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South Asia

A “Problem Tree” Assures that Complaints are Quickly Addressed in Tamil Nadu

Kalesh Kumar's picture

The multi-colored ‘problem tree’ on the branch of a Banyan tree in Elamangalam Village in the Kadaloor district of Tamil Nadu grabs your attention. You see it as soon as you enter the village and English letters ending in immediately piqued our curiosity despite our lack of knowledge of the local language. This poster, placed around the Village Poverty Reduction Committee (VPRC) and established under the World Bank supported Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (TNEPRP - “Vazhndu Kaatuvom”), in Elamangalam and other villages in Tamil Nadu gives the title, addresses and phone numbers of all the responsible project leaders from the government and the World Bank to help solve any complaints.

This innovative Complaint Redressal System provides a timeframe within which a complaint is expected to get a response. If unsatisfactory, the plaintiff can appeal to a higher authority. Having clear time lines for escalation and resolution of problems is an essential cornerstone of good governance and social accountability in projects that are implemented at the grass root level. The last row of the poster has the name and email address of the project leader from World Bank and suggests 48 hrs as the time available for her to provide a response! The former project team leader confirmed to have received about 20 emails from across Tamil Nadu in her Washington office over two years reflecting the utilization of the system.

How Do You Connect University Students with Street Children in Dhaka?

Kaori Oshima's picture

“Jante Chai,” which means ‘want to know’ in Bengali – is a project that connects university students with underprivileged street children with the goal of mutually enriching their lives. My colleague Afra and I came up for the idea for the project when the South Asia Region of the World Bank provided an opportunity for young people to design and implement our own project known as the Emerging TTL Fund.

We not only wanted to conduct a survey on the lives of 200 street children, find about their living standards and access to services, we also wanted to connect them with university students, who are comparatively privileged. This provides an opportunity for the students to engage in practical experience and learn about their communities and for the street children to learn about potential services that are available to them. Our core idea was to include local youth in the development process in their communities which is critical to sustainable and inclusive development.

What Dream Does Kamlabhai Aspire for from $300?

Kalesh Kumar's picture

We were in Kachnaria village, about 45 kms from the Biora Block headquarters in late May. Kachnaria has a population of 2600 with 290 households identified as extremely poor and supported by the Madhya Pradesh Poverty Initiatives Project, which has created 12 Self Help Groups of women thus far. My good friend Raman Wadhwa from the state project office and other colleagues were with us when we me with the Village Development Council (VDC) members.

Raman and I joined the VDC meeting as guests and the Sakhi (a lady from the village who takes care of bookkeeping for the rest of the group) formally introduced us to the group as observers and instructed us to sign the attendance registration along with other members. The proceedings of a community group that has learned over the last few months to stand on their own feet and lead respectful life has many intricate lessons for federating and finding a common place for everything that is significant in life, including prayer in the beginning in Hindi (“Humko man ki sakthi dena… man vijay kare… “roughly translated as “Oh God, Give strength to our mind, for the mind to be victorious… make ourselves victorious over our mind for us to cheer the victory of others...”) their long log books of money brought in by each Self Help Group (SHG) and their inquisitive interactions ensure that money taken by members as loan was spent for productive purposes.

A Bridge Across Poverty for $30,000 in Chapran Village, India

Kalesh Kumar's picture

Chattarpur district in Madhya Pradesh state of India is famous for the Khajuraho temples. About 40 kms from the district headquarters is large village called Chapran, which is surrounded by minor tributaries of the river Ganges and the backwaters from Lehsura dam, causing the village to become like a water-trapped island, particularly during the monsoon season.

A few years back, the only option available for the villagers was to walk along a railway bridge to cross the surrounding water. Unfortunately, a blind turn along the railway track made it impossible for a passer-by to see if a train was oncoming, until it was too late. To avoid disaster, they often had no option other than to jump off the 12 metre high bridge or risk losing a limb or their life by getting crushed under the train.

Laxmibai’s aged eyes crinkled with tears as she narrated the tragic story of her son-in-law to us: “Five years ago Raju, who was 25 years old, had come to our village on the eve of a festival. It was monsoon season and the village was surrounded by water.” Taking a deep breath, she continued, “On his return home, he was riding a bicycle along the railway track, to cross the water. Suddenly a train appeared around the blind turn … some laborers who were working in a nearby field later told us that he didn’t have time to even get off the bicycle. We had to collect his body in a sack, there were limbs all over. Had there been an overbridge or any other arrangement to safely cross the stream, this tragedy would not have happened.”

At 80, Thimmakka Has Planted More than 8,000 Saplings

Kalesh Kumar's picture

I was in Karnataka, travelling to the village of Kudur in Ramanagara district, about 35 kms from Bengeluru (formerly Bangalore). The dusty road leading to Hulikal and Kudur village seemed monotonous, but for a four kilometer stretch, it came alive with massive trees, spreading shade and providing home to innumerable birds and animals. This unique pattern of the line of trees attracted everyone's attention and appreciation. That's when accompanying officials told us about environmentalist Saalu Marada Thimmakka.

