Volume XXVIII, Issue 4, December 2010 - January 2011

Editorial: New Year, New Avenues

Savio Silveira sdb

The recent months have seen the passing away of two of our great stalwarts, Br. Ludvik Zabret and Br. Thomas Putur. Both were outstanding persons, who have left an indelible mark on the history and culture of the Mumbai province. They were phenomenal personalities, men of deep convictions, extremely passionate Salesians. Both had strong and definite ideas, and spoke their minds vociferously at every given opportunity. They were persons with a clear focus on the Salesian mission, with absolutely no hidden personal agenda. They laboured long hours and believed that others too should do likewise. They were both giants in their field of work, men who spent a lifetime fulfilling their chosen ministry. And they were both path breakers.

Br. Ludvik was a pioneer in every sense of the word. From the waste-lands of Sagayathottam to the wooded-lands of Sulcorna, and finally on to Nashik, he undertook the daunting task of converting these rough and rugged tracts into flourishing farmlands. This type of work itself was new. Agriculture, at least in these parts of the world, was not considered a typical Salesian activity. And yet he plunged decidedly into it, realizing that this was the need of the place and the necessity of the hour. The harvest was not always plentiful, but that did not deter him. He had literally put his hand to the plough and was determined to keep plodding ahead. Well, even today there may still be no convincing conclusion to the debate whether we Salesians should engage in agriculture, that too in commercial cultivation, but one thing is amply clear – with over half our labour force engaged in agriculture, this is not a field we can shy away from.

Br. Thomas was not only a path breaker, but he also broke the stereotype image of the Salesian Brother as someone who should only confine himself to the technical workshop. Tracing a different path for himself, Br. Thomas walked the academic corridors for well over three decades, not just as teacher, but as leader of these institutions. And not only did he break new ground, but went on to climb to the peak of the ground he was standing on, earning himself a PhD in Education. While his demeanour may have led some to dismiss him as traditional conservative, he was in fact progressive and farsighted, pushing for the establishment of educational institutions in the rural areas of our province, advocating the need to train teachers in the use of child psychology, and insisting that students should be assisted to chart out a clear career path for themselves before they leave school. Today, much of this may sound commonplace, but thirty years back these were novel, and even revolutionary ideas.

As the old adage puts it, ‘if today we can see far, it is because we have been sitting on the shoulders of giants’. We have had men who had the ‘audacity’ to look beyond the horizon and the ‘recklessness’ to actually forge a path to towards it. But now those horizons have been reached, those thresholds crossed. And we cannot endlessly celebrate those past achievements. The world around us is constantly evolving and we have to keep pace with it. Changing situations throw up fresh challenges that demand relevant responses. It is time to break new ground, to tread new paths. We need to be ‘giants’ today, persons who are willing to boldly walk down new avenues.

New Approaches to Formation

Ashley Miranda sdb

Formation is a topic that always generates a lot of heated debate. The recently held Seminar on the Personalization of Formation is a tangible testimony of this truth. It was wonderful and heartening to see how passionately and enthusiastically different confreres expressed their views about the current state of formation and what needs to be done to set things right.

One viewpoint that comes up repeatedly whenever formation is discussed, be it in a formal setting like that of a seminar or at informal table conversations, is the one that holds that the current crop of young Salesians is just not up to the mark. There seems to be something lacking in them and they don’t simply match up in terms of commitment, hard work, love for the young, spirit of self sacrifice, openness to learning, care for the community, good manners, and spirit of faith. Those who express this view may have good reasons to do so but letting our experience of a few young Salesians colour our attitude to all of them does not help us. This attitude is neither Salesian nor helpful. Surely, we have got to be honest but that doesn’t mean that we must let ourselves become slaves of pessimism. Salesian honesty is an honesty that is backed by a strong faith, not only in God but also in our confreres, especially our young confreres. If we believe in their goodness and help them believe in their own potentialities we can make things happen; we can bring about not only change but revolution.

When it comes to formation, as we can only expect, there are many different approaches. We are all Salesians and share in the same charism but as human beings we have our own temperaments, our sensibilities, our perspectives on life, and our own particular relationship skills. These particularities are bound to show up in the way we approach formation. Yes, there is the Ratio to guide us but all directives need to be interpreted and given flesh in real life situations. In the attempt to do so differences are bound to arise. They are not altogether unhealthy provided, of course, we do not work at cross purposes. Provided we do not seek to dismantle, because of our own pettiness, what has been built up in some previous stage.

One approach to formation is the top-down, ‘Do as you are told’ approach. In this approach the formators have the central place. They know what is good for those in formation. They have the overall vision and they give directions which the one in formation is expected to follow. Here the focus is on conformity, on following directives to the letter, on obedience, on accepting without asking too many questions. In theory, very few see virtue in this approach, but in practice, this approach is quite popular. It is an approach that both formators and those in formation are quite comfortable with. Provided formators are not too whimsical and inconsistent, this approach has the advantage of clarity. Those in formation know clearly what is expected of them. Formators too have clear criteria on which to evaluate those in formation.

Another approach to formation is one that seeks to test ‘gold in fire’. The logic is that in order to get people to grow we need to keep them on their toes and call a spade a spade. Salesian life is not easy after all and if we can toughen up our young Salesians early in life then by the time there are in active ministry hopefully they will have it within them to face the challenges of the aposolate. This approach does strengthen some, but when taken to the extreme, breaks some others. Of those who are broken, some opt out of the Salesian life, while others stay but they tend to be bitter and carry their bitterness into all their relationships and into everything they do.

