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Youth Volunteers and MDGs towards sustainable development

Youth Volunteers – An exceptional segment in the society

Youth constitute the most creative and vibrant segment of the society. Youth have a major stake behind the development of natural, economic, and social resources of their communities’ concerned. Voluntary work can be done by any youth with right motivation. What youth needs is a clear understanding of the problem and commitment to the work as a volunteer. Above all they should win the trust of the people with whom they work. Youth volunteers can show a remarkable achievement in fulfilling a whole range of human needs in association with concerned parental institutions.

There are indeed several groups of youth volunteers are working around many development needs of the society. Such a small groups in order to make impact will have to maintain close contacts, exchange ideas, share experiences, build up a network, and lend support to each other. In short, youth volunteers will have to think globally, but act locally. It is obvious that a higher order of expression of volunteerism gets emerged as a movement which in turn attracts a wide range of people towards the same. The short term voluntary action also impacts certain number of youth to make a career choice with grassroots on long run to create sustainable development in the society. Youth volunteers are seen as seeds those who can propagate the motivation to wider section of the society to a greater extent.

DHAN Foundation – platform for youth to experience a life with grassroots

DHAN (Development of Humane Action Foundation) Foundation is doing significant initiatives for building youth force in many ways through its thematic development interventions. The institution creates platform for a wide range of youth for understanding and appreciating a work life with the grassroots. It also provides an opportunity for the individuals have social concern and has the interest to share their expertise to the grassroots based on the demand. As HRD (Human Resource Development) being one of the core purpose of the institution it works closely with young professionals and offers them an exposure to the development sector and sensitizing  them about their roles, rights and responsibilities behind ‘Giving back to the society’.

Youth action in existing programmes of DHAN Foundation:

  1. Over 50 percent of members covered through the thematic institutions of DHAN Collecitve namely Kalanjiam Foundation & Vayalagam Foundation are in youth category which covers around 2.5 lakhs of youth. In addition to that, around 10 percent youth are occupying leadership space at community level which covers around 25,000 youth.
  2. The theme on Working with Panchayats & ICT are providing direct thrust to building  and organizing youth for community development. The experiences from these themes are getting incorporated.
  3. The subsidiary institutions of DHAN Collective namely Tata-Dhan Academy, Dhan People Academy, LIFE (Livelihood Initiatives for Functional Education) centre & CHRD (Centre for Human Resource Development) are almost 100% working for youth. The primary purposes of these institutions are “grooming youth with social concern and build attitude, skill & knowledge of youth for development action with grassroots’.
  4. Presently 750 staff are working in DHAN Foundation. The average age of DHANites is around 30. Hence, DHAN as an institution itself is “youth” institution.

Volunteerism with youth – Perspectives, Principles and Practices in DHAN Foundation

Perspectives of DHAN Foundation in building youth volunteers towards sustainability

It is obvious that the purpose behind the promotion of youth volunteers are broader and has influence at state, national and global level depending upon the nature of voluntary action absorbed by the youth volunteer.  Exposure to volunteers towards varying socio, economic and cultural dimension is critical to integrate them into action at the grassroots levels. The most effective strategy for promoting volunteer with sustainable development is to make them perceive and act upon social needs and social dimensions in an integrated way. Meanwhile success at the volunteer level depends on vertical and horizontal expansion of their commitment to associate with the poor communities on long run or on short term basis.

DHAN’s principles in promoting volunteerism with youth

Volunteerism as a mechanism to build people to build people

The success of an activity depends upon its purpose and ways of doing. Volunteerism is seen as a mechanism to build people namely volunteers in order to build people at grassroots. Though access to the technologies by poor communities is in increasing trend there are development issues still unaddressed which have a great influence on the lifestyle of the poor families. Hence a group of human resources are to be built up in order to handle such development issues through a joint work process with the community. An enabling model of building the capacity of the grassroots to handle the development technologies independently paves way for sustainable development which is possible only through encouraging the professional to work directly with the poor communities in field. Build people to build people is an organic process wherein mutual sharing of knowledge and wisdom takes place for a collective growth.

Building youth with social concern and shared responsibility towards sustainable development

Youth being the energetic section of the society they need to be built up with social concern and shared responsibility towards sustainable development. There are thousands of youth with high social concern and they want to serve the society. But they are yet to be reached out by Development Institutions. The shared responsibility within the youth towards social development could be built up only through experiencing a life at the grassroots. Volunteerism doesn’t stop with executing an activity; it is beyond that. It has the stages such as exploring, experiencing and exercising a career with the grassroots. The higher order of social concern and shared responsibility of the youth volunteers makes impact in the lifestyle of the poor communities to a greater extent.

Mutual appreciation and exchange of expertise for collective growth

Voluntary action with the institution paves way to share and learn the expertise mutually. The matching of expertise takes place during field based contributions with an objective to advance the expertise at mutual end at higher order. The skill set of the individuals are valued and field based assignments are designed with mutual consent aiming at improving the skill set next level. Intensive consultation process during the course of voluntary action shapes the expertise towards the purpose of the institution by yielding significant outcomes at field level. The contributions during the course of voluntary action in revisited then and there and design improvement is emphasized to encourage fullest application of expertise for a greater impact at individual and community level.

Development education for youth along with grassroots connectivity

Grassroots are the primary platform of wisdom. The success of any development action depends on the extent in which the field realities are taken into consideration. The institution facilitates the volunteers to get an exposure to the development education on the field realities, development issues and its dimensions across various contexts. The stay with the community is encouraged to understand and appreciate their lifestyle by experiencing it. The basic principle of the voluntary action is to sensitize the individuals towards the socio and economic dimensions of the poor families.

Practices behind youth volunteer promotion in DHAN Foundation

Facilitating field based contributions for thematic advancement

The volunteers whoever joins in the institution are given with field based assignments irrespective of the duration of their stay with the institution. The field based assignments within an existing thematic area helps them to understand and appreciate the theme in relation to poverty dimensions. It builds their clarity towards shaping their contributions to match expectations of the theme to get advanced to next level. Though the volume of the assignments are larger or smaller, though the duration of their stay is shorter or longer, their contributions for advancing the existing programme/theme of the institution to next level is very much valued.

Joint work with the stakeholders for knowledge building and dissemination

The volunteers, depending upon the nature of their assignments they do joint work with various stakeholders for knowledge building and knowledge dissemination. The joint work helps them to create a wider network to share their reflections time to time. It gives them an opportunity to get integrated with the working dimensions of various stakeholders in relation to poverty reduction. Intensity of the joint work makes the outcome more effective and sustainable one. It also paves way for refinement in the working dimensions of various stakeholders in order to strengthen their attention towards grassroots at higher order.

Impacting on ASK (Attitude, Skill and Knowledge) towards a life with the grassroots

ASK (Attitude, Skill and Knowledge) is the base for any type of work dimension wherein attitude plays a major role in matching the individuals with the expectations of the development sector. The social concern is one of the expressions of attitude as far as a voluntary action with the grassroots is concerned. Institution has the belief that once the attitude of the individuals gets sensitized, skill and knowledge updation takes place naturally. The experience of the institution says that the stay with the community makes a greater impact in the attitude of the youth volunteers which often encourage them to get committed to the society on long run.

Career support by integrating individual’s and institution’s demand

The youth, who are attached with academic institutions by self choice they take up voluntary action with the institution depending upon their academic demand. The demand of the individuals taken into consideration and appropriate assignments are designed by connecting them with an existing programme of the institution. The target of the assignment is designed in such a way to fulfill the requirements mutually. The association with the institution is a natural process which continues even after the activity as a follow up process.

DHAN’s way of localizing MDGs

Though the MDGs are broader and aimed at influencing national governments and donor countries, localizing these goals to suit to the varying socio, economic and cultural climates is critical to integrate them into action at the grassroots levels. The most effective strategy for making sustainable progress is to perceive and act upon all the goals in an integrated way.  However, each goal will need well-designed and replicable development themes with the scope for vertical and horizontal expansion for success at the field level. Pursuing each goal independently without acknowledging its inter-linkages with others will make them unsustainable interventions.

