"USHARMUKTI" - Watershed Development at Paschimanchal Districts

UsharMukti, a newly introduced partnership between Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF) and a group of Civil Society Organizations to bring about positive changes in water situation in the rain-fed areas of Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Birbhum, Paschim Medinipur and Paschim Bardhaman. As measures of ensuring water security the partnership will endeavour to rejuvenate the decaying rivers of Ajay, Mayurakshi, Damodar, Darakeshwar, Kansai, Shilai and Subarnarekha and their tributaries through focussed interventions in water conservation and harvesting. The interventions will also aim at improving productivity of land by soil and water conservation measures. Plantation with mandatory soil-water conservation structures will form major part of the work. So, will be the activities in ensuring multiple livelihood supportive interventions in the identified vulnerable households. There will also be efforts at nutrient management for the land and flora through appropriate composting measures on one end and through cultivation of pastures on the other.

Through this partnership we are looking at a very comprehensive set of activities in planning, implementation, participatory management, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation for a four-year time period.

Mahatma Gandhi NREGA will be the prime mover in the partnership with its resources in implementation of the hardcore programme for providing employment to the wage seekers and developing sustainable productive assets. BRLF, a registered society initially floated by the government of India will bring in professional support in planning, capacity building, facilitative support in implementation, monitoring and evaluation. All the CSOs partnering in Ushar-Mukti will be paid by the BRLF with no direct cost implication for the state. However, the human resources brought in through the partnership will be completely used by the districts to keep focus on the deliverables and their achievements.

The Blocks identified for this intervention in these Six districts have been notionally grouped into intensive (11 nos) and non-intensive blocks (45 nos). In practice there will not be much of a difference between these two sets of blocks and all such blocks will be covered with focussed interventions from the very initial stage of the partnership. However, there will be a difference in the form of direct manpower support from BRLF. There will be a set of seven CSO functionaries in each of the focussed blocks responsible for facilitating different processes including capacity building of Stakeholders. These seven people located in the intensive blocks for constant facilitation and support will also reach out to the non-intensive blocks to support the block and GP administration in developing plan and its implementation apart from regular impact assessment documentation in similar lines.

Work in all these blocks and Gram Panchayats will be centering around the rivulets and streams to bring greater flow of water there even in the drier seasons. There will also be conscious efforts to ensure percolation of water in the catchment areas of these streams so that both surface and sub—surface flow can be rejuvenated.

Identification of land chunk for the intervention will follow the watershed model. Micro watersheds (2365 in these 56 blocks) will be identified or work will be taken up in already identified watersheds. There will be ridgeline treatment along with interventions ln mid land and the valley. Naturally the approach will be from ridge to valley, although there might be simultaneous interventions at different levels.

All the principles of Mission Water Conservation in MGNREGA will be followed in the intervention areas and not less than 70% of MGNREGA fund will be used for activities supporting soil, moisture and nutrient conservation.

The thrust on plantation with all the associated principles of IBS plantation, Briksha Patta in plantation on common land, linking bio-manure production to plantation, opting thematic plantation in specific concentrated areas, promoting indigenous varieties and varieties having good potential of economic return for plantation will continue to be in focus.

It has also been decided that in the entire state in this current financial year itself there will be multiple livelihood interventions through MGNREGA and wherever possible in convergence with other programmes for a group of 10 identified households per Gram Samsad. This will thereafter be widening to include 20 more vulnerable households per Gram Samsad to be supported. Under UsharMukti there will be conscious effort in identifying these 30 households per Gram Samsad and their priorities for livelihood activities.

Following will be the responsibility of the district, blocks and the Gram Panchayats.

  • The DPC will organise a district level workshop for grounding the project in the district. The workshop will involve the BDOs, line departments the programme implementing agencies and the representatives from the CSOs.
  • The district should also identify existing micro watersheds in the coverage area and share a comprehensive database indicating the extent of watershed, quantum of land, households associated with those land chunks and other relevant information. The database may please be shared with the state.
  • The immediate list will thereafter be supplemented by a more detailed baseline survey which will be the responsibility of different stakeholders in the partnership. Time frame for doing such baseline and collection of necessary data may also be decided upon. Exact format for the baseline survey will be devised and shared directly by the CSOs concerned as agreed by the state.
  • For coordinating implementation of different activities from planning to monitoring, there should be one specific person (DHARASEVAK or Watershed Volunteer) for each identified micro watershed. This person will be taken out of the existing pool of NREGA supervisors residing in micro-watershed area with commitment and appropriate educational qualification. We are not giving any specific floor or ceiling as to the educational qualification of Dharasevaks. The spirit is, they should be capable of keeping records, interacting with the people and relatively greater inclination towards watershed-based activities. The Dharasevaks will be selected by the Gram Panchayats/Blocks (as decided by the district) and the names are to be communicated to the concerned CSO. There will be no commitment towards the status of Dharasevaks in the human resources of MGNREGA and they will only be recognised as supervisors amongst the supervisors. In implementation of MGNREGA they will receive semi-skilled wages based on person-days generated as applicable to any other supervisor. In addition to that there is a provision for output-based incentive to Dharasevaks from the fund provided by the BRLF through the CSOs for a total amount of Rs. 2500 stand over a 3-month initial DPR preparation period. After that initial investment they may be continued to be used as a regular supervisor with necessary work-based wages. In the incentive part the State Government or any of its subsidiary organisations including the Gram Panchayats will not be involved.
  • In post selection phase of Dharasevaks there will be training for them as well as for the technical personnel of the GP and selected SHG leaders.
  • Immediately after training the process of preparation of DPR will commence. Part of this, will then be incorporated in the AAP of the Gram Panchayat for 2018-19. DPR will only be accepted when at least 1/3 of total area in the watershed is included for treatment in a comprehensive way.
  • For monitoring of the project there will be monitoring committees at the level of the district, block and the Gram Panchayat. For the district level monitoring, the district convergence committee may he given the role with inclusion of the project CSOs of the district. Likewise, at other levels also the convergence committees may be entrusted with the task of monitoring Ushar-Mukti after incorporating the CSO representatives. Monthly meeting of the committees at all levels are requested.

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