New Delhi [India], March 31 (ANI/Target Media): The multiple waves of COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent socio-economic distress have affected everyone in more ways than one. The impact has been acute for marginalised communities who had to suffer loss of livelihoods and incomes. Countless families had to return from their cities of work to their native villages, only to find themselves vulnerable still. To make ends meet, they have had to compromise on their family's nutrition and health and their children's education.
There are several social security schemes for people living in poverty and exclusion from the Central and State Governments. These include pension schemes for widows, persons with disability and the elderly; Ayushman Bharat for health-related support; Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for monthly rations; Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for guaranteed rural employment; and Central and State-sponsored scholarship schemes for educational assistance to students.
However, due to lack of information about these schemes and the application or enrolment process, several eligible community members have not been able to access these benefits. The gap between those eligible and those accessing these schemes is amply visible in several instances. For example, the findings of a study by the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (affiliated to Ashoka University) of 2020-21 indicated that 4.1 per cent of the registered families could find full 100 days of employment under MGNREGA. In Punjab, which has nearly 2-3 million people eligible for registration under the Construction Workers' Welfare Board, only 3.17 lakh workers are actually registered and are subsequently availing related benefits.
On the occasion of International Women's Day on March 8, 2022, ActionAid Association launched a door-to-door outreach campaign to create awareness among communities on the various social security schemes and to enable people's access to those. Titled 'Sarkari Yojna, Samajik Suraksha, Sab Haq Hamara', this drive is running in 800 villages and urban locations across Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi NCR.
"As a large number of eligible vulnerable families are not accessing social security benefits, we sensed an urgent need to reach out to those most disadvantaged and to inform them about what they're entitled to. We are also working towards creating community-level volunteers to take our efforts forward in their villages," said Rakesh Thakur, Programme Officer, ActionAid Association. This campaign aims to reach out to at least one million people with information and support towards applying for the schemes.
Rajwant Kaur, 62, from Cheena Bidhi village in Tarn Taran district of Punjab is elated as her application for old-age pension gets filled up by ActionAid Association's volunteers at the facilitation camp in her village. "Over the last two years, I had been running from pillar to post to gain access to pension but to no avail. I didn't know how to apply for the scheme. This facilitation camp has come as a blessing for me," she says. Like Rajwant Kaur, thousands of other eligible people have applied for the various social protection schemes during such facilitation camps organised by ActionAid Association across these villages. As part of this campaign, a booklet has also been brought out with details pertaining to the schemes available in the aforementioned four states, for sharing with Gram Sabhas and community leaders.
ActionAid Association is an organisation working for social and ecological justice. ActionAid has been engaged with the most marginalised communities in India since 1972. In 2006, ActionAid Association was registered as an Indian organisation, governed by an independent General Assembly and a Governing Board. Together with supporters, communities, institutions and governments, we strive for equality, fraternity and liberty for all. ActionAid Association works in 24 states and two union territories, with several partners and allied organisations. ActionAid Association is part of a global federation and a full affiliate of ActionAid International, which has presence in over 40 countries worldwide.
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