accounts for all those who apply for work.



The strategy for December has three major components:

a) Continuation of the community organisation process
b) Work towards universal coverage of job cards and further filling of the gap in opening of savings accounts
c) With the paddy harvesting expected to be completed by December end we will also be starting the all-important process of making job demands. We anticipate that our efforts will see around 25,000 families applying for work under NREGA for the first time in their lives!


During the past five months of this whole process that has involved sustained hard work, mostly under difficult conditions. However, only 4 out of our 60 Jansathis have left us as they could not cope with the tough working conditions.


During the month we have initiated a dialogue with NALCO and the Edel Give Foundation.

However we look forward to your continuing support, as also spreading the word and assisting us in garnering additional resources for this venture. Donation details are outlined at the end of the report.

With best wishes,
M.M. (Koko) Singh


NOVEMBER 20, 2009

October was a rather hectic month of travel, with my visit to Uttarakhand spilling over to the first week of the month, followed by two 5-day visits to Orissa with Ruchi.


E ach of the 9 Him Sainiks have either achieved or are close to completing the survey cum awareness campaign and by mid-November will be able to start the process of meetings in the panchayats. This work was scheduled to begin in Tarikhet after Diwali but had to be deferred owing to the crop and grass harvesting season.


Our first visit was in the second week of October and during this a review meeting was held at Bhubaneshwar. While here we collectively met the Under Secretary in charge of NREGA in the secretariat and in a free ranging discussion that lasted almost two hours he not only gave us useful information but also insights into the problems perceived by the State Government in the implementation of NREGA.

(The minutes of our review meeting are appended at the end of this report) During the course of our two field visits we covered the central belt and the western area separately so that there was adequate time to assess the ground situation and also interact with the 5 teams of Jan Sathis (without exhausting ourselves completely!). Overall progress has been good and by the end October our survey cum awareness campaign managed to cover around 165,000 households of which around 140,000 have expressed a desire to work.



At the outset heres wishing you a very happy Diwali. Also, apologies for this delayed report which was held up since we were travelling till the 12th of October.


We have undertaken to work in three blocks; Tarikhet, Dwarahat and Hawalbagh in Almora district. The survey work was completed in Tarikhet block in the third week of Sept. The six Him Sainiks working in the other two blocks have covered around 30% of the villages and expect to complete the survey work by the end of Oct. A meeting of the Him Sainiks was held in Ranikhet on Sept 30th to review progress and strategise work for Oct. Besides Akshay, Jogendra and myself we had a surprise visitor ----- the dean of IIM Bangalore, Prof. Trilochan Sastry who has been active in assessing NREGA work in A.P and Karnataka. The salient points that emerged were:

1) An analysis of the survey data of 130 gram panchayats 263 villages of Tarikhet block indicates that around 70% (that is 10,000 of the 14,000 families surveyed) are interested in working under NREGA. Nearly 80% have got job cards but only 65% or so have opened a bank account.

2) The work of committee formation in the villages was initiated but because of harvesting and Dussehra this will produce results only in Oct. Three immediate tasks identified were

a) application for balance job cards. b) opening of bank accounts and c) preparation of village-wise work plans using the number of people willing to work as the base.

3) This data to be communicated to the BDO (Block Development Officer),Tarikhet

4) In the other 2 blocks it was decided that the Him Sainiks would dedicate 50% of their time to committee formation and the rest to completing the survey.

5) It was also decided that Nov 15th would mark the beginning of the process of interested families demanding jobs in their respective panchayats.

6) The formation of a peoples organisation - Chetna Sangathan - was approved and all actions hitherto are to be undertaken under its aegis. Guidance and strategic inputs will be provided by Akshay, Jogendra and the Lok Chetna Manch team.

7) A schedule for conducting village shivirs and interaction with PRI members in Oct. was also to be prepared As part of team building and capacity enhancement the Him Sainiks had been asked to present their views on the state of the environment in their work areas. For a first time effort, the presentations were of a good standard and there was a lively Q&A session. This practice of a group discussion/debate will be continued in all future meetings.


Although we had targeted Sept. 15th for the completion of surveys we were only able to complete the bulk of this work by the last week of Sept. There have also been delays in compilation of all the data but taking into account the scale of the excercise some delays are not unexpected. As of the end of Sept. we have covered around 150,000 families (approx 750,000 people), who have been explained the provisions of NREGA in detail, besides having collected baseline data. By the end of Oct. we expect our coverage to be as under:

No. of Districts Blocks Gram Panchayats Families interested in work
7 18 181 150,000

We will be visiting Orissa in the first and last week of Oct to refine and finalise our strategies taking into account the findings of the survey and prevailing ground realities.

Other Activities:

Contacting Govt: Establishing contact with govt officials at the state level as well as the centre, is an integral part of our process. We met Ms Amita Sharma, JS Ministry of Rural Development, who is in charge of NREGA . Besides acquainting her with our work we presented her a simplified payment option for consideration. (This is given at the end of the report)

Fund Raising: We continued to receive commitments from concerned individuals and have so far secured around 50% of the funding required to see us through till June 2010. We are in a dialogue with United Way and have asked 3 of our partners to submit proposals to the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust under their small grants category.

However we look forward to your continuing support, as also spreading the word and assisting us in garnering additional resources for this venture.

