Acting on concerns that citizens’ response to the programme has led to serpentine queues at neighbourhood camps, which could lead to a spike in Covid cases, the government announced on Monday alternative methods of reaching out to people, including delivery of forms at home and even downloading them from the government’s Egiye Bangla portal.
Since the Duare Sarkar programme was launched last week, over 31 lakh people have queued up at the ward-level camps to avail themselves of the bouquet of 11 government benefit schemes. In urban areas, particularly Kolkata, Swasthya Sathi — which offers a family floater policy with annual coverage up to Rs 5 lakh — has proved to be especially popular.
Though ward coordinators and civic officials have been trying to maintain Covid norms, it has been virtually impossible to do so because of the number of people turning up.
Sources in the government said a plan was in the works to dispatch forms from local ward offices to homes in the ward so that people didn’t have to physically queue up. The government was also looking at setting up drop boxes for submitting filled-in forms, and even an online option.
Piyali Paul, a homemaker at Parnashree who queued up for four hours on Sunday, felt home delivery of forms would be a huge help. “It’s not just Covid. I feel excruciating pain if I stand for long. If the form is delivered home, we could fill it in and submit it,” she said.
In some wards, the outreach to citizens’ homes started on Thursday. According to Tapan Dasgupta, the borough X ward coordinator, given the rise in expectation of residents in large areas of Baghajatin, Pallisree, Golf Garden, Bijoygarh, Azadgargh and other neighbourhoods in Tollygunge, he had to deliver Swasthya Sathi forms door-to-door so that applicants could be handed over health insurance cards at KMC-organized camps held between Friday and Sunday.
“People, particularly senior citizens, were getting impatient in the queue. We recognized the problem and decided to spare them the trouble by delivering the forms home,” Dasgupta said.
Firhad Hakim, the chairperson of Board of Administrators that governs KMC, toured large areas of Chetla on Thursday distributing Swasthya Sathi forms to households. Ward coordinators have been also asked to accompany civic volunteers to deliver Swasthya Sathi cards to households.
The health card is being issued in the name of the seniormost woman member of the family. Names of other members of the family are added as beneficiaries. If the woman head of family is a senior citizen, another family member can attend the camp with copies of Aadhaar card, voter card and photo identity card.
Demand for Khadya Sathi (ration card) and other vital civic services, including mutation of properties, was also rising, said a KMC official.