As India celebrates its independence, here’s how Haqdarshak is trying to make Indians financially independent
The world’s largest democracy celebrates its 70th Independence Day today. India has seen its population grow four fold over the last seven decades. But still, at least 22% of its 1.34 billion population is struggling to make ends meet. While official figures suggest the poverty rate has fallen over the years, more than 200 million people—as the World Bank estimates—still live below the poverty line in the country.
These Indians need economic independence and financial freedom. At Haqdarshak, we are trying to do just that. To become financially independent, citizens need the support from critical stakeholders in the society. The government is the crucial link in this cycle. And citizens are entitled to the benefits that governments provide by way of welfare schemes. Haqdarshak is using technology to make citizens aware, and help them apply for the schemes they are eligible for. We’ve reached more than 20,000 Indians and processed more than 1,200 transactions in a short period of just 16 months. Our database has around 1,794 schemes and we continue to grow the number.
For years, Indians in the hinterlands have been unaware of the numerous schemes the government has designed for them. But technology has made it possible to bring them closer to what they are entitled for. Through our operations in 9 Indian states, we are strengthening this movement of financial independence. Not only are we giving citizens access to schemes, we are building an army of community entrepreneurs, called Haqdarshaks, who go door-to-door and use our app to create awareness and give people what they deserve. These Haqdarshaks also earn a livelihood during the process.
Some of our stories—that come from both these groups—show why our work is important in making India truly independent.
Voices from the ground
Take for instance the story of Rizwana from Parbhani, Maharashtra. Rizwana was screened by our Haqdarshak Sheela Rode and was eligible to apply for the Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme for her daughter. Sukanya Samriddhi is a small-savings deposit scheme for girls. The scheme was launched under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, and provides a girl child (all females aged below 10 are eligible to open an account) a secure future with a healthy rate of interest. Rode helped Rizwana apply for the scheme and she received the benefit for her daughter who now has a financially independent, secure future.
“I was not aware of any schemes, but Sheela madam (a Haqdarshak) told me about HESPL. I got to know of more than 35 schemes that I was eligible for. I opened a Sukanya account and now I have received the benefit under it,” says Rizwana.
It’s not just direct financial-benefit schemes that are boosting economic freedom. Rode recollects helping a family with three children and a sole earning member (an auto rickshaw driver) with the Jan Aushadhi Yojana, which provides medicines at affordable rates through dedicated stores. The mere knowledge that such stores exists prompted the family to buy medicines from these outlets and reduced their monthly medical expenses to Rs200 from Rs600 earlier.
Small monthly savings like these are yet another step to make poor Indian citizens better equipped financially and move towards economic freedom. While we help citizens through schemes, we are also supporting village-level entrepreneurs by training them to become Haqdarshaks and create a sustainable livelihood for them. Many women have become self-sufficient in the process and don’t have to depend on their husbands for financial needs. If this is not financial freedom, then what is?
In Delhi, our 21-year-old Haqdarshak, Aarti Singh has become a trusted face in the community because of her commitment to serve the society. A student of social work, and an Aanganwadi Helper, Singh has used the Haqdarshak model to earn an additional source of income. A resident of what is considered as Asia’s biggest unauthorised colony, Sangam Vihar, Singh managed to earn some Rs2,000 during her first two days as an Haqdarshak and hasn’t looked back.
“On my second day as a Haqdarshak I was oozing with confidence as the people of community hoarded around to get their screening done,” Aarti says. “These are the same women from the community who would look at me with disagreement before I became their go-to person for schemes and documents.”
Other women, in Maharashtra for instance, have earned anywhere between Rs8,000 and Rs12,000 by working as Haqdarshaks. We’ve seen applications for a myriad of schemes ranging from loans for business to scholarships to farm equipment assistance to opening of bank accounts.
These are just a few of our success stories, but what we are aiming at is making poor Indians financially independent. That’s when India can really celebrate its freedom from the clutches of poverty.