Innovation/ Initiatives at Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women Ltd, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Executive Director (2001-06-26 to 2002-11-05) - 1 years, 4 months, 10 days

  1. In the year 2000, Madam Qudisa Gandhi IAS and I had made the Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women Ltd, into the first paperless Government office in Tamil Nadu. This was post a visit to Chittoor in AP, where my batch mate Mr.Venkatesham IAS (then Joint Collector) had created the fist paperless Collectorate in India, using a software KM-ATOM, developed by APTS (Andhra Pradesh Technology Services). Based on my telephonic request, the then MD of APTS Mr.Suresh Chanda, IAS (Telangana, 1985 batch) flew down a few days later, and ensured that his team stayed on to complete all formalities related to the installation of the software. I was fascinated by his deep knowledge, passion and commitment to governmental transformation! Needless to say, my passion for technology as a transformational tool was ignited by Suresh Chanda Sir and of course Venkatesham!  We were lucky that my predecessor Mr.K.Rajaraman IAS, had provided computers to everybody on his desk in the office, and all were connected in a LAN. The newspapers, the Hindu and the Indian Express had hailed the entry of “paperless government offices”!
  2. Mutram magazine: When I took over as ED, TNCDW, only about 17,000 copies of the Mutram magazine for SHGs was in circulation, which meant that only 17,000 SHGs had access to it, whereas the number of SHGs had crossed 100,000. The problem was that there was only limited funding from Government. The look and feel of the magazine also didn’t inspire any confidence in the readers. An order was issued directing all the SHGs in the state and NGOs to make one lump some annual payment towards Mutram to TNCDW. The look and feel was changed for the better. In no time, the circulation improved to more than one lakh copies a month. I personally edited it. UNICEF also supported us financially.
  3. Federation of SHGs: When I joined TNCDW, I noticed that the SHGs were completely under the control of NGOs. There was field level tug of war among NGOS for control of SHGs at village level, because at the village level multiple NGOs could operate. Thus, NGOS had federated their own SHGs in neighboring village panchayats into what was then known as “Cluster Level Federation” or CLF. This was becoming an untenable system, and needed to be rooted out.
  4. Thus came the idea of the “Panchayat Level Federation” PLF of SHGs. This meant that irrespective of who was the NGO, all the SHGs in Village Panchayats would be federated at the Panchayat level, which was the unit of development, and not at the level of cluster, where the NGO was the focal point. Then there would be Block level and district level federations of SHGs. This was a tedious and time consuming process, and raise a lot of tension between NGOs and TNCDW. But we managed to successfully implement the concept of PLFs. The idea was that PLF after formation and training would gradually take over some of the functions of NGOs like group formation, training of groups, acting as a financial institution etc. This then became the policy of TNCDW Ltd.
  5. MaThi Arivoli: In view of the shocking fact that the literacy rates among SHG members was less than 20%, when compared to the literacy rates of women in the general population, I piloted a scheme whereby each SHG member would be made literate, via training one literate member in the group, and she in turn training the illiterate members of her group. Training materials were prepared in consultation with experts in literacy. This scheme called Mahalir Arivoli Thittam became a budgeted item in 2002-2003.
  6. Restructuring of Mahalir Thittam: I initiated a restructuring of Mahalir Thittam with the support of the CMD Mrs.Qudsia Gandhi IAS, and Dr.Sathiagopal IAS, as Mahalir Thittam was a high cost project per SHG and hence was becoming unviable from the point of view of Government financing, as the number of SHGs had then crossed above 60,000 groups originally contemplated. There was a hugely disproportionate profit for NGOs. Also the contents of the training programme for SHGs had to be reviewed in view of the necessity for economic empowerment. But successive successors were of the view that the restructuring had adversely affected the SHG movement, as it didn’t have the buy-in from NGOs.