Yet another approach is one that seeks to create a ‘loving supportive family’ in which the young Salesian feels affirmed and accepted and helped to grow. Understood wrongly, this approach could do a great deal of harm. Excessive mollycoddling and treating young Salesians with kid gloves may only serve to weaken them and insulate them from the real world. Overprotection from the challenges and crosses of life may end up creating big babies who need constant and excessive affirmation to be able to do anything. If not constantly acknowledged these young Salesians could begin to sulk and act like victims. Love and affection must foster freedom and responsibility. Love that smothers and creates narcissists is something we need to be wary about. A fourth approach is that which makes the ‘rule supreme’. Every initiative, every decision, every strategy is guided by the rules. The mantra is “fit in or ship out”. The young Salesian is evaluated on his ability to follow rules, or more precisely on how adept he is at not breaking them. While it is true that rules are for our good and they ensure to a certain extent fidelity to our charism, an approach that deifies rules ends up producing Salesians who are either too rigid or too smart for their own good and the good of the province and its apostolate.

One could speak of other approaches as well, but we could bypass them for now and go right away to consider two approaches which are very much the need of our times. One that stresses ‘personalization’ and the other that seeks to foster ‘integrated immersion.’ Both these approaches go hand in hand. In fact, one calls for the other and vice versa.

The ‘personalization’ approach is one that places first responsibility for formation on the young Salesian himself. No one can form him; at best formators and others can contribute to creating an ambient conducive to personal responsibility and formation. But it is the young Salesian who in the ultimate analysis has to take personal responsibility for his growth and life understood as ‘discipleship’; as a close following of Jesus Christ. The presupposition here is that the one in formation may be young but he is not a child incapable of making decisions or taking responsibility for his growth. The formators do have an important role in this approach but not as people who have the difficult task of taking care of irresponsible and malicious boys. Instead formators are called to see themselves as mentors entrusted with the delicate task of guiding conscientious and motivated young men eager to live the Salesian life to the full and give themselves wholeheartedly to the mission. In the personalization approach the young Salesian is helped to view himself as one who is called personally by the Lord. This call is one that invites a personal ‘yes’ on the part of the young Salesian. No one else can say ‘yes’ to the Lord in his stead. The ‘personalization approach’ focuses on the inner world of the young Salesian. The one in formation is helped to look inside himself, to accept himself honestly, to work on his weaknesses and immaturity, to build up his convictions, to strengthen his conscience, to act with personal convictions and to assume responsibility for his own growth.

The ‘Immersion’ approach is one that requires a close inter-collaboration between formation guides and those in formation. Going beyond concepts of ‘us’ and ‘them’, formation guides introduce those in initial formation to concrete life experiences that expose them to the pains and difficulties of the poor and the young, that challenge, that raise questions, that call for a response on our part as Salesians. This could happen through means of study seminars, symposiums, exposure camps, live-in experiences, etc. during the years of formal studies in the initial years of formation. Village or slum experiences are not something new. They have great formative value, provided however, they are followed by formal moments of reflection and introspection. An experience that is not backed by reflection is not an experience at all. When reflection is absent, formators and those in formation tend to make the mistake of thinking that because they have spent a few days in villages or slums they really know what the poor are going through. Without reflection these experiences become just another ‘feather in our caps’ or a ‘trophy in our cupboards’.

In the ‘immersion’ approach to formation care is taken not to insulate the one in formation [in our case the young Salesian] from the cares and the vagaries of life. Formal formation structures are required and serious study may also require a certain isolation from the hustle and bustle of the street. But immersion would require that the young Salesian is abreast with what is happening around him, in the state and the country. He needs to know not only what is happening to young people but also to all categories of people in general. Sometimes, the extent to which not only our young Salesians but also we who are older are oblivious of what is happening in the world around us is really alarming. In our formation settings especially, we have got to foster good habits of keeping in touch with the news in the papers, television and other contemporary media. We have got the encourage the habit of serious reading, not only on issues of academic interest but also those that have political, social, religious and ethical significance. I am of the view that the ‘immersion approach’ needs that our young Salesians are given the reasonable opportunity to manage finances – both their own and that of the house they belong to. They need to know that money does not come easy and that rising costs usually mean a decreased spending capacity. If they are really given the opportunity to be involved in the budgeting of limited resources in a house and making decisions on how to spend money, I am sure we would have less wastage of food, better care of community belongings and greater conscientiousness when it came to personal expenditure.

In addition to what has been said so far, I think, the ‘immersion approach’ to formation would require that young Salesian be given not only information about but also the actual possibility of participating to the extent possible in the whole gamut of initiatives characteristic of the apostolate of our province. The Salesian apostolate has undergone an evolution over these years in terms of the people we reach out to and also in the kinds of work we are involved in. But many view, practical training for example, as a time of assisting boys in the dormitory, study hall and at games in a boarding setting. Assisting, understood as ‘being qualitatively present’ is something that our charism demands not only from the practical trainee but from all of us. And if our charism has evolved to included settings that go beyond the almost mandatory boarding in each Salesian house of the past days then formation at the stage of practical training but include experiences besides that of keeping the order in formal boarding setups.

By way of conclusion, I would just like to say a few words on the rationale behind the ‘immersion approach’. The ‘immersion approach’ draws its inspiration from the great truth of the incarnation. Out his great love for us, Jesus the son of God, chose to become one like us. Instead of loving us from afar, he immersed himself totally in the drama of human life. This immersion expressed itself in his amazing ability to sense what exactly was happening in people’s hearts, his sensitivity to their anxieties and struggles and his immense compassion for the last and the lost. Formation that combines ‘immersion’ with ‘personalization’ would make a deep impact not only in the lives of our young Salesians but also on the quality of the life and apostolate of the province as a whole.


