This January 2014, Abhipraay Foundation started a project in Vasant Kunj, South Delhi, to help EWS (Economically Weaker Section) families get admissions of their children to private schools. All private schools in Delhi have to admit at least 25% children from EWS and DG (Disadvantaged Group, physically disabled, SC/ST etc) families from the starting batch (which can be nursery, pre-nursery or kindergarten in some schools).
EWS families are identified by:
1. BPL cards (yellow ration cards with BPL mark)
2. AAY (pink antoydaya cards)
3. Income Certificate from the SDM/Tehsildar of their area certifying that the family's combined income is less than 100,000 INR/year.
Since most of the kids we are teaching are from the Dalit Ekta Camp, a jhuggi cluster in Vasant Kunj, we arranged a seminar for the parents of these kids to educate them on how to fill the EWS enrollment forms, and get the right documents and Income Certificates in case they do not have the BPL/AAY cards or SC/ST certificates. The last date for getting these forms submitted was 5th February. A lot of parents attended our seminar and were interested in getting their children admitted to nearby private schools. But the problem was getting the Income Certificate made before the deadline, or even getting the receipt after sumbitting the form in the SDMs office as the receipt will work in the EWS admission form.
One of the kids father got the Income Certificate made within a day, and we asked other parents to take his help. Shockingly, the parents came back to us saying he is demanding money for these certificates, a sum of INR 3000/certificate. We went back to him, and when questioned, he callously replied that without bribing things won't work!
Unperturbed, we advised the other parents to ignore him and go to the SDM office to submit their forms. Next day we got a call from a couple of parents frantically asking us for our help. They said even after waiting for 4-5 hours, they counter clerk rejected their form giving some weird excuse. Just because these poor guys were not educated enough to argue with the clerk, he treated them badly. Hearing this, we went to straight to the SDM office, met with the SDM directly, and apprised him about this situation. He was a nice young guy, initially hesitant and a bit reluctant seeing NGO helping people for the EWS income certificate. He explained that the certificate can be mis-used and they have to be careful. We asked him to check the form and why their clerk returned this form. He went through the details, called some official, and also met with the parent who filled the form. After checking everything, he quickly approved the form as he was unable to find out why the form was rejected, he signed it and then gave the receipt too.
So the parents were able to submit their applications for their children finally, and we had a mix bag of emotions: at one end we were quite happy with how things went, but on the other we felt dismayed seeing how poor people are treated by the government officials, and how rampant corruption is at every stage.