With best wishes,

M.M.(Koko) Singh



The problem regarding delay in wage payments for a plethora of reasons is reasonably well known. This issue threatens to derail the scheme well before it has truly got going at the national level. Vested interests have connived with inefficient and in some case corrupt local officials. There is an urgent need to address this issue immediately and we propose that the following formula be put into place immediately.

1)The worker needs money and a two week wait simply does not work. For anyone who has completed 6 days work, 3-4 days wages must be paid immediately. This may be done by disbursing cash or by depositing cash in the beneficiaries bank account, and not by cheque payment. For families who continue working the second week the same system should be followed. This will ensure that Rs. 600-800/- reaches the family, so that food security is ensured for upto a month. The fact that cash has been received will enable the workers to have faith in the system which will have to ensure that the 15 day deadline is strictly adhered to.

For the above process certification by the gram sevak/gram rozgar sevak that job card holders have completed X no of days work should be the norm.

For payments beyond the initial 14 days we should use a W+3 system where wage payments are cleared before formal clearance by the JE. The job card should be the basis for this and 75% of wages should be processed with the balance going through the system. The W+3 implies that payments would be processed within 3 days of the week ending and credited to the workers account within 7 days. (after holding back 25% which should come in a week later).
The underlying principle is faith in the people regarding the work done with the 25% serving as insurance for any shortfall in the work done.


Friends - A short update: The Central government has issued an order for the appointment of an Ombudsman in every district for grievance redressal (attached). And, news of a protracted but successful struggle for delayed wage payment from Gujarat.


1. Centre issues order on appointment of Ombudsman

Each district is to have an Ombudsman to deal with NREGA related grievances. Note also that the appointment of the Ombudsman will be subject to public scrutiny for one month (section 2.2.1). The attached order has the details of the selection process. Be sure to watch the selection process in your district!!

2. Gujarat: 2376 workers receive Rs. 34 lakhs after months of struggle
(received from Paulomee Mistry, Disha Ahmedabad,

Rashtriya Rojgar Khatri Kayda Hethal-na Kamdaro-nu Union-Gujarat (The Union of Workers Under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Gujarat) which has been actively striving towards implementation of the programme and the rules therein, had received complaints of non-payment of due wages to 2,376 workers/persons from Dadhela, Jagola, Ghughas, Vangad and Karmel gram panchayats of Dahod district. The due amount involved was Rs.34,24,856 which was not paid for the works done on construction/rejuvenation of community wells in the villages of these panchayats. This was despite the fact that any such payments have to be made within 15 days of work done!

Complete detail ( Order under Section 27(1) of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for establishment of the office of Ombudsman for redressal of
grievances in a time bound manner.)






The survey was completed in Tarikhet Block and expanded to cover the adjacent blocks of Hawalbagh and Dwarahat. The team has also been revamped as some of the first timers found it difficult to cover areas which involved travel and spending nights out. In all around 14,000 households were covered in Tarikhet and awareness of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has been imparted to a total of over 17,000 households. Some of the salient findings of the survey are summarised below:


2)   Around 81% have job cards, while the number holding bank accounts drops to 67%

With these inputs, in September the process of community mobilisation to obtain job cards, and planning of panchayat wise works to be undertaken will start, while survey activities will continue in the adjoining blocks.


1)    Awareness of the scheme is under 20%

2)   Once the scheme was explained to them, over 80% of the families expressed desire to work.

3)   However only 60% have job cards and only 20% have bank /postal accounts. (In order to be eligible to demand or receive work under NREGS it is essential that the person obtain a job card and open an account in a bank or post office)

Field Visits: I (Koko) covered Uttarakhand field area in mid August and Ruchi and I spent the last week of the month traversing close to 2000km to cover the five field areas of Orissa, visiting Nayagarh, Boudh, Kandhamal, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh and Sambalpur districts. During the course of this travel we attended several village meetings, a few area level meetings (where representatives of a panchayat gather together) and finally had extensive meetings with the 5 teams of Jan Sathis. We also made a conscious effort to meet with various levels of the Panchayati Raj and Government machinery since they play a key role in taking our initiative forward. To sum up our visit:

1)    There was a very good turnout at the village and area level meetings and there was unanimous support for the struggle to implement NREGA

2)   The Jan Sathis are well motivated as also the senior activists and team leaders.


4)   The task ahead is formidable since the process of getting job cards and opening bank accounts has to be achieved at a rapid pace so that demand for work can be made by November end.

For those of you interested in the nitty gritty, the minutes of our meeting in Bhubaneshwar are provided below.


With best wishes,

M.M.(Koko) Singh

P.S. We managed to get our website going on Aug. 15th

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After a period of intense consultation and brainstorming in the preceding months we started our field operations in July 2009.

No. of districts where work has started:  5
No. of Jan Sathis at the field level:  48
The number of families who have been made aware of the scheme through one-to-one interaction:  20,000


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Appeal for Rehabilitation work in Uttarakhand

We at Atmashakti Trust have been closely observing the after effects of the natural calamity which has struck the hill state of Uttarakhand. The destruction is massive and has affected the local populace across a vast region. The media has covered just the yatra (pilgrim) route and all help is focused on those areas. Till now the thrust was on evacuation of the pilgrims and now the real rehabilitation work will start.  Click here for more details



The Lok Chetna Manch team comprising of Akshay Shah, Gayatri and Abhijeet spent 11 days in the Dharchula area and even managed to climb through extremely difficult terrain to visit 10 villages badly ravaged by the floods in the 3rd week of June.   Click here for more details

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