NEW DELHI: The presence of Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima of the Netherlands at a seminar here on Thursday on “Water and Microfinance: Exploring Innovative Partnerships” gave a fillip to the effort of the Dutch industry on linking water and micro-finance in India.
Speakers, including Union Minister for Water Resources Saifuddin Soz, Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen and Secretary, Drinking Water, Shanta Sheela Nair, had the ear of the high profile guests, who feel “passionately about water, sanitation and micro-finance.”
Prince of Orange Willem-Alexander, who chairs the United Nations’ Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, said the U.N. proposes to declare next year the International Year of Sanitation to focus attention on global health, dignity and awareness about sanitation.
Highlighting the problems of water, sanitation and the impacts of climate change, the Prince said the need was to tackle the situation at the right level and the right scale. “The approach has to be both, macro and micro and the top-down and bottom-up.”
“Micro-finance can be a powerful enabler to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on water, sanitation, climate change,” he said.
Ms. Nair said that any plan to link micro-finance with water and sanitation had to be through the panchayati raj institutions, which was entrusted with the responsibility of providing water and sanitation. While quoting the gaps in coverage, she said there were successful models in the country. She cited the example of a model in Madhya Pradesh where women were given charge of water and sanitation by a panchayat.
A. Kraaijeveld, Chairman of the Netherlands Water Platform, stressed the need for speeding up best practices and expansion of small-scale decentralised initiatives.
According to Vijay Mahajan of the Bhartiya Samruddhi Finance, micro-finance was not credit alone, it was savings and insurance.
Queen visits Deepalaya
It was a brief visit that will surely remain etched in the memory of the children from NGO Deepalaya when Queen Beatrix visited them on Thursday. The royal entourage was given a traditional welcome by children. They made presentations on cleanliness, hygiene and healthy living practices. Thought-provoking songs, focussing on personal hygiene, cleanliness and sound health, were also rendered. The royal visitors evinced keen interest in the application of “henna” and bridal make-up by the children.
Children stage play
The children also staged a play depicting the transformation in their lives after receiving education at Deepalaya. The play showcased how the NGO’s intervention had brought about a perceptible change in the living standard of the poverty-stricken children who live in slums where there is dearth of civic amenities.
“The royal entourage was indeed delighted to see the joy and fresh energy on the faces of children. Queen Beatrix congratulated the children and the staff for all their efforts,” said T.K. Mathew, Secretary and Chief Executive of Deepalaya.