Isaac Arackaparambil sdb BARODA, OCTOBER 9, 2008: The province Development Office organized a seminar on Human Rights for the Salesians of the Gujarat region on October 8, 2008 at Don Bosco Makarpura. Fr. Michael Fernandes, the Provincial, in his tone setting address to the Salesians spoke of the importance for us who are working at the grass roots to expose ourselves to a Human Rights approach to ministry in order to be effective. Fr. Savio Silveira introducing the dynamics of the seminar highlighted the Rector Major’s exaltation to the entire congregation through the Strenna 2008, to make the Rights Based Approach not just an academic discipline, but a perspective in our work so that we become defenders, promoters and activists of Human Rights. In the first session of the seminar, Mr. Lourdes Baptist introduced the participants to the concept of the Rights Based Approach (RBA) in development. Taking queue from the story of the Fish (courtesy Josanthony Joseph), he enunciated the shifts that make development strategies move from charity to rights based empowerment. A Rights Based Approach is one in which development initiatives undertaken by NGOs in the cause of people’s uplift become ‘People’s Participatory Movements’. When this happens, people own the need to secure their rights, they are empowered, and all initiatives now become ‘Right Appropriating’ by the people themselves rather than ‘Right Doling’ by the NGO to the people. The idea is to empower people in making constructive changes in the very structural mechanisms that delimit their right to a dignified existence. Following this input, Mr. Martin Mackwan who is an internationally acclaimed Human Rights Activist for his contribution to the uplift of Dalits in Gujarat, and who is founder of ‘Navsarjan’, an NGO that works in over 3000 villages for the cause of Human Rights, shared his success story of having implemented the Rights Based Approach to the development of peoples. Success comes only if people are persistently working at it. He made a very perceptive analysis of how Gandhian politics overshadowed Ambedkar’s insightful demand of setting up Just Constitutional Laws that embrace those considered the dregs of Indian Society, and how to this day, the political chaos and unequal treatment of human beings continues unabated. The point he emphasized is that we the Church who can wield a thumping influence over a sizeable mass of students who pass through our schools have failed to make the desired impact in the last thirty years of helping our students cultivate a passion for Human Rights and Dignity. In contrast the RSS have cleverly set up their shakas to brain wash impressionable minds with ideologies of hatred. Education is the Key. Happy are we who know how to unlock potential for true human progress, dignity and justice. The afternoon session was animated by a third resource person Mr. Himanshu Baker who explained the concept of Gram Sabhas and Panchayati Raj. The up shot of his exposition was that we need to capitalize on these mechanisms for people’s empowerment, by knowing the functioning of these structural bodies. Fr. Savio Silveira concluded the day by generating a commitment from each Salesian centre of this region to select a village to implement the ideas disseminated through this seminar. This commitment has been made and action is now in process.