When the state government sought to reach out to the intended beneficiaries, it found it needed a ‘mission convergence’ to ensure better delivery of services
Jasleen Kaur | September 2, 2011
Bhagwaan Das, 65, did not know until a year ago that he was entitled to a monthly pension of Rs 1,000. A daily wage labourer living in a one-room house in northwest Delhi’s Mangolpuri, he had to increasingly depend on his son. "Sometimes my son used to give me money. But I could not depend on him," he says.
Yet, when he came to know about his entitlement through a community meeting organised by the Suvidha Kendra, or the gender resource centre (GRC) in his locality, he was hesitant to follow it up.
"I thought they would ask me to fill up various forms and then ask me to take them to government departments," he says.
Das represents thousands of intended beneficiaries of state-run schemes who don’t even get to know about most of these schemes. He was, however, luckier than most. The staff at the Kendra filled up his forms and even opened a bank account in his name. "They filled the form last year and for the first five months I did not get any money. I thought they had fooled me," says Das, who was surprised to see the first instalment of Rs 4,000 in his account in February this year. "It came as a blessing for me," he says, adding, "Now, I don’t have to depend on my son anymore."
Like Das, 57-year-old Ishtiyaq Khan, a rickshaw-puller living in the same locality, too came to know about his entitlement suddenly through the GRC. In his case, he was told that he met one of the criteria set by the government for availing benefits which could help him provide for his 15-year-old daughter’s education. Khan was identified as an "occupation vulnerable". "Most of the time, my expenses exceed my income. I have never been able to save anything because we have had to spend whatever little I earned every day," says Khan, who is relieved at being able to educate his daughter.
The GRC that reached out to both Das and Khan is one of the 124 operating across Delhi’s nine districts as part of ‘Mission Convergence’, Samajik Suvidha Sangam, a programme initiated by the Delhi government under its ‘Bhagidari’, or partnership, scheme.
Among the most important challenges for these centres was to inform the citizens about the various welfare schemes initiated for them. "The various departments of the state government typically had a way of working in silence. They hardly interacted with each other. And there was always overlapping of work," says former chief secretary Rakesh Mehta. Moreover, he adds, each department in the government also had its own criteria of selecting beneficiaries.
With 40 different application forms for applying to various welfare schemes, the result was a multiplicity of initiatives but no converging node at the point of delivery of services.
The GRC was, in fact, an extension of an already functional project – Stree Shakti Sangam – of the state government which was launched in 2007. Under this initiative, the government had invited non-government organisations (NGOs) to manage centres in various localities of the city to empower women from the economically weaker sections through initiatives in health, literacy and income generation. Women were trained in cutting and tailoring, embroidery, beauty culture and computer education free of cost at these centres. Besides that, these centres promoted micro-finance activities (formation of self-help groups, for example) and legal awareness, and organised medical camps and non-formal education programmes.
The Stree Shakti programme was doing well, says Mehta. But, he adds, the government wanted to scale it up to reach out to more people. "Delhi was growing but there was no inclusive development. We realised that we have to be more rooted to the community," he says. Mission Convergence was, therefore, launched in August 2008. "It is the convergence of ideas, processes and the delivery system," says Mehta, who played an important role in initiating the programme.
For Mission Convergence, the already functional Stree Shakti camps were converted into GRCs set up in partnership with NGOs and these centres acted as a single window for information and facilitation of the entire gamut of the government’s welfare schemes.
"Mission convergence is really a critic of the government, of itself by itself.
Through this, the government was actually at the doorstep of the people," says Manisha Priyam, advisor with the Delhi government on international collaboration of mission convergence. She adds that the government openly admitted that service delivery system needed to be augmented and it cut down its own layers to reach out to the people.
The GRCs brought together all 49 welfare entitlements of nine participating departments – heath & family welfare, education, women & child development, food and supplies, SC/ST/OBC and minority welfare, social welfare, urban development and labour welfare – to the people who needed them the most, the urban poor. Also, the 40-odd forms were reduced to a single common application form. These centres are responsible for disseminating information and creating awareness about the schemes, identification and enrolment of beneficiaries, forwarding of proposals to the departments and following them up, collecting feedback and grievance redressal.
