“A right delayed is right denied”
Martin Luther King Jr. talks about this adage in a letter from Birmingham City Jail dated April 1961. He mentioned this line in a legal context but it’s connotation is applicable across sectors around the world.
When one were to look at India, a large section of the population does not have access to various government schemes and programmes owing to lack of information dissemination as well as operational inefficiencies. As a result, the emphasis or underlying idea of improved governance should be to strengthen the delivery of government schemes as well as incorporate data driven decision making processes in the overall planning and implementation mechanism.
Now, this is exactly what the Honorable MP representing Balasore constituency in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Rabindra Kumar Jena, the Tata Trusts and Swaniti Initiative had in mind when they conceptualized the Lok Yojana programme across two blocks – Basta and Baliapal – in the district. Under the Lok Yojana, more than 90,000 households across all the 49 Gram Panchayats in the two blocks were surveyed and data collected for a series of critical indicators.
Once the data collection process was completed, the team analyzed it and came up with a series of interesting but sometimes unsettling findinds. For instance, when one looked at the availability of Aadhar Cards for individuals, it was found that more than 18 percent of the population did not possess one. Now, given the fact that Aadhar has been made a pre-requisite for carrying out Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) by the Government of India under the Aadhar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, this is not a welcome situation. Furthermore, at a time when the government has prioritized the provision of LPG connection to all BPL households in the country, the two blocks reported that only 8.2 percent of households were using LPG as the primary source of energy for cooking purposes. Add to this, the fact that 30 of the 49 GPs don’t have banking facilities and you start getting a complete picture with regards to the status of delivery of government schemes.
Accordingly, the Swaniti Engagement team on the ground in consultation with the Tata Trusts and the MPs Office decided that these findings need to be leveraged to ensure that the benefits reach the intended beneficiaries. Therefore, a ‘Adhikaar Abhiyaan’ campaign was designed by the team in collaboration with the district administration and block administration with the objective of strengthening Jan Dhan – Aadhar – Cooking Fuel (JAC) trinity. The overall emphasis was on providing Aadhar Cards to the population and seeding the bank accounts with Aadhar Card so that they can take advantage of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) schemes such as Ujjwala.
Under this flagship program, a mission mode approach was adopted and a comprehensive implementation strategy conceptualized to enhance aadhar card coverage while simultaneously working towards financial inclusion and providing ancillary facilities such as Insurance and Pension. Once this program is successfully implemented, identified beneficiaries could be directly provided subsidies in their bank accounts which will not only decrease the time lapse but also pilferage of funds.
To successfully implement the aforementioned program the team collaborated with government machinery at each step of the program since we wished to build institutional capacity and ensure that the process is scalable and sustainable in nature. For instance, in order to address the problem of information blockade faced by masses, an orientation session was conducted by the Assistant Program Officer of the blocks with all the Sarpanches, who in turn passed on the information to the Anganwadi workers and ward members. Using this governance channel, information was passed on regarding details of Aadhikar Abhiyan. Thus, we brought together the local stakeholders for streamlining the operational details of the campaign be it venue, schedule etc to create a collective onus among the masses in order to ensure successful implementation of the program.
During the implementation, we observed certain shortcomings in the entire registration process for Aadhar Card. Certain parts such as lack of proper format and public awareness were addressed through the launch of the Adhikaar Abhiyaan. However, a major issue – no fixed rate for making changes to the information specified in the Aadhar Card of an individual – still prevailed. This required policy level changes from the state authorities and accordingly, we took up the matter with the DC. The DC forwarded the request to the Chief Secretary and finally, the Government of Odisha has come out with an official notification specifying the rates applicable across the entire state for updating or changing information on an Aadhar Card. This highlights the potential for creating impact through the execution of a concerted and planned approach on the ground. Moreover, it showcases the significant change that can be achieved through close coordination between the district authorities.
So today, as the title suggests, we have embarked on a journey from Lok Yojana to Adhikaar Abhiyaan and ensure that the citizen is empowered to access the rights they are entitled to. This once again highlights the importance of leveraging data and building capacity among the local government functionaries to deliver high impact, which can be scaled up.
Aparajita Singh is an Engagement Associate at Swaniti Initiative and is leading the on ground team in Balasore.
Utkarsha Bhardwaj is the Engagements Lead at Swaniti Initiative and is leading the programme implementation in Balasore.