Our main aim is to bring about change. Until society learns to stand on its feet, change will always be a distant dream. Hence, SPSS looks to focus on spreading awareness regarding citizen-friendly government schemes and people’s rights. SPSS was born out of a struggle in August 2011 that exposed corruption in the NREGS in Ratnauli in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.
Corruption is the natural ally of lack of awareness: in tandem, these two wreck society. This is why we began Bihar MNREGA Watch (BMW) — to monitor the functioning of the NREGS in our village. Eventually, SPSS emerged. SPSS encompasses more villages and schemes, but is imbued with the same basic principle: to spread awareness and bring about change.
SPSS’ continuing success is simply because of the translation of our principles into reality: wherever we work, corruption has reduced. People are more aware — we use both conventional methods like rallies and sabhas and innovative ones like our mobile radio program to disseminate information.
Our experience has also led us to try out new approaches to fighting systemic issues. The government is run by a combination of elected representatives and the bureaucracy. In our a day-to-day life in the village, these two pillars are manifest by the Mukhiya (village head) and the Panchayat Rozgar Sevak (PRS) respectively. Initially, we tried to apply pressure on the PRS and his bosses to ensure we obtain our rights.
However, this did not lead to the results of our satisfaction. With time, we realized that the Mukhiya held all the cards: it was he who was ultimately responsible for all decisions made in the scheme; it was also he who we had voted in to represent us; finally, it was he who controlled the bureaucracy.
A clean Mukhiya had the potential to fight the bureaucrats, change the system and create an enabling environment for many government schemes. We have seen this in our villages — in Ratnauli, in Mahant Maniyari — where we have consistently applied pressure on the Mukhiya via petitions, dharnas and RTIs. Here, the NREGS works well. Demand for work is actually registered by the PRS. Work is provided on time. Even payments — with minor hiccups — arrive.
Our dream is to ensure that the spark that lit in Ratnauli should transform all of India!