BasicNeeds was founded in 1999 by Chris Underhill. The first country office was set up in Bangalore, India and D M Naidu was the first Programme Manager. BasicNeeds UK seconded Naidu to be the Secretary of BasicNeeds India.
In March 2001 BasicNeeds India was registered as an independent Trust and entered into an agreement to work with BasicNeeds UK to focus on including people with mental illness in to existing development processes in India.
The setting up of BasicNeeds India was funded by Andrews Charitable Trust with a private UK donor agreeing to fund the first implementing project in India for a period of three years.
So, in 2000 three community based organisations working in the field of disability in the rural areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were identified as primary partners: SACRED in Ananthpur; Narendra Foundation in Pavagada and GASS in Doddbalapura.
The initial pilot testing of the model for mental health and development started with training and building the capacity field staff to understand mental health issues. For the first time in their lives mentally ill people were consulted and given space to voice their fears and needs.
Access to treatment is an essential element of the model. BasicNeeds India arranged regular outreach clinics in the local community. This enabled people to receive diagnosis, medication and follow up consultations with a psychiatrist without having to travel miles and miles to the main psychiatric hospital.
As mentally ill people stabilised their main pre-occupation was returning to work or learning new skills so they could increase the family income. BasicNeeds India and its primary partners provided funds for livelihood activities or access to skills training.
Vijayalakshmi lives in a village in South India and is know as a good Samaritan because she was never too busy to help others. Unfortunately as she walked to her small roadside kiosk one morning she was hit by a truck and her leg was so severely damaged it had to be amputated. Upon returning from hospital she found that her husband had sold the contents of her kiosk and used the money to buy drink. This meant she had no means of supporting her family. At this point she became very depressed and even attempted suicide. GASS and BasicNeeds worked together to help her to manage her illness and provided her with a small loan to restock her kiosk. She now sits and sells groceries and her sense of pride and belonging is evident.
The success of the pilot project enabled BasicNeeds to secure a grant from the Big Lottery to expand the programme in partnership with BasicNeeds India and three new partners: Samuha working in 3 new districts in Andhra Pradesh; ADD India working in 8 districts ini Tamil Nadu and Kerala and Vidya Sagar working in Chennai.
A further grant from the Big Lottery a year later enabled 15 districts of Bihar and Jharkhand to receive support. Bihar and Jharkhand states are examples where government policy has failed to materialise. Both states are very poor. Bihar state is the bottom of the list for development in India. It has the lowest level of literacy, highest numbers of deaths in police custody, the worst roads, the highest crime and its per capita income is half the Indian average.
There are very few mental health services in these states. In Bihar there are no mental health hospitals, no outreach services to identify mental illnesses, no state psychiatrists, and no access to vital medication. In Jharkhand state the situation is little better, with only one psychiatric hospital which means that people are forced to travel on expensive journeys from miles around to reach it. When they get there they often can’t afford the medication.
As at 31st March 2008 BasicNeeds was present in six states working through seven partners and reaching out to 12,558 people with mental illness.
Since April 2008 BasicNeeds India has spread its work to two other states namely Orissa and Maharashtra as a result of fundraising from local donors. Currently it is reaching 18,042 people with mental illness.
To find out more about Basic Needs India and how its operations have developed since its independence visit www.prajadwani.org or contact
Dr. Mani Kalliath, Programme Manager
114 4th Cross, OMBR Layout, Banasawadi, Bangalore, 560 043
Tel: +91 80 25459235 Fax: +91 80 25450562
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