In the context of the disruption caused by the pandemic, YUVA in collaboration with UNICEF-Maharashtra, piloted the concept of Social Protection Facilitation Centres (SPFCs) in three diverse settings – Panvel, Raigad district (urban, peri-urban); Kagal, Kolhapur district (rural) and Chikhaldara, Amravati district (tribal) – with the objective of increase access to a range of social protection measures in the Maharashtra. These model SPFCs facilitated filing of both physical and online applications. In all, a total of 12,627 applications for social protection schemes and identity documents were filed across the three SPFCs during a 26-month period i.e. over 175 applications were filed at each centre every month. Of the total applications filed, 10,247 applications were sanctioned, at a sanctioning rate of over 81%. In the process, cash entitlements amounting to INR 2,04,68,169 were received by applicants, a large part of which coincided with the difficult post-pandemic phase for most of the communities.
In this first part of this two-part blog series, we present narratives on the challenges encountered in accessing pension and conditional support schemes and the nature of intervention by model SPFCs. The second part of the blog series presents narratives on facilitation of measures related to girl children, food and nutrition and labour entitlements.
All the names used here are pseudonyms.
Enabling Access to Pension and Conditional Support Schemes
1. SPFC intervention enables access to Shravanbal Scheme for an 82-year old citizen – Chikhaldara, Amravati
Age – 82 years
Churni, Chikhaldara, Amravati
Shravanbal old age pension Yojana
In a country like India, where respecting and caring for our elders is considered as extremely important, intergenerational linkages are frequently relied on to provide care to the elderly. But absence of such support for the elderly from their children, often leaves them in a very precarious situation. This is where access to old age pension schemes becomes extremely crucial.
Rajaram, a resident of Churni, Amravati, is an 82-year-old man. Before the intervention by Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action’s (YUVA) Social Protection Facilitation Centre (SPFC) at Chikhaldara, he was in an extremely vulnerable situation due to the lack of support from his son and family. He neither stayed with them nor did his family feed or care for him. Because of this, despite being of advanced age, Rajaram had to continue working as a carpenter to earn his livelihood. He did not possess any documentation to access social protection schemes or even verify his identity.
After coming in contact with the SPFC at Chikhaldara, Rajaram was able to get his Aadhar card, Ration card, and other relevant documents with which he could gain access to the Shravanbal Yojana. Under this scheme, destitute persons receive Rs. 1000 per month if they are above 65 years of age and have an income below Rs 21,000 per annum. Earlier, Rajaram was unable to make ends meet due to a lack of financial resources. But with the monthly pension that he received from this scheme, he was able to buy food, groceries, medicines, and other necessary essentials. With the support from the scheme, he was now able to procure tools and raw materials for his work as well. Thus, the intervention by the SPFC proved crucial in ensuring that a useful scheme reached the most needy.
2. A 26-year old girl with mental disability gets access to Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme – Kagal, Kolhapur
Age – 26 years
Sawarde Khurd, Kagal, Kolhapur
Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension scheme
Rukmini, a resident of Sawarde Khurd, is 26-years old and suffers from mental disability since her birth. She lives with her mother, Vimala. Four years ago, Rukmini’s father passed away, leaving the financial and household responsibilities to Rukmini’s mother. Rukmini’s mother works as a domestic help and receives a meager salary of 1500/- per month. With this income, Rukmini’s mother was barely able to manage household expenses along with Rukmini’s medicine and treatment. They had tried accessing different social protection schemes to ease their financial constraints but were misled by middlemen and defrauded into paying money for getting enrolled in those schemes, the benefit of which they never got.
When the team at Social Protection Facilitation Centre (SPFC), Kagal visited Sawarde Khurd for an awareness camp on social protection schemes, the Sarpanch (village head), Mr. Malwekar, briefed the team about Rukmini and Vimala’s situation. He took the SPFC team to their house, so that they could examine their situation and determine their eligibility for various social protection schemes.
The team assessed their situation and verified some of the documents that the mother-daughter duo had in their possession. Using the existing documents, photos, and information provided by them, the SPFC team was able to acquire an income certificate from the Setu Office (e-seva Kendra). Post this, the team filled the form for Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension scheme and held a meeting with the Tehsildar, Ms. Archana Bapat regarding Rukmini and Vimala’s application. Rukmini’s application for the scheme was subsequently approved and Sujatha is now receiving the disability pension, which supplements the income that Rukmini’s mother earns through domestic work.
3. An elderly woman gets support through Shravanbal Scheme with the intervention of SPFC – Chikhaldara, Amravati
Manisha is of advanced age. She and her husband are separated and don’t live together. She works in the informal sector to provide for her needs; however, the unstable nature of her work and due to her old age, she struggles to get work opportunities. She is not able to take up physically demanding work because of her advanced age. Her son also doesn’t live with her, so she lacks emotional and financial support. When Manisha came in contact with the team of SPFC Chikhaldara, she was facing significant financial issues, had no money to live on, and her situation used to become even worse during monsoon season.
When she was informed of the ‘Shravanbal Yojana’ by the SPFC team, she did not have the necessary documents to avail of the benefits. As an intermediary and facilitator for availing the scheme, SPFC Chikhaldara helped Manisha arrange for verified documents such as an Aadhar card and Ration Card. Subsequently, applications were submitted for Income certificate, Birth Certificate, and Bank account and after obtaining these necessary documents, an application was filed for the scheme on her behalf, and regular follow-ups were done at the tehsil office.
As per the benefits of the social protection scheme, ‘Shravanbal Yojana,’ she receives Rs. 1000 per month as a pension. The support that she receives has helped her gain economic stability to some extent. She can now manage house rent and her hospital bills. With the unstable nature of work in the informal sector, the regular incentive proved significant. The assistance ensures that she can at least have two proper meals every day.
4. Struggle of a Single Women to get access of Social Security – Chikhaldara, Amravati
Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Scheme
In countries like India, the society looks at single women with disapproval, which poses several challenges for independent women. A woman whose husband has abandoned her and who is living in her father’s house, especially faces a lot of social stigma.
Rama is one such independent woman who works as a daily wage labourer. She got married several years ago and after having two daughters, her husband left the family and never returned. Meanwhile, she started facing several difficulties and challenges in her in-laws’ house. It became difficult for her to bear the sole responsibility of raising her two daughters. After some time, Rama’s parents brought her and her daughters back to their house. After returning to her parents’ house, Rama started farming. Being an independent woman and having two daughters to raise, she faced several challenges, of which the financial difficulties were the most pressing as now her daughters were growing up and had to be admitted to school for their education. She says,
“It has been 12 years since my marriage, and my daughters are grown-up now. They have started going to school. I face financial crises most of the time. I run my family as a daily wage worker.”Rama
The SPFC team at Chikhaldara came in contact with Rama when they organized an awareness camp on various social protection schemes at Rama’s village. During the camp, she learned about the various schemes and how she could benefit from them. Rama informed the members of SPFC about her family’s condition. She was then advised by a SPFC member to provide the documents for those specific schemes which she was eligible for. She submitted all the documents for the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Scheme, and her application under the scheme was subsequently sanctioned. Not only that, she is now able to get regular information regarding various social protection schemes that she can apply for. She is guided regularly by the members of SPFC. Currently, Rama is benefiting from the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Scheme, because of which her financial condition has improved. Interventions made by SPFC Chikhaldara in terms of spreading awareness about various special protection schemes act like a ray of hope for such families.