Vulnerable Group means the Group that experiences a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than the general population, such as schedule tribes, schedule castes, minorities, single women and senior citizens living in hamlets/localities and people living in inaccessible/adverse areas viz. island or places with worse road connectivity. Being a Welfare State one of the main responsibilities of the Government is to provide social security to these groups bring them in the core of all development initiatives. But in spite of well-meaning initiatives it has been observed that most of the benefit of the development initiatives do not percolate down the level and reach the vulnerable groups. Because of this, disparities still exist in the society. People’s participation plays an important role in holistic development. For sustainable rural development it becomes very imperative for the GPs to take special initiative at the grass root level to ensure active participation of the vulnerable groups so that they themselves can raise voice and demand social and inclusive growth and development. So, Vulnerable Group Development Index (VGDI) was invented to make some parity.
In the Institutional Strengthening of GP (ISGP) Project special thrust is given on the improvement of services delivered by the GP as local government. All development initiatives taken by GPs must be environment-friendly as well as for the development of the vulnerable groups. Environmental & Social Management Framework (ESMF) adopted by the Government of West Bengal for all GPs are strictly followed by selected 1000 GPs under ISGP Project. But there was no structured framework for assessing the development initiatives were more in favour of the vulnerable groups or not. Therefore, impetus on individual schemes being order of the day, many of the GPs did not have any instrument to find out the areas and initiatives for vulnerable group development and holistic community development process.
The Panchayats & Rural Development Department of Government of West Bengal issued a guideline [No.1126(9)-ISGPP/21P-1/(P.M)/2 dated 23.08.2012] for 1000 selected GPs under ISGP Project on preparation of Vulnerable Group Development Index (VGDI) and inclusion of vulnerable groups in mainstream development initiatives. The main objective of the Vulnerable Group Development Index (VGDI) is to identify the backward areas and disadvantaged rural citizens and ensure their active participation in planning process and understand the areas of disparity in the local context in order to provide better services for the development of vulnerable groups and to minimize the gaps for ensuring holistic, inclusive and sustainable development.
Under the VGDI, the following initiatives have been taken by the Gram Panchayats:
Special initiatives have been taken so that representatives from vulnerable groups could participate and raise their demand in the Gram Sansad Sabha and Gram Sabha meetings. Gram Panchayats are sending invitation letters along with the annual budget summary to each and every household along with a request for participation in such meetings.
Many Gram Panchayats have already started to take special initiative for awareness generation and capacity building of the vulnerable groups about various schemes / programmes / support available for these groups.
Gram Panchayats are identifying the areas (Gram Sansads) where the concentration of vulnerable group is maximum within a Gram Panchayat area using the Vulnerable Group Development Index [Table A of Annexure 2]. From Table B of Annexure 3 Gram Panchayats are collating data on existing status of four basic public services (drinking water, roads, drainage system and social infrastructure like Sishu Shiksha Kendra, ICDS centres) in each Gram Sansad. For that purpose, the name and number of Gram Sansads has to be written in descending order on the basis of presence of vulnerable families in the area (i.e. Gram Sansad having maximum percentage of vulnerable families will be in the 1st row of the table). Based on this table, Gram Panchayats are finding out the activities they have earmarked for each Gram Sansad, specially the vulnerable ones on the four basic public services in Table C of Annexure 4. Quite clearly the Index has facilitated the focused development of marginalized and vulnerable groups in a Gram Sansad area as it is prepared through reliable data and the action plan now has dedicated schemes / projects for such groups where a mistaken in number of vulnerable groups and infrastructure schemes have been detected.
Using this Vulnerability Index, GPs are being able to prioritize the areas / activities for ensuring equitable and sustainable development by comparing with the existing infrastructure and appropriately getting reflected in the Integrated Action Plan, thus ensuring social inclusion in development process in true sense.
You can download the Annexures of VGDI from below option. The password to access the file is “isgpvgdi##5869“.