Krishnanagar, Sept. 16: A group of teachers, government employees, authors, journalists, and social activists have joined hands to launch a web-based community information service to make people of Bengal aware of the different beneficial schemes of centre and state government of which they often found unaware and failed to get the coveted benefit.
With such an endeavor, the group has developed a mobile application titled ‘Sachetonata‘ and a web site with the same name (https://sachetonata.org.in/), which would contain information about all social and other welfare programmes, mostly the direct benefit transfer (DBT) schemes of the state and the central governments in detail so that people can choose the right ones as per their needs.
‘Sachetonata’ members claimed that since no individual or organizational help can be a substitute for the government-sponsored welfare programmes, it is important to ensure that such welfare initiatives find its way to the targeted beneficiaries. But the coveted objective often fails for lack of awareness among people, members said.
The brain behind the initiative and Sachetonata president Kanchan Sarker, a professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, Canada who hails from Krishnagar, said, “It is an effort to empower people with their rights through awareness. Lack of awareness caused helplessness. People in rural areas in particular largely suffer from such helplessness during crises and exploited. Our aim is to sensitize people and help them to know their rights”.
‘Recently we were shocked to know from a block development office that family kins of people who die in snake bite or due to lightning seldom appeal for compensation whereas the Bengal Government has a provision to pay Rs.5 lakh within 24 hours. But people are not aware of the scheme and the fund largely remain unutilized”, Sarker said.
Members of Sachetonata claimed that they encountered a sea of such lack of awareness recently while visiting rural areas to distribute relief due to Amphan and Covid outbreak.
Vice president of Sachetonata Basu Acharya, an author, and social activist said, “Our experience during the post-Amphan period and the subsequent Covid situation were instrumental to take up the initiative. While delivering relief among the people, we noticed that people are mostly not aware of the existing social welfare schemes. So we discussed with our friends and eventually decided to offer a voluntary imitative for them”.
“It is not an easy job and we know that just a website or mobile application is not enough to bridge the gap considering the barriers of communication, illiteracy, and other factors”, Acharya said.
“Earlier rural libraries used to work for the dissemination of government programmes. But, such libraries are now turned sick due to a lack of staff. Many state-sponsored libraries do not even offer regular service now. So we have planned to rope in social organizations, NGOs, clubs, and interested individuals who can bridge the gap and make them aware, to help them to use the web site and mobile application as well. At the same time we will also launch a physical drive of awareness across the state”, Acharya added.
When asked how to handle certain programme that creates controversy due to claim and counterclaim by both centre and state, member of the team said, “For obvious reasons, we would advise people to appeal for state-sponsored schemes”.
The android based bi-lingual mobile application will be made available at Google play stores in English and Bengali and team members would offer voluntary service to people for interpretation and explain eligibility of the scheme while creating awareness as well.