NASA works for the upliftment of people through participatory development. Each village has sanghams (groups/associations) for women, men and youth at the micro level.
Sanghams are formed with the purpose of providing a common platform for the people to meet, discuss and find solutions for their problems. These sanghams promote leadership, unity, and collective decision making. The lkya Sangham plays a vital role empowering people and driving out dejection.
Evolution of Village Sanghams: In the beginning, NASA started with small groups called Village Sanghams in order to empower Dalits to agitate and organise. Before the intervention of NASA there was no organisation for Dalits in the targeted area. So NASA organised Dalits by educating them about Dalit leader Dr. Ambedkar’s ideology that combats the myths of caste superiority and the sub-human status of Dalits. In the beginning, NASA struggled to mobilise and motivate Dalits. Regular training on human rights and the Indian constitutional and legal provisions was given. The Dalit community in the area was geared up towards systematic struggle to demand its rights and entitlements.
Dalits mostly live in severe poverty, the food they eat is lacking in essential nutrients and is prone to many health hazards. NASA pioneers health education through health camps and immunization programs.
Specialized doctors are enlisted mainly for the treatment of tuberculosis, polio, physical handicaps, and eye diseases. In these camps, NASA promotes preventive medicine and persuades Dalit women to make maximum use of herbal medicines.
NASA teams at an Immunisation Camps Immunizations have considerably reduced the child mortality rate, and healthcare and nutrition education has been widely taught.
Many villages have no transport links so people have to walk tens of kilometers to get to hospitals where they can be treated. Plus, the cost for treatment in the hospitals is so expensive that the poor cannot afford it. Sometimes doctors will even exploit villagers with excessive treatments. NASA has therefore been educating people about herbal treatments and is promoting indigenous healthcare systems through village health workers.
HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic proportions in India, which now has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world after South Africa. Andhra Pradesh has been particularly badly affected.
NASA headquarters stands next to highway 5, the main north-south highway along India’s east coast. Many of the poor men in the area, most of whom are Dalits, migrate along the highway looking for seasonal work, leaving their villages and families for days, weeks or months at a time.
Roadside prostitution is common along the highway and because both prostitutes and clients fail to take precautions many contract the AIDS virus and take it back home.
The Foundation for Rural and Social Development found that around 30 percent of the sex workers on the highway are HIV positive. Shockingly, the study also found that most of the sex workers have children. NASA conducts special counselling sessions for both migrants and sex workers to curb this epidemic.
Interaction with HIV/AIDS Sufferers The NASA team uses cultural programs, filmshows, street plays, and health education camps to educate villagers about HIV/AIDS.
Awareness Camps NASA conducts awareness camps once a month in 15 local mandals (groups of villages). These awareness camps have brought changes among those infected with HIV/AIDS. Now they are able to say that they will not spread this disease to others. This is one way to control HIV/AIDS. NASA continously supports these people in several ways.
Food and Financial Assistance NASA gives financial support to all families affected by HIV/AIDS. It gives 200 rupees for each person and altogether 350 people are receiving financial assistance. NASA also provides food and clothes. NASA feels that it is not enough for the people have no other means to support them.
Councelling Apart from education and awareness-raising, NASA offers individual and group counselling to HIV/AIDS-affected men and women to give them confidence and prolong their lives. NASA encourages sex workers to find alternatives and lobbies the Government to establish resettlement schemes.
Education NASA distributes pamphlets and booklets to the people so they can know more about HIV/AIDS. Quotations by eminent personalities and information on AIDS is printed in the pamphlets.
Rehabilitation Centre HIV/AIDS sufferers are alienated from their homes, villages and wider society. NASA has studied these people and concluded that they are suffering not only from stigma but also from emotional and psychological problems. NASA therefore decided that they need a Rehabilitation Centre which will provide a new life that will make their stay happy and peaceful as long as they live.
India has the largest number of T.B. cases in the world. Half of the adults in India are probably infected with T.B. Two million people develop the disease in this country each year and half a million die of it annually. That means that roughly 1,000 die from T.B. every day..about one person every minute! It kills more people in India than all other infectious diseases. Unless urgent action is taken, more than four million people in India will die of T.B. in the next decade.
