India Interior

Getting people their due

Usha Rai | Updated on October 19, 2018 Published on October 19, 2018

Claim your benefits A Nagrik Mitra explaining health messages on his tablet Usha Rai   -  Usha Rai

Kalu displays his health card Usha Rai   -  Usha Rai

Senior citizens discuss pension Usha Rai   -  Usha Rai

Mobile messaging helps tribals in Madhya Pradesh access their entitlements

Kalu, a centurion, Lal Singh (70) and Nathuchaina (63) of Ratlipura village, Zhirniya block of Khargone District of Madhya Pradesh, received their full quota of pension as late as 2015. They came to know about old-age pension entitlements the previous year after the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme - India (AKRSPI) set up information centres to tell people about government schemes and how to access them. The initiative began after a survey to understand the extent of deprivation in the tribal areas of three blocks of Badwani, Khargone and Dhar in MP and the schemes available to people.

Kalu’s pursuit of pension began in 2004, when he approached the sarpanch for his old-age entitlement and was paid sums varying from ₹150 to ₹200. It was arbitrary and irregular. Within three months of the Nagrik Soochna Kendra being set up, the paperwork was completed and in 2015 all three got their full pension for the first time. Kalu, being over 80, is, in fact, entitled to a monthly pension of ₹500 and efforts are on to get that for him.

Tejlibai and Chunkibai, over 60, are also getting their widow and old-age pension, respectively. So are 45 others from 250 households in Ratlipura. After pension through post offices, banks and business correspondents appointed by them, the Kendra has now taken up the responsibility of procuring it for them all.

Tejlibai says, “I had a skin problem and treatment was expensive”. With the helpline now available, a Deen Dayal Antodaya Upchar Card or the red health card for those below the poverty line was made in 2015 and she received treatment at the PHC at Zhirniya. A broad grin lighting up her face, she displays her arms free of the eruptions.

Several other services, like the Ujwal Yojana, trickled in and 80 families got cooking gas connections without having to go through an intermediary. A mobile service to give information on entitlements, called Mobile Mahiti (knowledge) Karyakram, was established through the Kendra. Some 4,000 people from 37 villages get mobile messages in Nimadi, the local tribal language.

Information dissemination

Parents, teachers and anganwadi workers get information on their mobiles on mid-day meals, government guidelines on menus and how to ensure children get their dues. Information on new housing schemes is also shared on the device, along with money allotted for one or two-room houses and how to procure it with the support of the gram sabha.

After the patwari’s survey, the community is hoping for crop insurance — Fasal Bima Yojana — too.

In a month, six voice messages and eight text messages are sent to the community. Even if the older people do not use mobiles, their children do and they share the information with those who do not have mobiles. Like in the urban areas, there is growing interest in mobiles.

It is information dissemination that enabled Phaliya, a habitation of 62 households, 4 km from Ratlipura, to get a primary school for 40 students earlier this year, saving children a 4-km walk. The community and the PRIs (panchayati raj institutions) were facilitated to make the demand for the school.

Motivated by the Kendra and with the support of PRIs, communities are making micro plans for village development. Based on the population, the requirement for roads, water, schools, public infrastructure and farming issues, the peoples’ village development plan for 2018-2023 will be merged with the gram panchayat development plan.

An important intermediary for communication is a radio reporter who puts out messages on the mobiles and then goes and meets community members to check if they have received the messages and need any help. Also in use is the interactive voice response system technology. Where there are communication problems, messages are narrow-cast to SHGs (self-help groups), farmers’ interest groups and others.

In addition to the radio reporter, five Nagrik mitras (citizens’ friends) equipped with tablets, reach out to smaller groups in the community with messages and videos. Nagrik mitra Sandeep More does a dozen meetings every month in the three panchayats and seven villages under his charge. In addition to the videos, he shares a helpline number for emergencies. Though there is a determined thrust to modern media for communication, the good old blackboard is still used for messaging. About 8,500 citizens, 80 per cent of those applying for a government scheme, have been successful. More youngsters from the tribal communities are accessing scholarships and hostel accommodation to continue with their education in adjoining cities. At present, there are 13 Kendras servicing 140 villages.

The writer is a senior Delhi-based journalist

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Published on October 19, 2018
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