The dim light barely dispels the darkness of the Chouhans’ one-room house in Bhusritoli village in north Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district. “We live without anybody telling us about our rights. For some schemes we are eligible but somehow never qualify; other schemes we don’t know about,” says Dinesh Chauhan.
Dinesh Kumar Chauhan, 30
Standing just outside his crumbling home, Chauhan says he applied to the panchayat for a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in early 2018, but never got selected. “I don’t understand why some get it and others don’t. Aadhe ko mila hai, aadhe ko nahin. My brother-in-law has got it and he now has a house. My father’s has been sanctioned.”
The other scheme that is a major factor in the life of the Dalit couple is MNREGA. While Chauhan says he is grateful for what he gets — Rs 174 a day — rarely has he got employment for 100 days a year as mandated by the Act. “So far this year, I have only worked for two to three weeks, on a land diversion project. Last year, the only MNREGA work sanctioned was the road to our village. I only worked for 30 days,” he says. Click for more election news
Two years ago, Chauhan built a toilet at home under the Swachh Bharat scheme. “The government gives Rs 12,000 for a toilet and I built it with that money. But that is not enough. The quality of construction is not good; it will not last more than two years.”
The family owns less than four acres, where they grow rice. The new Congress government offers Rs 2,500 as MSP for paddy, but the Chauhan family has no paddy to sell; the crop they grow barely meets their needs. Since he owns less than four acres, he qualifies for the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, under which small and marginal farmers get up to Rs 6,000 a year, but has received no money so far. He has also applied for a solar energy pump under the Centre’s Saur Sujala Yojana for marginalised farmers, but has not received one so far.
Wife Pooja Chauhan, 28
Pooja says she gave birth to both her daughters at a private hospital in Kunkuri, the nearest town. “Twice since we got married, I have had to go to hospital for the deliveries of my two daughters. Both times we went to Holy Cross Hospital in Kunkuri. We didn’t have to pay because the payments were made through our Mukhyamantri Swasthya Beema Yojana Smart Card.” Launched in 2012, the scheme is meant to supplement the Rajya Swasthya Beema Yojana, with an insurance cover of Rs 50,000 to every citizen.
Both her daughters were born before the Ayushman Bharat scheme kicked in. Pooja says he has heard of the scheme vaguely, “but we haven’t needed it so far”.
She has a request for the state government, to increase their PDS allocation so that they can earn some disposable income by selling the paddy they grow.
Under the PDS scheme of the previous BJP government, only families categorised as Antyodaya received 35 kg of rice per family, while others called “priority category” received 7 kg per person listed on a ration card. “We get 21 kg of rice under the PDS scheme of the state government because our family’s ration card has three beneficiaries listed, including my sister and brother-in-law. The new government has promised 35 kg of rice per family, regardless of the members listed in the card. But nothing like that has happened, even though they have made these promises. Let us see what they do. That will help us a great deal,” she says.
Her husband adds, “Everybody has made promises to the poor. The government in Delhi, the government in Raipur. There is no work, no Rs 15 lakh in our bank accounts, no extra rice. Umeed pe duniya kaayam hai (We live in hope).”
Daughters Nitasha, 7; Naina, 2
Nitasha goes to the primary school in the village, where she gets a mid-day meal. The couple hope to send Naina to school in a few years.