Mumtaz Alam | Inclusive India
New Delhi/ Hyderabad, March 14— Coming out of the four walls of classroom, the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) has adopted a village in the Ranga Reddy district of Telangana in order to help the villagers avail benefits of welfare schemes of the central and state governments. The centre has adopted the Aloor village in the Chevalla Mandal under its Inclusion Advocacy Programme. If successful, the CSSEIP will expand it in other areas of the country, said Prof. Afroz Alam, Director of the centre.
Under the programme, the teachers and research scholars from the centre will make the villagers aware about welfare schemes of the central and state governments, help them avail the benefits of those schemes, train some local volunteers from the village to help co-villagers. They will also help the villagers bridge interfaith distance if any.
MANUU’s centre made a pilot study in the month of December last year and then formally conducted two-days camps in the village on 8 and 9 March this year. They interacted with villagers, school teachers and panchayat officials.
Talking to this reporter over phone from Hyderabad, Prof. Afroz gave details about the programme and purpose for adopting the village.
“The purpose of our Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) is not just classroom teaching or research. Our mandate has: extension activities also to know how much benefit the wider mass is getting from our learning; How to promote and disseminate inclusivity; And how to be able to connect with those who are excluded, marginalized and downtrodden. The purpose is to create an inclusive society. That inclusive society will not be created only by virtue of teaching in the classroom,” said Prof. Afroz.
“Therefore, one year ago an advisory committee of our centre planned to work directly with the people who are experiencing exclusion, some sort of discrimination or are actually not able to get the benefits of the welfare and inclusive schemes of the central and state governments. We wanted to know as to what the gap is. It is unfortunate that we cannot have an all-India study. We thought why not one case study and adopt a village and adopt it for one year and let’s see what changes happen with our activity. So we started a program called Inclusion Advocacy Programme,” he said.
“Our purpose is to help the communities to reach the welfare schemes of the governments, to create a policy literacy and to orient them to apply for those schemes. We should be able to facilitate making the process easy and working with them directly so that they should be applying for more and more of these schemes. If there is economic marginality, how to overcome it. If there is social distancing, we can create a dialogue so that the neighbourhood should come together,” said Prof. Afroz.
Talking about the pilot study and how his team will actually help the villagers, he said: “We did the assessment part in December by visiting the village and talking to the people. In the second phase, we sent a team of 10 people to the village, held camps there and stayed there for two-three days. We reached the local schools. We talked to local help groups and NGOs working in the area.”
His team held a meeting with Gram Panchayat officers including Ward Members, Panchayat Secretary and Village Sarpanch regarding numerous initiatives of the Central and State governments and sought their active involvement in making village residents aware of various schemes meant for the welfare of marginalised communities like SC, ST, OBC and minorities including schemes like Kalyana Lakshmi/Shaadi Mubarak, Overseas Scholarship Scheme, pre & post-metric scholarships, Self-Employment programmes linked with the Banks’ financial support and vocational training programmes etc.
The team included Dr. S Abdul Thaha, Assistant Professor, ACSSEIP. Dr. K. M. Ziyauddin, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Dr. Mohasina Anjum Ansari, Research Assistant and several Research Scholars.
“Many villagers don’t even know about the schemes. If some know about them, they think they cannot avail them, as they think they are not for them. Many don’t have connectivity of internet. They don’t know where to get the form, and where to apply, so they have given up. Most of them are labourers and farmers,” said Prof. Afroz.
His team identified 10 schemes each of the central and state governments, asked the villagers if they know about them or not. “If they don’t, we are making them aware about them and telling them they are eligible for them. Those who are ready with documents, we are instantly getting it filled. We have sent those forms to concerned departments on our own,” he added. .
He said that CSSEIP will prepare local inclusive volunteers.
“Our centre is trying to train a few vigilant volunteers from the village itself so that even if we leave the area they shall constantly be sending information and all the things. I am trying to liaison with the state government agencies so that their secretaries should go to the camps and directly listen to the problems of the people. Let the government come to the doorsteps of the people,” he said.
“Idea is that if we can have a model village that is literate in terms of policies and schemes, not only knowing about it but also availing it,” said Prof. Afroz.
When asked about the response of the villagers, Prof. Afroz said: “It is really immense. I had never thought of that. The enthusiasm of the people is huge. The people thought that we are their saviours. It was clear from the way they received us. They looked more energetic than us. They posed confidence in us that we can do something. If your target is enthusiastic, you can’t be lazy. Hundreds of people visited our camps in the two days.”
Will you adopt more villages?
“Until we are able to identify some achievements, we will not expand it. We have a plan to expand it across the country. But first we want to experiment it at one village. We should be first honest in creating a model village. Once we are ready with the model, we can replicate it at other places. We also have a plan to expand it in slum areas,” he said.
Meanwhile, Telangana Home Minister Mahmood Ali visited MANUU campus in Hyderabad on Friday. Prof. Afroz and other faculty members from CSSEIP explained to him their research and extension activities for the marginalised groups and explored the possibility of partnership with the state government. They got assurance of support from the minister.
Prof. Afroz concludes: “My idea is that learning cannot be confined within the four walls. My point is reaching to those who are not able to reach the classrooms. I want to reach them. My whole task is letting them be aware. If they become conscious about who they are, tomorrow they will work for themselves.”
MANUU is a Central University established in 1998 by an act of Parliament.