Remembering Tyagi Ji

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Tyagi Ji, the Founder of GRAVIS and one of the most distinguihed social acivists of India, had passed away on July 27th, 2005. .On the 11th anniversary of his demise, a remembrance meet was organised at GRAVIS Head quarters in Jodhpur on 27th July, 2016. The meet was moderated by Mahitosh Bagoria of HEDCON. Mahitosh Ji shared, Tyagi Ji’s valuable instances of life and his 37 years of dedicated social upliftment service of marginalised and needy society. He was a socialist, self believer and a true follower of Gandhian philosophy. He was a bank of knowledge and he believed in imparting knowledge.

Chairperson of GRAVIS, Dr. Dhir, described him as a simple yet special person who was always away from the materialistic comforts of life.  According to him, Tyagi ji believed in the philosophy of work as his mission, and in giving your best to achieve the goals, He also shared that it was his courage and will power that in spite of so many geographical and climatic problems, he set up a structure in Thar Desert called GRAVIS, which is a leading NGO nationally currently.

Dr. Mohnot, the Vice-Chair of GRAVIS, described him as, ‘Sahej, Saral and Samvedanshil’, personality. According to him, Tyagi Ji, never talked about his accomplishments and he was having the art of uniting people. He was an institution within himself; therefore he could have set up a structure like GRAVIS. He thanked his family for carrying forward his thoughts and legacy.


Mridula Ji, member of GRAVIS, remembered him as of a ‘charismatic personality’. She shared her experiences of working with Tyagi Ji and his impact on her life. She shared his contributions to water conservation strategies in Thar Desert and seedless farming.  Sh. Satyavrat Samvedi described him as a selfless man and and as a mass leader. Sh. Samvedi said that he was a true Gandhian and set examples for many to follow.


The meet observed the presence of many friends and colleagues of Tyagi Ji including Dr. J. P. Gupta, Shri Sharad Ji Bhavuk, Dr, Mahendra Paliwal, Sh. Glecha, Jyoti Bothra, Shri Bhura Ram Ji, Roshan Ji and others. His entire family was also present. The meet ended on the note of holding a two minute silence in the memory of Tyagi Ji, the foundation of of GRAVIS.


After 11 years of his leaving the world, GRAVIS continues to follow his vision of empowering poor and marginalzed. GRAVIS family pays its tributes to Tyagi Ji, the great leader who lived his life for poor and for the philosophy that he believed in.


New academic year begins in GRAVIS schools

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Education plays a pivotal role in life because it give people the skills and tools to enhance their future, communicate effectively with each other and provides information about our existence. Therefore, GRAVIS is also contributing its handful of efforts in promotion of education on ground in Thar Desert. GRAVIS, runs over 50 schools in the Thar Desert for educating children of marginalized sections of the society, for whom going to school is an ordeal.

Merely, providing education does not ensures that children are attaining education, it also depends on several other factors, like teachers, education facility structure, its feasibility, its fee structure and others. GRAVIS is covering three major issues which prove the lifeline for high school enrollment.  First, issue which GRAVIS caters to is of Sanitation and hygiene in schools.The organization has taken care of this important factor, to build up toilets for both the sexes. The organization runs several health and hygiene related programmes in schools on monthly basis, so as to instigate the students for healthy practices of good hygiene and sanitation.

Secondly, food and nutrition becomes an issue to be addressed in Thar Desert. GRAVIS offers mid- day meal type of food supplements to its students in its schools with a special focus on girl child. It provides iron and protein supplements like, Daliya, Gud (Jaggery), Halwa, Moong ki dal ki Khichdi.  In some of the schools of GRAVIS, mid- day meal school scheme is unable to cater to the needs sufficiently, therefore, GRAVIS is fulfilling the gaps wherever required.

