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The Poorest Areas Civil Society Programme against Poverty in India (PACS)

The PACS Programme is a seven year (2001-2008) efforts to empower millions of poor people living in many of India’s most backward districts. It seeks to achieve this by strengthening civil society oranisations (CSOs) working for the poor. The programme today covers over 10500 villages in around 74 districts of 6 states through a network of over 350 CSOs.



The PACS Programme stems from the overall aim of the UK’s Department For International Development (DFID) to reduce global poverty and promote sustainable development.


In particular DFID is committed to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal of having the number of poeple living in extreme poverty in the world by 2015.


In India DFID is working in partnership with the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh on a variety of programmes.


The PACS Programme was conceptualised to help the very large number of poor people living in other regions of the country.


To achieve maximum long-term impact over a large area in an effective and manageable way, the PACS Programme focuses on strengthening the awareness and capabilities of poor people, so that they can demand and exercise their rights – political, economic, social and human – to improve their own lives. In other words, the programme focuses on the demand side, rather than on supply side activities such as building infrastructure.


Focuses on around 100 of the poorest districts of India, the PACS Programme seeks to build the capacities of poor people to:

>  Influence policies, and

>  demand services and entitlements that can improve their lives.

This is the primary objective of the programme. The programme seeks to achieve these goals through a network of civil society organisations (CSOs). CSOs have been deliberately chosen as agents of change. In many of the poorest areas they have a far more effective reach than governments or market forces.


The secondary objective of the programme is to strengthen the capacity and role of Indian civil society and CSOs working for the poor. This will ensure that the benefits of the programme are sustained over the medium term.

The long-term goals of the programme are :

>  Supporting the poor to help themselves as well as demand their rights

>  Influencing government to adopt successful methods for reducing poverty

>  Making government at all levels more effective and accountable, and

>  Making society more responsive to the problems and aspirations of the poor.



The PACS Programme’s strategies are derived from its Aim.


The Programme supports a network of civil society organisations (CSOs) working on projects aimed at increasing the capacity of poor people to demand and use political, economic, social and human rights, and services to improve their lives.


The carefully selected CSOs, including some large Indian and international organisations, usually work in partnership with other organisations.


The PACS Programme is currently (as per internet checked on 2/3/2005) supporting 80 CSOs; known as programme partners. Including small and medium -sized organisations allied to these CSOs, the PACS Programme network extends to over 350 non-governmental organisations.


All the programme partners work within the scope of clearly defined and rigorously appraised project proposals. To know more about partners and their projects, click here going into website.


The PACS Programme has been designed to determine and implement the most effective strategies to empower the poor and build the capacities of local communitee. It supports an integrated approach to key development concerns, including.

>  Improved local self-governance : Many PACS Programme projects develop the capacity of the poor to voice their needs and views through panchayati raj institutions, so that they can exercise democratic control over local representatives and public services.

>  Women’s empowerment: Many PACS Programme projects focus on improving women’s participation in local government.

>  Social cohesion : The PACS Programme works to increase awareness of rights and catalyse change in institutions and policies to reduce discriminatory practices in communities, especially discrimination against tribals and dalits, the landless, women, children and minorities. The programme encourages peaceful and cohesive approaches to securing rights.

>  Policy advocacy : The absence of relevant and effective state and national policies compounds the problems of the poor. In other instances, pro-poor policies exist but are not implemented. PACS Programme managers and partners are working on advocacy efforts for the formulation and implementation of policies in favour of the poor.

>  Self-help : For the poor to work towards the long-term outcomes listed above, it is essential that their immediate, basic needs are met. Hence the PACS Programme supports sustainable self-help initiatives which complement the efforts of governments and provide a platform for addressing other key issues. Self-help also promotes the development of participatory leadership and economic security.


The PACS Programme seeks to promote the creation of clusters and networks of CSOs so that concerted effort can be made on these and other inter-related and pressing issues such as :

>  Denial If land rights.

