B.L. Manjunatha, D.U.M. Rao, Dipika Hajong, R.Roy Burman and Rashmi Singh
Deendayal Research Institute (DRI), an NGO established in 1969, has been working for the upliftment of the poor and the underprivileged in the Bundelkhand region in central India. In January 2002, DRI initiated Village Self Reliance Campaign (VSRC) with an integrated approach to rural development comprising components of agriculture, income generation, entrepreneurship development, health, education and litigation free villages. The key component of the VSRC is the Samaj Shilpi Dampatis(SSD), a newly wed graduate couples who have a sense of commitment towards community service, and live and work with villagers for a period of five years. SSDs act as nodal point for all development interventions by DRI. This research study was undertaken in Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh and Satna district of Madhya Pradesh to study the challenges faced by SSDs in working with villagers.A case study was written to document the complex socio-cultural customs and beliefs of tribalthat came in the way of development and how SSD couple successfully managed to overcome these centuries-old superstitions. The information was collected in January and February 2009 by personal interview and discussionwith the SSD couple who were part of the process described in the case study. The facts were also validated by discussions with other four SSD couples. It was found that Gonds, KolsandMawasi tribes living in forests of Bundelkhand region in Central India followed a strange belief and superstition. Whenever a woman delivered a baby, both the mother and the newly born baby were isolated by the rest of the family members for atleastthree days after delivery. The mother and the baby are not touched and attended to by anyone including family members. Even mother too was forbidto touch her new born baby. They are not provided with any food or milk in this period. Tribals believed that their Goddess would watch the mother and baby during these three days and it is against the wish of their Goddess to attend to the needy mother and baby. Thisparticular case deals with three days of ordeal faced by a young tribal woman who had delivered a child and how the female functionary of SSD scheme provided timely help to save both the mother and child from starvation and death. The social beliefs and customs also contributed tohigh maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate and malnourishment rate among children in the study area.
Keyword: Infant mortality rate; Malnourishment rate; Maternal mortality rate; Samaj Shilpi Dampati;