In implementing such a project, involving 71 project partners on one side, dependency on the various governmental hierarchy on the other, it is natural that some problems would arise. During the past one year, the following problems were encountered:
As is stated elsewhere in the report, CUTS team have devised a three tier approach in data collection. The first tier is data collection from the state head quarters, where the contact person/s are various secretaries, Department Heads and Project Directors. The second tier is information from the district levels, where the contact person/s are the District Magistrate, Additional District Magistrate (Development) (He is head of DRDA), Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad and the Chief Medial Health Officer. The third tier is at the Block levels, where the contact person/s are the Block Development Officers, Village Pradhans and Tehsildars.
Given this level of hierarchy and elaborate governmental machinery, even if one officer at various levels and departments is a little in giving the relevant information, it would affect the schedule of the project. Further, since the information sought is quite in depth, officials need to spend considerable amount of time with the CUTS field staff. More often than not, CUTS field staff are asked to make many trips to the government offices to collect simple and basic information.
Yet another problem related to data collection is with respect to actual determination of schemes for the target groups. As mentioned elsewhere in the report, there are certain schemes which do benefit the target groups, however come under the broad category of say a Below the Poverty Line Schemes. Hence, a clear clarity of what information we really seek is required, to enable that the right information is sought.
Since some of the schemes are location specific, for example, the Tribal Area Development Scheme, which is specific to the tribal districts and pockets of Banswara, Bhilwara, Sirohi, Pali etc. general details of such schemes are available only at the district levels. Consolidated information though is available at the headquarters, scheme specific guidelines need to be collected from the districts alone. Hence, these aspects need to be looked into carefully, to avoid omissions.
A problem, which is specific to this season, is the issue related to famine and famine relief works. Hence, bulk of the officials is totally pre-occupied with these activities leading to delay in providing information to the staff.
Yet another problem is the issue related to constant and frequent transfer of government officials. The CUTS staff have had to face this problem many a times, and sometimes have had to send another official request to the new man in to seek his assistance for information.
It is only in the recent past, that there has been some development in the level of computerisation of government records. Hence, information sought for the years 1999 and 2000 has not been a problem to collect, however, information for the years pre-1997-98 has been extremely difficult to get. This fact has been openly acknowledged even by the most efficient of senior officers in the government.
However, CUTS staff have been relentlessly following up with all Senior officers, carefully studying various government documents, inclusive of weekly and monthly reports submitted by the project officers to the head office, interviewing various officials to ensure that the above mentioned problems do not affect the project schedule.
A ready database of officials is maintained and updated at regular intervals, and sent to all our networkers. A linkage with the Public Relations Officers has been established to ensure that every information related to transfer of officials concerned with our work, is passed onto us forthwith.
Another very important task which we have undertaken to ensure that we have information of every scheme and project is to collect the minutes of stock taking meetings which are held religious 4 times a year at every block, where an open meet is organised and details of all the schemes, amount allocation and amount actually disbursed are informed. Reactions and suggestions from the common man are recorded and these minutes are available at various Zilla Parishad offices. CUTS teams are in the process of collecting these minutes from all the districts, some of which has already been done.
A total of 70 partner/ partner organisations are involved in this project. These 70 organisations represent 32 districts. Some of these organisations are primarily grassroot level consumer groups and its representatives may not have thorough grounding on economic issues. Hence, there is sometimes the problem of they not having the clarity as to what they really need to collect and not collect. In a dynamic project such as this, there is sometimes some information which is openly available and could be very valuable, but is ignored. This happens largely due to lack of knowledge of policy related matters. On account of this, it has been found that sometimes, the right kind of data is not being collected.
Further, there is also the problem of lack of patience on the part of the partners. In a government establishment, it is quite common that more than one visit sometimes needs to be made to collect even the simplest of information. We have observed that this attitude puts some of our partners off, and so there is a slight degree of hesitation on their part to collect the required information.
However, these issues are being overcome with CUTS staff making regular field visits, long telephonic conversations with the networkers and making efforts to visit government offices with the networkers, in an attempt to bolster their confidence. This has worked out positively and increase in the speed of information flow is an ample indicator to that effect.
Among the changes in the project management, Bipul Chatterjee has been promoted as Associate Director and hence would not be directly overseeing the project. He would however, be involved in providing overall guidance to the project. Srinivas Krishnaswamy, Assistant Director, would now be directly overseeing the project.
The core project team currently comprises of Ms. Archana Saxena, who holds a Masters degree in Extension and Communication, Ms. Mamta Tehilramani, Masters in Human Development, Mr. Deepak Saxena, a Lawyer by training and Mr. Dharmendra Chaturvedi who holds a Masters Degree in Business Management.
In addition to the core team, Mr. S. M. Mathur, Secretary, CUTS, a retired officer from the Rajasthan Accounts Service, provides valuable advise to the project team on matters related to data collection and analysis of data.