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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09MUMBAI269
2009-06-24 05:15:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Consulate Mumbai
Cable title:  

EDUCATION AND POVERTY PROGRAMS FAIL TO REACH RURAL THANE

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  ECON  IN 
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RR RUEHAST RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHBI #0269/01 1750515
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240515Z JUN 09
FM AMCONSUL MUMBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7281
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 2503
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MUMBAI 000269 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON IN
SUBJECT: EDUCATION AND POVERTY PROGRAMS FAIL TO REACH RURAL THANE

REF: New Delhi 552

MUMBAI 00000269 001.2 OF 004


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MUMBAI 000269

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON IN
SUBJECT: EDUCATION AND POVERTY PROGRAMS FAIL TO REACH RURAL THANE

REF: New Delhi 552

MUMBAI 00000269 001.2 OF 004



1. (U) Summary: In rural Thane district, just thirty miles
from the towering skyscrapers of Mumbai, Congenoff found a
variety of common development challenges in three tribal
villages, where government intervention is incomplete or
non-existent. Here, some tribal communities struggle to
maintain adequate shelter, earn livelihoods, and receive potable
water and electricity. Several NGOs are active in and around
these tribal villages, providing health and educational
services, but their approach is piecemeal, and dependent on the
goodwill of volunteers and donors. This cable describes the
lives of several tribal communities who live mostly beyond the
reach of the Indian economy, and where the lack of government
services remain a continual development challenge. End Summary.



THANE DISTRICT -- IN THE SHADOW OF MUMBAI

-------------- --------------




2. (U) Thane District, 21 miles from Mumbai's international
airport, is considered part of the Greater Mumbai Metropolitan
Area, a region that includes upwards of 17 million people. In
the rural areas of Thane district, however, many state and
central government development programs have only sporadically
reached its residents. The district is 27 percent rural, with
18.12 percent listed as coming from Scheduled Tribes and 5.18
percent from Scheduled Castes (those traditionally disadvantaged
and thus eligible for special government programs to lift them
out of poverty). Nearly one in five Thane District residents is
in the "below poverty line (BPL)" category, meaning they earn
less than 356 rupees (7.44 USD) per month per person. For
tribal people across Maharashtra, the figures are worse: 56.6
percent of tribal people live below the poverty line according
to the central government's Planning Commission.



Prem Seva Mahila Mandal

--------------




3. (U) Congenoff met with Stella Morais, director of the NGO
Prem Seva Mahila Mandal (PSMM - Organization of Love and Service
for Women) in Kalyan, a city two hours from the financial center
of India, Mumbai. Morais, originally from Tamil Nadu, and her

husband from Kerala have lived in Kalyan for over thirty years,
where her husband owns a construction company. Founded eight
years ago and in some ways a fledgling organization, dependent
on the goodwill of volunteers, the Morais personally fund the
activities of PSMM, which they run from their home. The
organization has no singular focus, but rather tries to make a
difference in the lives of women, children, construction
workers, brick kiln workers, tribal villagers, orphans and
prison inmates in Thane district. While district-wide the
literacy rate is reportedly 81 percent, Morais reported that
very few could read in many tribal villages. The tribals, all
landless peasants in this area, have little if any economic
means and suffer from malnutrition and lack of safe drinking
water, she said.



Children of migrant construction workers miss out on school

-------------- --------------




4. (U) The Mandal started its work with outreach to the
children of migrant construction workers. As they have no
regular home, the children have never attended formal education,
according to Morais. India has a right to education law, and
each child is entitled to attend school, but many of these
nomadic families do not know their rights and the children are
reluctant to enter a strange environment, Morais said. With
Morais and two of her volunteers, Congenoff visited the camp in
Kalyan where construction workers and their families live in
small metal shacks, roughly 10 x 10 feet, with dirt floors, in
the shadow of the construction projects where the parents work.
Morais has a team of volunteers who work with the children four
to five hours a day to teach them Hindi or Marathi, depending on
their place of origin, and basic math and reading skills. She