Lastly, feasibility to education centers is the major problem in Thar Desert, especially for girl child. The school center varies from, 1 km to 5 km distance from home in both rural and urban Thar. In urban areas distance problem can be solved by providing conveyance and availing public transportation for reaching to schools. But, in rural area the conditions are different. In some cases, school does not come under the direct covering area by public transport even. In that case GRAVIS has founded a solution by providing bicycles especially to girl child, considering their major reasons of drop out in the district (according to the survey conducted by GRAVIS).

As the new academic year has started from July 2016, certain activities like educational school tours, sanitation and health programmes have started keeping monsoon in mind. Imparting knowledge about safe and hygienic life, good nutrition consumption and enhancing the aptitude of the children are all in action at GRAVIS school centers.

Thar prepares itself for the monsoon

GRAVIS in Sohanpura village

The arid climatic region of Thar Desert has been known for extremes of temperatures, scanty rainfall, peculiar type of vegetation, high wind velocity and intense solar radiation. According to climatologists, the projected climate change would deplete the state of its natural resources like surface and ground water availability, soil resources, crop yields, and also decline in forest and pasture land ecosystem thus exposing agriculture and livestock to the harshness of climate, and food insecurity. Proper mitigating measures have to be taken care to prepare the community in order to cop up the climatic shifts. GRAVIS, working since 1983, in Rajasthan, in the Thar Desert region, has been playing a major role in upheaval the rural structure so as make them more sustainable.

Every year, prior to rains in the region, the organization conducts several programmes on sustainable agriculture maintenance and water security in the concerned regions. Recently, in Sohanpura and Netasar villages of Pokhran Tehsil of Jaisalmer district training programmes were conducted on 28/06/2016 & 27/06/2016 respectively, which comprised of information dissemination regarding high yielding crop production which can sustain arid region. Benefits of mixed cropping were taught to be in practice to maintain the natural essence of soil and to avoid soil erosion. We distributed seeds which can grow in arid region and can prove to be fruitful for good crop yield in the region. Some of the innovative agricultural practices were taught to the farmers and villagers in the training programme. These training programmes help the villagers in gaining the new strategies of cultivation in arid region. Techniques like seeds preservation, natural production of crops, less usage of pesticides, usage of bio gas as khaad, were taught. In Sohanpura village, veterinary camp was also organised on 29/06/2016 wherein free of cost vaccination was provided to the livestock, by their treatment, their health was ensured so that they can be part of income generation to the concerned households.

Another, major work done by GRAVIS is on water security in the concerned districts, is the constructing and maintenance of Khadins, Nadis, community tankas, beris, and other water collection units in the concerned areas.

blog monsoon pics

GRAVIS at field

Monsoon also brings the fear of water borne diseases with it. Therefore, GRAVIS conducts pre and post health programmes in the community twice a month, to keep a tab on health risks in the community.  GRAVIS hospital organised these health programmed, annually in the district and provide expert advice, insights and experiences of health in the community.

Monsoon plays an integral role in human life, specially, in Thar, which has mostly rain- fed agriculture, as the area receives rainfall from South west monsoon which starts from June-August, causing high humidity in the month of August. Due to high wind velocity, the state receives irregular rains, which sometimes causes floods, e.g., in 2016, rains which created unprecedented havoc in the district, in Barmer district. With all the challenges, life presents in Thar, monsoon is an important contributor and GRAVIS works on ensuring that the communities get the best out of the rainy season.



Collective voice of older people to say No to Diabetics

Older people are among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in the Thar Desert of India. An action is required to deliver improvements to ageing policies in the state of Rajasthan – better access to healthcare services and improved quality of life. Health has been a major area of GRAVIS’ work and the focus has been on improving the health conditions of communities living in Thar. Health problems are also directly linked to poverty, poor hygiene practices, insufficient education and limited access to health services due to remoteness of villages, limited trained staff and high level of absenteeism among health practitioners. Primary health care in the region has not reached a large number of poor people, especially women, people belonging to the lower castes and communities living in remote areas.  The impact of all these factors can easily be traced in the dismal health indicators in the state of Rajasthan that are among the lowest in India. This year the World Health Day was observed by GRAVIS on 7th April in Kalron (Phalodi) of Jodhpur District. It was addressed by Medical and Health Officer and attended by many representatives from Government. Sarpanch from local government and various representatives from Village Development Committees (VDCs) have gathered at same platform and collectively raised their voice against non communicable diseases related to old age. Older people also received blood pressure and diabetics check-up during event.