For DHAN Foundation, the overarching goal of poverty reduction implies ultimately the elimination of hunger, poverty, and maternal and child malnutrition. For instance the Kalanjiam Reproductive and Child Health programme works for averting maternal and fetal malnutrition, which will otherwise lead to low birth weight that damages health and reduces cognitive ability. Similarly, given the fact that majority of poor people living in villages are dependent on farming, agricultural and rural development should get priority among the broad array of economic and social indicators that the MDGs emphasize. DHAN’s interpretation of the MDGs therefore accommodates contextual variations while promoting development. The ‘graduation approach’ in poverty reduction, demonstrated by the Kalanjiam Community Banking Programme can work well to address such disparities. The People Planning process and goal setting exercise by the Peoples’ Organizations can integrate these MDGs downscaled to their local situation. The MDGs can be used to set a powerful agenda for the Peoples’ Organizations at various levels to achieve faster, sustainable human and economic development.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: Poverty and hunger are two complex and fundamental challenges. Enabling poor to access sustainable livelihood opportunities help prevent hunger and poverty. Keeping Poverty Reduction as an overarching goal, DHAN believes firmly on the enabling approach, where the poor families are facilitated to organize their social capital in the form of self-governed nested institutions around microfinance, water, rainfed farming and ICT. They in turn conserve and develop the natural capital such as land and water bodies traditionally enjoyed and protected by them; gain access and control over financial capital through contextualized microfinance services and products; enhance human capital by building leadership and enterprising skills; create and strengthen physical capital in the form of income generating assets.

Goal 2: Ensuring primary education: Poverty prevents children from using opportunities to live healthy and get good quality education. DHAN believes that education can play a key role in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and social exclusion. It is crucial to invest in quality childcare and education. Recognizing the vital role of primary education, particularly for the girl children, the Kalanjiam federations promoted by DHAN take up education as a key civic development agenda. The special school and tuition centers being run by the federations show the ability of women in managing quality education services to their children.

  • Activity based learning is promoted by the remedial schools run by the Kalanjiam federations in Tirupati, Adilabad, Madurai,  heni and Dindigul districts
  • Twenty percent of loans availed by the Kalanjiam women for their children’s education.
  • The SHG federations have facilitated 28,766 families to avail 31 million as education scholarships for their children from the Life Insurance Corporation of India

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women: DHAN recognises gender inequality as a major development issue and is committed to addressing this issue in all its development interventions. DHAN imbibes ’empowerment’ within its mission, core values and development philosophy, which gets expressed in its approach of enabling individuals to expanded their choices and capabilities. Gender equality is a cross-cutting goal in all the development interventions of DHAN. The focus is on facilitating women to gain control over social and economic conditions and over democratic participation in their communities.  It believes that social change will evolve over a period of time and leading to economic empowerment. DHAN, hence, has adopted the gender-sensitive economic centric approach.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality & Goal 5: Improve maternal health: Women and children are more vulnerable due to poor nutrition, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene awareness, and lack of access to quality healthcare. The Kalanjiam Federations promoted by DHAN design and implement comprehensive reproductive and child health programme to bring positive changes in the health seeking behaviour of the members’ families to prevent or reduce anemia and malnutrition among mothers and adolescent girls. The Kalanjiam women are enabled to devise ‘Self Health Governance’ and encouraged to work with Government healthcare system to ensure quality healthcare for all the poor.

Goal 7: Environmental sustainability: Access by the poor to natural resources, including land, forests, water, fisheries and wildlife, is essential for sustainable poverty reduction. DHAN believes that building collective conscience and action among the communities is the key to conserve and manage natural and man-made resources. With this philosophy, DHAN is working on the centuries-old water harvesting system called ‘tanks’ by organizing the farmers to conserve and develop such time tested indigenous innovations. Similarly, the Coastal Conservation and Livelihoods Development Programme promote conservation focused traditional livelihoods around marine resources in addition to community-led disaster preparedness strategies.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development: Given the enormous global challenges, the Millennium Development Goals call for partnership with shared commitment involving all the actors include governments, donors, NGOs, civil societies and corporate to share knowledge, resources, expertise, explore joint ventures and develop solutions. The peoples’ organizations built by DHAN around microfinance, local governance, water and agriculture are becoming the centres of convergence for all the development interventions designed and implemented by these partners. DHAN facilitates convergence, where the community can define the problems, propose solutions, and make the changes happen, using methods with which they are familiar.

Three core spheres of youth in impacting MDGs

DHAN encourages and also operates with volunteers at three sphere namely at community level, institutional level and sectoral level. The volunteer belongs to each category has different work dimensions and varied design of contributions. However the institution takes utmost care in making entire spheres of volunteer as community centered and connected to the grassroots strongly. It is obvious that often the individuals belong to all .level works together in achieving the common goals. The entire volunteers are encouraged and also educated to integrate and work together to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with community participation to a greater extent across all their work dimensions.

Youth volunteers at community level

a) Youth volunteers as movement workers

The movement worker at community level expresses higher order of volunteerism by spending their day to day life with poor communities. They do joint work with the poor communities and works as a front line ambassadors in taking the technology to the last mile of the field. Their intensive association with the community builds synergy of the people institutions and helps the community to create identity for their institutions. There are around 2500 movement workers at field level who associates with around one million poor families as part of poverty reduction.

b) Youth leaders at community level

Youth leaders emerged from the community across various thematic interventions of the institution act as spark plug at in advancing the development technologies time to time. They are seen as role models for the entire community to facilitate a change process in the society. They play major role behind taking up a theme to next orbit of advancement till it get graduated as movement. More than 25000 youth leaders at community level acts as change agents in shaping the society.

5.2 Youth volunteers as full-fledged members of the institution

The professionals who found be the deviant and has high social concern are identified by the institution and given with an exposure to the development sector through certain voluntary activities as part of exploration. Such opportunity facilitates the individuals to derive inspiration from the community and develop their interest towards giving back to the society. They absorb the career with the grassroots as way of life and gets involved in transformation of development technologies to the community in association with various stakeholders of development process.

Youth volunteers from academy and other sources to the institution

The volunteers and interns who visit the institution from various parts of the world play a major role in knowledge building and dissemination of best practices. They get connected with the institutional team and arranged to undertake assignments with the grassroots. Besides their core assignments they get involved in various activities to make their duration of stay more meaningful.

Learning from DHAN’s experiences in integrating youth and MDGs

  • DHAN perceives youth not just as objects / service receivers. They are change agents. They are identified and encouraged to work with the grassroots with a philosophy of giving back to the society. Their vibrancy and social concern creates significant impact in the lives of the poor communities.
  • Building “informed Citizenship” among youth community encourages youth to get committed to the society for a sustainable development. They get emerged as seeds and have the potential to propagate to a greater extent and attract many more youth to the development sector. Youth are creating multiplier effect on development impact in an organized, nurturing environment. Youth working in development sector gets inspiration and spreads inspiration among their peer group.
  • Providing institutional space and structured mentoring processes enhances the  volunteership of youth towards development work. The institution provides them the space and flexibility in order to express their creativity.
  • The concept of “Build people to build people” is being seeded within the youth so as to involve them in enabling the poor communities to come out of poverty. At present the institution is working with around one million poor families across various contexts; of which, around 10 percent has come out of poverty.
  • More than Volunteering, making youth force to take-up development work as way of life needs more care and attention. The real success of volunteering ends with making the youth committed to the social cause for long time.

Theme on Youth and Development in DHAN Foundation

The theme on ‘Youth and development’ was launched in DHAN Foundation on October 02, 2010. The theme focuses on bringing youth in the development arena and shaping them as more vibrant and productive force of the society. Poverty reduction will spell better way when the right choice of career life and livelihood is made available to each youth in the early stages. It has direct relevance to DHAN’s mission of poverty reduction. Imparting life skills and functional education to youth in the early life stages will help them to be self-reliant and also it will provide space to focus their energy for common cause. Since youth is seen as the vibrant section of the society, the theme aims at building them with necessary health, education and employment opportunities to bring changes in their life.

Working for / with youth is need of the hour to regulate the energy and motivation of young souls in right direction for self & societal development. India is largest country in the world with highest number of youth population. As per 2001 census, 41 percent of total population belongs to youth category (13 to 35 years). And out of total youth 2/3rd are living in rural areas. For ensuring sustainable development and nation building the contribution of youth are inevitable. But the today’s youths are facing multiple challenges.

