(a) Public Health & Low Cost Sanitation
As a part of Gandhian programme HSS once concentrated its energy and resources in introducing smokeless chullahs and sanitary latrines in 4 districts of West Bengal viz. Medinipur, Birbhum, Murshidabad and Malda and through sheer persuasion would make breakthrough in the initial reservation of the villagers towards both these programmes. In collaboration with Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC), HSS could establish 509764 smokeless chullahs and thousands of sanitary latrines in the above four districts. The scheme has since been phased out by the KVIC.
(b) Low Cost Housing
The Sangh had an active programme of Low Cost Housing funded by CAPART. The programme was implemented in the districts of Medinipur and Hooghly. Beneficiaries were marginalized and excluded villagers who had decrepit kind of roof over their head and perforce had to suffer vagaries of the elements throughout the year. These Low Cost Houses provided them not only with a firm roof but also with a Low Cost Latrine and Improved Chullah. The programme has since been discontinued by the CAPART.
(c) Income Generation
Income Generation Programme constitute fundamental paradigm of self-employment efforts of HSS. Besides awareness generation through its branches / associates and small scale vocational training with the help of District Industries Centers and Khadi and Village Industries Commission, The HSS established took permanent training-cum-production centre in weaving and cashew nut processing. The HSS has also undertaken small irrigation projects in the villages of Bhagawanpur block –II in Midnapur district where shallow tube wells were installed to bolster water supply to the fields benefiting about 300 small and marginal farmers. The irrigation project was funded from loans granted to the beneficiaries at a very low rate of interest and villagers have since repaid the entire loan. Reports on weaving and cashew nut processing are as follows :-
The Weaving Unit started by the Sangh in the year 1991 in Jamalput of Medinipur district, has been working as a self-sufficient unit with 40 women working in it. The unit produces napkins, towels, bedcovers and mosquito nets. This unit has been working as a platform, empowering the rural womenfolk both economically and socially. The programme has now been held up due to non-availability working capital and suitable instructor. Hence, the womenfolk has presently started forming self-help groups, through which they are trying to use the concept of micro credit through micro savings in their life. This effort has been really encouraging for the Sangh, as the theme of making the rural women self reliant through this kind of “income generations units” has started showing its colour and bringing them on the threshold of the new era of “women’s lib”. Efforts are on to restart the project by generating working capital through sale of finished products lying in the unit.
(c)(ii). Cashew Nut Processing
Contai sub-division of Midnapur East District is known for Cashew-nut cultivation but traders purchased the nuts at no prices and selling to processing units at high cost. Realizing the importance of value addition through processing into marketable nuts and consequent income generation, the HSS trained a group of poor village women to learn the skill of processing through appropriate machineries which were installed at Jamalput in 1992. The unit had once used to run profitably providing employment opportunities to about 50 village women who used to earn about Rs.1000/- per month. The unit is now lying idle on account of loss of competitiveness in the face of large scale processing units installed in the locality. Attempts are being made to resuscitate the unit through modernization and diversification.
In India agriculture is still heavily dependent on rain water. The continuous dependence on one source has reduced the production of crops and the income of the farmers greatly. Irrigation is the base of the growth and expansion of village infrastructure. In April 1990 the Sangh started an irrigation project. In 5 villages of the Bhagwanpur II Block of Medinipur presently known as Purba Medinipur, 10 shallow tube wells were installed. From this project 215 poor families have been benefited. They used to produce three crops per year with access to irrigation. More food and safe water were available to the local people. The villagers had repaid their loans to the banks taken under this programme. The Paushi branch of HSS, Bengal with the assistance of the local villagers monitored the project.
(c)(iv). Horticulture Seedling Distribution
Detailed deliberations between villagers and our workers led to the selection of this income generating programme. Thousands of seedlings of fruit growing trees are distributed among farmers in Jhargram, Haldia, Sutahata-II, Bhagwanpur-II, Khejuri and Contai in Medinipur district. It was revealed that despite some mortality, the rest of the seedlings had thrived and the hopes of the beneficiaries of earning extra money was partly realized. Although the programme could not be continued due to lack of funding, the beneficiaries have continued to earn some modest incomes from the existing plantation.