“If it was not for Naresh Bhai, I would still be unemployed. He made my Aadhaar card, PAN card, bank account – everything within just a few days. He also informed me about government benefits schemes I would be eligible for, like Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PM- SYM) and Atal Pension Yojana (APY). He only made all those cards for me. God bless him,” exclaims Kranti Ben happily.
‘Naresh Bhaiya ki van’
Naresh Sijapati, the young social activist from Ahmedabad, has a mobile van which runs through the length and breadth of the city, helping migrant labourers and underprivileged people in slums with all necessary government documents. Officially titled as Labour Resource and Support Centre and informally termed as ‘Naresh Bhaiya ki van’ – his unique initiative has helped hundreds since 2017.
In collaboration with UIDAI and State Bank of India, Naresh manages to provide documents like Aadhaar card, PAN card, government scheme-related records as well as open bank accounts to their name.
Most of the centres charge a hefty fee
“I used to notice the SBI kiosks operating everywhere in the city trying to bring more people into the ambit of banking. At the same time, due to the Digital India initiative, small makeshift centres were opening up to aid people in getting their documents.”
However, most of these centres charge a hefty fee so they were not very popular among the migrants, many of whom live below poverty line. Their limited knowledge and access to digital platforms also curtail their chances of easily securing a government document,” reveals Naresh.
That’s how the idea of the mobile van came up to him. He secured registration permits from the government and SBI and launched his small van for the public.
Naresh Sijapati had a harsh upbringing
Naresh himself had experienced the woes of being a migrant in an unknown city. When he was barely a boy of six, his parents shifted from a village in Nepal to Ahmedabad. A harsh childhood with an abusive and alcoholic father only hardened his determination to do something for the helpless.
From his childhood only, he engaged in a series of odd jobs, from rag-picking to waiting tables, while carrying on his education on the side. During his days working as a factory labourer, he realised how disadvantaged migrant labourers actually are. They are exploited without any fixed salary, let alone any employment benefits. In addition, lack of relevant documents makes their livelihood harder.
Starting Panah Foundation
To help out the migrant workers’ community in their every need, Naresh started Panah Foundation. “Panah aims to be a one-window centre for migrant labour to provide solutions for all their problems,” he explains.
At present, Panah has over 600 registered members and 23 team leaders across Ahmedabad. Their most popular initiative so far has been the Labour Resource and Support Centre. It was initially started to inform the migrant residents about available jobs and skill development opportunities, as well as the government schemes they are eligible to avail. The mobile van is the latest addition in their list of projects.
How the mobile van works
Every day, the van goes and parks at one particular location and help out the people there. The residents are informed prior, so they stay prepared when Naresh arrives.
“I know Naresh Ji for a long time. He used to run a support centre near my hotel. But, after he started the mobile van, he has made me one of the team leaders. Now I go to the migrant labourers’ colonies and inform them beforehand about how Naresh Ji can help them,” shares Gopal Pandey, a hotel owner working with Naresh.
He does everything simply out of compassion
Naresh shares that he also helps many people who have migrated bag and baggage from other states. “In most of the cases, they leave their Voter ID cards behind and they have no documents to validate their identity. They are in need of dire help. I try my best to make things convenient for them, as much as possible,” he reveals.
For Naresh, the work is simply out of compassion. No one understands the plight of a migrant labourer better than him perhaps. Hundreds of his beneficiaries are all blessings galore for their ‘Naresh Bhaiya’.