  • No or lack of guidance on career / life planning. This dilutes the energy of youth and builds dilemma on their future. Also it mis-directs the youth force in to negative and useless purposes.
  • Right kind of counseling in the adolescent ages on health and hygiene aspects are essential to build health seeking behavior among youth.
  • There exists a great gap among the opportunities available for urban youth and rural youth. Rural and tribal youth are more vulnerable in economic society, exclusion in mainstream systems is observed to rural youth community.
  • Addressing youth issues in right attitude will serve great impact to human kind.

The age group of the youth is getting defined in various terms by various institutions at global level. Similarly, different age groups of the youth have different set of requirements in relation to their life stage and lifestyle. The expectations from the youth are always at higher order for education and employment. The youth group declaration by various forums and the requirements of different age group are as follows,

Age group as youth

Declared by

15-24 years

United Nations General Assembly

15-24 years

World Bank

15-29 yearsC

ommonwealth Youth Programme

15-34 years

World Health Organisation

16-30 years

National Youth Policy (2012) of India.

The new theme on youth and Development aims at building the youth group with skill and value education in order to make them as a vibrant social capital in the society.

Love blossoms at Karunai Illam

At the age of 79, most of us will feel lonely, dejected and as if we are disconnected from others in the world. But Jean Watson, an old woman from New Zealand was all the way from New Zealand to a small village called Nilakottai, in Dindukal District, Tamil Nadu during the month of September 2012. The day 25th September, 2012, marked the Silver Jubilee function of Karunai Illam that she founded to help the poverty stricken and destitute children in Nilakottai and nearby villages. Age was visible in her face with wrinkles and in her slow paced walk. Yet she is still young, confident and strong by her heart. Above all her life in this world has a definite purpose.

Called by the name by Gene aunty, this woman is very special to the children at the home. The love and affection that the children showered over her and by the other people in the villages who wished their infants to be blessed by Gene, is the testimony of how Jean Watson was very close to their lives.

Jean Watson came to India as a Tourist from Whangerai, North of New Zealand as early as 1984 and travelled to many parts of the country. She loved the country and had the urge to visit it again. She came back in 1986, stayed for some time in Kanyakumari were she got acquainted with one Mr.Subbaiah and Ms.Mariammal in the locality. In 1987 she came back again and happened to visit Nilakottai along with Subbaiah and Mariammal, where she got exposed to plight of the poor children who could not afford for good food and good education. This prompted her to start the Karunai Illam in the same year along with Subbaiah and Mariammal.

The vision of Karunai Illam is to free young and disadvantaged people from the limitations of poverty and ignorance so that they can find satisfaction and enrichment in their lives and express their full potential.

Jean herself started teaching the children. Karunai Illam basically offers

  • Free boarding for destitute children at a children’s home (DHAN Karunai Illam) so that they can attend nearby schools;
  • A model nursery and primary school to give local children a quality education alternative, utilising creative methods to encourage their natural talents;
  • Fees and boarding costs towards tertiary education for academically able former students of the DHAN Karunai Illam

Karunai Illam so far has supported as many as 171 poor children since 1987. Presently Karunai Illam houses 43 children (girls and boys aged between five & sixteen) in a friendly family atmosphere. They are well fed and clothed and go to the local schools. To impart technical skill to aspiring young entrepreneurs Karunai Illam also offers skill training on tailoring, mobile phone repair, computer training beautician training, artificial jewelry making etc., through its community college known as LIFE (Livelihood Initiatives with Functional Education), to equip young people with practical vocational skills (such as tailoring, mobile phone repairing, computer training, beautician courses) so that they can earn a living or supplement incomes in a skilled way.

Facilities: For providing accommodation to the poor children a building was purchased in 1991. The facilities in the house were improved later toilets, bathrooms and dining hall coming into place. The Kitchen got completely rebuilt to suit the needs of the Illam. The girl children were presently house here.

By 2003-04 an additional plot was purchased opposite to the illam in which two large dormitories and care-givers room on a second floor was constructed which housed the boys. Toilets and bathrooms are also constructed. Later the boy’s hostel was constructed in a coconut grove owned by the Illam. Presently the boys are residing in the newly constructed illam.

The boy’s hostel was converted in Karunai-DHAN Nursery school by 6th June 2008. The school which was initiated with 33 students and two teachers now has enrolled 240 children and functions with 17 teachers to educate them.

Marching ahead

The generosity and charitable mind of Jean Watson, led to the growth of this institution over years into a full-fledged home for poor and orphaned children. However the Illam encountered a problem when her local associates running the home started misappropriating the funds. Jean dissolved the partnership and later roped in DHAN Foundation as a partnering NGO. The illam which was functioning as Mahatma Karunai Illam was rechristened as DHAN-Karunai Illam.

The Karunai Illam has enabled many children to go far higher studies and settle in respectable jobs. The silver jubilee function held symbolizes that the Karunai Illam will continue to support more children in the coming years in its way towards the Golden jubilee function. Jean rendered the financial support for this organization individually and later roped in many of her friends and associates in New Zealand. They operate in the name of Karunai Illam Trust and provide continued support and assistance.

Their new local partner DHAN Foundation has been rendering all their support and guiding them for new initiatives. Karunai Illam will continue to shower its love and affection, for the poor and orphaned children.

Celebrating 25 years of Karunai Illam – Nilakottai, 25 September 2012

The children of Karunai Illam and Karunai DHAN nursery school gathered along with Jean Watson and special invitees from DHAN for the Silver jubilee function held on 25th September, 2012. Also present were the old students and the local community leaders. The event started with lighting of the wicks in oil placed in a shiny brass lamp called ” Kuthuvilaku” and prayers by the children from Karunai Illam. This was followed by a short speech by Mr.Khadher, Federation Coordinator, Nilakottai Vattara Kalanjiam, promoted by DHAN Foundation which renders the managerial support to DHAN-Karunai Illam. Jean also delivered her short and sweet speech about the years of struggle to maintain this institution and expressed her love for the children. Then the children and the team were divided into sub-groups to think over and suggest ideas for “Way forward for the Illam”. The groups presented their ideas and said that they will eradicate poverty in Nilakottai and surrounding district in another twenty five years of time. This was followed by the post lunch session, the lunch beingprepared by two of the old children of the illam. The children had their art work displayed in the nearby hall. The creative talent of the children nurtured by the Illam received lot of appreciation.

The event was made more effective with the presence religious persons- two Swamiji’s from Ramakrishna Mission, a Christian Priest and a Muslim leader, which is indication that the Illam functions without any kind of discrimination. The event came to a successful end with presentation of gifts and shawls to persons who have helped the Illam to achieve this remarkable feet during these twenty five years. And in the words of Jean ” I was moved by the appreciation of the Karunai Illam Trust and its partner DHAN Foundation by the community from NIlakottai.

Aiming Big through Micro pension

The public private partnership for sustainable micro-pension system in developing countries since its inception in early 2012 has enrolled already five thousand and more participants in India. This has been ensured through effective collaboration of the Association of Insurers, the Association of Industry-wide Pension Funds (VB), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indian partner DHAN Foundation. These parties met on September 13 at the Covenant.

India is seen as one of the major emerging economies and more than 1.1 billion population. Nighty percent of Indian people are engaged in unorganized work. The growing number of elderly people in the country cannot count on a decent pension. The country has roughly one-third of its population living below the poverty line. To halt the present trend and  ensure a decent living for the elderly people Association of Insurers and the Association of Pension Funds Industry  entered into a unique partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairsia. The Partnership is to cooperate in the sustainable Foundation (micro) pensions developing countries.

The country India was selected for piloting and deployment of micro-pension schemes, for replication of the same in other developing countries. DHAN Foundation is the local partner which has been working with the Dutch insurer Achmea for more than a decade for poverty alleviation through micro-insurance schemes. The present pension initiative builds on the success of earlier micro-insurance schemes implemented through DHAN Foundation. This scheme assures the Indian youth of a decent post retirement life. On 13th September delegates from DHAN Foundation viz. Mr Vasimalai, Executive Director, Mr. Kalyanasundaram, INAFI-India and Ms. Gayathri, People Mutuals visited Netharlands, who came to attend the meeting were given a warm welcome by the board of the Foundation for Sustainable (micro) pensions system. Richard Weurding, CEO, Jan Nijssen, the  Chairman, Liesbeth van der Kruit (CSR Director Achmea), Gerard Belts (director VB), Aaltje the Rose (observer of Foreign Affairs) and Marcel and Beukeboom (head of food security, including financial sector development in the Ministry of Ministry of Foreign Affairs) also participated in the meeting.