It accounts for a third of the global tuberculosis burden and has twice as many T.B. cases as China. Poverty, the social stigma attached to T.B., and the long treatment period stretching for six months have added to this already difficult public health problem. Poor diagnostic and treatment by doctors as well as the emergence of drug-resistant forms of T.B., coupled with the AIDS epidemic, have further complicated the situation.
95% of the people from rural India do not know about T.B. and AIDS. Many are also not aware that T.B. is curable, resulting in many deaths that have been attributed to this disease. The government is also unable to educate people about T.B. as well as the NGOs due to their financial constraints. The medicines are expensive and are not within reach of the poor, as the hospitals are located in urban areas away from many of the villages.
Many of the T.B. affected people resort to selling their belongings in order to purchase the medicine. Because of the cost of medicine and the length of the treatment, many die of utter poverty and starvation.
NASA works to identify T.B. patients and the village health workers take them to the government hospitals for medicine. NASA conducts many health camps and gives education on T.B. NASA uses a slide show and street plays to create awareness of T.B.
NASA has a special program for the differently abled (Physically Handicapped).
NASA conducts health camps, particularly for the benefit of the differently abled, with the assistance of the government and specialized doctors. Over four and a half thousand people have benefited through the 140 self help units established under the aegis of the government-sponsored Scheduled Castes (Dalits) Development Society. Bus and railway passes, physical handicap certificates, and three-wheeler cycles have been distributed by the government in health camps organized by NASA.
There are a number of government legal provisions that benefit the weaker sections of Indian society. But the Dalits and other disadvantaged groups, being illiterate, do not have any knowledge of legal matters.
It is paramount that they understand current legal trends and issues so that the rich and the upper castes cannot scare them by bringing false charges.
NASA is taking legal and police personnel to the villages and giving legal education/counselling and creating awareness on legal matters. The NASA legal Project Officer, as a member of Lok Adalath (the local Peoples’ Court), has settled thousands of false and baseless cases filed against the poor through providing legal education and representation.
Since many Dalits are entangled in legal battles with other castes in which they often lose due to lack of legal aid, it has become necessary to equip them with the knowledge to defend themselves. To emancipate the Dalits, NASA is working to make them self-reliant by imparting knowledge through training and awareness camps, specializing in the areas of health, environment, land development, social forestry, dairy farming, and self-help programs.
Kodavatipudi – Atrocity Case
Kodavatipudi village located in the “Kotavuratla” mandal of Visakhapatnam celebrates the village goddess festival every year. All the villagers will bring different food items for the goddess. Afterwards, Dalit families have to share the food which was given to the goddess and play the drums as part of the celebrations.
Recently upper caste men have barred some of the Dalits from participating in the festival and also beaten them. In 2007, all the Dalit community boycotted the festival by not accepting the food given to the goddess and not playing the drums.
The upper caste men retaliated by destroying Dalit houses and assaulting Dalit families: men, women and children. Dalit families filed a case against the aggressors under the Indian “Atrocities Act” relating to caste-based crimes against Dalits and tribal peoples. But the police did not arrest the culprits. All the Dalit sangams (associations) and their federation (DPIS) protested together with NGOs at the district collector’s office. Afterwards, the police arrested several suspects.
Social Discrimination Two residents of Srungavruksham village in Thondangi Mandal. One morning both went to V.Subdra’s hotel to have tea. She told them to leave the premises and served them tea in separate glasses from other customers. They asked her why she was discriminating like this and she replied: “You are Dalits”.
This practice of “untouchability” is outlawed by the Indian Constitution so both men argued with Subadra. Some upper caste men sitting in the hotel responded by beating them up. Dalit sangham federation (DPIS) leaders filed a complaint in the police station but the police did nothing. The DPIS protested the poor police action and, as a result, police arrested and charged the hotel owner and the assailants.
Immediately after the police action the upper caste people filed a private case against the two Dalit men, another seven men and the DPIS representative. These baseless charges were thrown out of court with the help of the DPIS legal advisor.
Dalits live in small, palm leaf huts in settlements segregated from the main village. Snakes live in the palm leaf roofs and many people die of snake bites
These houses usually get destroyed by cyclones and fires. As they live in very unhygienic conditions, many people have also died of diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
NASA has been instrumental in many housing programs in collaboration with the state government, giving Dalits an idyllic place to live. The housing program has given marginalized Dalits status and identity. NASA villages have sprung up, and many now have kitchen gardens. The government provided internal roads, drinking water, community halls, and drainage.
