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  • Writer's pictureManvita Baradi

Enabling Saturation of Entitlements for Urban Poor at the Last Mile

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

- Manvita Baradi and Meghna Malhotra

India has been and continues to be a welfare state with one of the largest social security and welfare programs in the world. The government (both centre and states) budgeted over 12 trillion rupees in 2019-20 on social welfare schemes, amounting to 26% of total expenditure. However, the budgeted figures don’t always translate to real spending or impact. Many eligible beneficiaries are unable to avail these benefits. This could be because of fragmentation between schemes, complex eligibility processes, and a lack of last mile access for the most vulnerable.

This low overall saturation at the last mile shows that we need to rethink how scheme benefits are delivered. Most application processes require beneficiaries to apply in person. Many a times, it is also expected that beneficiaries proactively seek benefits. This implicitly excludes those that cannot travel or cannot navigate complex bureaucracies.

Over the last 25 years, the Urban Management Centre has been dedicated to building resilient systems for inclusive and equitable development. We are leading fundamental innovations in urban and rural development challenges. As partners to both governments and to communities, we have designed and implemented systems at scale to ensure multi-pronged strategy to enable saturation of entitlements for the vulnerable groups such as sanitation workers, migrant workers, and urban poor.

Some of our initiatives in enabling the saturation of entitlements are as follows:

Subidha Sakhi Model – Delivering Entitlements at the Door Step of the Urban Poor in Odisha

Since 2017 Urban Management Centre has been supporting the convergence of DAY-NULM and Swachh Bharat Mission- Urban (SBM-U). Our support has emphasised the creation of livelihood opportunities for vulnerable groups by collectivizing them into SHGs to provide them voice and agency. We saw an opportunity to converge entitlement delivery and livelihoods. UMC piloted the Subidha Sakhi program in the cities of Bhubaneswar and Puri with partnership support from Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and Puri Municipality and support from Collective good foundation and Haqdarshak.

Subidha Sakhis are SHG members working as facilitators to provide benefits and entitlements to the urban poor at their doorstep. In Odisha, the program engages women Mission Shakti Group members with the purpose of empowering them financially and socially. They are identified from within the communities, and they become guides to ensure that the beneficiaries get the entitlements at the comfort of their home. The Sakhis earn a livelihood from a fixed and transparent service fee for ensuring delivery of entitlements. This model also enables saturation of entitlements at the last mile. A Subidha Sakhi first screens the beneficiary to check what entitlements and government schemes they are eligible for. If the beneficiary is interested in availing the schemes, then the Subidha Sakhi will fill the application, collect relevant documents, facilitate government charges, submit the application and follow up to ensure delivery of the entitlements.

Subidha Sakhis have the potential to turn themselves into an entrepreneur by marketing themselves as a ‘service provider’ and by strengthening network within their community, building relationship with government and other stakeholders for availing benefits.

As of April 2022, Subidha Sakhis have screened over 6000 beneficiaries and earned a total livelihood of around 12 lakhs rupees. This program has facilitated government welfare schemes and entitlements to urban poor families who were unaware of these benefits and their eligibility, did not have the resources to avail them, or have previously fallen prey to exploitation by unauthorized agents.

Empowering Migrants for Building Resilience through Comprehensive Entitlements (EMBRACE) as Post Covid Support

Migration in India is characterized by informality and vulnerability among those that move. Migrants often do not have any proof of residence, and their proofs of identity are tied to their hometowns, rendering them ineligible for many social services in their destinations. They often end up living in informal settlements, or in very low-quality working quarters – without light or ventilation. When the pandemic hit, one of the most affected people were migrants. In response to the crisis of lockdown, The Urban Management Centre started Empowering Migrants for Building Resilience through Comprehensive Entitlements (EMBRACE) with support from Surat Municipal Corporation, Southern Gujarat Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI), and Housing and Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha to enable mechanisms that support migrant workers access social security schemes and civic services in the Surat – Ganjam Corridor.

Surat city forms one of the largest destinations for migrant workers from across the country catering approximately 11.5 lakh migrant workers with over 12 linguistic communities. The circular migration between Surat and Ganjam is a continuous process and happens every year. Ganjam is one of the most populous districts in Odisha, with more than 35 lakh persons. It constitutes nearly 8% of the State’s population. The district holds the distinction of having the highest incidence of inter-state migration in Odisha.

Ganjam district has many of the characteristic push factors involved in migration such as small land holdings, low literacy, a large proportion of historically marginalized communities. Many migrants from Ganjam have been working in the power loom sector in Surat for more than 30-40 years. The estimates range from 4 lakhs to 7 lakh persons.

Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has taken a multitude of initiatives for their welfare of the migrants in the city. In continuation of its endeavour to support migrant workers in the city, SMC and Urban Management Centre (UMC) signed a memorandum of understanding to initiate EMBRACE program to enhance support migrant workers’ access to social schemes and civic services.