Village Health Workers improve access to health services

2The poorest and most marginalized populations often have limited access to quality health care. This is certainly the case in rural Rajasthan where health indicators remain tremendously low. Within rural communities in the Thar, poor nutrition and sanitation lead to an overall lower health status. Chronic diseases like malnutrition are present among children and women lack access to gynecological and obstetric services. GRAVIS works extensively to improve the health status of communities in the region. On such intervention is the training of Village Health Workers (VHWs), who as a result of their work improve access to health services at the community level.

VHWs bridge the service gap by providing community health services including, health awareness training, immunizations, antenatal care, and performing deliveries, to villagers that would otherwise have limited or no access. VHWs are initially trained in first aid, disease recognition, pregnancy complications, maternal services, and hygiene. Later on, they continue to build capacity by learning new skills and information. VHWs are intended to function as a primary link between the community and the formal health care system.

In rural India, women are the most likely to need health care and the least likely to seek it out. A woman’s first interaction with a doctor may not be until she gives birth. VHWs are one way of linking women to formal health institutions. With VHWs providing care and support, women have the potential to be linked into a lifetime of formal healthcare.

VHWs also serve a very important role as point people for the dissemination of important health information to their communities. Through individual communication with community members or through attendance at gatherings such as SHG meetings, VHWs provide the community with information about immunizations, seasonal diseases, pregnancy, and medical camps. As long-time village residents, they are highly trusted and can communicate easily with their peers.

This trust can go a long way in terms of accessing quality health care. I recently met one VHW in Nayagon village, an elderly woman who is proud of her role as a conduit between her community members and formal health institutions. She told me a story of one woman who fell ill and went to the nearby clinic seeking help. When she didn’t receive the services she needed, she requested the help of this VHW who returned to the clinic with her. With the VHW’s assistance, the woman received the tests she needed to confirm a diagnosis of malaria. She’s now receiving proper care and is expected to have a swift recovery.

VHWs constitute an essential link between GRAVIS and the village in terms of health interventions. By supporting local health workers, GRAVIS is also inherently supporting the sustainability of healthcare services for village residents.

Mia Schmid

Mia Schmid is an intern at GRAVIS and is currently completing a Masters in Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Previously she has worked for the Firelight Foundation in Santa Cruz, California where she contributed to the organization’s learning management systems. Her work at GRAVIS focuses on women’s empowerment through Self Help Groups and skills training. 

The many ways that Self-Help Groups empower women

Women's self-help group (multi-caste) meeting in desert village, discussing healthcare & 1st aid issues with village health worker and two male NGO staff Bhojon Village, Bap (aka. Baap), nr. Phalodi, Jodhpur District, Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India implemented by Gravis (Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti),
Women’s self-help group (multi-caste) meeting in desert village, discussing healthcare & 1st aid issues with village health worker and two male NGO staff
Bhojon Village, Bap (aka. Baap), nr. Phalodi, Jodhpur District, Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India
implemented by Gravis (Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti),

Given the social structure and gender barriers that exist within Rajasthan, it is particularly critical that female participation be a priority in development interventions intended to facilitate change in the Thar. In light of the social barriers that exist for women, GRAVIS has had a particular emphasis on women’s empowerment through its Self Help Group (SHG) intervention.

The SHG model was first formulated in India in the 1990’s. It has since been adopted by women and NGOs around the world and continues to grow in popularity. In essence, SHGs are comprised of 10-15 women who carry out collective savings by contributing an agreed upon amount every month. The groups have their own rules for management of funds and the members can access loans from these funds. The savings are also deposited in the bank, which is used to secure micro-credit loans.  Group members take out loans to meet a variety of needs including supporting their own income generation, through the purchase of a sewing machine or a flour mill, or contributing to her family’s agricultural assets through the purchase of livestock or equipment.