MUMBAI 00000269 002.2 OF 004


accepts that there is little they can accomplish given the
transitory nature of these families, but her work aims to give
them a foundation and basic survival skills. During Congenoff's
brief visit to the site, the children were enthusiastic students
in their make-shift classroom, a dirt floor with a roof over it,
proudly demonstrating their ability to count, add, and sing
songs. A seven-year-old girl displayed her betrothal necklace
-- Morais explained that the child is already married, but will
not join her husband until she matures, at approximately 13
years of age. Though child marriage is illegal, Morais noted
that it occurs often in very impoverished areas.



Tribal villages lack basic necessities

-------------- --




5. (U) Fifty kilometers beyond Kalyan, Congenoff visited three
tribal hamlets, where social and living conditions became more
rudimentary as the city receded. At the first, Shailothea Gaon,
home to Katkari tribals, most of the homes had brick or cement
walls and tiled roofs, but those further from the road were
mud-and-stick constructions. The sturdier homes were built
under an Indian government program years ago, according to
Morais. There were few men in the community other than the very
young and the elderly; others had left to find work on farms or
in cities, according to Morais. This hamlet, with about 50
young children, had a one-room school for children up to the
fourth grade, but the middle school was far way, so most quit
school after fourth grade, she explained. The community had a
water pump about 100 yards away, but no electricity, toilets or
solid waste services and the paths between the huts were
littered with trash, mostly food packaging and other plastics
that do not decompose. Health conditions were poor; being close
a major road the villagers can get to a primary care clinic in
town, but they often do not know they need a doctor until it is
too late, Morais lamented. Morais brought clean bandages for a
man with leprosy. Though the disease is treatable, the tribals
do not know about modern medical care and there are few outreach
services, she said.




6. (U) Further from Kalyan, in a small hamlet called Madliwadi,
the Ma-thakui tribe lives in mud-and-stick homes and the few men
left in the village, all elderly, were busy thatching the roofs
to prepare for the upcoming monsoon season. The huts generally
had two rooms, more spacious than many of the slum dwellings in
Mumbai, but there was no electricity, no water, and no
sanitation or solid waste disposal. The river where villagers
would normally draw water was dry and the women had a long walk
to a distant pond to draw water. PSMM is trying to get a well
dug for Madliwadi, but Morais complained she has not been able
to get government assistance. Though there was trash lying
about the village, there was far less packaging material,
evidencing the remoteness from urban centers. Morais reported
that the village had a health worker with a seventh grade
education who would check on the people and encourage those who
needed care to go to the primary health center, but the clinic
was far away. There was no school in the village and Morais
reported that few children made the almost 2 mile trek to the
nearest elementary school. The people subsist primarily on rice
and dal, according to Morais, as there are no stores nearby and
the villagers have little income to purchase food. Chickens and
baby goats roamed amongst the huts, but the villagers said they
were for eggs and milk to sell, not a source of protein in their
diets. In addition to selling eggs, the villagers made money
selling fire wood. There was a large stockpile of fire wood,
approximately 150 by 20 feet, at the entrance to the village.
Now little forest cover remains; the villagers cut so many trees
they permanently damaged the soil's ability to retain water from
the monsoon season, Morais noted. She said they also cut
precious teakwood trees for fire wood, not recognizing the value
of the timber.




7. (U) At the third hamlet, Thakipatar, up a hill and even
farther from a water source, the men must walk two hours each
way to fetch water at night; when Congenoff arrived, the women
were just returning with water in the heat of the afternoon.
Morais said the water pots were often half full of mud. There
was no local food source and the villagers subsist on rice
alone, Morais said. Education facilities were also lacking;
there was a building designated as a pre-school center, but no

MUMBAI 00000269 003.2 OF 004


primary school was within walking distance for the children.