>  Problems of the disabled.

>  Rights of children

>  Integrated development of specific regions such as Bundelkhand.

>  Creation of sustainable livelihoods on a large scale.


Parterres work to meet programme objectives by :

>  Creating awareness among the poor about their constitutional and legal rights.

>  Providing training and information in management or technology skills.

>  Organising exposure visits.

>  Encouraging and supporting microfinance groups.

>  Facilitating the development of new livelihood opportunities.

>  Establishing links to government institutions and programmes.

>  Developing their own and other organisations involved with issues of the poor.

>  Undertaking issue-based advocacy.


While the PACS Programme is primarily focused on the poor, it is also strengthening the capacity and role of CSOs. The programme has a long-term capacity -building framework with specific training programmes, seminars and workshops on issues and topics identified by the programme’s managers in consultation with the programme partners.


Stronger CSOs with enhanced skills, exposure and knowledge will ensure that the benefits of the programme are sustained over the medium term.

Through advocacy, communities of success stories and networks with other institutions, the programme attempts to meet the long-term goals of:

>  influencing government to adopt successful methods for reducing poverty

>  making government at all levels more effective and accountable, and

>  making society more responsive to the problems and aspirations of the poor.


Geographical Coverage

The PACS Programme is operational in an extremely backward region of central and eastern India spanning six states:

>  Maharashtra  >  Madhya Pradesh  >  Uttar Pradesh

>  Chhattisgarh  >  Bihar    >  Jharkhand



The PACS Programme area across these states has been defined on the basis of a list of 100 ‘poorest’ districts of India prepared by a committee of the Government of India’s Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment, in 1997. After new districts were carved out, this list increased to 108 districts. See India’s poorest districts for a discussion on this list, a more recent list prepared by the Planning Commission and another list prepared by non-government experts.


From the 1997 list, the PACS Programme area was carved out in such a way that it covers the maximum number of ‘poorest’ districts in a geographically contiguous region, so that the programme could reach the largest number of poor people in an effective and manageable way.


The PACS Programme area so created covers around 85% of the ‘poorest’ districts of India, as defined by the Government of India in 1997. About 40% of India’s population lives in the programme area. An estimated 100 million people living in the programme area are ‘extremely poor’.


Present Scope

Till the end of 2003, PACS Programme projects were being implemented in 74 districts across six states; covering around 10,500 villages.


Submit a Project Proposal

The PACS Programme’s managers welcome concept papers for projects from reputed civil society organisations (CSOs).

CSOs seeking support should not submit project proposals at the first stage. Please read the following carefully on how to proceed.

>  First read about the PACS Programme’s Aim, Geographical Coverage and Strategies to see if your project proposal fits into the programme framework. You can also look up the Partners & Projects section to contact CSOs in your region that are already associated with the PACS Programme.

>  If your project proposal fits into the PACS Programme framework, see whether your organisation meets the Selection Criteria for receiving grants directly.

>  Read about the Selection Process and submit your concept paper in the specified format.


Does the PACS Programme support efforts like construction of schools and hospitals ?

No. The PACS Programme is aimed at demand-side issues: making poor people more aware of their human, political, social and economic rights and building their capabilities to exercise these rights for the betterment of their lives. The programme is not aimed at supply-side issues like construction of schools and hospitals.


However, CSOs participating in the programme could be involved in tackling supply-side issues through other programmes. The PACS Programme managers are also exploring the possibility of linking some of the programme’s projects to supply-side assistance, with the aid of other donor agencies and government programmes.


For more details write to:

PACS Programme Co-ordinator

Development Alternatives

B-32, TARA Crescent, Qutub Institutional Area

New Delhi – 110 016, India

Tel:+91-011 -26968904 (direct) / +91-011-26967938/26851158/26565370 (extension numbers 277/258)

Fax: -91-011-26866031

email: [email protected]