Savio Silveira sdb

Climate Catastrophe

The unprecedented environmental destruction that the world has witnessed during the past century, and more especially during the last few decades, is already having disastrous effects on our life. We can no longer talk about ‘Climate Change’ as something that will happen in the future; rather, it is ‘Climate Changed’. What we thought were prophecies for the future are now reports in our daily newspapers.

Take the recent ‘onion crisis’, for example. The unbelievable and almost vulgar price of Rs. 100 for a mere kilo of ordinary onions may have set a new Guinness record, but it was not an achievement that called for a celebration. Rather, as the tweet going around said, ‘sky rocketing onion prices have literally brought tears to the eyes’. So why are we paying a kingly price for this poor man’s food? ‘Unseasonal rains have caused havoc across the nation. Onion crop being sensitive to water has been damaged leading to the shortfall in supply and resulting in high prices,’ explained Changdev Holkar, an onion farmer from Nashik in Maharashtra, who is also a director at the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India. This year the monsoon extended well into November and this was not conducive to harvesting of the onion crop. Unseasonal rains, damaged crops, rising prices. Simple logic.

And talking about the rains, the monsoon pattern has drastically changed over these past few years. While in 2009 the monsoon played truant and the country was subjected to long dry spells during the traditionally wet season, in 2010 it was a swing to the next extreme – the rains held the country in their soggy embrace well beyond the normal monsoon period. But if India was bad, Pakistan was worse! While we grumbled about the incessant rains, Pakistan literally struggled to keep afloat as it was battered by torrential downpours. One fifth of the country was submerged underwater and its famous Indus River reached its highest water level ever recorded in the 110 years since regular record keeping began.

So what brought on this deluge? Scientists from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, were categorical in their assertion that rising global temperatures were behind the floods. ‘There is no doubt that clearly the climate change is contributing, it is a major contributing factor’, said Ghassem Asrar, Director of the World Climate Research Programme. He also pointed out that the atmospheric anomalies that had led to the floods in Pakistan were also directly related to the same weather phenomena that caused the record heat wave in Russia and flooding and mudslides in western China. Speaking on the same issue, R K Pachauri, the Chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the 2007 Nobel Prize, warned that there is ample evidence to show an increase in the frequency and intensity of floods, droughts and extreme precipitation events worldwide. He further cautioned that, ‘The floods of the kind that hit Pakistan may become more frequent and more intense in the future in this and other parts of the world’. That prophecy has just come true in Australia, where over 20 towns have been submerged by the December floods in the state of Queensland.

The writing is clearly on the wall. And if we are not convinced by reading ‘the signs of the times’, there are several well researched documents that we should begin reading.

A recent report, ‘Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010: The State of the Climate Crisis’, that was released simultaneously at London and Cancun on 3rd December 2010 paints a bleak scenario. It states: ‘The artificial heating of our planet fuelled by human activities already interferes with earth’s delicate climate leading to effects that are dangerous for people and nature. The alarming rate of change and spiralling effects of heat, wind, rain, deserts, sea levels, and other impacts on the world’s populations leave a human toll of 350,000 deaths every single year’.

Weather disasters will lead to sever adverse impacts on habitat, livelihoods and health. According to this report: ‘An estimated 350,000 people die each year due to major diseases and health disorders related to climate change. Unless measures are taken, by 2030 climate change will increase its toll to more than 800,000 deaths per year.’ India is one of the countries that will be badly affected by climate change related health problems. The report states that: ‘In absolute terms, India is the country that will face the highest number of excess deaths due to the health impacts of climate change. It alone will carry more than a third of the total global health burden.’

However, this report also reminds us that: ‘Climate change is the most urgent challenge of our time. The future of the environment and the life it supports rests on the decisions we take over the coming years. This represents an enormous responsibility on our shoulders, which is not only a burden – but also a tremendous opportunity for us all.’

Our Response: GreenLine

The Mumbai Salesian Province is keenly aware of this ‘enormous responsibility’ and ‘tremendous opportunity’ that climate change poses to us. Traditionally, we have been involved in a host of environment conservation and enhancement projects. But the present crisis demands a more focused and resolute response. Hence, our Provincial Chapter 2010 decided that we would begin a new ‘Grey to Green Initiative’ as one of the priorities of the province. Accordingly, in October 2010, the Development Office launched a new initiative called GreenLine to take forward different environmental projects.

GreenLine works on the premise of ‘Greener People, Greener World’. The focus is not so much on launching ‘green projects’, but rather on increasing the Green Quotient (GQ) of people. GQ is defined as the degree of environmental consciousness within a person which determines how much one cares, understands and is determined to do something favourable for the environment. Most often people are just not aware of the environmental crisis the world is facing, or at the most they have a superficial idea about the same. Or even if they are conscious of the gravity of the situation, they are at a loss on how to contribute towards the solution. GreenLine seeks to address this gap – it aims at providing comprehensive information on environmental issues and practical ideas for involvement. It is a platform that brings together individuals, institutions and organizations to share possibilities and plans. It is movement that creates ‘greener people’ who in turn will create a ‘greener world’.

