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India: Social action wing of Patna Archdiocese addresses disaster risks

A workshop on Disaster Risk Management held in Patna, Bihar, India on May 31, 2022. (Photo supplied)

The social action wing of Patna Archdiocese has been engaging with the local and federal government, and several international aid agencies to address many issues that are endemic to Bihar. 

Bihar, the third most populous state in India, has some of the lowest indicators of development in the country. 

North Bihar is an annual victim of floods, and South Bihar is drought-prone; the state's population is always at the mercy of disaster, whether natural or man-made.

On May 31, thirty-two animators from various parts of Bihar converged on the Sewa Kendra campus to discuss issues related to Disaster Risk Management. 

Bihar Watershed Development Society (BWDS), run by the Catholic Church, organized the full-day training program on "Panchayat (village council) Development Planning and Implementation in Gram Sabha on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and food security."

DRR and food security are the core issues being taken up by the Church agencies in Bihar for the past 70 years, says current BWDS director and Father James Shekhar.

The capacity building meet discussed DRR for public mobilization, participation and control in implementation at the panchayat (village council) and village levels. 

Planning for disaster needs the involvement of the local self-government machinery. 

The one-day event served to better orient the animators of the Global Programme India project on the structure and workings of various statutory institutions and actors within the Panchayat Raj system of local self-government. 

Animators at the workshop (Photo supplied)

“Gram Sabha or village council meeting is an independent and important unit of a village through which almost all the problems of a village can be discussed and resolved. The government schemes can be shared with the village through the Gram Sabha, and people can get the benefit,” Prabhakar Kumar, one of the resource persons, told the participants.

There are several government schemes for women, children, marginal farmers, and income generation. 

The objective of the animators under the project was to enable the village committees to access these schemes in a planned and motivated way. These resources, if used by the beneficiaries wisely, would help them reduce the risks of disaster. For example, those benefiting from a rural housing scheme in a flood-prone village could plan their houses with a raised plinth to keep them above the flood water.

Project coordinator Dr. Yashwant Singh, talking about the expansion of e-governance and digital information, pointed out there was less scope for 'middle men' siphoning the money.  

He said, "If you are eligible to get benefits from any government scheme, and you apply correctly, then there is no one who can stop you from getting it." 

He added, indicating that animators should explain to farmers how they can check State government schemes on the government portal. - Frank Krishner  


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