In UP, a new class of silent voters: the beneficiaries of social systems
* Over the past five years, Govind Das and his family have received Rs 1,20,849 in their bank accounts under the PM Housing Scheme, Swachh Bharat Mission, PM-Kisan as Covid aid from the Central Government and the state governments, and instead of her children’s school. lunch. In addition, he received 35 kg of food grain at subsidized rates and free food grain during the pandemic months, among other benefits.
Subscribe now: get Express Premium to access the best election reports and analysis
* From Mahoba district, Geeta Devi Shriwas and her family received Rs 1,52,000 in their bank accounts over a similar period under the housing scheme, Swachh Bharat Mission and PM-Kisan. In addition, the family received food grains at subsidized rates and other pandemic measures.
* In the past five years, the family of Ramashankar, from Chitrakoot district, received Rs 1,54,000 in their bank accounts under the housing scheme, Swachh Bharat Mission and PM-Kisan, as assistance to female Jan-Dhan account holders, and instead of her children’s midday meal.
Das, Geeta and Ramashankar live miles apart in rural UP Bundelkhand and belong to different castes, but are linked by a common thread: they are all recipients of welfare programs from the government and tell how, from a new electricity meter to a toilet, they have seen and felt the changes in their lives.
In an election with few certainties and where caste and religion often dominate the discourse, the labharthi varg – or beneficiaries of government welfare schemes – has become, for the BJP, an emblem of the “dual engine” that , he hopes, will blunt anti-incumbency.
The Indian Express tracked down several beneficiaries, checked their official records, to find that most witnessed several firsts in their lives: a brick-and-mortar house; a toilet; LPG cylinders; a bank account. While this labharthi varg emerged with the launch of direct benefit transfer programs in 2013, the numbers have since increased as the number of programs has grown. For example, the Indira Awas (IAY) scheme, in operation since 1985-1986, was restructured as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin in April 2016, after which the scheme saw a massive increase in numbers.
Manoj Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Rural Development), Uttar Pradesh, said, “Over the past five years, 26.5 lakh houses have been built under the scheme in UP, equivalent to the number of houses built in 15 years before the launch of PMAY-G in 2016. He added that the grant amount given under the scheme to build a house in rural areas has increased from Rs 75,000 to Rs 1,20,000.
Govind Das, 37, Jhansi
Das lives with his wife, three children and father in Achru Khirak Phutera village near Baruwa Sagar in Babina township of Jhansi district.
A grade 10 dropout, he earns his living – Rs. a factory in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh.
Last year, Das and his family received Rs 90,000 under the PM Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAGY), the rural housing scheme which started in 2016 as a restructured form of the Indira Aawas Yojana from the 1960s. 1980. The amount was credited to his father Dayaram’s bank account. However, Das said, he has yet to receive the remaining amount of Rs 30,000. Construction work on the one-room house is still in progress.
In 2019, the family received Rs 12,000 for the construction of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission. They also have a running water connection as part of the Jal Jeevan mission, but have no water yet. “Yeh pipeline line purani connect ki hui hai, isliye pani nahin aata (The pipe was connected to an old pipeline. Therefore they are not getting water),” he said.
Between February 25, 2019 and May 15, 2021, the family received eight installments from PM-Kisan, totaling Rs 16,000. They have yet to receive the last two installments. A total of 10 installments have been released under PM-Kisan till date since the launch of the program in 2018-19. Under PM-Kisan, the government pays Rs 6,000 a year in three instalments to landlord farming families.
Das and his wife, Pramila Devi, both have e-Shram cards, a central system that entitles them to accident insurance coverage of Rs 2 lakh. They have also registered with the Uttar Pradesh Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, under which each of them is eligible for one-time Covid-19 relief of Rs 1,000. While Das has received his share, Pramila has yet to get his right.
Das’ three children – a 17-year-old son, two daughters aged 10 and 12 – all go to school. Documents available from the family show that with schools closed during the pandemic, her two daughters got free food grains (a total of 51.9kg) and Rs 1,849 in lieu of cooked meals as part of the school lunch program.
His family also has an Antyodaya card which allows them to receive 35kg of food at subsidized rates under the 2013 National Food Security Act.