Since the start of the project (Q4 2011), by 30 June 2012 already 4869 members have joined in the micro-pension scheme, each of whom contribute Rs100/month (1.42 euro) from their meagre income as deposit into the personal micro-pension scheme. This micro pension is intended to supplement the state pension of 600 to 900 rupees per month. The project aims at covering 25,000 participants in the span of five years and 50,000 participants in eight years in 200 people federations promoted by DHAN Foundation.

“We have a good beginning. The concept seems to work and the board is confident after seeing the enrolment of 5000 participants just in three quarters since inception (8 months) said President Jan Nijssen. Mr. Vasimalai, Executive Director of DHAN Foundation, praised the local (micro-) pension for their commendable work. Interestingly, the largest group enrolled (1,370) falls in the age group of 18 – to 30-year olds.

Interview with our Visitors

Our Organization Achmea has been associating with DHAN Foundation, Madurai, India since 2002. The People Mutuals, an initiative of DHAN Foundation is providing micro insurance services to poor people, who the members of different thematic member organizations, that DHAN has promoted throughout India.  People Mutual provides life insurance, health insurance and crop insurance, designing exclusive products to meet the needs of poor. Achmea Foundation has rendered its support to hospitals promoted by DHAN.

In recent years several of our colleagues from Achmea has travelled to Madurai to support DHAN by sharing the wide knowledge that Achmea has in the field of micro insurance and for cross learning.  Our colleagues had an amazing experience in India, tried to adapt themselves to the Indian culture, the tropical temperature and the spicy diet. The culture was entirely different and they enjoyed the visit to the country. This time it was the other way round. A team from DHAN Foundation visited Netherlands. Mr Vasimalai, Executive Director of DHAN Foundation, Mr.Kalayanasundaram, CEO,  International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions- India (INAFI-India) and Ms. Gayathri, Tema Leader, People Mutuals were part of the team. They were here for cross country learning and for exploring the possibility of new colloborations.

We were curious to know how they felt about our country and the visit to Netharlands. Kalayasundaram wondered how come there are no bill boards and posters in Netherlands, despite being the elections scheduled the day after?. He also expressed his love for buttermilk in Netherlands and his difficulty in pronouncing and remembering Dutch names.

We posed few questions to them and they were glad to give a reply

What do you feel about our country Netherlands?

Gayathri: I’ve been here before to Achmea and every time we visit, the warm welcome given by Annette (Wood Room, Business Development Manager, Microinsurance)is the proof of hospitality of Dutch people. We can feel the hospitality even while landing at the airport. We feel like being in our own home. Even Annette cooks Indian foods for us. Also she was a regular visitor to our organization. Upon arriving we felt glad to see a face which was much familiar to her. The other people in Achmea and in Netharland are just wonderful, friendly and open to us.

Kalyanasundaram: Being from a multilingual country, we could say that we experience less language barrier here. Since all of one here converse in English, which all of us could understand very well. This also gives a very close feeling. We hence feel very comfortable in Netherlands, that too with people here in Achmea.

What is really different in  Netherlands than in India?

Gayathri: The way the things are organized here keeps us wondering. The infrastructural facilities in the country are amazing. Its much better than in our country .We are quite used to the way it is done in India and find it really interesting to see how different it is in the Netherlands.
With respect to the climate, it was a freezing cold here and we found very difficult to cope with the temperature during our last visit. The cold was terrible indeed. This time we have come prepared with thicker clothes, blankets and sweaters.

Kalyanasundaram: The Netherlands is a small country compared to India and you notice that only smaller differences within the country. We have been to north and to the south of the Netherlands before. All the people here speak the same language and the landscape looks very similar. In India, people cannot understand each other as they travel from north to south or vice versa. We have so many different languages. Actually, every province in our country, is a country in itself, with its own language and other landscapes and nature.

What do you hope to accomplish this week in the Netherlands?

Gayathri: We hope to speak to organizations that have matching interests with the DHAN Foundation. We like to share our knowledge and also enter into collaborations. We see this week of visit as an investigative phase through which we can get an Idea about areas of collaboration. We wish our organization continue to engage in developmental works and to provide poor people with wide range of products. For this we are ready to step outside of our country to upgrade our knowledge so that it will facilitate to achieve great feat. The time we spend in Netherlands and the conversations we have with you will help us with this.

Today you were at the office in Zeist, which fell on you?

Kalyanasundaram: The people here behave very informally and relate with us easily. Their easy going nature is what we admire most. At the same time they are seemed to be more focussed in their work and work hard. We were explained here at Achmea how a new work is undertaken and implemented at once. In India any work is done on experimental basis and its takes some time to accomplish a task. We wish that works are done in India in a fact pace as it is happening now in Achmea.  Our colleagues way back in India are always very curious to know  about Netherlands and works done here. On our return we always share what we experienced in Netherlands and it is a fun to share.

Will you come back again to Netherlands?

Gayathri: We hope that our cooperation with Achmea continues for long run. We have much to learn from each other. I wish to visit Netherland again, learn few more new things and share it to others in our country. I also noticed that people here are very keen to know about the works we do and the way we do.  I hope this win-win situation will continue for long time and allow we for subsequent visits.


Achmea is a private company with limited liability. Its statutory seat is in Amsterdam and its head offices are in Zeist, both in the Netherlands. The main shareholders are unlisted European companies and associations with cooperative roots.

Established in 1811 to provide mutual insurance at a reasonable premium, today Achmea (formerly known as Eureko) is the biggest insurance provider in the Netherlands. But Achmea does not remain complacent. Its cooperative roots mean Achmea must remain customer focused, while delivering results to all its stakeholders. Their main shareholders are Vereniging (Association) Achmea and Rabobank, are also cooperative organisations.

Achmea focus more on stakeholder model, encompassing its customers, (distribution) partners, employees and shareholders, with customers first among equals. And, as a cooperative, it believes that it forms an integral part of the communities with whom it operated. This hence enforces more responsibility as a organization.

Dutch Association of Insurers

The Dutch Association of Insurers represents the interests of private insurance companies operating in the Netherlands. The Association’s members represent more than 95 percent of the insurance market expressed in terms of gross premium income. The Association is an independent organisation managed and financed by its members.

The Association has four main tasks as a trade association:

  • Representing its members to the outside world
  • Promoting the image of the insurance industry
  • Providing a platform for sharing and representing
  • Providing services as a  center of expertise for its members

The Dutch Association of Insurers has an executive board and four boards for specific sectors: Working Conditions, Life Insurance, Non-life Insurance and Health Insurance. Each sector board takes decisions on subjects specifically relating to the sector and is assisted by various committees. The Association’s executive board is responsible for general policy and decides on issues of major political importance, even where they relate to a specific sector. The executive board also deals with subjects which transcend the insurance industry, such as consumer policy, corporate social responsibility, medical-ethical issues, crime prevention and control, supervision of the insurance industry and reporting.

Vereniging van Bedrijfstakpensioenfondsen (VB) – Association of Industry wide Pension Funds

The Dutch Association of Industry-wide Pension Funds (VB) was founded on 22 April 1985. On behalf of its members VB promotes the pension interests of approximately 4.7 million participants, over 1.2 million pensioners and 6.8 million early leavers. Nearly all industry wide pension funds are associated with VB.VB’s members represent over 75% of the total number of participants in collective pension schemes. The total investments of its members amount to about EUR 500 billion VB has a key role between members, politics and society. VB is continually occupied with translating the signals of its members to the policymakers in The Hague, Amsterdam and Brussels. At the same time VB monitors the public and points out developments, which it passes on to its members. VB is represented in the European pension umbrella EFRP and is a member of the European umbrella of joint organisations, AEIP.

What is an industry-wide pension fund?

