Mehatab and Sanaulla are two SoochnaPreneurs (information-serving entrepreneurs) of Bero block in Ranchi district, Jharkhand. The two have been working tireless and passionately to transform the communities they are serving by enabling access to government schemes and entitlements. The duo has been promoting social schemes in the areas they are serving through regular Yojna Camps. Most recently, they organised a camp in a nearby university where more than 4,000 students are pursuing graduate and post-graduate courses to apprise them of various scholarships that are available for students. Every morning, for a week, the SoochnaPreneurs rode to the university on a bike carrying two laptops and a portable printer, to camp at the university and help students complete and submit forms for scholarships and other education assistance.
The university authorities, too, are extremely happy with Mehatab and Sanaulla’s efforts, and want them to expand their services at the university.
As much as 67 per cent of India’s population lives in rural India; and one billion Indians do not have access to the Internet. More than 300 million identified individuals fall under the category of below poverty line (BPL) who, by definition, earn less than a dollar a day. This is the same share of population that directly depends on access to government schemes or entitlements for some of their most basic rights. Realising the need to serve India’s rural, remote and marginalised population with relevant information about government services, schemes and entitlements in a timely manner, DEF in partnership with Qualcomm, initiated the SoochnaPreneur programme in April 2016. Soochnapreneur is a rural entrepreneurship-based model that aims at empowering youth in the villages of India to sustain their livelihood by providing information to those living in information darkness. These SoochnaPreneurs offer services to the people at nominal prices prices, most of which have been pre-decided by the government for Common Services Centres (CSCs).
Meanwhile, in Barpali village of Odisha, SoochnaPreneurs Suraj and Vishal have been able to register more than 250 beneficiaries for government entitlements through MeraAppa, a bilingual app that runs on online and offline modes. MeraApp has been envisioned as a platform to empower rural and remote populations with access to information and bring them closer to their rightful entitlements, thus bridging the digital divide and encouraging social and financial inclusion. Further, the app also allows users to submit grievances directed at various government portals and track the status of the complaint. Mera app is medium to get one step closer to the last mile beneficiary and reduce rural poverty. The application is designed to increase and improve the access, delivery and quality of public schemes and services aimed at social and financial exclusion, mainly by bridging the gap between community rights and entitlements and state responsiveness to them successfully through timely information and channels.
Suraj and Vishal say that pension schemes are most popular in the region where there are many senior citizens but not enough awareness or means to access pension benefits. At their little SoochnaPreneur unit, the two also sell mobile accessories, gadgets and stationery, earning up to Rs. 3,000 a month.