Green Schools Campaign

As its first project, GreenLine has launched the ‘Green Schools Campaign’. This campaign aims at educating children on their responsibility towards the environment and to offer them the opportunity to actually be involved in ‘greening’ projects. The participating schools are being assisted to enhance the green projects which they may have already begun, or to launch a new green initiative that would be relevant and beneficial to the school and its neighbourhood (example: Waste Management, Water Recycling, Organic Gardens, Eco Club, etc). This campaign is being held from October 2010 to March 2011, and is open to all schools, for students up to Std. X, within the Mumbai metro area. The performance of the participating schools will be judged on the following criteria: Relevance of the project being implemented by the school; Creativity of ideas used in this project; Participation of teachers and students; Impact of the project on the school and neighbourhood environment; Sustainability measures woven into the project to ensure its continuity. At the close of the campaign, the ‘greenest school’ will receive the ‘Maschio Foundation GreenLine Award’.

Zegarb Campaign

Next on the anvil is the Zegarb (Zero Garbage) Campaign. This campaign will be launched in June 2011 and will involve various schools in the Mumbai metro area. Mumbai generates close to 7,000 tonnes of waste per day; of this approximately 5,000 tonnes is mixed waste (biodegradable and recyclable), while 2,000 tonnes are construction debris and silt. Unfortunately, since we neither have good personal habits of waste disposal, nor does the municipality have an efficient system of waste management, the entire city has degenerated into a garbage cesspool. ‘We are 50 or 60 years behind the US and European nations in treating garbage and implementing waste technologies. Mumbai is even behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,’ declares Almitra Patel, a garbologist who was on the Supreme Court committee that framed the Municipal Solid Waste Rules for the country, and a person who has spent the last 12 years studying garbage disposal.

The Zegarb Campaign aims at training students in proficient and professional methods of managing the waste they produce – be it paper, plastic, glass, e-waste or other biodegradable materials. The end result will not only be that zero garbage goes out of the school, but the school will also earn revenue from the waste it produces. Recycling garbage has another critical benefit; it reduces the wasteful use of resources, since the same materials get reused. Enlarging the impact, we hope to then take the campaign to the homes and housing colonies of the students. Organizations like the Centre for Environmental Research and Education, Daily Dump and Stree Mukti Sangatna that have the expertise in waste management will be consultants to this campaign.


Beyond campaigns with schools, GreenLine is looking at an involvement with corporate bodies and civil society organizations. Creating a greener world requires the active commitment of all the stakeholders. Eliciting this commitment and translating it into relevant action, that’s the mission of GreenLine.

Connect All

Barnabe D’Souza sdb

Why Financial Inclusion?

In a world driven by a cash economy and international flow of capital, the majority of the poor still remain excluded from financial services. Financial services have failed to adequately reach poorer populations for a number of reasons, including: inadequate infrastructure; perceptions that lending to the poor is too risky to be commercially viable; inhibiting regulatory and legal environments; and limited understanding and awareness of financial services by the poor. Financial services, including savings and deposit services, credit, payments and transfer services, and insurance, are increasingly being seen as important to poverty reduction and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus opined that all the poor really need is a little capital to start climbing the economic ladder. Yunus' approach is echoed by other social entrepreneurs. Give somebody a handout, they say, and he will feel and act like a helpless beggar. Give him a loan, and you treat him (or, in most cases her) as a responsible business partner.

Financial services can offer the poor mechanisms to stabilise livelihoods, stimulate economic development, finance reconstruction and facilitate renewed remittance flows. Access to financial services can also promote social inclusion, provide identity and build self-confidence and empowerment, in particular among the marginalized. When there are more poor in the labour force earning a reasonable income, benefits flow to their children in improved standards of wellbeing and educational attainment. Where they have the capacity, the opportunity and the skills to earn an income, the poor raise not only the quality of their own lives but also the lives of those around them. The ripple effect goes beyond the immediate family into the community. Suddenly they have the means – and the power – to break the poverty cycle. They are driven to free their families from a hand to mouth existence, and to put aside some capital for emergencies.

“Our family income of Rs. 7,000 would get over by the middle of the month. My husband would spend the money on drinks for himself and his companions. I was helpless to do anything. I tried robbing from his pockets when he was in a drunken stupor and hide the money in my pots and pans, under the mattress, in my children’s clothes etc. But he always found it and then would beat me. Then I tried to hide from him the actual number of houses I was working in (as a domestic) - in a bid to save at least some of the money that I was earning. But eventually he would find out the truth and turn his anger on me and my children. I had to send my children to beg on the streets and they stopped attending school. We tried to manage on what they brought in but soon we had to turn to borrowing and perpetual debt. Now we are constantly paying back various debts. How can I get out of this trap?” lamented 32-year old Savita, a basti dweller.

It was in response to such questions that the Don Bosco Research Centre launched its Financial and Social Inclusion initiative via its Connect All Network.

What is Connect All?

Connect All is a network of developmental organizations created to achieve a vision of total inclusion. The realm of financial and social inclusion is seen as a means of not only building up financial capital but also to ensure protection of assets owned by the marginalized. The goal is to ensure that all marginalized citizens of India are included in one or the other government mainstreaming and poverty alleviation programmes; this is best done through the wide range of NGO Networks across the country, networked through Connect All India.

Instruments of Identity- A Tool to Access their Rights

Most traditional identity instruments such as Ration Cards ( which enables the poor to obtain food grains through the Public Distribution System at subsidized rates) are regarded by the state as non universal, provide insufficient information, and are non verifiable. Obtaining a ration card required some proof of identity such as birth certificate or school leaving certificate, which the poor did not possess since they were born at home (and so were not registered with government bodies) and many never attended school (having to work in their village farm instead). The new instruments based on biometrics system are identity proofs that can be used to ensure consumer access to banking, insurance as well as government schemes. These instruments are seen by Government of India as essential for strengthening livelihoods strategies of poor households.

