Human Rights - Obtain access to a dignified living
Comprehend a situation where you have no birth certificate or any document to prove your identity, to prove that you exist!! Scary, right? Well, that is how lacs of nomads survived when we first came into contact with them in the year 2005. It came as a shock to us, but this was the very reason the administration had remained clueless on the existence of a vast chunk of population, since they were nowhere on paper there weren’t any policies designed for them. Thus, began our efforts to ensure each and every nomadic and de-notified family receives proper citizenry documents. Ration Cards, Voter ID Cards, Birth Certificates, Caste Certificates…. Documents that help them access various governments schemes designed for the weaker sections of the society. How hard it is to acquire such documents, you might think? Believe us when we say it is the most difficult task ever. There are applications and files that have been pending for past 9 years or more. The constant delays make us question the political and bureaucratic will to include these communities in the mainstream. Nonetheless, we along with the community members keep making rounds to the government offices as the files sit under the pile of pending documents or decides to walk from desk-to-desk, we always follow-up on our applications. Occasionally, there are instances when our requests are blessed and receive quick approvals, those are the times when the officers are willing to do their job, the village communities are willing to accept the nomads in their village. It all depends on the administrative and societal will to embrace these communities.
Antyodaya Ration Cards
- The first breakthrough came when Chief Minister of our state, recognized the fact that the large populations of Nomadic and De-notified Tribes have never been counted in the censuses. This was following a public program organized by VSSM in the year 2006 to bring to the notice of the authorities the existence of these communities in our state and country. After the end of the daylong program the government took note of the demands and from the next day 5 crore Gujarati became 5.5 crore Gujarati.
- A confident claim that our efforts of sensitizing the fellow citizens and policymakers on the chronic issues of the nomadic and de-notified tribes have resulted into policymakers taking note of the existence of this vast chunk of population and mentioning them at every relevant platform, documents and widening the reach of many of the welfare schemes designed for marginalized communities of this country.
- The collective efforts of various voluntary organizations of the country including VSSM, working on the Rights of Nomads resulted in to introduction of regulation that mandates calculating the homeless population in the Census of India.
- The State’s Ex. Chief Election Commissioner Shri Vinod Babbar’s sensitive approach and directives to his team and district Collectors lead to issuance of Voter’s ID cards to individuals from NT-DNTs communities.
- A regulation making these communities eligible for receiving benefits under the Manav Garima Scheme with just Voter ID card as a supporting document. Prior to this amendment, the family was required to be listed in the BPL list of the village but since most of these communities are not part of any revenue village their names do not appear in the BPL list. The continuous lobbying by VSSM resulted into this ordinance.
- VSSM’s advocacy with the State Food and Civil Supply Department to make the process of acquiring Antyoday Ration Cards, NT-DNT friendly has resulted into issuance of a directive by the Joint Secretary of Food and Civil Supplies Department. The directive mentions that if the applicant from NT-DNT community has a Voter ID card, she/he will not require any other documents to support her/his application and the Antyoday Ration Card should be issued to the family.
- Similarly, the civil society is also becoming increasingly sensitive towards the plight of these communities. VSSM is trying to reach out to the privileged class of our society by sharing platform and engaging in a dialogue with them. A major breakthrough came when Shri Morari Bapu came forward to do a Ram Katha for the cause these communities. As a result, these communities’ struggle of survival got noticed at a wider level including the government and bureaucracy.
- The lobbying by VSSM has also been instrumental in issuance of a ruling to allot residential plots to the homeless families from NT-DNTs. As a result of this ruling 1000 families have been able to acquire residential plots.
- The issues and hurdles that the NT-DNTs face are much complex than that of other marginalized communities. It had been VSSM’s strong belief that if a separate Government Board is formed the challenges of these communities will attain the focus it requires. As a result of our advocacy, ‘Vicharti and Vimukta Jati Nigam/ Board’ particularly for the NT-DNTs has come into existence this year.
- The recent accomplishments include easing the requirements of documents to be attached with the application for a Caste Certificate. Applications for a caste certificate need to have father’s school leaving certificate as one of the documents attached with the application. The nomadic communities have never gone to school. Their children today are first generation school goers, failing to attach this document meant no caste certificate. The application now will be verified on the basis of other parameters.
- There has been increase in the assistance amount for the construction of house under Pandit Dindayal Awas Yojna which is now at par with Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna.
- VSSM has also been demanding edits to age-old list of nomadic and de-notified with the inclusion of communities and sub-sects that have been left out ever since. The government has made some inclusions but more needs to be done here.
- Last but not the least is the inclusion of our demands put forward during the mega convention ‘We Also Exist’ in the election manifesto of both the political parties during the Gujarat Assembly Election in 2018.
- Taking into consideration the suggestions made by VSSM, the central government formed a board named ‘Development and Welfare Board for Nomadic, De-Notified and Semi-Nomadic Communities’ to address the rights of the NT-DNTs under the Social Justice and Empowerment Department. It is for the first time that any central government of this country has thought about the rights of these communities.