Community Correspondent Chetan Salve fought for a year so that women from marginalised sections could access benefits promised under Manav Vikas Yojana.
In October 2015 Community Correspondent Chetan Salve made a video about non-payment of maternal health benefits under the Manav Vikar Yojana. Chetan’s investigation on ground revealed that just in the Dhadgaon block of Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district, there were about 400 women who had not received their due cash benefit under the Manav Vikas Yojana.
The mission, a state government scheme for those living in backward districts, gives 2000 rupees to women during the eighth month of pregnancy so they can get sufficient nutrition without having to work in physically onerous jobs. Another 2000 rupees is given to them after they deliver at a government hospital to incentivise institutional births as well as ensuring that the nursing mother is not separated from the infant due to the need to earn.
Due to financial instability, Sangeeta Wasave had to start working in the fields immediately after giving birth. She even brought her infant daughter to the field while she worked as an agricultural labourer harvesting corn. “Some women have received the money. It would have been good if I had received the money too,” she says.
Chetan further found out that an amount of four crores and eighty lakhs had been sanctioned under the Manav Vikas Yojana in the district in the financial year 2015-16. However, because it was sanctioned later in the year, only women eligible to be part of the scheme from September that year were eligible. Women who had been pregnant and gave birth earlier in the year had been left out, due to official oversight. “This was a huge issue. It was not just Nandurbar that was affected but all districts across Maharashtra,” says Chetan.
He screened his video to officials like the District Health Officer and also sent an application to the District Collector. “I tried in every possible way–when the Chief Minister visited the Nandurbar district in November 2016, I even went and put the matter before him,” reveals Chetan. In December 2015 the State Human Rights Commission held a public hearing. Chetan attending this meeting and met with Assistant Director, Archana Patil and discussed the matter with her. Chetan’s tireless activism even attracted the attention of journalists and the Indian Express covered the plight of women who had been left high and dry.
Finally, in January 2016, a state level meeting was held by the Manav Vikas Yojana officials where it was decided that an error had been made and all women should benefit from the scheme irrespective of when they had delivered their babies. “I kept calling the district health office after this decision hoping that they would disburse the money. But every time they said that the money had not been sanctioned,” Chetan says.
Despite waiting for four months, no money was distributed and in April 2016 the District Collector was transferred. Chetan knew that if he did not pursue the case, the beneficiaries would never receive their due. He contacted the new District Collector on WhatsApp and sent him the video and the press clippings. The new District Collector was much more responsive and took a personal interest in solving the issue. Finally, in July 2016 thanks to the perseverance of Chetan, four crores were sanctioned for the 12000 beneficiaries of the scheme in Nandurbar district. Chetan went with Sangeeta Wasave when she collected her cheque. “I am very happy,” said the visibly delighted young mother. “I used to wash and use the same clothes before but now I will buy some new clothes for the baby, and a saree for me! The money will also help in buying food grain as we have harvested less paddy this year.” It is Chetan’s indefatigable campaign to get his community their dues that resulted in this major impact. “I was in Wardha recently and I was describing the impact process to some organisations I met there. As far as I know, despite the decision in January 2016, so far only Nandurbar district has disbursed the money among women left out last year,” he said.
Article by Madhura Chakraborty