18 Feb

On-ground issues – Seva Setu’s advocacy efforts

One of Seva Setu’s strengths is we keep our noses to the grindstone on the various issues we address. In the course of our field work, we unearth plenty of discrepancies which dent the spirit and letter of the guidelines which should drive such work.

Through a series of posts, we will write on issues which come up in implementing well-meaning schemes of the government. We want to pick each case and dive deeper into it. This effort will be accompanied by advocacy attempts on-field, by meeting officers in the departments concerning these discrepancies. We want others in this field, who’re finding their own way through these little hurdles, to be able to learn as much from our experiences, efforts, and mistakes.
We will cover the following topics and programs:
  • Assessment of differently able people: The department of empowerment of persons with disabilities lays out guidelines to assess the differently able. These parameters are used to provide certificates by the government, which are then used as documents to provide benefits such as pensions etc. What we’ve found in our work, however, are seemingly unjustified decisions being made by medical boards when they assess a person’s disability. Does this point to subjectivity in the guidelines, a lack of sufficient training regarding the guidelines or more?
  • The curious case of the affidavit: Applying for a disability certificate entails a common man to submit a proof of residence and two photographs. However, we face an unusual requirement in some of the blocks we work in – the requirement to file an affidavit in addition to these documents. Officials at some district hospitals (where disability certificates are prepared) demand an affidavit signed by a public notary which confirms (once again) the identity of the person. The process to acquire such a certificate doesn’t even require the beneficiary to be physically present. What’s worse, notaries charge 200 INR per affidavit that’s provided. This requirement of an affidavit is not mentioned in any official document and are now fighting tooth and nail to remove this process.
  • Shortage of equipment: Most of our visits to the composite regional centers, those centers which disburse equipment to the differently able, almost always are short of the equipment needed. We don’t have an answer to why this is the case. We also observe that the popular model used by the government in disbursing such equipment is by conducting camps. Why is this the case? Why is there a constant shortage in the equipment required to be present at the CRCs?
  • Mental health: Diagnosis and treatment of mental health related illnesses remain to be unexplored in Indian healthcare. Unfortunately, there seem to be a disproportionately small number of rehabilitation centers, places which serve as care homes for those with mental illnesses, in India. Why is the number this low? What should be the right number? We discuss some challenges in our on-field work in this space.
These are some of the topics we’ll start looking into.
Stay tuned.
29 Jan

Updates from Republic Day – All differently able in 3 Panchayats have their disability certificates

As part of its citizen care program, Seva Setu ensures that the differently able receive government’s pensions. As per our government’s reports and our own field surveys, we have analyzed that more than 50% of the differently able do not have disability certificates (a document needed to process their pensions). We take active steps to ensure that each differently able person is first identified through extensive surveys, from every village in the blocks/districts that we work in. We then ensure that all such people receive their disability certificates and if applicable, their pensions as well.

We are pleased to inform you that in Bihar’s Vaishali district that we’ve been active in, three panchayats – which comprise of roughly 50 villages, now have no differently-able people without a disability certificate! :) We have ensured that all those we surveyed have got these documents processed. This was our target for November-December, 2016. We have now streamlined many of our operations to get these pensions facilitated. We hope to aggressively chase other Panchayats and blocks as well. Full steam ahead!

An update from this year’s Republic day – 

Republic day is celebrated every year to commemorate the day when the constitution of India came into force in 1950.  Our constitution provides a guideline for every citizen of this country to live his/her life with dignity. To accentuate this underlying principle of our constitution, Composite Regional Centre (CRC), Patna organized a camp for the differently-able in Hajipur (Vaishali). The camp was organized to provide necessary equipment to the differently-able in Bihar’s Vaishali district. Seva Setu has already been working to help the differently-abled people of the region in getting the required documents prepared to avail CRC benefits. The camp by the CRC was an opportunity for us to expedite this process for the beneficiaries.

After going through various procedures including document verification and medical check-ups, four hearing impaired people from our survey got hearing-aids. The market price of this high-quality hearing aid ranges from ₹3,000 to ₹4,000. The apparent elation and excitement of the beneficiaries and their family members after getting the hearing-aid was, for Seva Setu, a true celebration of the 68th Republic Day.

To know about the exact numbers from our survey/work, please visit – http://sevasetu.org/disability_care

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24 Jan

Seva Setu at BIT Mesra

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The Gandhi Fellowship program is an annual fellowship which encourages young citizens of India to try out social entrepreneurship. They have a residential program where they teach young citizens the realities of bringing about changes at the last-mile.

The good folks at the fellowship program invited Seva Setu for an expert talk at their annual visit to the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, one of the top-rated technology universities in India. They wanted us to share our experiences with the ‘nascent young minds of tomorrow’. Specifically, they wanted to know what inspired us to get started with our work; being primarily from an engineering background, how our core team makes use of our technical skills in solving problems in the social domain; and what are the key skills we look for when we hire folks on our team.