As an employer in, for example, the building sector, retail trade, catering sector, care or graphic sector, you have to join the industry-wide pension fund (bedrijfstakpensioenfonds). You also must have a pension scheme. This also applies if you work as a self-employed person or freelancer in these sectors. In certain sectors your employees are obliged to participate in this scheme.

Heritage 2012

‘Into the Past, Onto the Future’, screamed the posters of the first inter-college development management festival organized by Tata-Dhan Academy(TDA), Madurai, called Heritage-2012. The motto of the event was to take urban India to rural Bharat. And it did just that.  The inaugural function was simple, yet proud. The stage was decorated with traditional ‘thoranas’. The inauguration function started sharply at 10:00AM and was anchored by TDA Faculty Ms.Vijayabharati. Prof. Venkataraman, a renowned authority on Tamil history and culture was the chief guest. Others on the stage were Mr. M.P.Vasimalai, Executive Director, DHAN Foundation; Mr.Ponnu Swami, SDM, National Insurance Corporation, Ms. A. Umarani, TDA, Director and Mr.Vinit Kumar, the student representative from PDM 12. The function started with a prayer rendered by Soumya, Smriti, and Shilpa of PDM 12, and readings by VinaySankar and Garima Mishra, both students of PDM. After the prayer, Mr.Vinit Kumar delivered the welcome speech. Ms.Vijayabharathi then invited the chief guests, participants and an alumnus of PDM, Mr.Anurag Asthana for lighting the lamp of knowledge, culture and tradition.

Ms.Vijayabharathi, described the “uniqueness” of Heritage and explained the concept of 3Ds (do, document, and disseminate) and 3Rs (relate, respect, and relevant). She mentioned that the Heritage concept was seeded by PDM 11 and implemented by PDM 12 and supported by the PDM 13 students. Then she invited the chief guest Dr.Venkataraman to address the gathering.
Dr.Venkataraman’s speech was very inspirational, and focused on the importance of heritage. He raised many historical issues related to culture. He gave an example of how some cultural traits has persisted throughout different eras of civilization in India. He also mentioned that culture can have both tangible and intangible aspects. He also added that, though India as a country is very diverse, it is fundamentally united. He added that culture is the identity of the individual as well as the community.
Mr.Ponnuswami, applauded the event and remarked that “it is a good event and it needs to be continued next year.”
Mr.Vasimalai described how PDM 11 and PDM 12 students had earlier participated in the Yukti event of TSM. From there, he said, the TDA students were inspired to conduct a similar event. Moreover he added that preserving culture and heritage is very important. He told a story of one of his visits to France for a conference. In between events, they had a break, and they played a 400-year-old traditional game. In this way, they were preserving their heritage, and he had respect for that. “Similarly, we have so many different traditions and practices, and cultural games that were played during childhood that are quickly forgotten. Now is the time to change all that, and preserve these aspects of our heritage for the generations to come” added Mr.Vasimalai.
Finally, Mr.Vasimalai declared the event open, and participants proceeded to their respective venues.
Afterwards students moved to the Keezhamattaiyan village for inauguration of Heritage -2012 in the village. The villagers showed their great hospitality with their folk dance and songs. They came with their traditional dress adorned with flowers. First up, they told the history of temple and about its importance in their lives.
The students also joined with them in their traditional dance and folk song. Villagers also provided some light refreshment to all. Then they showcased their traditional games.

Day 1

Medha: The Development Quiz: The development quiz was the first competition to be completed at Heritage 2012. The quiz focused on social and economic development issues. There were 10 participants from four colleges: Agriculture College and Research Institute, Madurai; Thiagarajar College of Engineering; Thiagarajar School of Management; and V. V. College. Event was facilitated by Vinay Shankar (PDM 12), Swadeque (PDM 12) and Birijaprasad (PDM 13). Since the students were from different colleges studying in different disciplines, Medha came as a very interesting competition. All the participants were very eager to respond to the questions about development. The results will be declared today, so be sure to check back!
Best team: This event took place in the afternoon had three preliminary rounds, co-ordinate by Vinit Kumar of PDM 12 and panel judges were Mr.Madhan Kumar, and Mr.Rajan of DHAN Foundation. The game started with “Matka” breaking in front of the main stage and the audience enjoyed a lot. The game was tough, as, out of 8 teams none was able to break the pot. After that, event moved over to the class room. At the end of first day, 3 teams were eliminated and 5 remaining teams would fight it out today.
Marketing of Rural Products: Marketing of Rural Products is the one of the flagship events of Heritage-2012 co-ordinated by PDM students Jitendra and Seema. The participants of this event belong to management, engineering, agriculture and arts background. In this event too, students came from different colleges to participate and they also went to Keezhamattaiyan village and interacted with the villagers.
Students asked about their traditional products and indigenous practices and they observed the condition of village. Different colleges had different rural products to market.  They went with their own ideas but after speaking with villagers they understood about each product like the source of raw materials and idea about each product like whether it is income generating for villagers, easily preparable etc. These sorts of questions were asked by students and they had very good conversation and exchange of ideas. In some cases, students changed their beliefs.
After lunch all participants of this event discussed about the traditional rural products in their team and they gave their feedback how they felt with community and what they learnt from community. They gave their view what can be done by youth to generate income for community. After feedback they participate in the quiz related to rural product marketing. Final round will happen on 12th August 2012, in which each team will present, how to promote their products in market.
SANSKRITI: Sanskriti means culture and in India, it is evolving every day. It is not just about keeping traditions as it is, but changing ways of doing things while upholding what is good. In India costumes vary to a great extent. Each state has their own traditional costumes and attires that are deeply rooted in history, religion, tradition, customs and culture of specific state.
In Sanskriti or the Traditional Dress competition event, a total 12 students participated from different colleges such as TSM, American college, Vivekananda Degree College and TCE. The event was facilitated by PDM students Smriti and Garima. The American college students Gopi Shankar and Senthil came with very ancient attire named as Thodi. They wear only white dress and in different styles.   TSM represented by two girls (Nivedita & Bhomika) came in costumes of girls from Meghalaya and Assam.  Third team from Vivekananda College did an act on “Nattamai”. It was based on an ancient village justice system in Tamilnadu. Later, another team from the village presented different yogasanas. Little children from villages also participated in Sanskriti event. They came in different traditional costumes of Tamilnadu and impressed the judges and all audience.

Chitralekha (Drawing): Colours ‘spoke’ silently yet powerfully regarding poverty in Keezhamattaiyan. The event started with observation by the participants. They also got an opportunity to experience the tradition, culture, traditional games, folk dance, and taste the traditional and delicious food. They were able to identify the issues relating to poverty in the Keezhamattaiyan village from different perspectives. Peaceful and silent environs of Tata-Dhan academy hostel made participants involve fully. Observations, thoughts, and feelings came out very nicely.  Shilpa, Seema and Soumya, all PDM students facilitated the active participation of the students.

Manthan- the debate: This was one of the most interesting events wherein 6 teams participated from 5 colleges. All participants were quite active during debate. There was a healthy competition between all participants and in all rounds. This event helped share the views and arguments of participants.

The performance by the participants showed that the youth have concern about current happenings in India. IN every round, the competition was very tight. In the final round the TCE & TSM colleges selected for the topic-“Is the educational system in India encourages self-improvement or societal improvement. Both side raised lots of points with relevant examples. In the panel, the three judges were Madhankumar, Rajan and Ponnuswami (NIC), facilitated by Liji and Suhas (PDM students).

Day 2

Varnabharathi (Rangoli): The event started with a formal welcome by the Keezhamattaiyan villagers. Participants got an opportunity to experience the traditional games, folk arts and taste the traditional foods. Participants were given a topic “Because I am a girl”. Participants observed, interacted and gathered information regarding the domestic violence and other female issues in the Keezhamattaiyan village. Participants drew the drawings by using the colour powder and flowers.  Colours spoke about the meaning and reasons behind the tears and smiles of women. Women related issues were drawn by the participants and generated interest among the lovers of the art.

