migrant workers

Once again migrant workers are getting caught in very difficult situations. