CHHATTISGARH SURGUJA DISTRICT

Chhattisgarh is a densely forested region, naturally irrigated by a number of streams, that has been well cultivated and has come to be known as dhan-ka-katora (rice bowl). PIDT has encouraged organic farming and forest conservation so the rich biodiversity of the Shankargarh region remains unspoiled.

Having been recently carved out of Madhya Pradesh in response to tribal demands, the changing national and local political environments in Chhattisgarh have opened the region to a spurt of development activity, but have also spawned new geopolitical struggles that create security problems and hinder development progress. Maoist groups (MCC) have emerged as a strong force, bringing in their wake a spate of armed criminals and presenting a challenge to local governance.

In this context, PIDT has committed itself, over the last two decades, to civil society reengineering and women’s empowerment. With PIDT’s support, the people of Surguja District have been able to overthrow longstanding feudal structures, organizing into samities that have now federated and registered as a Society, without paying any bribe to the local authorities. Due to changes in people’s attitude, exploitative marriage customs have been altered and women now occupy many positions in the panchayat. Literacy levels have risen from 10% to 54% due to increase in primary education.

Preparing Communities to Develop Themselves

In consonance with its vision of sustainable development carried out by the people themselves, PIDT has strategically withdrawn from communities once it felt they were firmly on the path toward self-reliant progress. Having started in the eight states of the NIBM's Rural Action Project, PIDT is now actively engaged in four and gradually decreasing its presence in these as well over the next five to ten years. While political violence in Assam contributed to the decision to suspend operations there, the people had also taken readily to the collectivization and consciousnessbuilding introduced by the PIDT team and are well equipped to face their own struggles. Similar stages were reached in Orissa, Haryana and Rajasthan where local NGOs have sprung up, flourished under PIDT's guidance and established themselves solidly in the regions. As our primary criterion is the people's capacity rather than any specific quantifiable measure of development status, our departure from areas does not imply that the communities have already fulfilled their ambitions, which continue to rise as their horizons of possibility expand - only that they will continue to reach for and continually surpass their goals. Our greatest success is given voice in the reduction of need and our growth as an organization is reflected in a gradual drawing back from the grass roots to increasingly proffer only the fruits of an alternative vision as a touchstone for the people to seek and prosper. Back