Three major elements form the essence of this conceptual framework-:

v People (especially poor people) they are actors who labour and have agency

v Assets and capabilities- leverage people’s agency by making people’s actions more effective and increasing the returns to their labor

v Institutions which establish people’s obligations and their claims on assets and capabilities

The Connect All Network aims:

Ø To reach out to those sections of the society who have been excluded from Government programme and/or are not serviced by formal financial institutions

Ø To strengthen networks with NGOs which need support to reach out to the excluded communities and groups they have been working with

Ø To work on financial and social inclusion by disseminating information on government projects and programmes, build capacities of all stakeholders; undertake research, documentation and policy analysis.

Enhancing Fiscal Capital

Biometric door-to-door mobile banking is a pro-poor move towards greater transparency.

v No Frills Biometric Bank Accounts: Taking the view that access to a bank account can be considered a public good, in 2005, RBI directed all banks to offer at all branches the facility of ‘no frills’ account to any person desirous of opening such an account. This account has a zero balance, there are no KYC (Know Your Customer) documents required to open this account. It can be operated by an NGO or any other private person/ handicapped person/ kiosk on a Commission basis. It has just two hand held machines, one a mobile phone and the other a finger printing biometric device (25% smaller than a credit card machine) and also a voice recorder- so the person speaks into the machine as to how much he is withdrawing or depositing. Only he/she can withdraw the money personally through fingerprint authentication thus eliminating the possibility of cheating. Such mobile banking is taken to the doorstep of the poor and enables money to be transferred from anywhere in India. This facility allows the family budget to be stretched to the end of the month and beyond, frivolous spending is reduced or even cut out (as in Savita’s case, page 2). If there is no food in the house, the lady of the house can go and withdraw a small amount (Rs.30-40) to buy what she requires, without sending her children to beg. This ensures that they go to school and are kept off the streets.

v Income Generation: Tie ups with some industrial centers (MIDC) have ensured that they outsource their semi-skilled jobs of packing, sticking, labeling, etc. to poor and vulnerable groups who earn about Rs.100 to 120 a day in urban areas and save it in their no frills accounts. Similar activities are being carried out in rural areas.

v Government Policies: There are several Government policies for those Below Poverty Line, the urban and rural poor, like Rozgar Yojnas, employment guarantee schemes, medical schemes, disaster related schemes, development schemes etc which only partially reach the people. Connect All has begun researching procedural systems to help obtain these for the poor in urban and rural areas.

v Insurance Policies: SEBI has given a mandate to several Insurance agencies to design programmemes especially for the poor. Under the Education Plan Yojna for students from Classes 8 to 12, they have to put in Rs. 50/- per month, the State and Central Governments put in a matching amount so that after 4 years (after Class 12) the student has the money to pursue graduation studies should he so desire. There is the pension scheme by UTI – wherein any poor person can put in Rs. 100-200 or more per month anywhere after the age of 18+ upto 58 years, after which he gets a pension every month on his capital amount. Hence the poor farmer has security in his old age. There are several policies like these that Connect All are negotiating with the issuing companies, and delivering it as a package to NGOs in different parts of India.

v Assets Valuation: Helping the poor and marginal segment get their live stock valued by the bank enables them to obtain credit for it, multiplies the livestock, farm produce, small scale businesses etc. as the poor are enabled to bargain from a point of reference of possessing/owning assets.

Social inclusion involves the removal of institutional barriers and the enhancement of incentives to increase the access of diverse individuals and groups to assets and development opportunities through documentation and instruments of identity such as:

v The PAN Card: It provides access to a bank account, helps to obtain organized employment, obtain access to Government funds as well as other documents like the Voters card, the Ration Card, Passport etc. Through a tie-up with UTI, the main Pancard issuing authority of India, Connect All is helping NGOs to help the poor in remote regions to make their Pan cards at the Government rate (so they are not cheated by agents) and obtain access to further fiscal capital.

v The UIDAI: The Government of India is mapping the 1 billion plus residents of India through a biometric Unique Identification Number (UID). Through a tie-up being worked out with the chief executive of UIDAI, Connect All is getting NGOs to access their services and help the rural poor get access to all other proofs of identity. The Unique Identification Number is a transparency instrument for good governance and helps to track whether Government funding has reached the poor directly. Criticisms on confidentiality and procedural issues are being addressed.

v The Medical Benefit Card for the Below Poverty Line (BPL): It helps the poor get 50% off on their medical bills, but most are not aware of this benefit. When they get ill, they borrow money and remain entrapped in indebtedness their entire life. By facilitating the procedure for obtaining this and other cards, the NGOs are able to reach out to those most in need.

v The Senior Citizens Card: This card helps those above 65 years get 50% discount on electricity, water, transport, medical payments etc. There are some agencies appointed to do this for the rural and urban poor. Connect All has built up contacts with these agencies to help the poor obtain these cards.

There are other documents such as the Postal ID Card which operates in some states of India, and which can help obtain other identity documents. With over 350 million people who are below the poverty line, the Government has been introducing several schemes in a bid to alleviate their poverty, but ineffective implementation means that the benefits do not percolate to the poor as envisaged. Hence these cards are a way of helping the poor get access to these benefits.