It was a fun day overall! It was a young audience who had very little exposure to the concept of social enterprises. They confronted some hard questions – as to what would stop their heads from doing what their hearts say. Seva Setu also showed them a flavor of the severity of problems which are prevalent at the last-mile and the kind of innovations that one can come up with in bringing about measurable changes. Towards the end of the talk, they went back being made aware of the tangible, not-so-less-traversed-anymore career choice of being social entrepreneurs.

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19 Jan

Internships at Seva Setu!

Say hello to Nikita Gupta, an aspiring MBA graduate from XIME, Bangalore. She spent three weeks, from mid-December to early January, interning with us at our Patna office.

She started contributing to our flagship program “Each one, Reach one” riIMG-20170108-WA0003ght from day one — she was responsible for growing our base of call champions and getting them going with the remainder of the program. During her stint, she was exposed to India’s rural healthcare system and understood some of its limitations. She honed her general management skills by simultaneously managing multiple stakeholders involved in the program — mothers from urban India, mothers from rural India, internal teams at Seva Setu and reviewing literature around the details of relevant schemes! Phew!

A loud shout out from everyone at Seva Setu to Nikita for spending time with us! We’d love to see her back for another stint.

If you want to similarly expose yourself to the realities of rural India, and want to learn from an active group on the field, feel free to drop a line at intern@sevasetu.org. We’ll be happy to get you started!

03 Jan

2016 at a glance

2016 has been a fun year at Seva Setu. We eagerly look forward to 2017 to bring about changes on ground, Seva Setu style :)

Looking back, 2016 was a year of consolidation and introspection at Seva Setu. We were not focused on expanding our services and scaling our operations in different regions. Instead, we were keen on strengthening and streamlining our internal processes. We focused on ensuring the data we collected on the field was rigorously maintained and indexed. We also identified and integrated technology in programs where we thought it would greatly help scaling them. Doing so has prepared us to aggressively expand our portfolio of services in 2017 as well as replicating them across geographies. We want to strongly establish our brand presence as well on the field in addition to having polished operations. 2017 is also the year Seva Setu turns three. With this, we now want to be formally involved with local governments in executing various projects in our areas of expertise. 2016 has thus been a year of preparation for the high amount of activity we hope to see in 2017!

infographic-final-dec-2016

We highlight here some of our posts from the year before –

  • Citizen care: We worked primarily on three pension schemes – for the disabled, for senior citizens and for widows. The second half of the year saw our focus shift towards the disabled, and covering three districts in parallel. We learned a good deal about the processes and challenges in ensuring people received their benefits from the government. [Our opinion piece]
  • Mother care: After seeing a lull at the beginning of this year, 2016 saw a swanky-revival of its Each one, Reach one program. We got good coverage from the press and got on board urban mothers from varying professions and backgrounds to befriend peers from rural Bihar! We now have a fully automated tool to schedule and manage phone calls. We have begun receiving feedback from urban mothers and are resolving escalations raised by them. [Web-based software] [Press article]
  • Child care: 2016 saw a tough year for our Child care program. We fought tooth and nail in ensuring that the NRC in Patna, which was shut down without notice, was reopened in two months’ time. We also faced resistance from families in Patna in going to the centers. On a positive note, most families in Vaishali obliged and realized its significance. Our opinion piece of issues in the current setup also got press coverage. [Related post] [Press coverage]
  • IT training: We completed four batches of skill training this year. We were pleased to see the warm response we got from the people of Vaishali in participating in this program. Basic computer literacy as a skill has high returns in our growing knowledge economy. We want to see how we can get those we train employed in local markets. [Related post]
  • Audits of public services: We also spent time on auditing existing facilities and liaisoning with the government to rectify issues we had spotted in them. We audited Anganwadi centers – to ensure basic facilities like weighing machines, growth charts etc. were available at the centers; and health centers – health subcenters in villages and block-level primary health centers. The audits of Anganwadi centers led to several fruitful meetings with the CDPOs and the health center audits led to action being taken after we filed complaints with Bihar’s Lokshikayat center. [Health center report]
  • Sewing training and creating markets: We continue to operate sewing training centers in which get batches of 20-30 young women trained in sewing and related skills. Towards the end of 2016, we were able to liaise with local vendors in ensuring their produce got into the local markets. We are very optimistic about this program taking off full-steam, given the successful pilots we’ve seen thus far. [Related post]
  • Technology and processes:  2016 witnessed an emphasis on technology. By rigorously maintaining internal data stores and making our code-bases public, we restructured our operations to make it amenable to disciplined data collection and analyses. We are now on GitHub and have a dedicated community of 5-6 developers who are involved in designing and maintaining our software-related tools! [Each one, reach one software] [Our live stats from citizen care]

With this, we really look forward to 2017! We thank our team of field executives, employees, and volunteers who’ve worked shoulder to shoulder in getting us here. We think we’re better prepared in facing challenges that this space will throw at us and we’re optimistic that our experience in this domain thus far will help us be more efficient and impactful!

Hello 2017!