The Central Government and the State Government of Maharashtra offer a range of schemes to the farmers in the state. While the process to apply for these schemes are quite simple, there was a problem with accessibility which was pointed out by Ayush Prasad, an IAS officer. Here is a story about how this selfless IAS officer decoded 750 government schemes to help thousands of Pune farmers.
Ayush Prasad an IAS officer who is the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Khed Taluka in Pune, decided that he will take all the online forms offline, for the benefit of the farmers. In an interview with Pune Mirror, he said, “We realised that although the government has so many welfare programs to offer, the end users are not aware of a majority of them. The portal, MahaLabharthi.in, is a great way to enable those living in rural parts or slums break the vicious cycle of poverty. “
He further added in the same interview, “But then, in rural parts access to internet and connectivity is a huge problem. Moreover, not everybody is tech-savvy to log on to the website. Hence, we came up with the idea of taking the schemes to citizens.”
By doing this 20,000 people in 123 villages in the Junnar taluka of Pune would benefit from this initiative. But Prasad quickly realised that doing so will make this a herculean task and he would need help on this front. As the officials in the district were already busy with work, Prasad took help from outside. That’s when Surya Karthik and Jayanti Bagda, two students of TISS, stepped in.
Their work was easy in theory, take the hard copies of the schemes and get it filled by the villagers. But, in reality, it was a different ball game altogether as the villagers had no idea about these schemes. Devram Nana Bhalchim, who used to head a village in Junnar said, “Over the last 20–25 years nobody from the government has ever stepped into our village to talk about such programmes.”
He further added, “We are made to fill up forms occasionally for welfare schemes at the insistence of our gram sevak, only to be told eventually that we are not eligible. Much later, we get to know that those with connections residing in other villages have walked away with the funds for that scheme…”
Adding to that, Chavan, who has been doing the rounds of several villages said, “The challenge is to convince villagers to fill up the forms. Since most of them have never reaped the benefit of these schemes, it is tough to win their trust instantly. And then those who do get convinced, expect benefits immediately after we hand them a list of schemes they are eligible to apply for. It takes several visits to a village to just make people understand that we are merely helping them get what is rightfully theirs.”
In a short amount of time these schemes have helped over 500 farmers as they are given to them through offline methods. “Through the current exercise, almost everyone is eligible for any of the 750 welfare schemes. The middlemen and agents have been done away with,” Chavan told.
We hope more people come forward and help in this initiative. As more and more farmers get an understanding of what the government schemes are and how they can utilize them.