8. (U) A nurse from the local government hospital, who was
visiting the village at the time, said that the nearest health
service for these people was 21 miles away and the villagers had
no transportation to get there. She brings medications when she
can get transportation to visit, but she said her efforts are
often in vain as the people do not take the medication or follow
medical advice. Many of the villagers are severely malnourished
and have blood iron levels as low as seven, where 12 is
considered normal, the nurse reported. When she can get them,
Morais brings the villagers protein packets from AmeriCares, an
international relief organization with offices in Mumbai. This
hamlet had a tiny doctor's office, but Morais said the doctor is
rarely ever in. Although the medical building had an informal
electrical connection (a hook and bare wire hung over a power
line), there was no electronic medical equipment inside, only a
fan and a light. None of the huts had electricity. There were
pipes for a water delivery system, but no storage tank at the
top to complete the system. After supporting the Shiv Sena
Member of Parliament in five consecutive elections, the
villagers reportedly voted for the Congress candidate this time
in hope that water would finally be brought to the hamlet.



No Rural Employment Guarantee Program for Thane villages

-------------- --------------




9. (U) The National Rural Employment Guarantee program (NREGA),
was established to guarantee 100 days of employment at the
prevailing minimum wage to any rural household across the
country. (See reftel) However, according to the Government of
India's website for the Ministry of Rural Development, the
people in rural Thane and many other areas have not participated
in the program. The GOI reports that 164,449 tribal households
in Thane have been issued job cards under the program, but as of
May 2009, none were provided employment. (Note: Seventeen
other districts in the state similarly report no benefits have
been provided under the scheme. Whether this is due to the
tribal's lack of knowledge of their rights, or that the program
has not been fully implemented in this area - or that the Rural
Development Ministry has yet to update its website -- is
unclear. End Note.) Though none of the people in the villages
we visited reportedly participated in the NREGA, one sign of
progress was that each hamlet had a single-lane paved road
leading to it; the villagers, however, have no vehicles to use
on such roads.



HIV/AIDS reaches remote villages

--------------




10. (U) PSMM also attempts to coordinate medical care for some
of the villagers, arranging transportation to clinics or
hospitals, or for private doctors to see patients on a volunteer
basis. PSMM also works with an orphanage on the Mumbai-Nasik
highway, Mukta Jaivan, which houses and cares for 115
HIV-positive children. A second orphanage along the same
stretch of road, Naya Jaivan (New Life), reportedly houses 400
children of lepers and 100 HIV-positive children. Morais
readily acknowledges she is not a medical expert and cannot
diagnose the medical conditions of the people. She was unaware
that the spread of HIV from mother to child is preventable.




11. (U) Kripa Foundation, another NGO working in Thane
District, runs a clinic and hospice center for people affected
with AIDS. Since the clinic opened its doors in October 2002,
in the town of Vasai, it has cared for over 1500 patients,
according to Jimmy Amor, a caseworker at clinic. Amor said that
some of their patients come from small villages 20 to 25 miles
away. They come to the clinic only when they are in the final
stages of the disease when there is nothing doctors can do for
them, he lamented. The disease makes its way from Mumbai to
these remote hamlets, often carried by men who traveled to the
city looking for work and contracted the disease, Amor explained.


MUMBAI 00000269 004.2 OF 004





12. (U) Comment. Although India has made great effort to raise
the conditions of those in poverty, the breadth and depth of the
problem is profound. Government programs for rural areas such
as the farm-debt waiver program have no impact on tribals who
are landless peasants; other programs, such as NREGA, have not
yet been fully implemented in Thane and elsewhere. In
Maharashtra, there are huge governance gaps which continue point
to discrepancies between what is promised and claimed, and what
is actually delivered. As elsewhere, India's dynamic civil
society and volunteer organizations have stepped in to plug some
of the gaps left by the government's inattention. However,
staffed by well-meaning citizens, these efforts are not
coordinated or planned, and their impact is piecemeal and often
unsustainable. While corporations and civil society groups will
continue to play a role in development, India's mammoth
development challenges can only be met by a committed,
efficient, and accountable government. End Comment.
FOLMSBEE