Sonu Kumari, a single mother who works as a construction worker in Uttar Pradesh, discovered that understanding her government scheme entitlements will open up a world of opportunities

When Sonu Kumari’s marriage ended, she realized that she had to support herself and her daughter. She had never participated in market activities earlier and as a housewife, had only been engaged in unpaid domestic work. As a 27-year-old single mother and migrant living in Noida, she knew very little about the work ecosystem and opportunities available. She joined ATS Infrastructure Limited as a construction worker with the hope of earning enough to support herself and her daughter, who lived away from her, in their home village.

Every day, Sonu would spend eight hours at a developer site, engaged in brick-laying and other construction work. At the end of each work day, she would plan her finances to ensure that she was earning enough to support her daughter.

A resilient and hard-working single mother, Sonu won the respect of her peers over time. After five years working at the construction site, she was given supervisory responsibilities as well. But, Kumari lacked what is an integral necessity for every construction worker in India — a labour card.

“I didn’t know there were benefits to enrolling for a Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) card,” said Kumari, highlighting the information gaps on entitlements that exist among workers despite years of working within the infrastructure ecosystem. But why does this gap exist? “Ever since I started working in construction, I’ve noticed that people don’t even spare 10 minutes to talk,” she explained.

In February 2021, when the REVIVE Alliance team visited ATS to set up a social protection scheme linkage camp, they facilitated Sonu’s application for a BOCW card. “It was easy and quick to submit my application with the help of the ATS support staff. I feel like I know so much more about the government schemes I can avail now,” said Sonu.

Sonu is now formally registered as a construction worker in Uttar Pradesh. Due to the disruptions of the second wave that compounded her livelihood stressors, Sonu is still worried about how to make ends meet. Yet, she is so grateful to have gained access to multiple schemes through the BOCW card, which can help her support her daughter in the way she has always hoped. “I now understand that I am eligible for multiple schemes like medical claims and education support, and I want to use that to build a life for my daughter.”

This story was editorialised by Raveena Joseph