Thimmaka was married young to a landless laborer Chinnappa and they made their living tilling land and cutting stones. Despite a long wait and countless prayers and poojas, the couple did not have any children. The personal suffering coupled with snide remarks of the society that looked down at childless couples as a curse from gods that lead them to a unique engagement that is now widely recognized.

Moving Mumbai into the Future

South Asia's picture

India's largest city, Mumbai, holds the record for some the world's most crowded trains and congested roads. With the help of the World Bank, Mumbai is revamping its transportation systems, embarking on one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the world. Resettling 100,000 residents and building new roads and train tracks.

Moving towards a 'Digital Bangladesh'

Rubaba Anwar's picture

“My country finally owns me!" was the delighted reaction from a high level private sector official to the possibility of a national identity system in Bangladesh. A lot of brain-wracking thought went into the possible economic benefits of such a project.

The sleepless nights of complicated financial analyses and exasperatingly fruitless brainstorming sessions that reach a point when you are not willing to say anything until you find something that will make the rest of them jump on their chairs, make things very difficult sometimes! But, the answer was there, short and simple. Such a refreshing start to an interview for the purpose of identifying the probable benefits to service delivery agencies of having access to a near-immaculate database of citizens, was hardly anticipated.

Rolling out robust, digitized national ID (NID) cards to 100 million citizens over a period of five years is the daunting task ahead for Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. One may argue about the novelty offered by this initiative when Bangladeshi citizens with voting eligibility actually have NIDs since late 2008. A solid counter argument would be the “digitized nature” of the sophisticated NIDs of ‘digital Bangladesh’, enabling machine readability of biometric citizen information embedded in the card, as a replacement of the paper based, easily faked cards with little printed information and near-alien photos that gave rise to popular groups like I hate my NID photo” on Facebook!

Social Contracts Promoting Bangladesh Local Governance: Learning From the Field

Nilufar Ahmad's picture

Under the Bangladesh Local Governance program, social audits are being conducted in Union Parishads (UPs) for strengthening social contract between the citizens and their local governments. A weekly TV program "Amader Union" or Our Union was launched by TV Journalist Shykh Seraj, who is documenting and broadcasting these social audits. This is generating lot of interest among both rural and urban citizens. The UP functionaries are also keen to participate in these social audits, so as to showcase their good work and responsiveness to citizens.

I observed a social audit in March 2011 on a LGSP scheme (a 350 feet rural road with brick-soiling in Sarabo Mouza, Kashimpur UP, Gazipur district) conducted by the citizen group (CG). The CG conducted a social audit at the local market by this road. The CG put a large poster detailing the Community Score card (CSC), that had questions and possible responses indicated by symbols. Symbols were used as a large number of rural poor are illiterate. The scores are given over a total number of 100, so that people can distinguish bad performance (below 40%), medium (60%) and good (80% or more).

Tuberculosis: A Pre-Historic Disease in Modern Times

Saurabh Mishra's picture

We will not make any serious inroads to reduce incidence unless we address poverty, crowding and stigma.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a social disease and a syndrome of poverty. The epidemic has evolved and so has its treatment, yet TB mortality cases are reported to almost two million people around different pockets of the world. It was a standard epidemic since antiquity and continues to infect at least nine million new individuals in the first decade of the 21st century.

Historically, TB has been one of the major causes of mortality worldwide and as recently as 2009 claimed approximately 1.7 million lives globally. Approximately 11-13 percent of these individuals are also HIV positive and of these, almost 80 percent reside in the African continent. However, incidence rates are falling globally very slowly in five of WHO’s (World Health Organization) highlighted regions. The exception to this is the South and South East Asia belt where the incidence is stable. These facts demonstrate that the race is being won in some quarters but the finishing line is still a mere dot in the horizon.

Bravo Bangladesh! Instilling a Culture of Results

Naomi Ahmad's picture

My village is beautiful and I have lived here all my life. Even though life can be hard, I don’t want to go away.” Eight-year-old Zannati lives on the front lines of climate change in her cyclone-ravaged coastal village of Nishanbaria on the Bay of Bengal. When she speaks, you feel her determination and see the fire in her eyes.

The embankment holding back the sea, part of 480 kms of embankment repaired and reconstructed by the World Bank, is the only protection her village has from cyclones.

Shabash Bangladesh (Bravo Bangladesh) – a photo exhibition showcasing development results in Bangladesh – tells the story of Zannati and many other Bangladeshis, serving as a visual backdrop to the first Country Performance and Results Review (CPRR) in Dhaka on April 13, 2011.

The CPRR was the first high-level review to take stock of the results being achieved under the Bank’s FY11-14 Country Assistance Strategy (CAS). This event was part of wider efforts to instill a results culture across the Bangladesh program, from the project level during implementation support, to the portfolio and strategy levels. It was also an important step in enhancing the Bank’s accountability for results.