A “Roof over their Heads” – Mallikarjuna Poojar

In the year 2007, floods hit the Northern Karnataka districts, destroying crops, and property and rendering several families homeless. Fifteen such families were given temporary homes in the school campus of Mallikarjun’s village. 

Five years later, in 2012, these 15 families continued to live in the temporary shelters in the school campus. The villagers and schools teachers wanted to evict them from the school campus,

Moved by their situation, Mallikarjun decided to take up their cause. He organized the families for collective action. Under his leadership, they appealed to Tahsildhar and then the Deputy Commissioner. As a result of this effort, the government sanctioned 15 Ashraya houses to these families.

Mallikarjuna Poojar or “Malli” as he is known to his friends, has been a RIM Samaj Shilpi since 2012. He works in 6 villages spread across the Ron and Naragund taluks of the Gadag District

Mallikarjuna started his work with a brief survey of the villages and developed a good rapport with the communities. His target population is children, women and youth. Needless to say in the villages that Mallikarjun works in the notion of child rights does not exist. Mallikarjun’s work with children centers around child rights.

Children: 0-6 years: The focus of his work with this group is to strengthen, the Bala Vikasa Samithis, a committee that is supposed to monitor the working of the Anganwadis. In most villages it existed only on paper. In all the 6 villages, Mallikarjun has made the members aware of their roles and responsibilities. They now hold meetings regularly. Initially he used to help the aganwadi teachers with the regular health checkups and maintaining the registers, now the Bala vikasa samithis have taken this role. Twelve severely malnourished children were treated under the Bal Sanjeevani scheme and have now moved out of the severely malnourished category.

An Anganwadi in Malli's village
An Anganwadi in Malli’s village

Children 6-14 years:: He has formed five childrens’ clubs. Through these clubs children are being made aware of their rights as children. In November 2013, special gram sabhas – children’s gram sabhas were held in two panchayats. Children participated actively in these sabhas and highlighted their school related issues: drinking water, lack of a compound, toilets and other facilities. The panchayat took cognizance of these issues: One school got a toilet, another got drinking water and the third got a compound sanctioned. Mallikarajun has also been motivating villagers to ensure enrollment and regular attendance of their children in schools.
He has also enabled 92 children get scholarships. Ten children who wanted to appear for the Navodaya and Morarji Residential School Entrance exams, received coaching.

Women: He has motivated the women in the villages to form into Self Help Groups(SHGs) and he has trained them on the concepts and functioning of SHGs. All the groups’ accounts are opened in the nationalized banks and other rural banks. Besides, savings and credit, Mallikarjuana has made these groups aware of other services and entitlements. Most of the women have got job cards under MNREGA and also got some work under the MNREGA. He has informed them of the Bhagyalakshmi scheme and Maternity Benefits.

Youth: Youth groups have been formed in all villages with a number of members ranging from 10 to 22. The youth meet once a month and discuss about the issues faced by young persons. Some of the youths were sent to training in Hassan, Bangalore. They were made aware of MNREGA, child rights, child marriage and development issues pertaining to the village. Eight SC/ST students have got scholarships for higher education, 3 young persons got support to learn driving and have now got jobs as drivers. 36 election cards were made during the period and 64 job cards were obtained. All the youths participated in the gram sabhas. During the Assembly elections in Karnataka in 2013, the youth groups together with other community members created awareness on “your vote is not for sale” and urging the community not to take money for their votes.

A Village Meeting
A Village Meeting

MNREGA: Mallikarjuna has formed groups called the Karamikara Sangha in five villages to make villagers aware of their entitlements under MNREGA and demand for work and payment. Under MNREGA 121 toilets were built in these five villages. 13 houses were constructed for those who had lost their houses in a flood three years ago.
These groups has also ensured the selection of the ‘Kayaka Bhandu’ . Kayaka Bandhus are two-three persons selected by the Gram Panchayaths to oversee the work of MNREGA.

True to the role of a Samaj Shilpi, Mallikarjuna has been forming, strengthening and empowering village level committees and people’s groups to demand for quality services. His work has also received visibility with line department officials and panchayat members.

Mallikarjuna is 36 years old and is a native of the Bagalkhot district of Karnataka. He moved to the Sharola Panchayat of Gadag district, where his wife hails from. Both Mallikarjuna and his wife Chennamma have dedicated themselves to the development of the villages in the area. Mallikarjuna has extensive experience in grassroots development activities having worked with various NGO initiatives in Bellary. Having lived and worked in the backward areas of North Karnataka, he has a very good understanding of the problems of the region.

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