The Foundation introduced its first strategic plan for the India programme in 2007. Since then the programme has operated through an Open Grants approach where a variety of well thought through, topical and appropriate works proposed by NGOs have received support. In total, it has made 104 grants to 56 organisations (33 on a repeat basis) under the plan. Building on the review of our work undertaken in 2011, a new strategy 1 for the India programme for the period to 2018 began in 2013.

The strategy builds on the previous one and adds a few new areas of interest and concern. It continues to focus on the most vulnerable communities, to suggest that we work on ideas that fit well with the prospective plans of the organisations we support, and emphasises accountability and transparency.

The new strategy, however, provides some key new directions:

  • It focuses on ‘knowledge creation’ as an important intended outcome of the work that we will support (and have supported).
  • It stresses the need to work on enhancing human and institutional capacities within the development sector.
  • It rationalises the geographical reach of the Foundation’s work.
  • It identifies some especially vulnerable groups which require more proactive support and positions the Foundation to provide that.
  • It recognises the growing link between rural and urban development issues and attempts to expand the Foundation’s work in urban areas.
  • It attempts to go beyond funding work that has direct impact on vulnerable communities, by proposing also to fund work, at the macro and meta levels, with an indirect impact on the lives of vulnerable people.
  • It plans to enter into collaborations which help achieve strategic goals.

Runaway children

The first especially vulnerable group that we have identified for in-depth focus under our new strategy is runaway children on railway platforms. We commissioned a study, ‘Lost Childhoods’, which provides an overview of the situation in the country as it stands today 2. While the issue affects a very large number of children, it remains largely hidden from public view. Covering the wide spectrum of situations and conditions that affect this vulnerable group, the study traced the evolution of the work on child protection in India. It outlined the legal and institutional framework that exists in the country to address child protection, discussed the various approaches that are being used by NGOs to address the issue, and evolved a strategic approach for our work.

We will use the study as a basis for initiating grants to selected NGOs which can together present a complete picture of the issue and generate experiences of addressing it. In this way, we will develop ideas and recommendations to help people in India become conscious of the situation of this vulnerable group, and to prompt the government to take appropriate action.

Anniversary gift

While 2012/13 marked the 25th anniversary
of the Foundation, it also marked 20 years since PHF’s first grant was made in India. Among the anniversary gifts was an endowment of £1m to one of our oldest partners in India – the Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayta Samiti (BMVSS), an organisation synonymous with the evolution
of the Jaipur Foot, one of the most advanced prosthetics available in the developing world.

The gift was an expression of the Foundation’s faith in BMVSS, and will help it to evolve as a self-sustaining organisation and explore new ways to extend services to the poorest and most vulnerable people in India.

In November 2012, some PHF trustees and staff visited India, to announce the Jaipur Foot gift and to learn at first hand about some of the issues being tackled by the India programme. Their visit first took them to a rural area to understand communities there, people’s lives and livelihoods, social dynamics and aspirations. It provided a brief but critical view of vulnerability and poverty in rural India. This was followed by a seminar on rural to urban migration, an emerging area of development work in India. This helped to develop an understanding of how people in resource-poor areas were coping, and considered the link between India’s rapid growth and aspects of society that are being overlooked. To connect the rural situation with the urban, and to understand urbanisation and the development of the services sector in India, the visit ended with a look at livelihoods and conditions for the migrant population in Savda Ghevra, a large resettlement area on the edge of Delhi.

The visit thus gave a good cross-sectional view of the development concerns that India faces and an insight into the role PHF is playing and could play in India.

Knowledge creation

Even excluding the anniversary gift, the past year has seen our highest expenditure in the India programme to date. This is partly due to the timings of committee meetings, as we have had three during the year instead of the normal two. However, with the roll-out of our new strategy, support in India is likely to remain at a higher level.

Our funding in recent years for programmes that strengthen local self-governance systems in India – the panchayats and municipalities – led us to host a conference in Ahmedabad in March 2013. Our focus has been on building the capacities of elected women representatives, helping communities to access their entitlements and work towards a more robust system. One of the most important concerns expressed at the conference was the need
to fund programmes that expand the public domain and give more powers and control to elected representatives. Another was about strengthening the institutions as organisations using established development tools. The outcomes from the conference will help us to structure future initiatives.

The work we fund has much to contribute in terms of knowledge and experience. To create knowledge that can be made available to the wider development community, we have begun to consolidate the information received from grantees’ reports and to compile common experiences. These have helped us to improve our programming and increase the possibilities of sharing between grantees. The coming year will see this work developing further and taking more significant form.

Emergency response

Outside of our strategic framework, we made a couple of disaster relief grants in July 2012 following the sectarian violence that erupted in Assam. The grants helped two existing grantee organisations to set up relief and rehabilitation camps. The grants have completed their course and things are now normalised as much as can be expected. Though it will take some time for the situation between communities to stabilise completely, both organisations are now involved with facilitating the peace building process.

The India programme appointed a new advisor this year. Neera Burra is a development worker with experiences ranging from working with communities to managing grant programmes at the UN. Her work with children and child protection, and her research knowledge, will assist the India team.

Open Grants scheme

The India Open Grants scheme works with non-governmental organisations that help the most vulnerable groups in India. Organisations supported within the India programme have to be local Indian NGOs with Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration.

