Sphere India along with the support from Mahatma Phule SamajSeva Mandal (MPSSM) inaugurated a series of training sessions through webinars for sarpanches in 12 districts in Maharashtra.
The trainings will build capacity of sarpanches to better implement the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), especially in the COVID-19 environment. The trainings will also focus on enabling sarpanches to establish village disaster resilient committees, to better prepare villages for any future emergencies and disasters, indirectly benefitting 46 million population
The speakers also focused on important aspects such as Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the rural employment and migrant workers in Maharashtra and how to prioritise women participation in disaster management and development activities.
Welcoming the participants, Vikrant Mahajan, CEO, Sphere India said, “This training programme of sarpanches in Maharashtra for disaster risk reduction and mainstreaming in MGNAREGA will not only help prepare for Covid-19 and other pandemics but also help with livelihoods. The learnings will help in other states as well. It will go a long way in disaster risk reduction of villages in Maharashtra.”
Speaking in the webinar, Pramod Zingjade, Chief Functionary, Mahatma Phule SamajSeva Mandal, said, “Training of sarpanches on MGNREGA will ensure funding for development activities in every village. MGNREGA can be effectively used to ensure efficient disaster management, while at the same time, mitigate the effect of loss of livelihoods in the aftermath of COVID-19’.
Addressing the audience, Col. Vishwas Supanekar (Retd.), Director, Centre for Disaster Management (YASHADA), said, “Sarpanches should be trained on identifying the risk faced by each village. It is also important to mainstream disaster risk reduction in area development plans, while disaster management should be a subject taught in all schools across Maharashtra.”
On making sarpanches key stakeholders in decision making in disaster management, Major General Manoj Kumar Bindal, Executive Director, National Institute of Disaster Management said, “Given the traditional wisdom of sarpanches, their knowledge about the needs of their constituents, and their sensitive understanding of issues, they should be empowered to become key stakeholders in decision-making processes at the district-level. This training aims to build their capacity and confidence in ensuring that their voices are heard.”
Neelam Gorhe, Deputy Chairperson, Maharashtra Legislative Council, elaborated upon the role of women in disaster management, and initiatives taken by the Maharashtra Government in response to COVID-19 pandemic. She said, “Awareness generation is the key to ensure disaster preparedness. Due to discrimination, women are not empowered to influence decision making, and therefore, this training shall prove useful. The Government of Maharashtra has released a general resolution, asking for special Gram Sabha meetings to be held on the 15th August 2020 to address issues faced by women. Such initiatives shall be held in the future as well, to understand the needs of the women in the state.”
She urged that the civil society should develop a mitigation plan for livelihood generation to face emergency situations, and share the same with the government. Gorhe has offered her support in coordinating with MGNREGS department, Government of Maharashtra, to ensure disaster risk reduction activities are incorporated in the list of approved activities under MGNREGS, while she has offered her help in ensuring swift disbursal of job cards under MGNREGS. She reaffirmed that the Government of Maharashtra would continue to undertake efforts to provide relief to those affected by Covid-19, and urged the corporate houses to utilise CSR funds to support in the response activities.
Building community leadership and a chain of trained community cadres through the formation of Village Disaster Resilience Communities can help harness the resilience and resourcefulness of the community to cope up with exigencies while simultaneously ensuring local ownership, and considering them as proactive stakeholders and not passive targets for intervention.
In the concluding remarks, Paritosh Mulay, Advocacy Manager, Sphere India, elaborated the way forward actions, stating that the training activities shall commence soon, and information of the same will be made available publicly.