At Just Rs 50, Naresh Bhai’s Van Provides Migrant Labourers With PAN, Aadhaar or Bank A/Cs

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When Kranti Ben migrated to Ahmedabad from her village in search of work, she brought along little of her belongings, unaware how the big city would greet her. She was adept in sewing craft, so she was looking for work as a tailor. However, her skills and experience alone failed to secure her employment for one small reason. She had no identity documents with her.

“I had left my Voter ID card in the village. I did not have an Aadhaar or PAN card, and no bank account. Nobody was ready to trust me and give some work,” she recalls.

She runs out of words to thank ‘Naresh Bhai’ – a 24-year-old man who helps hundreds like Kranti Ben every day, by arranging their vital documents at a very nominal fee, merely 30 to 40 rupees.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

“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.

Panah Foundation Mobile Van

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.

Panah Foundation Mobile Van

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.

Panah Foundation Mobile Van

“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’.

 

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

In Chattisgarh’s Tribal Villages, Kids Affected By Naxal Violence Now Strive To Be Doctors & Teachers

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Four years ago, 53 children in the Naxal-affected district of Sukma, Chhattisgarh were handed over blank papers and asked to draw anything that comes to their mind. The children, all around 9 or 10 years of age, poured their heart out with pencils and crayons. The volunteer teachers, most of whom hailed from urban parts of India, expected to see the quintessential villages, rivers, hills, birds and trees coming alive on the sheets. Little did they know that they were in for a shock. Seven of the 53 students depicted scenes from their village fairs and folk festivals. And all of the remaining 47 students had painted scenes of violence, dead bodies, explosions, combat and what not.

For decades, Sukma has been notorious for heavy Naxalite infestation. In 2012, nearly 40,000 kids were out of school, spending a childhood filled with fear of violence, chaos and poverty.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

Fast forward today, nearly 25,000 of them are receiving a regular and proper education, all credits to a young engineer who quit his corporate job to be beside these helpless children, in one of the most inaccessible and underdeveloped parts of the country.

Forsaking the comfort of a cushy job

Shiksharth, an NGO working with thousands of conflict-affected children in the remotest districts Sukma and Bijapur in Chattisgarh, was founded by Ashish Shrivastava around four years ago.

Ashish, who hails from a predominantly urban background, decided to leave his cushy job in Delhi about a decade ago. “I always wanted to teach young kids. Besides, the Delhi lifestyle was not appealing to me. So, I quit my job and started travelling across the remotest districts of India,” shares Ashish, in a conversation with Efforts For Good.

It was Ashish’s visit to Dantewada, one of the most infamous Naxal-affected zones, that shook him to the core. The tribal population in these forested hinterlands were in a way completely isolated from modern facets of the society.

The poverty & lawlessness turned kids to violence

Nestled in the lap of nature, their shabby huts and cold hearths spoke of abject poverty. They lived their days in terror, anticipating violent attacks or combat between the extremists and military forces.

Amidst all this turmoil, the education of the kids suffered drastically. Schools were closed down. The ones which were still active had very few teachers. Most children would grow up illiterate and they were easily contrived into militancy, taking up guns and bombs at an age when they should have been holding pens and textbooks.

“I felt a dire need for an intervention. Something, however little it might be, that can change the future scenario,” recalls Ashish now.

It wasn’t a warm welcome from the tribal community

He was well aware that the local community was quite averse to outsiders. Still, overcoming his fear and hesitation, Ashish embarked on a door-to-door mission in Sukma, to find out the actual situation.

“I saw orphaned children whose parents were victims of Naxalite violence. Parents were sending their five or six-year-olds to shelter homes to protect them. The kids had little idea of how beautiful childhood can be,” reveals Ashish.

“I had endless roadblocks to convince myself to go back to the usual life and leave these children the way they are. The villagers were quite reluctant to interact with city folks like me. In addition, the language barrier made communication almost impossible. Still, I persisted. I desperately wanted to save those kids from drowning into an abyss of uncertainty. I wanted to educate and mentor them into ideal future citizens. So, I stayed back,” he narrates.

Starting Shiksharth & changing lives

Armed with the motto to provide a service with solution, Ashish started Shiksharth – an academic foundation which intervenes in the existing government schools in the area to restructure their curriculums as well as improve the pedagogy.

Presently, Shiksharth is directly involved with over 3000 children and indirectly, with assistance from regional bureaucrats, they have reached out to around 25,000 more children all over Sukma and Bijapur. In these past three years, the organisation has helped reopen 85 primary schools in the area and are hoping to take the number to 100 by the end of 2019.

The unique pedagogy at Shiksharth

In a place where internet is a luxury, Ashish had to resort to old school methods to spread the word about his initiative. The children became their ambassadors with uninitiated families, unwilling to send their kids to school out of fear.

The way Shiksharth functions is indeed interesting as their focus lies on making any subject or topic contextually relevant. Ashish explains, “In our childhood, we learnt A for Aeroplane, B for Ball etc. Kids here have not even seen a highway in their life, let alone an aeroplane. So, if their textbooks teach A for Aeroplane, how will they relate? We have changed that to A for Arrow, a common equipment in their community.”

Shiksharth has introduced numerous contextual alterations which now kindle the kids’ interest in education. They are asked to pen essays on the local festivals and natural wonders, rather than an abrupt essay on, perhaps, the Qutb Minar. In Maths, we teach them basic addition and subtraction with local Mahua fruits. For senior students, the sales profits of the same fruit are used to teach arithmetic. Science for them means conducting physics and chemistry experiments with local resources or observing the plants and animals around them.

Shiksharth Fellowship

The Shiksharth fellowship invites young changemakers from all over India to devote a year to teach the kids in Sukma and Bijapur. Right now, 15 dedicated volunteers are involved in the 2019 fellowship programme.

For Ashish, it has been no cakewalk to work in these core conflict zones. In fact, he himself had seen quite a few dangerous encounters from close quarters. Initially, as an outsider, his identity was recorded and his activities were monitored by the Naxalites.

Roadblocks and achievements

He admits to have received gracious support from senior government officials, however, funding still continues to be his main struggle. Unlike other NGOs operational in villages, unfortunately, most CSRs are unwilling to involve themselves with these conflict-affected communities.

Ashish Shrivastava’s work is little known, but his tireless and fearless endeavours should indeed be lauded far and wide. For him, development is not concrete roads or skyscrapers, but food, medicine and education – the basic tenets of survival with dignity. And he has sacrificed his privileges to achieve the same. Efforts For Good wishes Ashish continue to inspire and transform more lives.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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