LET me reassure Aijaz Ali Khuwaja (July 11) that Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) have not deviated from the teachings of Dr Akhter Hameed Khan (AHK).
Our conviction and belief in the potential of even the poorest of the people is as steadfast as ever, especially after what AHK’s Conceptual Package of Social Mobilisation achieved in the state of Andhra Pradesh (India) through UNDP-initiated South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programme (SAPAP) in 1995 based on the lines of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP).
In 10 years more than 10 million households were mobilised in Andhra through the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) set up on the lines of AKRSP by the state government with the help of the World Bank.
In 2011, Sonia Gandhi directed the Indian ministry of rural development to launch the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) on the pattern of the Andhra experience to mobilise 70 million households across the country by 2017.
In the absence of the requisite level of support like India, from the government in Pakistan, the Rural Support Programmes replication of AKRSP had to survive on ad hocism waiting for the window of opportunity to implement a holistic programme.
As and when they succeeded in getting the requisite resources for the core interventions, RSPs did religiously follow AHK’s conceptual package.
Today RSPs are in 112 districts with five million organised households and striving hard to deepen their footprint so as to reach 75pc households like AKRSP, which is currently at 30pc.
The RSP’s involvement in BHUs or schools is only in response from provincial governments to provide these projects an an umbrella cover to set up separate management units to undertake their activities.
The RSP’s core social mobilisation staff is not involved in implementing these programmes. These separate setups report directly to the board of the respective RSPs. The boards of RSPs comprise honourary directors.
RSPs have tried their utmost, as AHK used to advocate, and remain islands of sincerity in a sea of hypocrisy and corruption.
RSPs have been following a zero tolerance policy against corruption. In case of SRSO, the board took action and even the CEO had to leave for failure to take immediate action against the culprits though the amounts involved were infinitesimal. The USAID has not blacklisted SRSO.
The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) regularly did process the review of SRSO Union Council-based Poverty Reduction Programme (UCBPRP) in Shikarpur and Kashmore and in their annual report there is a chapter devoted to UCBPRP with very positive comments.
For the last 30 years RSPs have been trying to persuade governments, because they have all the resources, to act like RSPs for poverty reduction.
There has been some success but much remains to be achieved. RSPs have touched only 30 million people. An impact will only be seen when, like in India, RSPs reach 80 million rural poor with a holistic package of intervention.
In the book ‘Man in the Hat’ written by Australian Noel Cossins, when Mr Cossins asked Sartaj Aziz why AKRSP did not spread like wildfire in Pakistan, as it happened in India, Mr Aziz said the failure was not of AKRSP but it was the failure of the nation-state of Pakistan to truly serve its people.
SHOAIB SULTAN KHAN Chairman, Rural Support Programmes Network/ National Rural Support Programme Islamabad