UMC adopted a multi-pronged approach to link migrant workers and their families to government entitlements.

UMC under the program established the community champion network (CCN). It is a collective network of community members such as prospective migrants and family members to enable experience-based sharing of information, learnings, and contacts within migrant communities.

Community Champions were selected based upon a combination of their leadership capabilities, their connect with the community, their relations with the block and district authorities and their performance as enumerators and as volunteers. Community Champions built relationships with PRI members, block and bank officials and local Common Service Centres to further aid the entitlement process.

Expansion of SVANidhi se Samriddhi by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India

Street vendors are one of the major contributors in an urban informal economy and play a significant role in ensuring availability of the goods and services at affordable rates. The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdowns have adversely affected the livelihoods of street vendors. SVANidhi se Samriddhi is extending social security and safety net for PM SVANidhi beneficiaries and their Families and getting them enumerated under various government schemes.

Continuing our support to MoHUA, Government of India, UMC has been supporting the implementation of PM SVANidhi’s additional component SVANidhi se Samriddhi since its inception in January 2021. In the Phase 1, 125 cities and approximately 35 Lakh Street vendors and their families were covered. Owing to the success of Phase 1, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has launched the program expansion to additional 126 cities with an aim to cover 28 Lakh Street vendors and their families, with a total target of 20 Lakh scheme sanctions for FY 2022-23. We have provided end-to-end IT solution along with supporting the linking up with banks for disbursement of collateral free loans.

Enumeration of Sanitation Workers in Odisha

Sanitation workers have suffered from centuries of social ostracization and stigmatization despite their tremendous contribution towards keeping cities clean. They lack access to basic human rights and dignity and their efforts remain largely unacknowledged.

The customary caste hierarchy relegated sanitation workers to the lowest rung of the social ladder. Members of sanitation workers’ families have been denied other jobs, prevented from accessing quality education, and suffered immense personal tragedy from the premature deaths and ill-health within their families. Inter-generationality in sanitation work is very high and it is difficult for them to break this vicious cycle and pursue alternate livelihoods. The first step to right this generational injustice is to identify sanitation workers, and enumerate them to ensure occupational, social, and financial safety.

The Government of Odisha has become the first in the country to aim to ensure occupational, social, and financial safety to all sanitation workers, both formal and informal. With the Urban Management Centre as their implementation partner, they launched the GARIMA scheme to enable safe and dignified livelihoods for sanitation workers. The biggest roadblock in implementation of the scheme was a lack of databases of sanitation workers. To tackle this issue and to increase visibility of sanitation workers, UMC launched a massive peer-led survey in urban Odisha to enumerate and register all sanitation workers dealing directly with faecal matter.

Our approach to launch a peer led survey was to tackle various on-ground challenges such as occupational stigma, threats on disclosing their occupation, and the lack of trust.

UMC identified enumerators from within the communities, provided them training on conducting the survey, arranging meetings between government nodal officers, and proving daily coordination support and refreshers training. Apart from identifying and training enumerators, we also orientated ULB staff to the scheme and survey using SHWAS app, identified settlements of sanitation workers and conducted IEC for the survey.

The Beneficiary Management System called SHWAS which means Breath in Hindi is the backbone to ensure transparency and real-time monitoring of the database. SHWAS has built-in-tools for quality checks, validation, monitoring of the survey at city, district, and state levels.

SHWAS identifies gaps in provision of social schemes such as subsidized food, insurance, healthcare. Lists of such workers who have not availed these benefits can be easily collated and provided to concerned departments. Inter-generationality in sanitation work is very high and linking children of sanitation workers with educational programs of the government will ensure that they are able to pursue higher education and opt for alternate livelihoods.

After the successful survey in 6 pilot cities, such surveys are now being replicated in remaining 105 cities through the cities' own staff. UMC trained more than 750 ULB officials and Swachh Sathis to use the SHWAS app.

These learnings and the digital tool will now be replicated in the state of Tamil Nadu for a similar exhaustive survey across the state. This methodology of visibilising the invisible has also been recognised by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India for replicating nationally. UMC has also partnered with UNICEF to implement sanitation workers safety in the rural ecosystem as well.

If you want to know more about the process or want to partner with us, please write to us at:


About the Authors

Manvita Baradi

Manvita Baradi is the Founder & Director of the Urban Management Centre. For almost 3 decades, she has been one of India’s leading voices advocating for the development of better cities.

Meghna Malhotra

Meghna Malhotra is the Deputy Director of Urban Management Centre. She is an expert on the design and operation of human centric infrastructure. She is currently leading UMC’s partnership with Government of Odisha to implement the Garima Scheme program and ensure safety and dignity of sanitation workers.

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