Chitraloka(Documentary): Documentaries are like mirrors of our society, reflecting the realities, which many of us fail to see. They are the windows to understand our complex multi-dimensional world. Through Chitraloka participants try to do just that. The focus of the Heritage-2012 was on culture and development, and participants got the topic just seven days before.  Some of the interesting documentaries made by the students focussed on the mobility of people and the trend of forgetting one’s own culture, due to modernization. The ‘Hidden Secret focused on gender discrimination. ‘The Truth’ tried to make a point on equality. Participants from TSM and American college were outstanding. Judges Adhinarayanan, (TDA faculty), and Ponnuswami from DHAN foundation, appreciated them for their attempt.

The real purpose of a documentary film should be on pointing out the problem, so that the audience can think of possible solutions and awareness matters too. Rajeev Ranjan from PDM 12 and Nagraaj from PDM 13 facilitated very actively throughout the process.  TSM student won the first prize and the American college secured the second prize.

Best Team: The four teams who reached the third round were American college, Vivekananda College and two teams of Thiagaraj School of Engineering.  In the third round, the participants were asked to make 4 equal squares from the pieces of papers which were given to them in the envelop.

In the final round, the Vivekananda team amazingly made a big 9 feet paper tower, while the TCE students could not apply the engineering concepts and they did not reach even 3 feet. Since the game was very tough the participants were shown one video of the same game. Finally, the Vivekananda team won the Best Team event. Team 1 and team 2 of TCE got the both 2nd and 3rd price consecutively.

It was very enjoyable and gave good learning experience to the participants.  The judges were Shanti Maduresan, Rajan and K.P Bharti-all DHANites.

Communication with Community: This event showcased the development issues in the villages such as primary education, sanitation, alcoholism, water problem, and child labour. Totally three groups performed- TSM, TCE and Vivekananda. The first performance was by TCE and they took water problem in that village. They did a short play.

The second team was Vivekananda and they took primary education and alcoholism in the village. This group also did a drama. The third team took water problem in that village

Each of them took twenty minutes for the drama. Totally five judges were there including villagers. Mr. Adhinarayanan, Mr. Palanisami and three villagers were the judges.

The first place went to Vivekananda, second place to TSM and third place to TCE.

Talash (Identifying a potential development leader): Whenever you are responsible for managing people, whether as a senior manager, project executive or director, you want to be a leader that others will follow. The leadership quality is the key to get success in all aspects. This event, Talash, was searching for someone who could be a potential development leader who is management savvy, intelligent, and with a unique personal style. These three features are the define a leader. A development leader must be very close to the community, and communities are diverse. Thus, a development leader must be multi-talented, professional, and committed. Talash explored how each participants were “professionally committed” to the society through three steps. Eight participants participated from different colleges.

The event gauged three qualities of a leader; strategies, standing by values and result-orientation. From the situation analysis the panel selected one as the development leader.

PRACHARAN: (Marketing of rural products): Second day of rural marketing started at 10:30 am in which presentation was given by participants from four colleges. Mr. M.P Vasimalai (Executive director of Dhan foundation) and Dr. Damodaran Jena from Tata Dhan Academy were judges for this event. The four colleges participated were Thiagarajar School of Management, Thiagarajar School of Engineering, Vivekananda College and Agriculture research institute. They gave presentation on how to market rural products.  They also gave ideas on how to make the livelihood out of these rural products to make it sustainable.

The products were based on the traditional practice of keezhamattaiyan village which are physiotherapy, cow dung cake, broom stick and mat weaving. These products are not very popular or preferred in urban market but participants came with some interesting ideas to take it to urban and rural market. Participants pointed out these products needs less investment and mostly got from natural resources which are readily available in any village in India.

After each presentation audience and judges asked questions to participants and they discussed about the traditional products which are not getting enough support from market and how to revive these products so we can preserve ancient knowledge and practices for next generations. There are many products which are similar to products presented in events like pot making which are not performing well in market but many communities livelihood depend on this product so India like developing country should give preference to indigenous products so it will bring financial security for rural India.

After all four presentation completed judges gave their evaluation to coordinator of heritage. Each team gave feedback and gave suggestion on how to conduct this event more successful in future.  Each team was curious to know the result of this event and they discussed with other teams and asked opinion on their presentations.  In the main stage where coordinator of heritage announced first prize of this event which is got by Thiagarajar College of Engineering. Second prize got by Thiagarajar School of Management. At end of the heritage all college students gave their feedback about Heritage.

Mudra (Folk Dance): In the HERITAGE, Mudra- the folk dance event is the last event. India is rich in culture; folk dances are one of the representatives of the Indian culture.  All the tribal and village societies have their traditional dances. Mudra was the platform to bring those traditional dances in front of student community.

This event was facilitated by Shweta Hegde of PDM 12 and Parth of PDM 13. In this event, totally three teams participated, and  one guest dance from the side of community. TSM students presented the Gujarat’s rich culture on stage. They presented the “Dandiya” of Gujarat. They got 1st prize. Another dance was a Tamil traditional dance presented by Vivekananda College. This dance performance is unique in terms of showing the balance between music and person.

The motive of organizing such kind of event in Heritage is to provide the space to student community to understand our very basic cultural part.

HERITAGE is not merely an fest, behind this event there are many efforts has been taken, Tata Dhan academy feels that it is proud movement for all that we have taken an initiative which will continue in coming years also.

August 12, 2012 at 4pm   there was the valedictory program of the HERITAGE 2012, including prize distribution for all the 11 events conducted in the two days program of HERITAGE, with the comparing by Faculty event coordinator J.N. Vijayabharati

D.G.Sethuraman, Art and History professor, Madurai Kamaraja University was the chief guest. M.P.Vasimalai, chairman of TDA,  Ms.Umarani, director of TDA,

K.P. Bharati, Programme  Leader of Development tourism in DHAN Foundation, Mr.Vedachalam, Retd.Archiologist, were  on the dais. First K.P.Bharati has given the brief introduction about the over view of heritage.  Then the students from different colleges have given the reflection about the heritage event and also about our TDA. They expressed that, this is their privilege to come and participate in heritage as well as TDA , and this was the overall expression there. This is followed by the reflection from the lecturer of Vivekananda College. Chief guests and other guests were addressed the audience. Then prizes are distributed by guests for students and community. The overall champion has got by Thiyagaraj School of Management. Ms. Umarani has wished all the winners, participants, and the students of TDA. The mentor of the TDA and executive director of the DHAN Foundation announced the closing of HERITAGE 2012 and wished for its continuity for coming year, the program is ended with the vote of thanks by the student event coordinator Shweta Hegde of PDM XII batch.

Dr. Verghese Kurien

Dr. Verghese Kurien, the brain behind White Revolution expired on 9th Septemeber, 2012.  Known has ” Milkman of India” and as “Father of White revolution” , Kurien made India the biggest milk producing country in the world through the scheme ” Operation Flood”. Dairy farming became a largest self-sustaining industry.  The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, became the most successful model of dairy cooperative, brining smiles in the face of dairy farmers in Gujarat and also in other states. The brand AMUL, even now is known for its quality and diversified range of milk products,the achievement of AMUL being milk powder made from buffalo milk . Dr.Kurien’s initial work at Anand in Gujarat Khedar District at a experimental cremary turned into a passion with the support of his mentor and colleague Tirubhuvandas Patel, who later shared the prestigious Magasasay award with him. The success of AMUL model prompted the government to establish the National Dairy Development  Board, to replicate the program nationwide and Kurien was made its chairman. Dr.Kuriens work benefited millions of  rural poor in India and alleviated them out of poverty. Dr.Kurien will be remembered ever for his outstanding contribution.

Plastic Menace

Throwing a plastic bag into the garbage “I know that I am throwing a plastic bag into the garbage.”  That awareness alone helps us protect the Earth, make peace, and take care of life in the present moment and in the future.  If we are aware, naturally we will try to use fewer plastic bags.  This is an act of peace, a basic kind of peace action.

-Thich Nhat Hanh in Peace Is Every Step

We are driven by greed and lust to “to grow” which is the cause of all social and environmental problems we face today.  In the fast paced life everyone wishes to “go for a short cut” so that it will save their energy and time (Ramachandra Guha rightly says in his book “How much a Person Should Consume” about this revolution as ” More people, Producing More, Travelling more, Consuming more and Excreting more”). This has led to misuse of our natural resources, apart from being a cause for growing social evils. The same has happened with respect to usage of Plastics. Plastics now have become a necessary evil.

