POSTED ON AUGUST 27, 2020
Agra: Of the 5,000 families who live in the gram panchayat where a five-year-old died with no food, 2,000 families — all Dalit — do not have ration cards. Most are not covered by any welfare scheme and only 191 families, most from the dominant castes, are enrolled under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, a survey by a child rights activist found.
Following TOI’s reports on the death of the five-year-old girl, Sonia, in Agra’s Nagla Vidhichand village, a child rights activist, Naresh Paras, surveyed the gram panchayat. “After Sonia’s death, the district administration hurried here and provided help to her family — but only hers. Others are still struggling,” said Hemant Kumar Gautam, a resident of Nagla Vidhichand.
The five-year-old, daughter of a construction worker and daily wager, had died after days of going without food when her family ran out of money.
The administration said it is prioritising the matter. “We are very concerned about their well-being. For now, Sonia’s family has been looked after. Other poor people in the village will be covered under the government scheme soon,” chief development officer J Reebha said. They’re starting with documentation. Sub-divisional magistrate (Sadar) M Arunmozhi said, “We are setting up a special camp in the village to issue ration cards to all poor families. Arrangements are also being made to issue Aadhaar cards to every person in the gram panchayat.”
The story of Sonia and her family is that of every one of the 2,000 Dalit families here. Like Mala, 38, her three kids and her husband. “I can’t get work these days. Sometimes we get food, sometimes we don’t. My husband’s health is getting worse, he has tuberculosis. But I can’t buy his medicines,” said Mala. She does not have a gas cylinder, nor an Ayushman Bharat cover or a ration card. Most don’t.
The Nainana Jat gram panchayat in Agra’s Baroli Ahir block is a Jatav-majority cluster. It covers five small villages — Nagla Vidhichand, Ambedkar Nagar, Swaroop Nagar, Hari Nagar and Nainana Jat. “About 2,000 families — all Dalit — do not have ration cards. There are about 65 Muslim families as well who have not had access to welfare schemes either. Only 191 families, from the dominant castes and OBCs, are enrolled with the Ayushman Bharat scheme,” said Paras after wrapping up his survey.
What this means is that those most in need are also the ones most far removed from welfare schemes. “The Covid-19 outbreak made things worse for poor families,” siad Paras.
On the basis of what he saw, Paras has written to the Agra district magistrate, N Singh, with a request to ensure basics for the panchayat — Aadhaar, ration card, Ayushman Bharat enrolment, free health checkups and medicines, getting children into schools and rehabilitation for child labourers. The DM said he will look into the grievance