The geographical area of the organisation includes:

Rural Areas
Coastal talukas of

  • Central Gujarat districts : Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Kheda
  • Saurashtra districts: Surendranagar & Bhavnagar

Urban Areas

  • Major cities : Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat
  • Small & Medium size Towns: Kadi, Kalol, Anand, Navsari
At present, VIKAS and its associate organisations are implementing a programme aimed at mainstreaming the marginalised - Hope & Possibilities, since April 2008.

Freedom from bondage and beyond ... is a part of this larger programme, focusing on bonded labourers of coastal talukas of Bharuch district, Gujarat.

Coastal Talukas of Bharuch District, Gujarat

Bonded Labourers
The region suffering from hostile natural conditions (9 droughts in 20 years) has people dependent on low-investment, low-return primary sector primary sector activities. With more than 50% of the work forced engaged in agriculture labour work, agriculture labourers get work for 120 days in a year and that also at less than minimum wages prescribed by the state.

This forces them to borrow for survival, at a rate of 10% per month (120% per year) from farmers with large land holdings/moneylenders. The inability of the family to pay back the debt, forces them further into perpetual cycle of borrowings and bondage, where men become Chakars and women Paniharies. The worst is that this debt passes on from generation to generation.

In 1978 the region had 15,000 such families working as bonded labourers. At present their number stands at 8,000 families.

All these people are Rathods and Vasavas, Scheduled Tribe families.

VIKAS’ Efforts over 33 years
Building Local Human Resource & Institutions
Developed local human resource and established village & Taluka Level organisations (TLOs) of agriculture labourers, small & Marginal farmers with membership of 6,800 men & women.

Income Generation & Natural Resource Development Programmes
Implemented Livelihood & income generation activities which in short term would generate employment, in medium term income and in long term improve the quality of natural resources.
Some of the major projects include

  • Integrated Wasteland Development Programme, 1400 acres, 400 families
  • Watershed Development Programme, 18 villages, 6,500 ha of land area
  • Regeneration of Mangroves, 2,500 ha of land area
  • Savings & Credit programme through SHGs.

Established Knowledge cum Service Infrastructure
During the process of addressing various livelihood needs of the local people VIKAS felt the need to create knowledge cum service infrastructure to promote farm as well as non farm sector livelihood and enterprise development activities. This infrastructure was developed in form of

  • Community Resource Centres (three), one each in
    three blocks
  • Activity Centres (six), two each in three talukas

Each activity centre would service 12-15 villages, while CRC would cover one taluka. All nine CRC and ACs have land measuring between 3 to 5 acres. Three CRCs have building with training and office facilities.

In these efforts VIKAS received support from Government, banks & external donor agencies.

Challenges of Changing Times:
During last one and a half decade, external socio-economic environment in general and internal environment of the coastal region of Bharuch in particular, have been experiencing major changes:

Macro Level
• Liberalisation of the macro-economic environment
• Climate change

Micro Level - The coastal region of Bharuch district is witnessing changes in
• Industrial development in form of two major Special Economic Zones (SEZs)
   being set up
• Agriculture sector is moving from rain-fed to irrigated system with NARMADA
  waters flowing in.

Need for Alternative Response
The above presents new challenges and opportunities for the local people, particularly people engaged in primary sector economic activities and having limited or no asset base, like bonded agriculture labourers and small and marginal farmers, fishermen, charcoal producers, animal rearers etc.

The large number of agriculture labourers should be helped to
  • Freeing themselves from the bondage#
  • access resources to set up service/business
    enterprises to fulfil the needs of
    • agriculture and allied activity,
    • drinking water; and domestic energy
  • acquire necessary skills to work in
    industries and infrastructure development entities
The available asset base created in the region in form of CRCs and ACs would be useful as knowledge cum service infrastructure for the process.

A Report on NREGA
NREGA Report up to
May - 2010
The Intervention

A large number of agriculture labour families belonging to scheduled tribes work as bonded labourers after mortgaging their agriculture land to farmers and/or moneylenders. The process of land alienation is linked with recurring droughts and degradation of natural resources. It is also observed that though the Government fixes minimum wage rate for the agriculture labourers, big farmers never pay the minimum wages. In the region where VIKAS has been working, most of the agriculture labourers get work for hardly 120 to 140 days in a year and are paid a daily wages of Rs. 15 to 18, which rises to Rs. 45 to Rs. 50 during the peek agriculture season.

This leads to labourers becoming contractual labourers, which allows them to get credit advances from their employers. In such cases also, they are not paid the minimum wages fixed by the Government but a very low amount paid on annual basis. Also, in such circumstances, their wives are forced to become Panihari – maidservant with the family of the employer who is supposed to work for the family from six in the morning till late night. Most of the Panihari women are not paid at all or are paid a meagre amount of Rs. 30 to Rs. 50 per month and added to their woes is sexual harassment from the employer. Panihari women have no go but to accept this life as they belong to the poorest strata of the society.

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