One of the many challenges encountered by underprivileged communities in India is availing the benefits of scores of social welfare programmes run by both state and central governments. In the absence of proper information, or clarity regarding eligibility, a large part of population, especially communities based in rural and remote areas, is literally ‘left out’. While men and women miss out on employment and health benefits, children miss out on nutrition and elderly on monthly pension. In such a scenario, a system like GEET (GIS-Enabled Entitlement Tracking) becomes critical for good governance.
The GIS supported system has been designed and developed by the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) to build awareness on entitlements for marginalised communities, ensure access to benefits under government schemes, track eligibility at the household level through entitlement cards issued by village institutions and visually represent the entitlement information on a GIS-enabled dashboard that can be accessed by officials to record information and monitor progress.
“The core objective behind developing GEET was to make sure that no one is left out or left behind. Not only does this system help the underprivileged, it also aids development organisations and government departments in tracing and tracking the beneficiaries and helping them exercise their rights,” says Ashok Jani, General Manager (Programmes), FES. GEET was developed by FES with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2017, and was first introduced in Jharkhand a year later. “The best part about GEET is that the department responsible for implementation can actually configure welfare schemes and map the beneficiaries. This makes the entire process both transparent and efficient,” adds Jani.
Currently, GEET is being used in Jharkhand and Odisha, with Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) and Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM) acting as the implementing authorities, though FES has also introduced the system in its project areas in Rajasthan and Karnataka. “Apart from other important features, GEET allows its users to register their grievance directly with the government authorities through the app. So far, we have mapped 24 welfare schemes for the people of Jharkhand,” says Suvakanta Nayak, State Programme Coordinator with JSLPS, which comes under the Jharkhand Rural Development Department. Incidentally, Nayak was with UNDP when GEET was conceptualised.
To start with, a user has to select the state that he/she belongs to, in order to view the schemes run by the state and central governments in the region. Once that is done, schemes can be viewed based on some very basic criteria such as age, gender marital status, disability, caste and economic benchmark. A person can also look for schemes by using the advanced search option by customising his/her search criteria. Another option that the user can exercise is to look for schemes through the ‘Entitlement Card ID’ option.
Advanced search can also be done by selecting the ‘Scheme Search’ option. Through this, a user can fill category wise eligibility criteria, to narrow down the search results. GEET also has the option of ‘Scheme Information’ that can be used to know all about a programme — eligibility criteria and list of benefits. “This is an excellent digital system for the development sector staff and government agencies. It allows effective tracking of entitlements without wasting time and resources. You do not need to indulge in lengthy paperwork to know the beneficiaries, track them and identify those who have not been covered under a welfare programme,” highlights Shashi Sudhir, a Freelance Consultant who worked as Programme Analyst with UNDP in 2016, when discussions to develop GEET were initiated.
GEET can be accessed by logging on https://geet.observatory.org.in/ or by downloading the application. The system is currently available in English, Hindi, Odia and Kannada for the convenience of underprivileged communities based in Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Maharashtra. “We are working on making GEET available in other languages so that even the people who are not educated or are not proficient in English and Hindi are also able to use it,” explains Jani.
The ‘Settings’ option in GEET app allows the user to ‘Get Data’, ‘Change Language’ and ‘Change Region’. The app works without internet connection, so all the information related to schemes of the selected state, needs to be obtained from GEET server. The app gets this data on first execution. The ‘Get Data’ option obtains the latest changes made to scheme related information on the server. Hence, performing ‘Get Data’ operation on a regular basis helps keep the scheme information up to date.
The ‘Change Language’ option does not require an Internet connection and the currently selected language is shown just below the title of the screen. On the other hand, the Change Region’ option does require an Internet connection. The currently selected region is displayed below the title of the screen and when a user changes his/her region, the app downloads all the schemes related information from GEET server. Hence, this operation requires a strong net connection. “This system developed by FES is widely used by our staff to check if the benefits of government schemes are being equally distributed among the rural communities,” adds Nayak.
No wonder then that GEET is only growing in popularity with time. “It is an effective entitlement tool that can come in handy for NGOs and development organisations. Since it is an open source tool, we want it to be used for the betterment of more communities. We provide financial support to development organisations and would like to see more such organisations use GEET,” says Naveen Das, General Manager (Programs) at Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives.
“In our country, both state and the Centre have social welfare programs for marginalised communities. But unfortunately, these initiatives do not always benefit the remote and rural communities, resulting in wastage or inefficient utilisation of government funds. A major reason for this problem is the widespread lack of awareness on entitlements. And that is why we need systems like GEET,” concludes Nayak.