Can you imagine your life without plastics? They are found everywhere and we use it in many forms. Right from the computers we use, office furniture’s, containers of different sizes and shapes to polyethylene carry bags-all are made of plastics. The fact that they are very much less biodegradable in nature and are a major source of pollution to the environment always remains hidden in its flexibility to put to different uses, and it’s cheaper price. But we really do not know to differentiate “use” from “misuse”. Present trend shows we are misusing plastics- by using them for purposes, where there is always a better option than plastics. How many of us have the practice of carrying a cloth bag or jute shopper bag, which can be easily folded and kept in our bikes/cars and use it instead of depending on the shop keeper to provide a plastic bag for the materials we purchase? In marriages and hotels in India, serving food in Banana leaf is a symbol of respect. Now plastic leaves in the shape of banana leaves, gets used in social functions. The very act spoils the sanctity of the purpose for which banana leaf is used. Whatever act we do we should remain cautious about the impact we make on the environment, other human beings and the society. In this fast world, we put our need and greed first and this is the mother of all problems the world is facing.

Coming to the facts, around 500 billion plastic bags (500,000,000,000) are used worldwide every year and sadly India’s plastic consumption is one of the highest in the world. Plastics are very resistant to degradation and they will take 300 years to photo degrade. The single use plastic bags that are used by street vendors to mega shopping malls are the biggest menace. Whether you buy fruits, vegetables, grocery, foods, clothes and anything purchased in kgs and litres, they come in attractive packings made of one or more forms of plastic. The pepsi and coke plastic containers add more to the problem. Our locally made soft drinks used to come in glass bottles, which are now replaced by plastic bottles. On your travel from office to home or vice versa observe, for a day the usage of these plastic bags and bottles and you will find how they have encroached our life. The  pleasing and delightful colors in which We are driven by greed and lust to “to grow” which is the cause of all social and environmental problems we face today.  In the fast paced life everyone wishes to “go for a short cut” so that it will save their energy and time (Ramachandra Guha rightly says in his book “How much a Person Should Consume” about this revolution as ” More people, Producing More, Travelling more, Consuming more and Excreting more”). This has led to misuse of our natural resources, apart from being a cause for growing social evils. The same has happened with respect to usage of Plastics. Plastics now have become a necessary evil.Can you imagine your life without plastics? They are found everywhere and we use it in many forms. Right from the computers we use, office furniture’s, containers of different sizes and shapes to polyethylene carry bags-all are made of plastics. The fact that they are very much less biodegradable in nature and are a major source of pollution to the environment always remains hidden in its flexibility to put to different uses, and it’s cheaper price. But we really do not know to differentiate “use” from “misuse”. Present trend shows we are misusing plastics- by using them for purposes, where there is always a better option than plastics. How many of us have the practice of carrying a cloth bag or jute shopper bag, which can be easily folded and kept in our bikes/cars and use it instead of depending on the shop keeper to provide a plastic bag for the materials we purchase? In marriages and hotels in India, serving food in Banana leaf is a symbol of respect. Now plastic leaves in the shape of banana leaves, gets used in social functions. The very act spoils the sanctity of the purpose for which banana leaf is used. Whatever act we do we should remain cautious about the impact we make on the environment, other human beings and the society. In this fast world, we put our need and greed first and this is the mother of all problems the world is facing.  Coming to the facts, around 500 billion plastic bags (500,000,000,000) are used worldwide every year and sadly India’s plastic consumption is one of the highest in the world. Plastics are very resistant to degradation and they will take 300 years to photo degrade. The single use plastic bags that are used by street vendors to mega shopping malls are the biggest menace. Whether you buy fruits, vegetables, grocery, foods, clothes and anything purchased in kgs and litres, they come in attractive packings made of one or more forms of plastic. The pepsi and coke plastic containers add more to the problem. Our locally made soft drinks used to come in glass bottles, which are now replaced by plastic bottles. On your travel from office to home or vice versa observe, for a day the usage of these plastic bags and bottles and you will find how they have encroached our life. The  pleasing and delightful colors in which these bags and bottles are made disguise the cruel face behind them. Plastic usage has become very common even in villages. The soft drink pet bottles used invariably by manual labors and office goers who do white collar job, to carry drinking water, they being unaware of the danger behind reusing such bottles.

In India, plastics consumption grew exponentially in the 1990s. During the last decade, the total consumption of plastics grew twice as fast (12% p.a.) as the gross domestic product growth rate based on purchasing power parities (6% p.a.). The current growth rate in Indian polymer consumption (16% p.a.) is clearly higher than that in China (10% p.a.) and many other key Countries. Average Indian consumption of virgin plastics per capita reached 3.2 kg in 2000/2001 (5 kg if recycled material is included) from a mere 0.8 kg in 1990/1991. However, this is only one-fourth of the consumption in China (12 kg/capita, 1998) and one sixth of the world average (18 kg/capita). This consumption led to more than 5400 tonnes of plastics waste being generated per day in 2000/2001 (totalling 2 million tonnes per annum). (Source: Wikipedia)

The increasing quantities of plastics waste and their effective and safe disposal has become a matter of public concern. The increasingly visible consequences of indiscriminate littering of plastic wastes (in particular plastic packaging wastes and discarded bags) has stimulated public outcry and shaped policy. Littering also results in secondary problems such as drains becoming clogged and animal health problems (both domesticated and wild).

There are different grades and types of plastics though externally they may appear similar. The following are the categories of plastics

  • Grade-1 Plastics: LDPETE – Polyethylene terephthalate ethylene used or soft drinks, detergents, cleaner and peanut butter containers.
  • Grade-2 Plastics: HDLDPE – High density polyethylene used in opaque plastic milk containers, detergents, shampoo bottles and some plastic bags
  • Grade-3 Plastics: PVC-V – Polyvinyl chloride used for making tubular pipes, some squeeze bottles,
  • Grade-4 Plastics: LDLDPE – Low density polyethylene commonly used to make grocery bags, most plastic wraps and some bottles
  • Grade-5 Plastics: PP – Polypropylene – Used to make baby bottles, straws, yoghurt and other clouded plastic containers
  • Grade-6 Plastics: PS – Polystyrene used in Styrofoam food trays, disposable cups,bowls, carry out containers and opaque cutlery
  • Grade-7 Plastics: Others: Usually Polycarbonates used in feeding bottles, 5 gallon containers, sport water bottles etc. The new bio-based plastics also were numbered 7

Many of the plastic containers have this number imprinted in them ranging from 1- 7 from which we can identify the type of plastic used.  According to The Green Guide, a website and magazine focusing on greener living, the safest plastics for repeated use in storing food are categories 2, 4 and 5. Most of the Tupperware containers stick to this standard

The dangers of using/reusing different grades of plastics

#1 PET bottles: Look out the soft drink bottles and water bottles we commonly use. They are not intended for or not suitable for reuse. Yes they were made of #1Plastic most often, which are prone to release phthalates on repeated use which are carcinogenic in nature. How many o us continue to reuse such bottles, without being aware of the potential danger. In India, the growth of MNC soft drinks has replaced not only the local drinks, but also has placed two or three of such bottles in invariably every households. It is a common sight in the villages now that, farm laborers carry drinking water in this bottles.From the poor to rich, they use these bottles repeatedly

#3 PVC plastics: These are used to make water pipelines in households and they have replaced steel pipes in houses constructed because of their cheaper price in India. PVC is found in a wide range of consumer products, such as packaging, credit cards, bottles and imitation leather, as well as in construction material, such as window frames, cables, pipes, window blinds, wallpaper and flooring. In addition to that it is used in car interiors and in hospitals, as medical disposables. PVC does not only leak harmful additives during use (recent testing has showed that children can ingest hazardous chemicals from PVC toys etc) – already the production of PVC creates and releases dioxin and PVC products continue to leak harmful additives during disposal, when they’re burned or buried. Burning creates and releases more dioxins and compounds containing chlorine, which further contaminates the environment. Furthermore phthalates are present in this category as well. They are added to PVC to make it soft and flexible. PVC is difficult to recycle, resulting in much of it ending up in landfills – which we all know is the least favorable outcome from an environmental point of view. Some Governments and industry are taking action to eliminate PVC. Danish and Swedish governments are restricting PVC use, hundreds of communities worldwide are eliminating PVC in buildings and many companies such as Nike, IKEA and The Body Shop have committed to eliminating PVC from their products. Many deli items are packed in PVC plastic containers, so swapping foods out of such wraps one the groceries are home is advisable.

