The absence of certain basic proofs like birth certificate, address proof, school-leaving certificates etc. prevents the NT and DNTs from acquiring Ration Cards, in fact not just Ration Card but any other important citizenry documents. Procuring such legal documents in India is like crawling through a complex web of paperwork.
Since these communities stay in large makeshift settlements, the question of possessing permanent address proof, electricity bills; birth certificate or school leaving certificate (most of the children are first generation school goers) does not arise. Under such circumstances depriving them of a document that entitles to a gamut of government benefits that work towards pulling them out of the cycle of poverty and marginalization becomes felonious
When VSSM began working with NT and DNTs majority of the population from these communities had no legal documents. However, over the years acquisition of one document has led to another. The first break through came with Voter’s ID cards. The path breaking changes in the guidelines and new resolutions by the Election Commission made the task of procuring Voters ID card relatively easy.
VSSM has been advocating with the Food and Civil Supply Department to make the process of getting Antyodya Ration Cards, NT-DNT friendly (in tune with process of Election Commission for NT-DNTs). Consequent to continuous lobbying, demanding that Voters ID Card be treated as one of the ID proofs to issue the Antyoday Ration Cards, the Joint Secretary of Food and Civil Supplies Department passed a resolution No. 132012/3097/K stating that if the applicant has Voters ID cards along with Caste Certificate, Antyoday Ration Card be issued to the family. In this case inclusion of Caste Certificate was not necessary, firstly, because Ration Cards enable economically marginalized families to procure ration at minimal cost hence economically marginalized families are equally eligible to receive a Ration Card secondly, getting a caste certificate is as challenging as getting a Ration Card and most families from NT and DNTs do not have caste certificate. Inclusion of ‘Caste Certificate’ has rendered the entire notification impractical.
VSSM strongly criticized the requirement of ‘caste certificate’ for processing the application of Ration Card, demanding a pull back of the earlier resolution. The authorities recognized the validity in our arguments. One of the major argument being when the families fail to present basic documents to get a Ration Card where are they going to have documents to acquire a Caste Certificate that required ‘school leaving certificate of patriarch of the family’. While the irony being the current generation of these communities are first generation school goers!!!
Consequently, the authorities internalized our arguments, rectified the earlier resolution and passed a new one, which omitted the requirement of ‘caste certificate’ and authorized issuance of Ration Card on the basis on Voters ID Card.