Disha - a Social Change Tool

December 24, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Disha, a social organization, which came into existence way back in 1984. But what preceded its formation is what gives a better view of the changes that unfurled. Mr. KN Tiwari, who is the Director of Disha, while still a student in late 70s started realizing the need to work for the development of the suppressed. He entered local politics and got rigorously started taking up issues of social deprivation in a village near Dehradun. One of those was of Bonded labour in which the poor, scheduled class people were stuck in the vicious cycle of Bonded labour. The loans taken by forefathers continued to make their children several generations later slave to the zamindars. Principal amount remained principal forever and the labour that continued for generations was considered payment of interest.

The misery continued despite the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 by the Ministry of Labour. This clearly highlighted the difference in Constitutional adoption of laws on paper and the societal ideology, where jungle raj of the powerful eating on weaker continued. This is where Mr. Tiwari stepped up to it. While making an effort when they protested to the injustice being met, the rich annihilated the poor by cutting their only source of livelihood. That is when the poor were provided with different means of employment generation for themselves. Obviously they were financially supported by different Organizations who acted as financial facilitators. The dependency reduced and the financial and physical security was provided. This clearly showed the need to bring about a transformation in the lives of the people at the grass root level and not just constitutionally. Though the law was enacted, the implementation was forced. As the the period of two decades passed, the next generation also turned much more accommodating. This is the process of evolution.

The people there expected Mr. Tiwari to continue to play a bigger role. Generally politics comes to the people who are either mighty rich or mighty powerful, the Goondas, powered by violence. The third category is of those like him who get backing of the public in numbers. But for him, entering active politics and joining a political party meant to be a puppet and to say yes even to the things which he would never have agreed to. Evidently, there is a lot of corruption, use of power in this space, some one like him would not have adhered to. Following his extraordinary efforts, he got a chance to visit Japan along with a few others select philanthropists like him. He was astonished to find the level of development of even their villages to be better than our cities. He returned back saddened with the thought of miserable state of affairs in his country. On his return he got a chance to train in Calcutta to work for Social Organizations. He learned about their functioning, requirements and decided to form a Social organization. So far he was living on stipend of Rs. 750 -/- but now needed funds for this. When he returned to Dehradun, he wanted to start this organization and he got an opportunity in the form of an invitation from Cendit (Centre for Development of Instructional Technology) to start the process in Saharanpur. He lived with dilemma on starting this huge initiative in a completely new place with different requirements which were required to be well understood before being worked upon. Finally in '84, came up Disha.

Disha received contribution from local bodies. They also filed for foreign contribution under FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act), 1976. They started several iniatives which included training to traditional weavers at Pather village, organization of baan workers (who are dalit landless), stitching training school (for dalit and muslim women), education centres for men and women, and health training. Disha noticed the problem of Water logging in 15 villages and guided affected people to take up the issue with relevant government departments leading to reclamation of 16,000 hectares of land, improving lives of the people.

The organization guided people to form SHGs to empower them to start the businesses through their own inventiveness. They demand increased dramatically and the banks which had not managed to penetrate enough in those times failed to meet the requirement of SHGs. This lead to forming a sub org of Disha called as Disha India Micro Credit, a non profit company Several other initiatives have also been taken like promotion of gender equality, women empowerment, green revolution, livelihood promotion. Folk media and communication unit runs to help people become more aware.

There are a lot of things which have been done but the most crucial beneficial outcome of the work done by this org is the ideological changes in the mindset of all classes of people to be more accommodating in nature, bringing harmony in the lives of everyone and towards a more inclusive growth. The fight is not against any religion or caste but against to level the opportunities to the people. This is what Disha's vision says, "Disha envisions to establish an equitable society where there is no discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion and caste and which provides equal social, economic and political opportunities."

On Social Orgs page under Saharanpur district of U.P., more information can be found out. Their web address is www.dishain.org

Source: Indian Matters!


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