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Odisha's Satuli village: From devastation to an upturn
Satuli, a hilly habitat; is one amongst the villages of Ganjam District in Odisha where Phailin and its subsequent flood left a trail of damage and destruction. The village is largely dominated by Dalit households.

The landfall of Phailin and the five days incessant rains left Ganjam in a very desolate situation. The double blow not only made loss to lives and properties of the community; but also clogged the chances of work for the affected populace. Satuli was one amongst the villages of Ganjam district where the havoc left a trail of damage and destruction.

Its heavy affect made hard for the villagers to get a job in the locality. The unlivable houses and lack of sufficient food grains even made their situation worse. Therefore, it was an immediate need for the villagers to get a job.

ActionAid with the support from European Commission for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) initiated Cash For Work (CFW). This was an innovative approach in the sense that the identified beneficiaries were given daily wage for work project such as repairing of their own Houses and pond renovation work and rebuilding of other community resources which they can later use as a whole in the community.

Here is a case of Satuli village of Ganjam district, one of the worst affected village, where attempts have been being taken not only to meet their daily requirement of money for household expenses but it was also meant to substantiate their food and nutrition deficiency.

In this initiative, households were chosen as a unit and the job cards were issued in the name of the female households and the payment so were given in their accounts or in cash. The process not only aimed at building women capacitated through financial literacy but it also attempted to give women ownership of productive resources as well as to create in them a platform to take part in the decision making process.

In every village where CFW has been in practice; a village disaster committee has been formed and their roles have been very focal starting from the identification of works to the payment process. This idea has been planned to enable local leadership among women. In Satuli, 45 out of 62 households have been engaged in Cash for Work.

Earlier to this, the villagers had no such viable options to get work as the local economy went totally down. Though the state government gave a compensation of 50 kilogram of rice, five hundred rupees cash and a polythene sheets to the worst affected households, the amount was not enough to lessen their difficulty. So, they were in urgent need of job opportunity. Through Cash for Work, they utilized their workdays in repairing the damaged houses and now they are engaged in pond renovation work. This initiative has benefited them a lot as they secured a paid work for 50 days. Simultaneously, they are rebuilding their own properties and community resources.

Expressing her happiness on Cash for Work Initiatives, a villager Jema Das said, “We had lost our food grains, our livestock, even our cloths and utensils in cyclone and flood. Due to the initiative (Cash for Work), we are now assured of getting a daily income for 50 days. With this cash, we will be able to purchase our daily needs household articles and can avail increased food consumption.”

“On the other hand, the pond renovation work will help us taking bath and irrigating our nearby farm land. Being Dalit, we have been facing discriminatory treatment by the upper caste people. We have been threatened not to take bath in the same pond where they take. Now, this problem will no longer exist; as we will have our own pond. At the same time, we are getting wages for our own work. So the rate of recovery towards normalcy will be little faster for us,” she added.

The process of social audit

The payment for their work has been set weekly. Every week, the village disaster committee calls for a meeting. The president of the committee takes lead in the entire social audit process. Then the name of the beneficiary is called loudly so that it can be audible for all the beneficiary. Then the cash or the deposite slip of the bank deposit will be given to the beneficiaries. The social audit process takes places in a public place of every village to maintain all transperacy on the part of the implementing agency.

The payment against Cash for Work (CFW) was made directly to the beneficiaries who are being engaged in pond renovation work. The cash payment was made with all transparency and accountability on our part.

With the presence of ActionAid representatives, staffs of partner organization United Artists Association (UAA), the payment was made to all the beneficiaries of CFW ensuring that all workdays have been maintained in the muster roll and job card. The name of the all 45 persons was displayed in the list and their names were serially called during the process of payment.

Earlier, some job card holders of CFW were given payment through bank account but could not benefit them faster all the way. Some of the beneficiary (whose payments have been transferred through bank account) complained that” the bank officials are delaying to transfer the CFW amount into our accounts.

Cases were heard during the audit process that bank officials are not taking interest in these transactions for the reasons best known to them. As decided in the earlier meeting, all the payments were made through direct cash and subsequently, their grievances were noted down for further liaisoning to resolve the issue.

Namita Das (45), a woman beneficiary under Cash for Work initiative has already completed a seven days work. Sharing her experience, she said, “I have not yet availed any work under MGNREGA scheme and same is with many others of the beneficiary. After cyclone and the subsequent flood, we lost everything we had. Our prospect of recovery was very less till Cash for Work had not begun. Now, I am relieved that at least my family is assured of 50 days work with Rupees 150/- wages per day. Today, I got a payment of my last seven days work.”

She added, “I feel happy about it as I would purchase rice, dal, some clothes and other household materials for our family. My happiness gets even more because we are working under CFW than to work under local contractors or upper caste people. This is certainly dignifying for us. They used to underestimate us and we have borne inhuman behaviors from them many a times. We also work for them with a relatively low wage. If Cash for Work had not for us, many of us would have left villages to earn our daily bread and butter”.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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