Specifically financial and social inclusion is expected to have the following outcomes:

Ø Improve access of marginalized to banking and insurance services

Ø Build skills in savings, budgeting and asset management

Ø Improve access of Self Help Groups to credit facility

Ø Reduced borrowing from informal money lenders, peth pedhi, chit funds and lessening of indebtedness

Ø Improve access of marginalized to government poverty alleviation programmes

Ø Reduce rural seasonal migration, family disintegration, increase children studying in village schools etc

Ø Increase livelihood assets, capabilities and networks of poverty groups

Ø Reduce the number of people living below poverty line.

Ø Conclusion

Financial and Social Inclusion is a long term programme which requires an ongoing investment and input from all the stakeholders. An investment climate geared to pro-poor growth and creation of financial and social capital leads to lateral development. The GDP growth cannot be ascribed to the efforts of just a few business houses and a corporate sector that has a vertical perspective to development with its concentration of wealth at the top rung. It is a methodology to bring about collateral development, without leaving out those at the bottom of the ladder.

For us Salesians, it is another perspective on individual and family development with its macro dynamics at reducing poverty, migration, urbanization and family disintegration while simultaneously enhancing youth dividends by increasing education, skilling opportunities and keeping children out of early labour and off the streets, an effort towards a just society, wherein the poor obtain access to what is deservedly their right.

Ludvik Zabret (1923-2010)

Ivo Coelho sdb

When I was asked me to put down something about Bro Ludvik, I thought I would write from memory. Bro Ludvik was a sort of legend among us when we were young. We had heard some vague stories about his younger days, so whenever we met him we would invariably ask him about his escape from Yugoslavia. His first reaction was to get angry. "Stupid fellows, why you want to ask about that?" Then a pause. Then he would start his story, in bits and pieces. I don't remember the details any more, but I think as a young man he escaped into Italy after some use of violence, which he was either ashamed of or else found too dangerous to talk about (we must remember that Yugoslavia continued to be Yugoslavia for many years that Ludvik was in India. The dismemberment of the country took place only very recently). I have the impression that Ludvik had already made his novitiate and profession when this happened. I think I recall him telling us that the Rector and council of the aspirantate had decided to send him away. The Rector called him and told him to go. But Ludvik simply told him he would not go. And he stuck on, made his novitiate, and professed as a Salesian Brother.

Interestingly, all this is confirmed by Ludvik himself in an account written at the request of Fr Ivan Rodrigues (Ivan was collecting material for the famous Missionary Animation Notes of our province some years ago). The account is written in his own inimitable English, and he was quite aware of this, for at the end of the account he writes: “I do not know English had no time in the begining to seat [sit] and studi I know only what I learn as children learn by hearing.” I have resisted the temptation to touch up the spellings and the grammar: best to hear Ludvik talking directly.

But let’s begin from the beginning. Ludvik was born to Joseph Zabret and Rosalia Borc on 9th August 1923 at a place called Topole in what was then and is now the beautiful little country of Slovenia, tucked in to the north-east of Italy and south of Austria, and surrounded by Croatia on the other two sides. He was baptized two days later, on 11th August 1923, at Menges.

Salesian Vocation

My memories are interestingly confirmed, in greater detail, by Ludvik himself. This is what he writes. “When I was 5 years old my father told me, nex year you are going to school and here are to [two] rabbits and to [two] pegions. There is a hip [heap] of planks, what you will sel it will be your poket money, I will not give you a peni. From that time I have always money in my poket.

“When I was 10 year old my mother took me everiyear to wher the Salesians have a shrine of M.H.C. of feast day in May everiyear. I liked the seting and cheerful boys everiwhere. When I finished 8 years of elementary school and got marks sheet in mai hands I went for a interview with the Salesians. How?

“At the age of tirtheen on every Sunday with mother went to parish church 5 km away from our village to be free to atend house work. We where a big Family of 11 members. On Sunday after Sunday mas in the parish Mamy would cook for the big family and I would care for animals minveil rest of the family would go for 10 h. mass.

“I had independent poket money so in 6 h. parish mas I sleept [slipped away] from the church at the end of mas without mother noting it run 2 km away railway station and tok the train to capital wher there was shrine of Mary H.C., I met the administrator of the salesian House ho askt me what I wonth [want]. I said I wish to be accepted to the Institute. He anser, you so smal nothing doing, come some years from know and we shal see now you are to [too] smal. If you give me good food I will grow big as you. That enseteld [unsettled] him. O.K. here is the list of cloths required and you can come when you want but in company of Father or Mother. Late afternoon I reached home. My Father said nothing only wolk to me bent me on his nee and gave mi a good trashing, you will never go to Salesians. Mother was not advers. After 3 weeks all the requred [required] was redy, my Father has send me to the Salesians with the words ‘go, after one week you will be back.’

“Tovrts the end of the noviciate nov. Master cold [called] me after night prayers and told me ‘tomorrow morning Bro so-and-so will take you to the station we are sending you home because you have no vocation you are not for us.’ Discusins lasted till one oclok in the night. He said go to rest tomorrow we shal see. Next day I met him several times but said nothing. After night prayers cold me again. ‘House chapter has a meeting and all agreed that you go home.’ I am not going home was my reply. Discuson gone on till 2 h. in morning. ‘You are exeptionaly stubon [stubborn] may be somthing can be made out of you.’ My companions profesed on fiest of Our Lady 5 of august. I had prolonged noviciat and profesed on the fiest of Christ the King on 20 of October 1940. The Lord had mercy on me.”

