Nidan endeavor is to facilitate empowerment of the poor and marginalized sections through appropriate community based and pro-poor participative interventions. We feel it is important to evolve and facilitate a broad based movement for recognition and implementation of rights of unorganized labourers- whether it is education, health or livelihood of poor women and men or protection of children involved in the informal sector. Nidan’s prime target group has always been the unorganized workers be it migrant labourers or street vendors or rag pickers who doesn’t benefit from any statutory protection against various types of systematic exploitation and remains outside the preview of various labour welfare and protection policies and programme.
Nidan was registered in the year 1996 under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Organization has FCRA certification along with 12 A & 80 G recognition under the Income Tax Act. Nidan has been intensively working with the people employed in unorganized sector in the state of Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi and Jharkhand. Nidan believes in strengthening its stakeholders through appropriate Capacity Building for which innovative, local-based training modules have been evolved.
Nidan’s work is being guided by its vision of establishing a just, democratic and non-violent society where the citizens enjoy their rights (of education, health, and livelihood) without any discrimination (on the basis of gender or class), live in mutual co-operation and perform their optimum responsibility without any hindrance.
Nidan’s mission is to facilitate a non-violent and peaceful collective action, directly as well as through networks and to create, replicate and activate structures and systems which cater to the needs of poor and deprived so as to eliminate exploitation and provide opportunities for maximum growth.
To initiate, establish and consolidate people’s institutions, processes and, programs aimed for socio- economic development of poor.
Mr Arbind Singh spent his early years in northeastern Bihar, a hub of first generation migrants who travelled to the area in search of work. As a child, he was alarmed at the eviction of neighborhood vendors for what to him seemed no fault or crime. Exposed to social work while studying at a missionary school, he later served as a student leader in Delhi. There, he actively participated in drought relief work and played a key role in setting up a youth-led communal harmony program in a particularly volatile area in the walled city.
After studying law post-graduation, he felt an innate responsibility to return to his local community, and to work to correct the wrongs he had grown-up watching. Upon returning to Bihar, he discovered a severe lack of social services available for the urban poor, as most social service organizations found them too complex and politically unstable, preferring instead to focus on improving conditions in rural areas. Following an anti-encroachment drive targeting poor vendors by the government of Bihar, he launched Nidan as its own entity in 1995.
Origin — How the idea evolved
In 1995, armed with a High Court order, the State Government of Bihar undertook a massive anti-encroachment drive. Poor vendors were the ‘soft target’ and the administration focused on their eviction without taking any steps to rehabilitate them. They suffered more because of their unorganized nature. This senseless step evinced interest in those who were, then, part of Adithi. It was decided to galvanize this unorganized section and offer them formidable clout to raise their voice against state’s indifference and hostile stance.
Around the same time, Ela Bhatt of SEWA was trying to galvanize the civil society institutions to include issues of unorganized street vendors. She shared her concern with Viji Srinivasan who followed this by an important consultation with various like-minded individuals/institutions. The response was electrifying and people expressed solidarity with this unorganized section of the society. Organization of street vendors became a project of Adithi.
Coincidentally, Adithi was undergoing restructuring and Viji found this an opportune time to get an organization dedicated to this cause. So what began like a project of Adithi was immediately registered as an independent institution –issues of the street vendors being one of the key agendas.
The initial support
Both Adithi and SEWA were the rallying points as they espoused the issues and stood by it. In Nidan they found a young institution with young collective leadership committed to the cause. They nurtured and hand held systematically and offered all the capacity building opportunities for the young cadre. More than financial security they offered them tools and scientific methodologies to conduct their activities in a scientific manner.
First things to happen
To have good grasp of the issues, Nidan initiated a large-scale survey of street vendors of Patna covering nearly 6000 street vendors. As it was a large-scale survey, street vendors from all over the city came in contact with the Nidan team. The exposure helped the team understand the situation of street vendors in particular and urban poor in general quite well. As a result, a very different relationship with the people was established and people responded very well. The survey, besides others, revealed the complex exploitative informal lending mechanism to urban poor. Only 44 out of 5,960 respondents had ever been sanctioned a bank loan. Everywhere there was a craving for friendly institutional finance. This offered an apt opportunity and Nidan’s tryst with micro credit and access to finance for the poor began here and at this point.
- Evolving institutions for and by the poor –SHGs
Self-help groups (SHGs) have become familiar names now, but it was not so during the mid nineties. Nidan started with three Self –help groups way back in 1997, not to access subsidy of the government, but it was an institution of the poor to help them express their collective clout. This turned the poor from a position of ‘insignificance’ to the status of being ‘credit worthy’. This was an opportunity to shed their stigma off. Response to SHGs was substantial and the three SHGs created substantial ripple to spread to three more blocks of Patna — Danapur, Phulwarsharif and Patna City. This prompted the banks coming forward with credit support and beginning with a paltry sum of Rs 47,000 to 47 women vendors in 1997 the banks acknowledged their credentials of credit worthiness by developing strong partnership. By 1999 Nidan spread to Fatuah block of Patna. The relationship with the people has matured now, and Nidan enjoys acceptance and trust. ‘This is an organization which does not only talk but delivers also’- people would invariably remark!
