Dhara Sansthan – for social justice in India

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with the organziation Dhara Sansthan, struggling for a free society, based on social justice and gender equality, and without exploitation. Would like to thank Dr. Mahesh Panpalia, Chief Executive of Dhara Sansthan for his detailed answers to our questions.
How was Dhara founded and what are its Main Objectives?
Ans. An Incident in the district hospital of Barmer in 1985 inspired a young boy by the name of Mahesh Panpalia to take a life of social service, which he is committed to even today.
He saw a bhil boy whose whole body had burnt. His ailing mother was helpless and without money. He collected some money and got medicines for the boy. Initially it started work by providing medicines and treatment to poor patients in the Barmer District hospital. The organization got formally registered in 1989, thus began the story of Dhara
Vision: To create Exploitation free society on the principle of social justice and gender equality
Thrust Areas:
1.       Health
2.      Women empowerment
3.      Education
4.      Microcredit
5.      Income Generation
6.      Programme
7.      Relief Work
DHARA strongly believes that effective work in the long run cannot be done without community participation. Even funding should be participatory and in course of time all the resources must be locally generated   
The organization is working in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan where people live in dhannis. The organization makes field visits in Scorching sunlight. It has inspired me to work hard and also to work in adverse circumstances. Being a grass-roots organization, Dhara always has financial problems but they are never formidable. This has taught us to perform even under financial constraints
Objective of the organization:
·         Creating awareness of various health issues (including reproductive health, female infanticide, gender discrimination, service delivery points etc.) in the community (especially women and adolescent girls)
·         Capacity building and sensitizing women (including Panchayat raj institute members and traditional birth attendants) for local leadership
·         To organize rural women (Mahila Mandals) and involve them in the process of development
·         Harvesting of Rain water and storage in Improved Storage structures to provide safe, clean and optimum drinking water for the rural community of the district.
·         To increase accessibility of schools especially for deprived girls
·         To bring the change in health seeking behavior of the community and utilization of health centers by the community
·         To disseminate information and experience of different projects and activities
What are the main social and economic issues in your region of intervention?
Ans. Social Issues in Barmer: All Social Problems are situations which have injurious consequences for Society
Barmer District as well whole Rajasthan Suffers following Social issues:
1.       Child Labour
2.      Child Marriage
3.      Domestic Violence
4.      Female Foeticide
5.      Untouchability
6.      Illiteracy
7.      Social Taboos
8.     Addiction of Opium-Doda
9.      Male dominant culture
10.  Dowry 
11.   Gender biasness
12.  Caste dissemination issue
Economical issues in Barmer: Barmer is a district where people fully depend on rain based agriculture system due to Barmer is a part of Dhar Desert and no provision of Lake, River, Well etc People store rain water in Tanka for drinking purpose through the year No other substitute available.  In every three year Barmer affects from Drought and People specially men migrating for wants of jobs and for survival of their family
Issues for Agricultural Development in the district are: water shortage, formation of sand dunes due to wind velocity resulting into heavy soil erosion and depleting productivity of lands.
Large livestock offers opportunities for development of livestock based agro processing industries, like sheep wool carpet making, using animal waste products like hides, skins, bones etc. This industrial base should be strengthened. There is need for arresting decline of small ruminant population. However, livestock is largely migrating for want of drinking water and fodder shortage.
Cultivable wastelands and fallow lands are quite high, not put to any productive use because of large average holdings. Soils are sandy of poor water holding capacity and low in nutrients. Cropping pattern is dominated by low value cereals, particularly bajra and gaurseed.
The development strategy has to be eco-system based. It should integrate various sectors/ sub-sectors keeping in view the desertic conditions.  
In what ways do you promote community empowerment and how do you promote women’s empowerment?
Ans. Dhara is working towards changing social, economical and political status of women in Rajasthan, where status of women is going down tragically. In some part of western Rajasthan cases of killing of infant girls have come up. According to Census 2001 in all the districts of Jodhpur region, the gender ratio is very low, indicating tragically low status of women. The educational level of women is very low and in case of Dalit women it is much lower. Violence against women is very common in the area since time immemorial and it is going up recently. Women have no liberty to take the decisions and no rights over home resources.
Dhara believes that there is strong need to work intensively on women issue to bring about positive social change. Owing to male dominant system and social environment, violence against women sometimes takes the social sanction. Dalit women are in more problems.
In this rather dismal scenario, Dhara has taken several initiatives for empowering women:
1. Formation and Capacity Building of Women Self Help Groups
2. Advocacy against Women Exploitation
3. Advocacy on Food Safety and Right to Work
4. Disminnate Awareness related to women empowerment through various plat farm/ Manch
5.International Women’s’ Day are celebrated on a massive scale every year to instill solidarity among women and highlight concerns of women on the issues like domestic violence, social exploitation, infant girl killing, etc.
Is child labour a major problem? In what ways do you address this issue?
Ans. Children are future citizens of the Nation and their adequate development is utmost priority of the country. Unfortunately, child labor engulfs children across the world.
According to The 2001 national census of India Number of child labor aged 5–14 to be engaged in hazardous occupations. Many children are “hidden workers” working in homes or in the underground economy
Children are employed in both formal and informal sectors. Among the occupations wherein children are engaged in work are construction work, domestic work and small-scale industries. Incidentally, agriculture is not only the oldest but also the most common child occupation worldwide. Some of the industries that depend on child labor are bangle-making, beedi-making, power looms and manufacturing processes. These industries use toxic metals and substances such as lead, mercury, manganese, chromium, cadmium, benzene, pesticides and asbestos. Child labor is very harmful and wholehearted efforts to eliminate this should be done
The negative impact on the physiological and psychological levels of children includes specific concerns of child labor and its consequences on mental health
The term “child labor” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical-mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
Education is a very important part of development. Children who are drawn to child labor are basically driven because of economic deprivation, lack of schooling and engagement of family for daily needs. Studies have found low enrollment with increased rates of child employment. Schools are the platform for early intervention against child labor, as it restricts their participation in menial jobs. Hurdles in this approach are economic reasons. Unless economic change is brought about, the children will not be able to attend the school. Child labor can be controlled by economic development increasing awareness and making education affordable across all levels, and enforcement of anti child labor laws.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
Ans. Yes We Cooperate with local authorities and institution in align with Local authorities doing all the activities and also initiate to work with other institutions and organization jointly.
We are member of many local/state councils which help our organization to fulfill our objectives and vision /mission
1. Member of CLG, Police Kothwali, Gandhi Chowk, Barmer
2. Committee member of District Execution Committee (Secondary Education)
3. Member of FIAN, Rajasthan
4. Member of District Lok Siksha Samity, Barmer
5. Member of Mukhya Mantri Jal Swawlamban Abhiyan, Barmer
6. Secretary Thar Sadak Surksha Samiti, Barmer
7. Member of District Level Human Trafficking Unit Police Department, Barmer
8. Member of District Level Girls Policy, Women and Child Development Department, Barmer