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Welfare Schemes in India: Housing For All but the Most Vulnerable?

Once classified as criminals, nomadic communities are still untouched by social welfare schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

A government school, which runs on the premise of free and compulsory education for all, turns a child away because the child has no proof of identity. To get a proof of identity, the child requires a permanent address which he does not have because his family belongs to a nomadic community that has been living on the streets of Gwalior for the last 22 years. Community Correspondent Jahanara Ansari asks the 12-year-old boy and his friends if they want to study, the answer is a resounding yes. But in a situation where they don't even have roofs over their heads, education is a distant dream.

Around 100 families belonging to the nomadic community, classified as a Denotified Tribe (DNT), have been awaiting the benefits entitled to them by the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the central government's housing scheme which promises housing for all by 2022. Denotified Tribes have been at the receiving end of injustice throughout history. Under British rule, they were classified as "habitual offenders" under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. Today, despite being denotified, they continue to be treated with indignity and government schemes like the housing scheme elude them entirely. 

"They have neither Voter ID cards nor Aadhar cards, the lack of identity cards is what makes them most vulnerable," says Jahanara, adding that they are perpetually harassed by officials from the municipality and made to move from one street to another. "In fact, it is difficult for me to trace them sometimes when I want to follow-up with them on the status of applications", she says.

Meanwhile, children under 14 years of age, for whom it is illegal to work, are welding iron instruments for a living. "We have spent our entire lives here, on the streets", says an aggrieved woman who only hopes for a better life for her children now. 

In 2014, the National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (NCDNT) had recommended modifying the existing housing scheme to earmark benefits for DNTs. Special residential schools and skill development schemes were also recommended for children and youth. But this is all a distant cry from the ground reality.

Speaking at an event in September 2017, where he distributed Awas Yojana certificates, Prime Minister Modi had said, "If Modi will not take up such an arduous task, who else will?" But despite several rounds to the authorities, no one has come to the help of this aggrieved community in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. 

Jahanara now plans to take the video along with a fresh application to the Collector and present it at meetings and rallies as well. "They have no support, I want to show them the video to assure them that we can help them," she says. To ensure that the 100 families get proper homes at the earliest, please call the Municipal Commissioner of Gwalior, Vinod Sharma, at +91-964405500 and urge him to take action immediately. 

Video by Community Correspondent Jahanara Ansari

Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV editorial team


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