#6 plastics (polystyrene, also known as styrofoam). Containers made of polystyrene can also be dangerous, as its base component, styrene, has been associated with skin, eye and respiratory irritation, depression, fatigue, compromised kidney function, and central nervous system damage. Take-out restaurant orders often come in polystyrene containers, which also should be emptied into safer containers once you get them home.

Apart from these larger environmental problems like clogging of water ways and drainage, the probability of its consumption by ruminants and wild animals leading to their death, air pollution due to burning of such wastes and toys made of low quality plastics flooding the market which pose a threat to child’s health are a cause of concern.

The Policy Note-2012-13, by Environment and Forest Department by the Tamilnadu Government, states the plan of the state Government to Reduce plastic pollution as follows

Mass drive for clearing accumulated plastics: A sum of Rs.5.00 crores was sanctioned for conducting a mass drive for clearing the accumulated plastic with Rs.1.5 crore to Chennai Corporation, Rs. 1.5 crores to Directorate of Town 22 Panchayats, Rs. 1 crore to Commissionerate of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and Rs. 1 crore to Commissionerate of Municipal Administration. For this purpose, the SHG?s of women were also involved in the collection of waste plastic and throw away plastic materials. Likewise, the local bodies have established collection centres for the collection of waste plastic materials. All the local bodies are vigorously involved in collecting the plastic materials through public participation. As a result of this activity, the entire plastic materials collected will be reused scientifically.

Relaying Roads using plastic wastes: The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department had taken up the initiative of laying Bitumen Tar Road mixed with plastic wastes since 2003 and completed the works successfully over a length of 1031 Km at a cost of Rs. 47.30 crores. Similar works were taken up in Chennai Corporation and other Municipal areas. Good performance of these roads led to sanctioning of Rs50 crores for the same in 2011-12. Works covering a total distance of 446.50 kms were taken up by 10 Corporations, 119 Municipalities, 90 Town Panchayats and 45 Village Panchayats.

Apart from this Tamil Nadu is one of the first states to ban use of plastic less than 40 microns thick.  At least 4,000 tonnes of carry bags and throwaway plastics are manufactured in the state. A notification issued by the Union ministry of environment and forests in 2011 banned use of plastic sachets for storing, packing or selling tobacco and pan masala . Tamil Nadu is now gearing up to ban use of plastic with a thickness of less than 60 microns. A legislation is in the offing to enforce the new standard. Only in February 2011, the Centre banned use of plastic with less than 40 microns across the country

As Consumers, what we can do?

  • Avoid plastic grocery bags. Always carry a jute shopper bag or a small cotton bag with you. Paper bags are costly and again they may lead to another environmental problem of cutting more trees.
  • If you buy soft drinks in PET bottles, don’t take care of them as your “Pet”. Break and dispose it quickly in a proper manner
  • Don’t litter Plastics and commit educating others about problems of plastic usage
  • Keep your place, residence, village or at least few streets free of plastics. Spread the awareness of dangers of plastic use
  • Avoid using disposable diapers- a practice borrowed from westerners
  • Do not drink coffee/tea/milk in disposable plastic cups
  • Educate your children about plastics and their problems. At least our future generation, therefore use less plastic  than us
  • And last but not the least, be aware of what you are doing against the nature in every activity and this awareness will make you a responsible citizen

Let us do our part. Of course, we cannot avoid plastic, but we can reduce their usage in day to day life considerably.

In short, Practice Judicial usage of Plastic and Preach about its impact on environment to your neighbors and friends at least. Leave the world better for our future generation.

The Folklore unit of Center for Development Communication of DHAN Foundation with the support of  Department of Environment, Tamilnadu organized a campaign to create awareness to people regarding the impact of Plastics on environment to minimize its use.   Two folk lore teams Punidham Kalai Kuzhu , Puyal Kalai kuzhu and another team comprising of students of Fathima College, Madurai were rope in for the purpose. The campaign extended for 39 days in 16 districts of Tamilnadu. Street plays and folk lore dances on the theme were made in staged for the public. The following were the objectives of the awareness program.

  • To create awareness to general public regarding the ill effects of usage of plastics.
  • To create awareness about environment and need for protecting the same
  • To create awareness about the natural resources and life’s on planet earth.
  • Educate public, school and college students to disseminate the above information as a behavioral change communication.
  • Bringing the issue of plastic to the knowledge of local governance to enact proper resoultions to curtail plastic use.

The key messages highlighted during the campaign were clogging of drainages and water ways by plastics, respiratory problems due to burning of plastics, large scale problems to stray cattle including death of animals by consumption of plastics and plastic waste, clogging of waterways leading to breeding of mosquitos causing spread of several diseases like Malaria, Dengue, Chikengunya etc. and packing of hot food items with plastics in eateries causing health hazards.

The general public, members of people federations promoted by DHAN, school and college students were the targeted persons for creating awareness about plastic usage.   Before conducting the street play and dances in the targeted village/town, interacting with local people to know their extent of plastic use and awareness was done. Awareness posters (50-100 numbers) to avoid plastic were pasted  in the villages/towns covered. Advertisement through stencils, announcement to the people through loud speakers and getting the feedback of the people after the street play are the other activities done. Through this extensive campaign nearly one lakh people were covered in seven schools and ninety one villages.


  • Plastic materials in India. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastics_materials_in_India
  • What you can do about plastic pollution. www.greensangha.org
  • Department of Environment and Forest, Tamilnadu, Policy Note 2012-13,Demand No: 15 By B.V.Ramanna, Minister for Environment.


An 11th century Shiva temple in a remote village Vikramangalam of southern tamilnadu, stands as a symbol of forgotten history. This village is an important Heritage village I Madurai District, situated 25 m west of the city. According to historians the village is an important trade center during the Chola regime and is in the traditional trade route to Chera Kingdom.
This village named as VIRAMCHOLAPURAL in the name of the king Vikrama chola Pandiant(Grand son of Great RajaRajaCholan), when the Chola kingdom ruled this place. Later the name got changed to Vikramangalam. A more than 1000 year old Siva temple constructed with the support with all traditions of Pandia Architecture stand in the middle of the village. The stones which were used to build the temple were exceptionally strong, and that’s why the temple can withstand and stand over the 1000 years period. The carved pillars and sculpture in the temple stands as a proof a architechtural knowledge that the traditional people had.
The temple also has stone inscriptions of Pandia King Maravarma Parakirama Pandian (1087 A.D -1104 A.D),Sadayavarma Kulasekara Pandian (1190A.D -1218 A.D) and Sadayavarma Sundarapandian (1261 A.D-1271A.D) who ruled this place was existed in the inner side of the temple wall .This inscription says that the name of this temple is MADUROTHAYA ESWARAMUDAIYAR TEMPLE .Near this temple one Well namely PANDIA WELL IS existing. On the way to Mudalaikulam from this Vikramangalam there is a small hillock namely UNDANKAL where Jain caves with beds and Tamil Brahmi Inscriptions dated back 2 century B.C is exists.
Other than the elders in the village who recalls the historical importance of the place, nobody in the village at present knows the historical significance of the temple and the village. Such heritage places needs be preserved by spreading the historical significance of the site. Awareness and education should be given to local people so that they take care of such village sites.

Climate Change and Food Security

Climate Change

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). In its recently released Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the United Nations, concluded there’s a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.
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Major crop output to fall by 0.5 per cent in 2012-13

Even though the overall agriculture sector is expected to do well in 2012-13, major crop production is projected to fall by 0.5 per cent,  the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE)  has estimated. This is due to fall out in production of non-food crops like soyabean, cotton and rapeseed.
Continue reading Major crop output to fall by 0.5 per cent in 2012-13

Herbal gatherers – Maruthi Mooligai Producer Company


Kalanjiam Thozilagam Limited is an initiative of DHAN Foundation formed with the objective of increasing income of the poor through need and context business interventions. The poor people lack adequate business knowledge and support to start up a business initiative which can greatly enhance their livelihood.
Continue reading Herbal gatherers – Maruthi Mooligai Producer Company