Grants awarded in 2012/13

Aajeevika Bureau

£38,577 (Rs. 3,139,500) over one year

More than 100 million people, almost a tenth of India’s population, make their living out of seasonal migration. Their entry into urban labour markets is marked by endemic disadvantages. Devoid of critical skills, information and bargaining power, they get caught in exploitative labour arrangements that force them to work in low-end, low-value, hazardous work environments in the informal sector. Lack of identity and any form of social protection accentuates this problem.

In the last two decades, south Rajasthan has emerged as a large labour exporting region of India, supplying cheap labour to states including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Around 800,000 workers move from southern Rajasthan to work in the unorganised sector comprising construction, textiles, domestic work, agriculture, hospitality, mines and quarries, hotels and restaurants. Most start work at 13–14 years of age, lacking education and skills, and are forced to undertake manual labour for meagre wages.

Aajeevika Bureau (AB) is a non-governmental, non-profit initiative providing services, support and security to rural, seasonal migrant workers. AB is premised on the notion that rural to urban migration is an inevitable socioeconomic reality in transition economies such as India, where vast populations are no longer able to secure meaningful livelihoods from limited rural resources. The organisation was formed with the idea of transforming migration into a more positive opportunity for vulnerable segments of the migrant workforce, by improving their incomes, security and stability, both in labour markets and their rural homes.

Headquartered in Udaipur, Rajasthan, AB works in the south Rajasthan-Gujarat migration corridor. Through a network of walk-in resource centres, it offers a range of services to migrant workers such as registration, photo ID, skills training, placement, legal aid, financial services and opportunities for collectivisation. Our grant is to support work at migrant centres and for a study on migrant workers’ access to financial services.

When AB began its work, there were few examples of services for migrant workers in India. In a relatively short period, AB’s work has come to enjoy widespread recognition for its innovation and impact. Its service model has been adopted by a large number of organisations across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. This network has also now come together as a National Coalition working for security of migrant workers.

Ongoing support

Chaupal Gramin Vikas Prashikshan Evam Shodh Sansthan (Chaupal)

£26,623 (Rs. 2,014,000) over one year in 2011/12 followed by £27,575 (Rs. 2,330,800) over one year in 2012/13

Chhattisgarh is one of the poorest states in India, with more than 1.9m families in the state recognised as below the poverty line and a further 1.7m families classed as ‘poor’. The situation is worse in blocks with a predominantly tribal population, where there is chronic hunger and food insecurity, borne particularly by women and children.

Government schemes for the poor are often difficult to access for communities who have been traditionally suppressed. Support in the form of information and guidance and empowering them to demand their rights are critical to improving the situation.

Chaupal (which in Hindi means ‘the common meeting place in a village’) was set up by a group of tribal activists and young people with backgrounds in social work and rural management. The organisation has been working to strengthen local community-based mechanisms to ensure the effective delivery of state-run food and health services. It also supports women’s, disability and tribal groups to fight for their rights and entitlements, and works to strengthen local government institutions. Apart from grassroots action, Chaupal has promoted state-level campaigns and advocacy initiatives on nutrition, livelihood and health.

Our support for Chaupal is to build the capacity of health and nutrition surveillance committees in monitoring food and health entitlement in 200 villages. Though village-level monitoring committees have been regularly monitoring food and health entitlements, through this project they have been trained to monitor and intervene on critical impact indicators such as mortality, morbidity and nutrition. Chaupal has had considerable success in improving the coverage, access and quality of state-run health and food programmes. Our grant will help make these improvements more sustainable through community monitoring of provision of health and food entitlements, and enabling tribal communities to access grievance redressal services and negotiate for entitlements from village to district level. Building capacities of community organisations in research and documentation will add critical value to these efforts.

Kolkata Sanved

£17,254 (Rs. 1,294,049) over one year in 2010/11 followed by £41,966 (Rs. 3,292,480) over two years in 2012/13

Kolkata Sanved uses dance movement therapy (DMT) to support young men and women who have been trafficked, sexually violated and abused. The therapy helps them come to terms with their situation, overcome their sense of guilt and alienation from their own bodies, and begin on a path of self-realisation, confidence building and, finally, reintegration into mainstream society.

Kolkata Sanved’s work is built on the premise that rehabilitation programmes using traditional counselling alone are not successful and reintegration is not sustainable for the victims. Dance movement therapy provides an alternative approach to psychosocial rehabilitation that ensures the rights to participation and development of the individual – helping them come out of their situation and live an independent and complete life.

Through its approach, Kolkata Sanved attempts to provide a sense of ‘Sampoornata’ (fulfillment) through the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance by which individuals can engage creatively in a process which can further their physical, emotional, cognitive and social integration. The method is participatory, allowing participants to develop life skills important for their reintegration through a non-threatening, non-judgmental and culturally familiar medium.

There is irony in the fact that dance has for many years been used as a medium by which women are exploited. The use of dance is not readily accepted socially, politically or culturally as a medium of social change. However, the approach has yielded results and proved that body movements, when used sensitively, can become a powerful tool for confidence building, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy.

With our grant, Kolkata Sanved has facilitated the healing and recovery of children in five government shelter homes in the state of West Bengal. It has also worked to raise awareness and support for the use of DMT within rehabilitation programmes in government shelter homes. Through the programme, Kolkata Sanved has reached 665 children and 47 care providers. Eleven girls have undergone a ‘Training of trainer’ programme and it is expected that they will be able to spread the idea of using DMT to all the other government shelter homes for boys and girls in West Bengal.


  • 1 The strategy is published in full on our website
  • 2 ‘Lost Childhoods’, by Udita Das, is published on our website