The records of the province of Mumbai indicate that the young Bro Ludvik worked in the vegetable gardens (1940-41) and then on farms at Lisiefe (1941-43) and Bostary (1943-44). In 1944-45 he is listed as doing military service and then in the concentration camp. Once again we turn to his own account of what happened in those years, when the Great War began. Some of his sentences defy construction; I have left them as they are, because I think they reveal the strong emotions behind the experiences even at a distance of 60 or 70 years.

The War and the Escape

“On year 1941 started world wor 2 our small Slovenija was dividet by Germany, Italy and Hungary. Simultanesly also Komunist revolution. Ker so komunisti in night [the Communists came in the night] from homes taking influential people and in ju[n]gle shot them ded. Slowly the tretened [threatened] men organized themselfs and the night spend together in one place to defend themselves with arms not to be kiled.

“Salesians in Capital have hired a casel with hundred acres of land to produse food for confreres in capital where every thing was ration an where wore starving. So 2 priest and two coadjutor Brothers to start to produce some food. Becose many priest were kild in parishes extra priests was going on sunday to diferent parishes for holy mass. This was year 1943. We had a good crop of potatos (8 wagons) plus maze and plenty of hay (2 tausend tons).

Here, as we come to the core of his story, Bro Ludvik’s account gets really convoluted: “On 8 sept 1943 Italy capitulated to American and British forces. Comunist forces agried to help them to go bak to Italy after the communist defetit only comunist forces. [This part is not clear. I think the Communists were fighting against the Germans, so they were on the Allied side.] So our farm was atakt [by Communists] on 12 of september 1943. Avery night boy and young man come with there guns to spend the night in the castle to defend themself from communist atac. Italians military gave canons to communist in stem so level all anti-comunis forces. [??] Casel where we tuk refuge was leveled on 19 september 1943. As prisoner of communist we were in smol groop of 30 or so to work as and ordered. German occupaing forces have started ataking these comunist camps in the jungles. After 3 day in the jungles haiding without food we vere marched on a makadom road towards east. A motociclist came from oposit direction and asket our comandant where we are going. We have no mashin gun, he ansered; for these cats you do not need mashin gun. We were ol tide up two and two with barb vires. On both sides of the road were jungles. So we wer led some distanz in to jungle and made sit down in a cirkle. Ol day we where siting in cirkel hands tied with barb wire two by two. In the evening comandant gave order to commandant gards to take plyers and tide [tighten] the vires on hand that may not come loose. Later on have come to know that he was curir [courier] for anticomunist forses. He was goin from place to place in old wornout jacket and old agriculture tools. When he was captured by comunist patrol was saing, ‘I am going to work in the fields.’ So he was mobilised in comunist forces. By Divine Providence he was commandant [guard?] smol group that was garding us and to him comandant of comunist forses [told] to titen the barb vire wit which we were tied. With plyers. Hi neld [knelt] behaind each of us and vispered I am going to loosen the vire. When I give the signall you jump on the gards. When he finished went up to comandant saluted and reported ‘I have caried out your comand’ and spraied comandant and politcommissar with tomy gun. It was night. We jump up, gards surendered at ones and started to run away. Sudenly we so [saw] in distance a fire and when we come near we so [saw] they were distributing food, thik rice with meat inside. A voce came ‘Dise are cetnik, a diferent organisation of anti-comunist.’ So we were not afreed to take the food. Litle furder on was a smol fire and a tol oficer standing there. So I aproched him but before I reach him sudenly fire blesed [blazed] up and I notice he is not a chetnik but a comunist becose he has a comunist star on his cap. An I slept [slipped] away no body notist us. That is how the Lord gave us food after 3 days, if I new [knew] that they where comunist I would never have aproched them. God in his goodnes has fed us. Glory to God!!! We run in the night for our life. We were 5 in numbers, 2 Salesian Bro. and 3 young men from near by vilage wher was our agricultural big Farm, to produce food for the Salesians in town where every thing [was] on rations was burned up.”

So this is Ludvik’s life and death experience, something that I believe marked him all through. The pain was not lessened by his awareness of the ‘Realpolitik’ played by the Allied forces, and it is good to let his remarks be on record: “Eventualy I landed up in Italy. May compinions in Slovenija have not been so fortunate. After the victory of Tito in Jugoslavia the anti-comunist forses [this is incomplete]. After the victory of Tito the British have helped the anti-comunist forces that have taken refuge in Austria. The British sent them bak with pritensed they are sending thro tunel to Italy have send them one tunel thro Alp to Titos Jugoslavia. So 20,000 Jugoslavians were send back to Tito and were put to dead in mines tunels of Kocevje. 20,000 young men oll thanks to British.”

In Italy and Spain

“In Italy after surendering to British army [we] were put in concentration camp. Our Rector Major has made a rekqest to American General Aleksander and Salesian prisoners of war wher were alowed to travel to Salesian house in Turin.” Bro. Ludvik seems to have been assigned to the Cumiona Agricultural School near Turin, where he spent the year 1946. “After one year Provincial of South India Rev. Fr Carreño came to Turin and invited me to come to India that was December 1947.” Fr Carreño, a Spaniard (Basque, really), was provincial of the Southern province, which was later to become the Madras province. Ludvik seems to have gone to India via Spain: in 1947 he is listed as a refugee in Spain, and in the same year, as having arrived at Don Bosco Kotagiri, India.