In some villages the government even laid cement roads with jointly with NASA and village sanghams (associations). NASA and the government also provided support to the Dalits by constructing individual lavatories. So far, NASA has been involved in the construction of over 8,000 houses in collaboration with the government and other donor agencies. Each house given to a Dalit family costs about $1700: half is provided by NASA, half by a matching government grant.
Transformation of Nomad Communities – Before and after the intervention of NASA
New Life Colony – 21 houses constructed for the homeless
There are several nomad communities( castes ) lives in India. Their main profession is begging and doing menial jobs. Their literacy rate is not even 0.05. Their standard of living conditions are pathetic, un-hygienic and homeless. One of these nomad communities (snakers) were living in a corner of a college play ground in un-safe temporary tents. They were living mainly on begging and collecting leftout foods. Their grownup children used to show the Snakes and collect food or small money from the streets.
On an auspisious day the Director of NASA happened to meet and spend few hours with this community at their huts. It was a heart touching conversation. NASA’s community organisation team started working with them as to change their situation. In 2007 the government officials evacuated these people forcibly as to provide security for the landing of the Chief Minister’s Helicopter. NASA’s team and the people met the government officials and requested / demanded land for them to live. They were given house-sites on a hill in the outskirts of Tuni, close to the National Highway-5.
One day the Director while travelling saw the huts / tents on the hill and women carrying water with pots on heads from far away. Immediately, the Director went to their place and felt to provide their immediate needs. With the support of Wells for Life , NASA drilled a borewell and provided drinking water at the doorsteps.
NASA approached government to sanction housing scheme to build 21 houses. With general contributions from supporters, the beneficiaries and NASA worked very hard to complete the construction,. since the trucks could not reach to the top of the hill, they used to download the material in the near by land. Beneficiaries had to lift Bricks, Sand and all other building materials from down to up by carrying on their heads.
Cost variation : The Iron, Cement, Brick, Sand and other building materials costs were almost jumped three times.
On 23rd Feb 2009, we opened these houses. Now they have permanent houses and safe drinking water. Their children are going to the schools and we are working to stop them begging by providing loans through MACS for their livelihood programs (Petty trades). Government has sanctioned Rs.200,000 ($5000) for construction of Community Hall and NASA has to raise Rs.200,000 ($5000) to build this Community Hall.
For hundreds of generations certain groups in India were landless and totally dependent on the upper castes. Their children worked as child laborers. Dalits and other marginalized groups were oppressed. Land is vital for people to progress towards independence.
Since the 1950s, a violent land-rights movement (the “Naxalites”, or “Maoists”) has fought for a wider distribution of land.
NASA is taking the people to their promised land. More than 90,000 acres of land that belongs to the Andhra Pradesh state government is occupied by upper caste communities that wield political influence. NASA has educated and encouraged Dalits to demand the government release the land to the landless, as it should under Indian law, so that they can stand on their own feet and be liberated.
NASA encouraged the acquisition of land in the area, in a massive scale, Christian Aid, Bread for the World, EED supported this program. Several agitations, hard drives, people are now strengthened, united to acquire hill slopes, government lands and ceiling lands from the unauthorized encroachments of the dominated communities.
So far, 28,000 acres has been awarded to Dalits and other landless people thanks to NASA and its success tapping 90% of the funds for these lands’ development from the Indian Scheduled Caste Corporation for Development.
NASA, through its community organization programs, motivated people to acquire, reclaim and develop land. There were many attacks on these people but the fruits of marching with unity towards liberation is seen in many faces. However, 62,000 acres of land remains in the grip of the upper castes.
It has become clear to the Dalits that economic independence is important for gaining social equality. In order for them to become independent they know they need their own land. NASA has encouraged them to claim riverbeds, hill tracks, and other marginal or unclaimed government lands awaiting distribution and then develop them. NASA has installed irrigation systems, the first NGO to do so in Andhra Pradesh state, with the financial help of the government. It has also obtained saplings and cuttings from the social forestry department, and then helped the Dalits turn these wastelands into mango, cashew nut, and coconut groves.
