In order to facilitate a more meaningful interface of colony members and MP/MLAs, S-ILF started an initiative for creating awareness among colony members of the different welfare schemes for which they could be eligible and to help them identify for themselves their needs and the specific scheme under which these could be met. Once they were ready with their petition, it was decided that S-ILF would facilitate the interaction of the MPs with the colony people.
Life in leprosy colonies is difficult. Without basic civic amenities, like water supply, electricity, roads, sewage, public toilets, garbage disposal, and like, the inhabitants are mired in incredible poverty. They do not have proper houses. Begging is the only way they can sustain themselves. Also, the Government has many social welfare schemes for people affected with leprosy, which can make their lives more liveable. But they are not aware of their rights and entitlements.
The residents of the leprosy colonies live their daily lives at the local level where they engage with the state, public services, markets and the political system. Most of the leprosy affected people in these colonies neither have BPL cards, land pattas nor were they able to access any benefits under the Indira AwasYojana, Anganwadi schemes etc. Most of the people in the colony do not have proper housing infrastructure, roads, sanitation etc.
With the help of Local NGOs like MASS, JANAKALYAN & POWER, S-ILF has organised empowerment workshops in the state of Odisha & Karnataka to create awareness among colony members of the different existing welfare schemes. The workshops focused on issues of local governance and the mechanisms available for their redressal, on government programs and social safety nets such as NREGA, NRHM, PDS, SC and ST welfare, rural development, housing, road, safety, water and sanitation programs etc., in order to educate and build capacities of the people affected to enable them to request and negotiate their entitlements and rights in government programs.
Odisha was the first state where empowerment project was completed with six of the colonies approaching their MLAs with memorandums. The MLAs promised to take actions for their needs.
Till date, more than 150 residents of these colonies are covered under this program. Leprosy colonies in West Bengal will be covered next.