In 1950 Bro Ludvik was assigned to an unfruitful waste of a huge piece of land at Uriyurkuppam in Tamil Nadu, which he transformed into Our Lady's garden: Sagayathottam. He had made 'super-8' movies of the transformation, and used to show them to us in the days when we still had 8mm and 16mm movie projectors. He is still writing about these movies to Fr Ivan Rodrigues in 2004: “My apostolate in India will send you video casete so you can see for yourself. I hope you will recived it in month of May. Casete is made of films on ‘Super 8’ 20 years bak and put on video casete 2 year bak.” He seems to indicate that he has also sent these, or else a narrative, to the Provincial Archives in Mumbai: “This story I have nareted on casete in India may be some where in archive in Bombay. If you have some friend in Bombay he may fish it out.” I don’t think Ivan ‘fished it out’ – but as Provincial Secretary he is certainly now in a position to do so, which I hope he does. But returning to Ludvik, besides being an agriculturist, he was also into communications, though I think he would have thought dimly about joining our contemporary associations of communicators.


In 1965, after 15 years in Sagayathottam, Bro Ludvik was sent to join Fr Giuseppe Moja at Sulcorna, in the southern-most jungles of Goa, where a benefactor had donated 200 acres and more of virgin forest land. Once again he worked wonders on the land, planting cashew trees and sugarcane. He brought several of his workers from Sagayathottam to Sulcorna, and if Sulcorna is what it is today, it is thanks to the hard work and creativity of Ludvik and his group of dedicated workers from Tamil Nadu. Several of us still remember the damming of the river at various places, the low 'bridge' over the river (paralleled much later by the 'high' bridge), the unique irrigation system, the large well dug a little away from the river to take advantage of the ground water all year round, the abundant pineapples and the wonderful pineapple wine, the chickoos as large as cricket balls, the endless plantations of cashew trees, the large mangoes, and the fields of sugarcane.

But marketing expert he was not. His forte was growing things, and growing them in abundance. Marketing – he had the disadvantage of his white skin. I am told that he had to let go of his produce, both at Margao and later at Nashik, at throwaway prices. People would simply not buy from him, and wait for him to get fed up, by evening, dump his produce, and return home.

And of course Ludvik was a hunter. And he had his hunting stories: the huge female wild boar that he had disturbed, and that almost gored him to death; the many magnificent golden-maned Indian bisons that had the misfortune of disturbing him and his fields, so that some of them now adorn the walls of the old residence at Sulcorna....


From Sulcorna, after exactly 15 years, Bro Ludvik was sent in 1980 to the newly set up novitiate house at Nashik – from farmation to formation, as some wag would say – where again he transformed the land into a farm, with grapes, rice, wheat, a piggery and a dairy. There are photos in the Divyadaan chronicles of the vines hanging heavy with grapes, there are memories of young novices putting on several kilos and added visible inches to their height thanks to the healthy and abundant food. And of course there are the Ludvik stories: If you don’t eat it, I will give it to the peegs; if the peegs don’t eat it, I will give it back to you. Or the super-abundant guavas and the guava jam that came on the table every single day of the year, till it came out of the ears and the noses, in the laments of the people of Israel in the desert. Or the formation tips in typical style: Don’t pat the goat, man, tomorrow you will be patting the gurls.

Back to Goa

Bro Ludvik remained in Nashik about 7 years. In 1987 he went to Lonavla, and in 1988 he returned for a brief stint to Sulcorna as assistant farm manager. In 1992 he was administrator in Fatorda, in 1994 in the new house at Loutolim, and in 1997 he came to the delegation house at Odxel. These must have been difficult years for him. Either the farms or the jobs he had were small compared to Sagayathottam, Sulcorna, and even Nashik. The wonderful hams and wines and liqueurs would still appear, but the expenses would be too heavy for small houses to bear, given that the incomes were almost nil. But one impression remains uppermost in my mind: Ludvik was a man of prayer. He had his faults, his defects, his temper. But he prayed. He laughed at the then current philosophy of self-fulfilment: feel fool, fool feel, he would say in his typical way, dismissing it as nonsense. He was convinced that religious had to pray, and that their lives had to be filled with God.

Home again in Slovenia

Reasons of health led him to return, in 2004, to his native Slovenia, where he was assigned to a lovely house for senior Salesians. I had the fortune of seeing his homeland during GC25. He was on home leave, and he made arrangements with the provincial of the place to bring Romulo and myself over to Slovenia. We went by train to the border, where he had come to meet us; then we drove into Slovenia. I can't forget the pristine beauty of the place, and above all the food: tables groaning with food at breakfast, then again the same spread at the mid-morning break, and then lunch, and then supper: hams, sausages, salamis, vegetables fresh and pickled, butter, bread, coffee and milk, cheese, and even a shot of the local grappa – both for breakfast and for the mid-morning break. I began to understand then Ludvik's love affair with food. Good food, home-grown, fresh if possible, preserved when not: these are things that any Slovenian values, because the land is covered with snow half the year; the other half is for growing and storing. So Ludvik did what he knew best to do: he grew food, he knew how to prepare it lovingly and preserve it when he had to, and he enjoyed doing it for his confreres, his community, his friends. And he did it as a man of God, a man of prayer, a man without pretences or agendas. He was all there, for you to love or to hate.

Another great example of the life of a Salesian Brother: a life lived fully, unpretentiously, without unnecessary complications, in faith, in hope, and in the love that comes from God and enters into our lives till it takes them over completely and draws us to him.

God bless you, Bro Ludvik. And thank you for the blessing that you have been to us in this land of your providential mission.