Citizen Information and Support Center becomes a lifeline in Nuh
“A never-say-die attitude is all you need to get your work done”, says Niyaz Mohammad, age 65, a resident of village Kairaka, Nuh district, Haryana. Though Niyaz has reached an age when many people retire from work, his circumstances haven’t allowed him to do that. He lives in the Baiyah mohalla (neighborhood) named after people who migrated from Bai village in Nuh district many years ago to settle in Kairaka.
Niyaz has five children. Two unmarried sons relocated to a nearby state for labor work, and two of his three daughters are married. Income sources for his family include seasonal labor, his old age pension, and a meager amount that his kids send him for sustenance.
A common man’s fate
Like many others in the village, Niyaz had a below poverty line (BPL) card that enabled his household to receive subsidized food grains through the public distribution system (PDS) under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) enacted by the Indian government in 2013. As the name suggests, the act is aimed at ensuring food security for poor households and includes the midday meal scheme, integrated child development services scheme, and the PDS.
The list of entitled households under the scheme is reviewed at periodic intervals. With multiple stakeholders at play, corruption and false reporting are common. Niyaz became a victim of false reporting in the survey conducted in 2011 that led to the cancellation of his BPL card. He was not aware of this until he went to the ration shop to get his share of food grains. Since that time, Niyaz has tried everything he can think of to get his BPL status reinstated.
Niyaz filed complaints in the offices of the deputy commissioner and additional deputy commissioner (ADC) but neither yielded results. He finally learned about the Citizen Information and Support Center (CISC)1 operating in Nuh block under the aegis of Sehgal Foundation’s good rural governance work, which provides rural citizens with training on various rights and entitlements.
Niyaz called the CISC with great hope, and he wasn’t let down. The CISC helped him lodge a complaint at the CM Window, a simple and user-friendly one-stop complaint site for citizens’ grievance redressal. These sites are located in all district headquarters of the state. CISC staff was with Niyaz at each step of his fight to redress his grievance. When he received a call from the CM Window office, asking if his problem was addressed appropriately, the administration at the ADC office was activated, and the process of issuing a new BPL card was initiated.
Once the ADC office took notice of the matter, the procedure for issuing Niyaz’s BPL card went to next stage. Documents had to be verified and signed by the appropriate government officers, then the district food and supplies controller sent officers to Niyaz’s home for verification of his assets. Just to get the signatures of the officials took almost three months. After the tedious paperwork was completed, the food inspector came for verification and forwarded the letter authorizing the BPL card issuance to the nearest BPL shakha (branch). The entire process was not easy for Niyaz because the BPL shakha official never informed Niyaz about the various letters that would come to him. He was forced to make continuous inquiries before he was finally given a letter containing his BPL card. Just as Niyaz thought his fight was finally at an end, officials at BPL shakha informed him that his name had not been updated on the lists of BPL cardholders at the PDS depot. He could not take in PDS goods until that update was done. After waiting two more months, Niyaz lodged another complaint at the CM Window, which yielded immediate results. After a tiresome journey, Niyaz Mohammad is now able to receive goods from the depot with his BPL card.
Niyaz’s example of perseverance is being lauded by the villagers who envy him for single-handedly fighting for his entitlements.
Niyaz Mohammad with his BPL card
1 CISC has a toll-free helpline that citizens can call to receive information about various government programs. The toll-free number 180030003182 is managed by a
trained expert who responds to villagers’ queries about government programs and village institutions. The center doubles as a resource center where villagers can
receive forms, brochures, and individualized assistance.
This article was developed from materials collected by Naman Dubey from Nirma University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, who worked with the Governance, and Policy Advocacy center at Sehgal Foundation as an intern from Nov 3-30, 2016.