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Thank Your Hero: Linking the Needy to a Better Life

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Thanks to Arun’s guidance and assistance, Pochanna and 50 other families now receive monetary support from the government each month to make ends meet.

Arun has also helped 75 senior cit
izens who have no source of pension to gain cash benefits from Shrawanbal Sewa Yojana; linked two families of landless labourers who lost their sole breadwinners to the Aam Aadmi Bima Policy; and two other families that live below the poverty line, who lost their male breadwinners to another government insurance policy.

By Namrata Kalpady
Picture- Dhiraj Singh

YAVATMAL, India, 14 June 2014: It is a warm, sultry day in Sangam Sawangi, a small village in Ghatanji block of Yavatmal district in Maharashtra. A group of landless labourers are sitting outside a small tea stall, taking refuge from the harsh sun, when a familiar, tall, slim man with a crop of thick black hair walks past. They raise their tea cups to him in salutation. He responds with a polite nod and enquires about their well-being.

Meet Arun Tulsiram Kamle, a 30-year-old social worker who champions the cause of Vidarbha’s farmers. He is associated with Vikasganga Swayamsevi Sanstha, a local NGO that partners with UNICEF for the child protection and education programme.

Arun is seen as a hero in these parts because he has helped link over a hundred underprivileged families to the government’s social protection schemes. He not only helps them avail of financial assistance, he also follows up with the beneficiaries from time to time.

Today, Arun is making his way to the hut of Pochanna Gajilwar, a 46-year-old daily wage labourer from the Dalit Matang community. His wife is physically challenged. Pochanna, who earns Rs 70 a day (USD 1.18 approximately), had been struggling to pay medical bills as well as to raise their two sons. In a state of utter desperation, he turned to Arun. “Many people in my village urged me to speak to Arun bhau (brother), saying he could find a solution to every problem without fail. And he did.”

Arun told Pochanna about the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, a government scheme designed for those whose family’s annual income is less than Rs 21,000 (USD 350 approximately). It specially covers those who are physically and mentally challenged, providing them with cash benefits of Rs 600 (USD 10) every month.

“All that a prospective beneficiary must do is submit a few documents to prove his identity, age, place of residence and, in Pochanna’s wife’s case, a certificate of disability. It’s unfortunate that most people and gram panchayats (village bodies) don’t know about these schemes. I work towards spreading awareness among rural and tribal communities,” says Arun.

Thanks to Arun’s guidance and assistance, Pochanna and 50 other families now receive monetary support from the government each month to make ends meet.

Arun has also helped 75 senior citizens who have no source of pension to gain cash benefits from Shrawanbal Sewa Yojana; linked two families of landless labourers who lost their sole breadwinners to the Aam Aadmi Bima Policy; and two other families that live below the poverty line, who lost their male breadwinners to another government insurance policy.

It is no surprise then that many call Arun a human computer. “He has a very sharp mind. It is not easy to remember intricate details about each social protection scheme – who it is meant for, the criteria for applying, how to apply, what documents to submit – so his grasp of the subject is impressive. But more importantly, Arun has a heart for understanding people’s problems and a knack for connecting them to relevant schemes,” says Paresh J.M., UNICEF’s consultant for Yavatmal district, who works closely with Arun.

A blushing Arun brushes the praises aside and says, “I don’t have excellent memory or any such thing. When one has a keen interest, the ability to recall even the minutest of details naturally follows.” Arun has been cultivating this interest in the development sector since his college days.

Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in humanities in 2007, he had the opportunity to tour the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka as part of the National Youth Rally. He called this phase a life-altering one. Three years later, at the age of 27, Arun founded his own NGO, Yuvacharya, which focussed on village youth and rural issues. For his efforts, he was conferred the District Youth Prize later that same year.

“Only a quarter of the government’s welfare schemes are being availed of by those for whom they are designed. There is much room for improvement. My dream is to link every vulnerable family to these schemes and programmes. Yeh toh bas shuruaat hai! (This is just the beginning),” he concludes.

 

 
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