By Ronisha Bhattacharyya – Marcom. Manager
Mintu Devi from Milky Village, Tehsil Warisaliganj, Nawada sits quietly across the handpump in her dilapidated home. When asked about her family she says “my husband left me five years ago and my parents are no more. The only way I have survived this life is by working hard and with honesty”. Mintu Devi lost her job as a day-time maid at the beginning of this year when the pandemic broke, with no support system in place, she has suffered an endless nightmare for a year. Abandoned and shunned by society and her family, she is unable to comprehend why anyone, let alone a non-profit, would want to help her. “aap kyun madad karna chahte ho?” Her question is a humanitarian cry that hasn’t stopped ringing in my head since I first heard it.
According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE), India’s unemployment rate shot up to 27.1% in May 2020. A closer look at the CMIE data tells us, of the 122 million who have lost their jobs, 91.3 million were small traders and laborers. However, a significant number of salaried workers (17.8 million) and self-employed people (18.2 million) have also lost work. I personally watched the otherwise crowded Gurugram that housed millions of young professionals become a barren ghost town in a matter of weeks.
2020 will be chronicled in history as a time of great struggle. Scenes of desperate migrant workers fleeing cities on foot to return to their villages filled our newspapers and occupied our minds most of the summer. Their informal jobs, which account for 90% of the workforce, were the first to be hit as construction stopped, cities suspended public transport, and many other non-essential services completely shut down. Under these unnatural and unprecedented circumstances, Grameen Foundation India (GFI) launched its Covid response program, which aimed to provide unconditional cash support to those vulnerable individuals who have been the hardest hit in this pandemic. Before we began our work in one of the adversely affected states in India, Bihar (Nawada), little did we know innovation & technology would go on to become our main catalyzer to create impact.
With a goal to provide cash transfers to the most affected, GFI developed an application, the Grameen4Giving app. This app helped us identify beneficiaries and disburse grants. The logic in this algorithm identifies the most vulnerable by leveraging a mix of quantifiable indicators and community-based participatory wealth ranking to run instant eligibility tests. Once identified, the tool sends triggers to the project committee for immediate review for onboarding. Following the approval by the beneficiary selection committee, the direct cash transfer to the onboarded beneficiary is made. Over 1,400 beneficiaries across Nawada in the Bihar and Vidharba region of Maharastra will have received the cash support by Jan 2021.
In the wake of a big humanitarian crisis with troubling consequences looming around for most of us, it is but natural to ask, why do we care? Social impact organizations around the globe, time & again have come together to provide timely and effective solutions to mitigate problems. 2020 has taught us how crucial it has become to make friends with technology, and also to stay united and connected by leveraging it. It has also brought to notice the power of collaboration. Teams across geographies and time zones are brainstorming to derive sustainable solutions today to stay effective and stimulated. GFI’s endeavor through its program is to help those most in need so that they can keep their hopes and aspire for a better future, knowing that empathy and compassion is a virtue that we continue to retain as a people. And this year has taught us again why a collective conscience for good is often sacrosanct for a healthy nation.