Intervening to Facilitate Access:
Piloting the Single Window Initiative in North-West Delhi
Urban spaces and cities are viewed as equalizers, with potential for supporting integration based on fraternity. The question is, on the ground, are the vulnerable communities — the sexual minorities, the poor, the migrants, the socially marginalized women — able to gain from the growth of cities, or are they left excluded? Do they manage to access the most basic of social services, or is such access dependent on their location, social status, and identity?
For sexual minorities, and socially marginalzed women, is the inclusion dependent on the possession of official documents, such as a Voter ID, Ration Card, a bank account and an Aadhar card or are their more fundamental issues at stake? .
A study anchored by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), has assessed the extent of awareness of and inclusion of socially marginalized communities, into key schemes and entitlements in Delhi’s North-West District. It clearly points out that the exclusion stems from both systemic and structural barriers and this includes discriminatory attitude and official apathy.
The study report, titled ‘Community-led Assessment on Social Inclusion’, was released by Senior Judicial Officers of the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) and the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA), in New Delhi on March 23, 2017.
For the study, researchers from four Community-based Organizations Seva, Aarohan, AINSW and Savera, interviewed 1000 respondents, from seven urban settlements of North-West Delhi.
The purposive sample included 20% transgender persons. Care was taken to ensure that the experience of socially marginalized women, and transgender persons from each settlement was included.
The respondents, were asked through structured questionnaires, to share their experience of seeking identity documents, such as Voter ID and Aadhar Card, birth caste and income certificates as also accessing entitlements, such as Ration Card, a Jan Dhan Account and the girl child support scheme, Laadli.
The findings are revealing: An Aadhar Card, was near universal. Of the sample 1000 respondents, only 56 had not applied for it, of the 944 who applied, only 21, had not received it. For the others, the quality of access was patchy and the experiences of exclusion were reported from all seven settlements.
Community researchers learnt that exclusionary processes are being played out in complex ways, particularly in the case of socially marginalized members of a locality. They found that there are both institutional and social aspects to exclusion.
While through existing social networks, sampled individuals have learned about the possibility gaining legitimacy and recognition from the State, they are usually unaware of the processes for obtaining the necessary documents and navigating the bureaucracy. Facing rejection, or being stalled, they are usually unable to escalate their concerns, and even register grievances.
Reinforcing this Mr. Deepak from Aarohan said “Someone can get the Aadhaar card done as a transgender, it becomes difficult for them to provide the document matching the same as their other documents have a different identity”.-Explaining the fundamental issues at stake the transgender representative stated “We are often denied jobs because of our identity, we cannot even fill the gender column as there is no separate column for Transgender- Mr. Ram Prakash, Aarohan
Talking about difficulties that marginalized women face while applying for various scheme Ms. Kusum, AINSW said “Many of our women are not able to get benefits under Laadli schemes since they are not able to produce the father’s photo or details”
Sharing concerns on marketing the products produced after skill or livelihood training Ms. Vimla, Mahila Pragati Manch said “We cannot immediately sell food items, this requires government permission. We have skills. We may have ideas but we need to plan the next steps. We need support to address legal compliance procedures”.
Facilitating Access through the Single Window Mechanism
Responding to the concerns and experience of the community, the Judicial Officers assured their representatives that:
“It is not necessary to reveal your identity, you can benefit as a woman rather than as a sex worker. There is no way your profession or identity gets revealed in this process. It is important to look at the positive way. I understand your concerns. We need to look at the way forward, it would take time and move forward. Your own organisations can come together and take this even further. We will support you”. Ms. Geetanjali, Special Secretary, DSLSA
The Single Window Initiative under DLSA aims to empower and support most vulnerable populations of sex workers, who are victims of social exclusion to use available Constitutional remedies and administrative pathways to challenge instances and patterns of discrimination in access to entitlements.
They affirmed support for the Single Window pilot initiative, launched in the North-West District, in partnership with CFAR. In his Keynote address, Mr Alok Aggrawal, Member Secretary, NALSA said that the contribution of the community in shaping the Single Window is very critical because only the Community-based Organisations can identify eligible beneficiaries. “What the Legal Services Authority can do is to facilitate the department and community to converge and address all the outstanding issues together.”
On behalf of the Department of Women and Child Development, Ms Sharmishta offered hope and support. “I would like to share a case study. I know a lady who learnt baking investing money. In fact we can look for options where you will not be asked to pay for the training. She set up a stall at the DLF Mall at Vasant Kunj. In fact she makes 30 cakes a day and the base is prepared in her own home. She had shared that she makes 5 times profit of each cake. Over 100% profit, now she has also given a job opportunity for another maid at her home to support her. It is important to look at options”.
Amplifying, Mr. Sanjeev Jain, Member Secretary, DSLSA, said, “Basic entitlements and information on schemes should reach the community but given the many barriers the community experiences we need to address their concerns through the Single Window set up by DSLSA under the NALSA Scheme 2015 in North West District. Based on the success we achieve here, we will ensure that the initiative is replicated across Delhi and the country.”
Mr. Puneet Pahwa, Secretary, DLSA, North West, stated that, “While as a Pilot Project we have the onerous responsibility to ensure the success of the Project, we also realize that we have to re-awaken the sense of hope and confidence in the community; because many of them are in deep despair and convinced that nothing will ever reach them. The Single Window has to address this trust deficit.”
Reiterating the findings from the community assessment, Akhila Sivadas, Executive Director CFAR emphasized, “Social inclusion is a work in progress. A lot of schemes are coming since, poverty is raising and urban poverty is a complicated problem. This (single window initiative) is not just about poverty reduction, between begging vs earning. We need to understand if we are feeling included, are we feeling that we are being listened. It is important to understand the challenge of inclusion”.
Summing up of the discussion, Ms. Geetanjali Special Secretary DLSA, shared, “I always wanted to see such a kind of work in New Delhi. This is the first time; I know that this work is done in partnership with DLSA and Community. We need to partner and extend to other districts as it is important for other places too.”