Apart from savings and loans, SHGs are also platforms for empowerment and social change. SHGs focus on several areas of empowerment, including: financial literacy, mobility and visibility, decision-making, skill building, economic security, and community engagement.

I recently visited with SHGs in the villages of Nayagon and Kan Singh Ki Seed. The women are about to take part in artisan skills training as part of economic empowerment of the SHGs. They are eager to improve their skills in sewing as a means of generating an income for their families.

In light of the deeply entrenched gender roles that exist within the social structure of Rajasthan, women are faced with the challenge of having a double burden of both productive and maternal work, without the ability to have their voices and problems heard. This structure leaves women with little time or ability to develop relationships outside of their immediate family. Women who join SHGs experience the rare opportunity to step out of their homes and be part of something that they themselves chose to be a part of.

In addition to an increase in mobility, SHGs provide a new opportunity for women to meet together and converse. The simple act of meeting with other women and conversing during meetings can go a long way. Women often discuss general day-to-day life, personal health issues, family conflicts, and other problems during group meetings. High levels of trust are built amongst SHG members. This trust and problem solving, combined with a regular time for meeting, provides members with a new social network, where they can share their burdens and problem solve collectively, that did not exist in their lives prior to membership. These small changes are important steps on the path toward individual and collective empowerment.

Mia Schmid

Mia Schmid is an intern at GRAVIS and is currently completing a Masters in Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Previously she has worked for the Firelight Foundation in Santa Cruz, California where she contributed to the organization’s learning management systems. Her work at GRAVIS focuses on women’s empowerment through Self Help Groups and skills training. 

A Roadmap to Combat Silica-tuberculosis

WorkshopFB - 1 of 32The relationship between silicosis and tuberculosis is complex and often challenging to address. Both lung diseases gravely affect communities throughout India and while many of the symptoms are similar, the causes and treatment plans for each are distinct. Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease and unlike silicosis, can be treated with proper medication, whereas silicosis can only be managed, never cured. Conversely, silicosis is entirely preventable. The illness develops due to unhealthy exposure to silica dust, and so limiting this exposure dramatically reduces the likelihood of an individual developing the disease.

However, throughout mining communities in Rajasthan and Gujarat, a lack of awareness about silicosis combined with insufficient safety measures puts thousands of mineworkers at risk, many of which develop the disease and eventually are forced to stop working and die decades younger than otherwise projected. According to a number of national laws (the Workman Compensation Act of 1923, the Mine Act of 1952 and the Silicosis Rule of 1955) mineworkers have a right to a healthy and safe working environment, and workers who develop occupational lung diseases, like silicosis, are owed compensation by their respective state government. Therefore, unlike TB, a silicosis diagnosis ascribes responsibility for the health issue onto the mine site and the government.

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Silicosis is often confused with TB and miners are frequently misdiagnosed. Moreover, TB and silicosis are often co-occurring diseases—together named silica-tuberculosis—as silicosis significantly increases a patients vulnerability to contracting TB. This creates two key problems: 1) it makes it possible for a patient who has silicosis or silica-tuberculosis to be misdiagnosed as someone who only has tuberculosis, which voids their ability to access compensation for the occupational health hazards from which they are suffering; and 2) it further exacerbates the spread of TB, a disease that infects 9 million new patients annually and has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization for nearly 30 years. Considering this, a joint approach is essential to properly address both silicosis and TB.

GRAVIS has worked to treat and prevent silicosis and TB for many years, and as part of their effort to advocate for better health in Rajasthan, especially within mineworker communities, GRAVIS organized a two day long workshop in partnership with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease in Jodhpur on July 6th and 7th to address the link between these diseases. The workshop joined together over 50 professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including medicine and public health, government and politics, non-profits and community organizing, and the mining industry, to share expertise and develop a roadmap to combat silica-tuberculosis.