Written By: Ms.Sohini Bhattacharjee, Officer Communications
Shoma Bhuriyan is the mainstay of Mona Cottage, a Paying Guest for Girls in Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi. From deftly handling the household chores to ensuring that absolute conduct and discipline is maintained in the paying guest which is home to about twenty girls, Shoma does her job with finesse. She has been working in the paying guest as a stay – in domestic help for the last 15 years and her employers trust her to be the pillar behind manning the business.
Thirty six year old Shoma hails from a small village of Midnapore district in West Bengal. Today, she is a self-assured independent woman and also a single mother. With a monthly income of Rs. 6000, she diligently sends money to support her old parents and also bears the expenditure of herself and her ten year old daughter Pihu. Shoma is very particular about her daughter’s education and a portion of her earnings are always kept aside to ensure that her daughter’s education is not interrupted.
One day when she was talking with the girls from the paying guest about how she is planning to save some money for Pihu’s future, they informed her that investing in the recently launched savings scheme for girl child Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana would be a very good saving source for her.
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a small deposit scheme for girl child launched as part of ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign. An account can be opened at any time from the birth of a girl till she attains the age of 10 years, with a minimum deposit of Rs.1000 in any post office or authorised branches of commercial banks. The subsequent deposit should be in multiples of Rs.100. Documents relating to child’s age proof and address proof of parents or guardians should be submitted while opening account. In case a proper birth certificate is not available, a certificate of date of birth from the school headmaster or from hospital, where the child was born, can be submitted. The account would remain active for 21 years from the date of opening of the account or marriage of the girl. Partial withdrawal of 50 per cent of the balance would be allowed after the girl has attended 18 years to meet the requirement of higher education or marriage expenses. Interest rate will be 9.1 per cent for financial year 2014-15 and it will be calculated on a yearly basis and credited into account i.e. compounded every year up to completion of 14 years from date of opening the account.
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a significant attempt towards securing the future of the girl child, especially in a country riddled with skewed gender balance ratio, which presently stands at 943 females as against 1000 males . Where one of the many reasons attributed for female foeticide is the girl child being seen as a financial burden, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a positive step towards securing the future of the girl child especially with regard to financial aspect.
While the Government is planning to distribute pamphlets and use other mass media as a major information dissemination tool about the scheme, the concern remains that whether the information about the scheme will effectively trickle down to the poor, illiterate and the community living in the most remote pockets of the country. Besides, another challenge is opening the bank or post office account, mandatory under this scheme, which involves significant paper work that may deter a sizeable section of the population who are illiterate, especially in the absence of paperwork assistance.
Shoma narrated about her struggles in her effort towards opening a bank account under the scheme, sharing the hesitation she felt as she set foot in the bank, aware of being completely oblivious to the decorum required to manage all bank related tasks.
When information does not percolate equally to the citizens, the impact of such policies is half reached. Under such circumstances designing an effective information dissemination strategy could be the key towards ensuring that the benefits of the scheme are accrued by a major chunk of the population especially the poorest and the most marginalized.
Few of the steps taken by the Government could be to collaborate with the development organisations towards mapping the areas of the city which is home to the urban poor and which includes a major section of the illiterate population. Consequently, Information Kiosks can be set up outside Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) and volunteers can organize information sessions. College students can be engaged in this process as volunteers. Such information kiosks could also be set up in Urban Slums, squatter settlements and every mapped area covered. Similarly, paperwork assistance kiosks could also be set up outside Banks or Post Office to assist. Such a strategy could also be replicated in the rural remote areas with the support of civil society organizations.
All Shoma needed was a hand, to help her identify relevant paperwork, understand the language of government schemes and avail the benefit that could be rightfully hers.Today her story of struggles no longer embitters her mind. Shoma harbours a strong dream, to see her daughter become a doctor someday. She beams with pride when she talks about how her daughter Pihu, who is now in fourth standard, scores a perfect hundred in her Mathematics paper every year.