In addition, each family member received 5 kg of free food grain (30 kg in total) every month as part of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, a pandemic measure. In addition to this, the family also received one kg of gram dal, edible oil and salt every month – a state government measure during the pandemic.
All adult members of Das’ family have a Jan-dhan account. However, his wife did not receive the monthly Covid aid of Rs 500 announced by the Center for Women Account Holders during the first Covid wave. While Das has insurance coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, for which an amount of Rs 12 is deducted from his bank account every year, the family has no card under Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).
Das said the village has a health sub-center but no doctor is available there.
When asked what was the issue he would like to raise in the election, Das, who belongs to the Kushwaha caste (OBC), said: “plant koi lag jaaye ya kachhu ho jaye. Rojgar milat jaye stockings (A factory should be set up so that we have work),” he said, adding that stray cattle are also a big problem.
Geeta Devi Shriwas, 30 years old
About 80 km from the Das family, Geeta Devi lives with her husband, three children (two daughters and one son), father-in-law and brother-in-law in Saura village, Charkhari township, Mahoba district of UP.
Her husband, Vijay Kumar, is a truck driver and earns between 8,000 and 10,000 rupees per month. The family sends their children to a private school. “Sarkari school me padhai theek nahin hoti (Government schools don’t provide a good education),” says Geeta, who is from the Dhobi community, a scheduled caste.
The family is building a house with the Rs 1.20 lakh which has been credited to their account under the PMAY-G scheme. The house is in his name.
The family has an Ayushman Bharat card in the name of his father-in-law Maiyadeen which entitles them to free treatment up to Rs 5 lakh per year. When asked if he had used it, Maiyadeen replied that there was no major hospital available in the locality.
All adult family members have bank accounts and E-shram cards. However, Geeta says she has not received the Covid aid of Rs 500 per month announced by the central government.
Geeta’s family also has an NREGA work card.
In August last year, the family got an LPG gas cylinder under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. They use it occasionally, Geeta said.
The family, who grow mustard and wheat on their 1 bigha, received all 10 installments announced so far from PM-Kisan, totaling Rs 20,000.
Maiyadeen says he is glad the government has given “equal respect to large and small farmers” under the scheme. “Before, under the government of Akhilesh Yadav, only rich farmers with 200 to 250 bigha received money; they had no consideration for small farmers like us. Yogi ji ne bahut achchha kam kiya hai har aadmi ko samaan roop se samman diya hai… (Yogiji did a very good job giving equal respect to all farmers). Now a person who owns 100 bigha will get 2,000 rupees as well as someone who owns 1 bigha,” he says.
Ramashankar, 52 years old
About 220 km away lives Ramashankar in his plasterless house surrounded by mustard fields in the village of Moharwan in the Assembly constituency of Chitrakoot. Ramashankar, who belongs to the Nishad community, lives with his wife, two sons and daughter. The family grows wheat, paddy and mustard on their one-acre plot.
Documents available from the family show that her children each received Rs 1,100 from the state government to buy school uniforms and shoes. One of them also received Rs 1,318 in lieu of lunch in addition to food grains.
In addition to the 35kg of food grain they receive at subsidized rates under the Food Security Act, the family also received a ration as part of the Centre’s Pandemic Time Allowance.
The family has an NREGA work card. Last year, Ramashankar got Rs 10,000 under the employment scheme.
Last year, he started building a house with the Rs 1.20 lakh he got under PMAY-G but had to stop the works when he ran out of money; doors and windows still need to be installed. They also obtained Rs 12,000 for the construction of toilets.
Ramashankar’s wife Asha Devi says she received the Center’s monthly Covid-19 grant of Rs 500 for three months, with the amount credited to her Jan Dhan account.
The family also received the 10 installments of PM-Kisan, totaling Rs 20,000, from March 2019 to January 2022.
While the family is connected to electricity, the tap water pipes under the Jal Jeevan mission have yet to reach their house.
Ramashankar says the family has an LPG bottle but he doesn’t have it refilled regularly. “We have firewood. We use that,” he said.
Speaking of the upcoming elections, Ramashankar says the threat of stray cattle is the biggest problem in his village. “We will vote for the party that gets rid of this problem. I have to stay up all night to save my crops,” he says.