Aajeevika founders win Schwab award

Aajeevika founders win Schwab award

New Delhi: Rajiv Khandelwal and Krishnavtar Sharma, founders of the Aajeevika Bureau, a non-profit that works with the migrant workers of south Rajasthan, have won the Social Entrepreneur Award, 2010.

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The annual award is given by Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship in partnership with Jubilant Bhartia Foundation. The bureau is headquartered in Udaipur and has offices in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and seven blocks of south Rajasthan, from where an estimated 800,000 rural workers migrate seasonally to Gujarat and Karnataka in search of livelihood.

(click here to listen to a podcast with Rajiv Khandelwal, Co-founder, Aajheevika Bureau)

“When they move to cities, the major problem they face is lack of identity, which leads to a number of problems like police harassment, not being able to issue SIM cards or have bank accounts," said Khandelwal. That’s where the Aajeevika Bureau comes in.

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It registers migrant workers and issues photo IDs to them, complete with the stamp of the worker’s local panchayat and the state’s labour commissioner. The card is valid for two years, allowing workers to open bank accounts and even vote.

The bureau also offers training to workers in partnership with local government agencies and businesses, improving their skills and boosting their chances of finding a job.

Training is customized according to the demand in the cities they are migrating to. In addition, the bureau helps the migrant’s family stay in touch with him and makes them aware of welfare schemes they can benefit from.

Launched in 2005, more than 5,000 workers have accessed the bureau’s services since then. Its model has been adopted by some 30 civil society groups in Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Running such an organisation has not been easy, said Khandelwal. “The major challenge was that the people who we deal with are constantly on the move and it’s very difficult to track them and bring them into one place."

Sharma said the problem is compounded by the need to work across states. “When the workers move from one city to another, there are many changes in the legal framework and policies," he said. “That’s why the receiving city or economy should provide them with a basic living necessarily."

Khandelwal said the bureau has signed an agreement to work with the Aadhaar project, under which the government plans to offer a unique ID to every resident of India. “The (Aadhaar) project has great potential in tracking millions of such labourers and giving them a clear, verifiable and undisputed identity."

Jubilant Bhartia Foundation is an initiative of Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd. The promoters of Jubilant Life Sciences and HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, are closely related, but have no cross-holdings.