There are many social welfare and development schemes that below poverty line (BPL) families or people with disabilities are entitled to. The central government alone has around 900 such schemes. But often, the target people do not know about these facilities. And even when they know, the red tape and apathy among government servants let them down.
Here is one such case:
Fourteen people affected by leprosy who have been abandoned by their families because of the stigma of the disease live in The Leprosy Mission Trust India’s (TLMTI) Snehalaya (Snehalaya is a Hindi term which means ‘a house of love’), in Naini, Uttar Pradesh. The average age of the residents is 60. They all have disabilities due to leprosy and are entitled to disability pension from the government.
Last year, TLMTI’s CSOs for Resource Mobilisation, Empowerment, Advocacy, Training and Empowerment (CREATE) project team in Uttar Pradesh, under the leadership of Mr James George, Programme Manager, told them about the disability pension they are entitled to. The project team supported them in getting disability identity card – an identity card issued by the government for claiming benefits under various schemes targeting them. They submitted their applications for the disability pension, and even after one year, they didn’t receive their pension amount.
Now, here’s a proof of how advocacy works:
It was then that CREATE project’s advocacy skills came into play again. The project team impressed upon the Snehalaya residents the need to follow-up with the government officials and get their pension sanctioned as it was part of their right to life. The project team arranged a meeting of the Snehalaya residents with the Allahabad district disability officer.
On March 31, eight Snehalaya residents met the disability officer, and with the courage, confidence and knowledge imparted to them by the project staff, they presented their case before the disability officer. It worked, and the disability officer assured them they would get their monthly pension of Rs 2,500 released within a week.
“It’s our experience that when right holders approach duty bearers with their rightful claims, duty bearers take all steps to protect and fulfil their rights. We capacitate people affected by leprosy to claim their rights in legitimate ways. We encourage duty bearers to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of people affected by leprosy,” says CREATE Programme Manager, James George.