Nanofinance — Jan, 2015

Report from Nano-finance by Aamara Biswas
By Ranu Mahanti and Mamata Misra
On Jan 8, 2015, more than 800 women from nearby villages came to a workshop, held in a tent by the roadside in the village Dengapola in Jagatsingpur. The women, dressed colorfully, sat quietly for more than two hours and carefully listened to the speakers. This was perhaps the first workshop where the real workers, coordinators and beneficiaries of the nano-finance loans, were invited to the podium to speak and other invited guests were listeners. How can a loan of mere 500 rupees change someone's life? Coordinator Kamalini Devi, who has distributed two lakh rupees in loans to 700 women, explained with an example. "The first time, we planted cucumbers with 500 rupees which gave us a yield of 9000 rupees. The second time, we spent 1000 rupees in farming eggplant that yielded 16,000 rupees. The third time, we planted watermelons and that brought us 40,000 rupees." Many women reported that along with personal income and savings, there has been an increase in self-confidence, courage, happiness, respect from others, and family peace. One woman explained that family fights would start when the woman asked for money for a necessary family expense and the husband would refuse saying that there was none. Now instead of fights there is peace and laughter. Participation in nano-finance is expanding every year to include many different villages. According to the coordinators, the default is less than 1%. Aamara Biswas has helped more than 8000 women. So what was so unique about Aamara Biswas? How and why Nano finance is so successful and no problem occurs in collecting the loan money? Someone asked.  (more…)

The Rejuvenation of Odisha’s Cultural Foundations

The Rejuvenation of Odisha’s Cultural Foundations: Pala, Ravana Chhaya and the Lakhmi Purana

Satya Mohanty and Lalu Mansinha

Pala is a valuable cultural tradition of Odisha, combining theatre, Odissi music, highly refined Odia and Sanskrit poetry, wit, humor, and social satire.  Ravanna Chhaya (shadow puppetry) may well have originated in our part of the world millennia ago, and then spread through South and Southeast Asia.  Both of these art forms may be facing extinction under the relentless pressures of modern entertainment media.  In 2008, SEEDS (Sustainable Education and Economic Development Society) initiated a project to help sustain and enrich both the art forms.  The project has several facets: (a) popularisation; (b) training; (c) scholarship; (d) publication; and a (e) plan for self-sustainability after a few years.  There have been sponsored workshops, seminars and performances.  The overall goal of the project is to work with Odisha-based groups, artistes, and scholars to strengthen what may be called the “cultural infrastructure” of Odia society, deepening the links between the villages and the urban areas and creating channels of communication about progressive, democratic social values and ideals.