Life Hacks to Avail Government Benefits and Services
By Vincy Davis, 09 May 2017

Knowing about government schemes, their benefits and how to avail basic public services should be essential courses taught in schools, especially in a large welfare State like India. In the absence of formal education on these topics, we must turn to one another to learn the how-tos and mistakes to be avoided when trying to navigate this very complicated maze.

In this 7 part blog series, we share stories of brave Indians who took on the mighty Indian bureaucracy to avail benefits and services that were rightfully owed to them. Some were successful in their journey while some continue to fight the good fight. However, all of them have come away with battle scars and life lessons that the reader could learn from.

In her debut blog, Kriti Seth will share the experience of a Delhi based Anganwadi Worker’s struggle to gain access to clean drinking water in the city. This story becomes all the more interesting as Kriti herself was made to chase around Delhi Jal Board (DJB) officials in her attempt to get to the bottom of it!

In another blog, I will pen down the ongoing story of a man’s mission to get his child admitted to a private school under the quota reserved for students from economically weaker sections under the Right to Education Act (RTE Act 2009). The story will trace how, despite having the requisite documents and support from the right people, the path to gain admission in the school continues to be beset with frustrating hurdles.

In his blog Dinesh Kumar, my colleague in Bihar, will share the story of his relative who fought against a nexus of corrupt ration dealers and a hostile bureaucracy to successfully retrieve ration that was rightfully due to him, through the Public Distribution System (PDS).

From rural Bihar we shall travel to the hills of Solan, Himachal Pradesh, where Indresh Sharma, will describe how his motivated friend got tangled up in a road construction related dispute with panchayat and land department officials, and how he was made to pay the price for demanding information through the Right to Information (RTI) Act.  

In the penultimate blog, Taanya Kapoor will take up a story of the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh, where the mandatory requirement of Aadhaar enrolment to avail key public services and direct benefit transfers has affected the most marginalised, particularly by restricting their access to cash for daily use.

The contexts in which these stories are set may appear disparate at first, but the emergent themes and struggles of these citizens are what unifies them. Through this blog series we also hope to throw light on some of the institutional reasons which make access to public services for the common man a frequently difficult process. What is it that stops us from accessing what is rightfully ours? The last blog in the series will briefly discuss these issues, apart from summing up the lessons learnt, tips and tricks that can make working with the system a bit easier.

After all, why should accessing something as basic as clean drinking water in a city as developed as Delhi be a herculean task? Watch out for the next blog in this series to know!