Smt. Abola Bawri, resident of Raghavpur village, Purulia 1 block of Purulia district, West Bengal, lost her husband in an accident three years ago. She was left to look after five daughters, two sons a and mother in law. Her husband used to work as casual labourer in the vegetable godowns of the district, followed by her daughters working as maid servants. After this sudden mishap the entire family went under severe trauma and became dependent on their relatives to look after their needs.
Government Schemes – Not delivering desired results
Today the only earning member of the family is the youngest daughter of Smt. Bawri, Rinku, who at the age of 16 is working as maid servant and earns around Rs.2500 per month, which is insufficient to support the family of five people. This is not the reality Smt. Bawri’s family alone, but of millions of people living in rural India.
The connotation rural development is understood only from the lens of ‘goodwill’ schemes ranging from the livelihood promotion schemes to education schemes etc. The schemes have a very specific impact which, in most of the cases, is not enough to lift people out of extreme poverty.
The Below Poverty Line (BPL) survey in Smt. Bawri’s was done many years ago but still her family lives without the card. This not only excludes her from enjoying the benefit of the schemes, but also deprives her of her socio-economic status. Families which are in dire need of Govt. support are often left to feed for themselves.
When Smt. Bawri applied for the National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) after the sudden death of her husband, she was asked to show his death certificate. Even after showing the death certificate, she was denied the NFBS. This is a standard case of local governments denying the rights of weaker sections of the society by taking advantage of their situations. The system, instead of working for the people, works against them.
She believes that only a minority portion of the population has been able to derive the benefit of social schemes in her village. Although infrastructural development took place and services improved over time, the social condition remained the same. How will people take advantage of the new roads, buildings and schools if they have been buried under the poverty line for generations?
Even after having such a grave situation, Smt. Bawri, just like many othe rural Indians, lives with hope. She has a strong belief that her sons; one is studying in Class 7 and other in Class 9 will bring a transition in their present state of living
Daughter finding her way out of the ditch of poverty
Rinku, her 16 year old girl, left studying long back owing to the poor economic condition of her family. She started working as a maid and today she is the only earning member of her family. She has a strong desire to study, but was forced to take up the responsibility of her family. Just like her mother however, she lives with hope that her brothers, who are enrolled in schools, will fulfil her dream of living a life of dignity and take her out of poverty.
There are many such Rinkus’ living in our country who even after having primary schools in their localities can not avail their education. How can we address the problem of Rinku in general? Whether merely issuing a BPL card to her family will solve her problem or some other approach will be required ?
Schematic Development – Insufficient to address the multi directional fangs of poverty
This case is sufficient to exhibit the fact that the development module adopted by our policy makers is not sufficient to address the multi directional fangs of poverty. Development is not about giving; it is about enabling someone to lead a dignified life. The schematic form of development has undoubtedly brought lots of positive changes in rural India. At the same time, the schemes are not sufficiently capable of meeting the challenges of acute poverty in India. Policy makers need to go into greater details of recognizing special cases arising out of implementation failures of such schemes.
The Indian system needs to be more accountable to the ones who come last in the delivery package and ensure last-mile connectivity.
The tales of Smt. Bawri and her relatives exhibit the fact that due to a lack of their knowledge and know-how about the schemes and their entitlements, they had to suffer. Administration usually has sufficient funds to spread awareness about the existence of such schemes. But the implementers are inept to deliver on this objective, many times owing to corruption. The result is that poverty remains a grim reality in India and policies are unable to impact the target audience.
(Sourabh Bhattacharjee is a former fellow of the Prime Minister Rural Development Fellowship. This article is written from his interaction with Smt. Bawri)