But first, the government had to identify the beneficiaries and this was not easy, recalls Priyam. "Across the country, BPL (below poverty line) families are identified through surveys. But for identifying the poor in urban areas, including Delhi, no BPL survey has ever been done," she says, "So the government did not know who the beneficiaries were."
In a city which has only 23.7 percent of its population living in planned colonies, 80 percent working in the unorganised sector and with annual two lakh migrants, an innovative solution was required to redefine poverty. The government decided to conduct surveys to identify the intended beneficiaries on a new set of criteria for defining poverty, based on a multi-dimensional urban vulnerability index rather than relying on purely income criteria.
A survey based on three factors was conducted in three phases by the GRCs to develop a computerised common database. These factors were based on parameters such as dwelling units, that is, the homeless, non-notified slums and resettlement colonies; on social vulnerability – which included old people, the disabled, single women, women-headed households, children-headed households and people with debilitating illness; and on occupational vulnerability – including rag pickers, construction labourer, daily wage labourer, street vendors and domestic workers.
In the survey, 12.97 lakh households were listed and more than 63 lakh population covered. With new categories such as children-headed households, the survey was quite a departure from the past. All the inputs from the survey are intended to benefit the end user through the GRCs under mission convergence, which functions under the chairmanship of the chief secretary and has a state convergence forum, which includes the secretaries of all the nine departments. The deputy commissioners (DC) head the programme at the district level. A district level structure, the district resource centre is based at the DC’s office. The GRCs, thus, are the interface between the community and the government departments, through the DCs.
The DC provides the required monitoring and assistance for smooth implementation of the project. It also reviews the progress and modifies the district micro-plan after every six months. The DRC also organises a fortnightly meeting called the jan sunwai, or community hearing, which is a platform to discuss grievances and seek immediate redressal. Under this programme, people of the community are encouraged to identify their needs and demand for their entitlements. And to reach out to these families, various community mobilisers have been appointed by the GRCs. "It is easier to reach out to families through the community mobiliser and tell them about the benefits they are entitled to," says Sunita Godara, who runs a GRC in south Delhi’s Kalkaji area.
"It’s a real-time budget exercise," says Mehta, "Because of the mission, budget allocation has increased in schemes like ladli, RSBY and gender equity. Now the welfare schemes are actually reaching to the beneficiaries."
All the 124 GRCs have now been e-enabled. The system integration application for streamlining social services delivery was launched in February this year. This module brought the 124 GRCs on a common platform by integrating them. This enabled the centres to access a common database of the vulnerable population surveyed for providing various benefits and schemes. Out of the 124 e-enabled GRCs, 90 are regularly using IT.
Mission director Shyami Sodhi says, "This system not only integrated all the partners but also made monitoring easier." The idea was to simplify mechanisms and enhance citizens’ involvement in the governance of their own welfare. Information technology has played a major role in achieving the vision of convergence. "To bring schemes, GRCs and 13 lakh people together is not possible manually. Here, IT plays an important role," says Sodhi, even as she admits the introduction of IT is at a nascent stage. "It has started picking up. We have devised the module and management information system (MIS) has been prepared for some of the activity."
The mission initially planned to issue smart cards to all those who were surveyed but with the central government’s unique identity (UID) project, the state government shelved its plan. More than two lakh people have already been enrolled under the UID scheme and around 40,000 UID numbers have been generated.
The GRC module is e-enabled and now the mission is trying to bring the departments on board which are at present not electronically linked to mission convergence. These include the departments of women and child, social welfare, food and supplies, and the SC/ST department.
People have started getting UID cards. These cards will be used by individuals to access their entitlement benefits from the government schemes. This database, says Mehta, will also help the government plan its social policies accordingly. The programme, running for two years now, has made a fairly rapid coverage, says Mehta. The next step, he adds, is to reduce the number of welfare schemes from 49 to just about a dozen.
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