Satellite-based training for GP members

MYSORE Jan. 28. The Abdul Nazir Sab State Institute of Rural Development, Mysore, has launched a satellite-based training programme for over 18,000 members of the 1,310 gram panchayats in 44 taluks of the State.

The programme seeks to help them understand their role in the decentralisation of power and inspire them to chart out social transformation. The programme, which began in November 2002, is scheduled to end in May-June 2003. It is not a one-time measure, but a part of a longer process of change and improvement in the Panchayat Raj system with the active participation of all the stakeholders. "After the end of the programme, follow-up activities will be initiated,'' H.S. Ashokanand, Additional Director of the institute, said.

Apart from enhancing the confidence of the gram panchayat members, particularly women from the marginal sections of society, so that they can deliver a speech or make an intervention during the deliberations of gram panchayat meetings, the programme dwells on issues of social importance such as education, gender equality, health, anganwadi programmes, and so on. The institute has chosen to make use of films, considered to be an attractive medium for gram panchayat members.

"These films are developed in the workshop mode, and are not pre-scripted or do not use expert lectures. They reflect the `lived' experience of gram panchayat members,'' an official of the institute said.

The format of the films included workshop discussions, individual interviews, and plays. Twelve films had been developed with the assistance of UNICEF. A large number of NGOs had been involved in developing the films. The films would be transmitted from the Satcom Centre at the institute, and would be received at the district and taluk receiving stations.

The centre has a one-way-video and two-way audio system. The Satcom comprises a studio from where the anchorpersons and panellists facilitate the training through live or pre-recorded presentations, discussions, demonstrations, and talkback sessions. The presentations and discussions are transmitted to the satellite through an earth station linked to the studio.

The satellite relayed the television signals for reception directly by small satellite terminals and the footage beamed on television monitors at the training centres in the different districts and taluks of the State, an official said.

The participants at the training centres can seek clarifications and raise doubts to resource persons at the studio on an audio channel through telecommunication lines.

At the studio, the questions are looped back on the audio channel of the television signal so that they can be heard at all the training centres in different districts and taluks. The response to the question also goes on the television signal and is received by all the training centres.

The institute has enlisted as resource persons volunteers from the NGOs and Government officials recommended by the Chief Executive Officers of the zilla panchayats. They had undergone training and have been assigned to handle it at different training centres in the district and taluks.

One of the films, The First Step, which has been aired during the first phase of the training programme, seeks to focus on the history of Panchayat Raj from the colonial rule to the 73rd Constitution Amendment. The film highlights the rationale for decentralisation, power to the people, and issues relating to reservation.

Another film, Learning to Speak, deals with illiteracy, caste and gender impediments, and so on.

The film also seeks to enlighten the gram panchayat members about the tampering with the allocation or rotation of seats, and reservation for the posts of chairpersons and vice chairpersons which often occurs on account of illiteracy, and gender and caste bias.

Marching Together is a film which relates to gram panchayat meetings, including topics such as notice, agenda, ordinary and special meetings, quorum, sitting fees, recording and reading of meeting resolutions, and so on.

The film, In Sitamma's Footsteps, which is scheduled to be aired during the fourth phase, dramatises the anti-arrack movement which grew out of the literacy programme in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh.

The film raises the issue as to whether gram panchayats are intended to merely implement the schemes designed and conceptualised elsewhere or whether it has a role in the development of people.

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