NASA provides the required tools and fertilizers. Currently, about 15,000 acres of land is being developed by the Dalits. However, more than 50,000 acres of land on the hill tops is still available for development. NASA is searching for agencies to support this program.
The German non-profit consultancy FAKT visited India to study the strategies and methods adopted by NASA to attain Dalit Empowerment, in particular through land acquisition and development. They understood that the real empowerment of any section of people happens when social and economic programs go together.
Kakarapalli Village – Case Study In Kakaralapalli village in Kotananduru mandal 45 Dalit families have been living on the village common land (gram panchayath land) for more than 100 years. They have thatched houses and constructed shelters for their animals and until recently did not have any problems living there. In April 2007, however, village elders, with the support of local politicians, occupied the land by obtaining a legal holding.
The Dalit community resisted strongly, stating they had been living on the land for generations. The dispute intensified but the village elders did not start developing the land because of the unexpected Dalit resistance. The Dalits found out that revenue department personnel and political leaders were behind the so-called upper caste community. Then they started fighting against the government and their legal claim to the land.
After many protests and agitations including a furious discussion with the local revenue department, the Dalit community again occupied the land on 29th October 2007, constructed their houses and started living there. Now the revenue officials are examining how to hand over the land to Dalits.
Jilledupadu Village: In Jilledupadu village in Tuni mandal Dalits have no house plots and live on the outskirts of the village in very bad conditions without drinking water, sanitation or transport facilities. In 2007, the community asked the panchayath (village administration) to improve their living conditions but the panchayat said it could not because the Dalit community was far from the village.
From then onwards, Dalits looked for some place within the village limits to construct their houses. But they could not identify any land within the village. In September 2007, revenue officials promised land to the Dalits if they identified any suitable land within the village.
That same month the revenue personnel conducted a land survey and found that a man had been illegally occupying two acres of government land for 11 years. The Dalit Sangham federation (DPIS) took up the case and local officials took back the land and redistributed it to the 20 Dalits families of the village so they could construct their houses.
Self-Help Groups (SHGs) run by sanghams (community associations) have drastically changed the lives of the Dalits.
They used to pawn their possessions for meager amounts, but now every Dalit boasts savings. The sanghams started conducting awareness programs so that the poor were not duped and exploited by moneylenders. These sanghams have saved over 14 million rupees.
NASA has formed more than 3600 SHG groups consisting of 15 women in each group. NASA works to form sanghams while encouraging savings and giving an equal amount to the sangham’s seed finance fund. In the same manner, the government provides funds for self-sustainable programs for women’s groups under the Velugu (Light) scheme.
Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (MACS) NASA has studied the successful Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and started a similar program called MACS (Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies). Under this program, Dalit women and other less privileged women get development funding.
Poverty is the main cause of sexual exploitation of women in rural areas and slums. Women go to the rich to borrow money. The rich then demand a high rate of interest or pressure them for sex. As a result, the number of illegitimate children is on the rise. To break this evil practice, NASA is establishing MACS to rescue the women from exploitation.
NASA has so far helped women to register 3 MACS groups and they are now able to lend money to their members. They are disbursing about 6 million rupees. The loans have served for a variety of purposes such as food security, healthcare and children’s education. The best use of these micro-loans is for setting up small enterprises. The names of the small enterprises are given here below.
Entrepreneurship is the leading business for disadvantaged minorities and so NASA is motivating them, encouraging them, and supporting them financially. NASA has given underprivileged people self-employment opportunities by donating tractors, autorickshaws, trucks, bicycles and other goods.
Because of this program, 3,000 youths have been rescued from the bonded labor system (Paleru). In Thondangi mandal, 260 families making lime powder from seashells were assisted, releasing them from the exploitation of moneylenders.
As part of a micro-credit program, many people are given money to start small businesses like vegetable and fruit selling, basket weaving, and selling fish etc.
NASA plays a vital role transforming the lives of the Dalits by empowering them economically so that they may discover self-sustainable development, self-reliance, dignity, and self-confidence.
NASA’s area of operations is a cyclone-prone area that suffers devastating damage in the storm season. Whenever a cyclone hits, NASA assists with relief operations and helps victims with rice, clothes and other necessities. As part of the rehabilitation program, NASA has so far constructed 3,500 houses for victims of the 2004 tsunami, cyclones and fires.
