Over the weekend, we were appalled to hear that the AAP government in Delhi has shut down the Gender Resource Centers, which fell under the Mission Convergence program, launched by the Sheila Dikshit government in 2008. The GRCs had been used by the state government in the past to facilitate the common man’s access to social initiatives such as the Aadhaar card, Annashree cards, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and lately for the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana. The order issued by Mission Convergence (Samajik Suvidha Sangam) of the Delhi Government directed the “discontinuation of mother NGO , Gender Resource Centres and district resource centre projects under Samajik Suvidha Sangam” from May 31.
The GRCs were essentially opened to improve the reach of the pro-poor services and benefits. Poor women at these centres were trained in different trades such as beauty culture, stitching, sewing and running computers, so as to enable them to earn their own livelihood. Run by different NGOs, the GRCs also provided guidance on health issues and imparting non-formal education to the women to empower them. CSR had also been selected to manage one GRC in the Usmanpur area of Delhi. The center has been providing vocational training in cutting and tailoring; conducting courses in beauty culture and non-formal education; organising legal awareness, health and nutrition and OPD camps, amongst others, which are being provided to girls and women in the area.
Despite the noble intent with which these centers were started, financial crunch had impacted their functioning. Nearly 1,500 employees in various GRCs were not paid their salaries on time. The NGOs running the GRCs have been raising the issue of non-payment of salaries to staff with the state government for some time now. They had submitted a memorandum last year to deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia regarding the same.
Now instead of dealing with the issue of non-payment due to financial problems, the government has, so to speak, “amputated the leg” by scrapping the entire program. Organizations who were managing the GRCs are concerned because closure of the projects means those working in these centers will be laid off. Additionally, those who are enrolled in vocational courses will also be left without any support.
The sheer numbers of people affected by the GRCs, show us just how many people will face difficulties with this abrupt shut down. As per data, there are 130 GRCs, which cater to about 1.3 crore residents of Delhi. Additionally, these employ a total 1,82,000 people who will be laid off, and consequently face enormous difficulties.
According to sources, the AAP government could replace these schemes with its pet ‘Delhi Nagar Swaraj Act’ which also aims at involving citizen groups into development planning and decision making. But there is no official statement regarding the same.
We are absolutely shocked by this move of the AAP government, as the financial problems could have been easily dealt with. A drastic move like this needs to be thought out well and according to us, it was unnecessary to completely eradicate the program, without understanding its ramifications for all the people involved. It would have been better if the new program had already come into play, and there was a smooth transition between the old program and the new one. We hope that this is not a mere politically charged move, and rather has some ulterior positive motive behind it. We also look forward to hearing about concrete alternative arrangements for all the affected parties, and hope that these new schemes are put into action soon.
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