by Father Mayank Parmar for BISMumbai

In the difficult situation of the COVID-19 lockdown, and with its extension further still, DRISTI [Don Bosco Rural Integrated Social Training Institute] Kapadvanj is finding the most effective means to provide relief outreach to the villages. Since its staff could not travel to the various places, DRISTI made a study of the available Government Schemes to ensure that the basic needs of the people are being met, through direct implementation in the villages. This has been possible with constant monitoring and mentoring of the affected, vulnerable and deprived families in various villages through the Sarpanches, Village leaders, SHG members, Panchayat, SMC members, VHSNC [Village HealthSanitation and Nutrition Committee] members and Youth leader-volunteers. Some of the Scheme availability and implementation in the Kapadvanj Block of Kheda District have been surveyed by DRISTI and the process is currently underway to help empower the deprived to access these:

1. Free Ration by PDS: BPL families and later on NFSA ration card holders and the poorest of the poor were able to access the APL 1 ration card and procure foodgrains provided by the government. DRISTI has empowered 11,186families to receive ration from PDS. The other 247 families who have not received any ration is being addressed by the DRSITI staff at various levels during the lockdown.

2. Mid-Day Meal Allowance: it was decided that during the lockdown, the mid day meal ration and its expenses would be disbursed to the children. Accordingly as per the government notice, the ration was distributed in 02 stages in the month of March and April. Schools distributed coupons to each child to collect the ration from the Government Ration Shop at local level. Thus, a total of 7139 children received ration and the cooking cost through the efforts of DRISTI staff.

3. Beneficiaries of Ujjwala Gas: The Government has announced a free gas cylinder to the women beneficiaries. Accordingly 1225 families have received the benefits of this scheme during the lockdown.

4. PMKSN (Pradhan Mantri Kishan Sanman Nidhi): As per the government announcement, farmers belonging toPMKSN would receive advance payment. Accordingly DRISTI has enabled 3026 families to benefit from this scheme.

5. Widow Scheme: The government had announced that widows will receive Rs. 500 each, as an added incentive during March, April and May. Accordingly DRISTI has enabled 643 women to receive the said amount in their account.

6. Special help for Women Jandhan Account Holders: As per the announcement, Jandhan Account Holder women are to receive Rs. 500 as an incentive support during the lockdown. DRISTI has ensured that 52 women have received this help during the lockdown.

Taking into account the present COVID-19 crisis scenario, DRISTI is in discussion with like-minded stakeholders to cater to the villages not yet affected but who have to put up with outside arrivals. DRISTI has surveyed that a total of 65 people have arrived from outside in its field-work area and identified 14 people as virus-suspicious cases. Of these, 26 people were quarantined and a total of 29 tests were done out of which 01 positive case has been shifted to Ahmedabad. DRiSTI staff has been contacting people daily in the villages and the various stakeholders of the villages, instructing them and providing them correct information in order to help them avail of and access all Government Schemes beneficially. As and when issues are arising, DRISTI is trying its utmost to address the problems through networking and discussions at various levels. DRISTI has also managed to get some villages medicine-sprayed by the Health Department, while some other villages were provided with Ayurvedic Ukado.

As the lockdown extension continues, DRISTI is studying the following possibilities:

1. ensuring financial transactions take place in each and every village, as there is lack of transportation service and people are unable to reach the bank.

2. providing farmers with seeds and manure in a timely and orderly manner at specific identified locations.

3. systematic study and proposal to ensure cultivation of crops, its harvest and sale during and after the lockdown.