Year 2000 saw Nidan’s spreading to other districts – Vaishali and Katihar. The focus over saving and credit continued with women being the key target. The credentials and track attracted institutional support to an unbelievable mark – Rs. 58, 00,000 credit support from Rashtriya Mahila Kosh proved a quantum jump. Sanctioning first loan of Rs.58 lakhs to any new partner was a history for RMK. The support was followed by another support of Rs. 60, 00,000 in the year 2004 from Rashtriya Mahila Kosh. This created a bolstering impact and Nidan moved to Muzaffarpur and Samastipur. Credibility of Nidan attained significant height and it took little time to decide –should Nidan move to the national capital-Delhi? Nidan made its presence in Delhi in 2004 followed by Rajasthan and Jharkhand (Bokaro). Presently, there are more than 4800 Self-help Groups being nurtured and promoted by Nidan.
Promotion of Thrift and Credit co-operatives also emerged as an important strategy supplementing the Self-Help Groups. As groups progressed, individuals’ aspirations could not be met with the concept of swim and sink together as is the case with SHGs. Further, while credit support was able to meet the loan requirement of the informal workers, the astonishing phenomenon of even the meager income or savings not being able to be kept safely in Banks or any other institutions forced Nidan to set up thrift and credit co-operatives beginning with Sanchay Thrift and Credit Co-operative in Patna Thrift and Credit Co-operatives were then set up in all the areas of Nidan’s work, making them an important strategy in providing financial services to the informal workers.
- Strengthening and consolidating the initial agenda
The agenda started with organizing the informal workers beginning with street vendors. The organization has taken various forms – market committees, neighbourhood groups, self help groups, federations, co-operatives, registered society and trade union and when need arose network and coalitions. Nidan, in fact, took a very consistent and progressive approach to organizing informal workers and its efforts have led to around 50 such organizations having been registered and functioning. They have their independent existence and are at different stages of sustainability. Lot of innovative and interesting efforts have gone into organizing and promoting the workers’ organizations .Many forms of trainings have been organized and many interesting IEC materials, aimed at promoting organizations of informal workers, have been brought out.
- Setting the agenda: A self evolving process
Nidan began with street vendors in 1995. In 1997, they started with home-based workers. In 1998, it started an education initiative for the children of informal workers. This program took Nidan to the slums and gradually issues of slum dwellers i.e. shelter, water, health and sanitation occupied their agenda. Issues of domestic maidservants were raised. From 2002, they also began working with wastepickers. Same year, they also expanded to rural areas to cover jute workers, agriculture workers, landless, artisans and the likes. Addressing various vulnerabilities –livelihoods and social security- of informal worker became the core concern and expertise of the organization. The year 1998 witnessed severe cold wave in rural areas which forced the poor villagers to migrate to urban areas. Nidan had the challenge to deal with the situation and that brought disaster, as one of the vulnerabilities, on Nidan’s agenda. The recurring Koshi deluge has been the most challenging, requiring multiple interventions. The micro-finance program portfolio also increased considerably. The insurance program also received very good response. As SHGs got institutionalised and consolidated, members wanted to move up by collective business. Collective enterprises based on trade or service of informal workers, then, became an important intervention to influence unfair practices in the local market and to increase considerably the income of members. Nidan also developed and became part of networks to spiral its impact.
- Those who supported the agenda and nature of support
When Nidan started organizing the unorganized sector, Ela Bhatt had a major impact. Viji’s good contact with the government officials too meant that the government officials acknowledged the activities of Nidan and offered relevant inputs support. However, as it expanded, it is the target group which sets the idea. The ideas evolved as per the need and according to the demand of the macro and micro-environment. Learning from other organizations also helped a lot in shaping the agenda.
Adithi helped to get connected, in the initial phase, with donors and banks and also with government. The Donors helped with grants – FES, CRY. Banks provided loans which meant that people were actually accessing developmental support from the agencies. SEWA offered co-ordination and opportunity which opened floodgates of contact across the country and even outside. SDTT offered support institutional development and micro-insurance.
The work with street vendors took Nidan to different parts of the country – it was applauded all over that an organsiation based out of Patna is trying to shape the cities across the country.
The first serious project of Nidan outside Bihar was the Solid Waste Management project with the Jaipur Municipal Corporation .Nidan was approached by SAIL to start a waste management project in Bokaro and this took Nidan to Jharkhand where we have taken different programs. Nidan opened office in Delhi in 2007 and as in initial intervention helped street vendors in various markets of Delhi to organize as a market association and become member of NASVI. Setting up thrift and credit co-operative followed soon so did other programs. Later Nidan offices were opened in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also.