Cyclone Floods Relief Program
The NASA Project Director has immense experience in Relief and Rehabilitation programs ever since the Diviseema tidal wave disaster struck India in 1977. NASA has been serving the victims of fire and floods through relief and rehabilitation programs. NASA actively involved itself in the cyclone relief and rehabilitation programs in 1990 and 1996 when many died.
After the catastrophic 2004 tsunami devastated coastal Andhra Pradesh, NASA built 800 houses for Dalits. We are working with them to give new life by organizing the women into Self-Help Groups and supporting them through micro-credit programs to take up sustainable development and land development programs to increase food production and income.
The tsunami disaster has ruined the lives of fisher folk and other poorer peoples. NASA helped them under livelihood programs and helped 5900 women to form 560 Self-Help Groups to establish various small businesses. NASA helped communities acquire 420 acres of land from the local government on lease and 600 acres of unclaimed government and marginal lands.
NASA has constructed more than 3,500 houses for various cyclone victims in collaboration with the government. NASA has been awarded the ‘Best Social Service Organization’ on several occasions.
After a dispute between an upper caste women and a Dalit man at a bus stop, the Dalits in Pottilanka village were assaulted and one killed by upper caste antagonists and chased out of the village in June 2008. Because of their dependence on the village, they had no means to survive. At this point, NASA plunged into action to give them relief materials so that they could survive. NASA distributed rice, clothes, and some financial support.
Construction of permanent houses for tsunami affected people:
The 2004 tsunami washed away thatched sheds, fishing nets, and damaged boats in the village of Tetagunta. NASA’s Relief & Rehabilitation program constructed permanent houses. Many people benefitted from this rehabilitation program. For the sustainable development of these people, NASA started Self-Help Groups and supported them financially so they could start businesses. Construction of permanent houses for tsunami affected people in Tetagunta
NASA works with leprosy sufferers who suffer social rejection. Lepers are feared and everyone despises the very sight of them. Millions in India are condemned to be beggars on the streets; to live and die on the footpaths. NASA found 120 lepers living under trees, railway platforms and footpaths in deplorable conditions.
Lepers colony at Jyothi Nagar, Tuni
Lepers are treated as untouchables and their living conditions are heart touching. Their main occupation is begging as many of them could not do any work due to loss of fingers and wounds, they live on the foot paths in miserable conditions.
During 1985 with the initiative of one of the Governing Body Members of NASA the Govt had constructed 32 houses for these lepers on a hill side in the outskirts of Tuni.
In 1985, NASA in collaboration with the government constructed 32 houses to accommodate 120 leprosy sufferers. NASA, in collaboration with the government, constructed 32 twin houses on an 8 acre piece of land for these people and later developed it with internal roads, electricity, drinking water and other facilities. Due to many reasons the houses were in the collapsing stage in four years In 1989 NASA constructed houses for these people with tiled roofs. After a period of twenty years the roofs were collapsing stage due to pest-damage and recurring cyclones. The people are living in front of their houses or under trees fearing the houses will collapse. The government has agreed to contribute $1000 if the beneficiary contributes $1,500 to construct each house that will be more stable. NASA is working towards raising $48,000 to help build 32 houses.
Lepers, very often get sick. When they fall in sickness for several days they take $.10 to 100 loans from the money lenders at 20 or more percent of interest for their lively hood. To repay the interests and small loans they leave their huts and go to Gate way of India, the Tajmahal and many places those attracts the tourists.
To help them with food, medical aid, clothes and other minimum needs we need $15 per person per month ($10 for food – $5 for medical aid, clothes and administration).
Elderly people are neglected and driven onto the streets by their children due to economic stresses and the collapse of family values.
Millions of elderly Indians are dying due to starvation and disease. There are very few old age homes in India, most of which are located in larger urban areas. There is no social security, and utter poverty usually prevents them from supporting themselves. Furthermore, in Hindu culture widows are considered mean and their sight a bad omen. Lower class widows’ futures are bleak as their only option for survival is to beg for food.
The elderly, widows and orphans are among the most vulnerable of all people. NASA looks after them in their distress. NASA gives financial assistance, a listening ear, a helping hand, and a word of love for hope. Young widows are provided with training and sewing machines so they can earn a living. Five dollars per month will give hope, security, medical aid, clothing, food and shelter to an elderly person or widow.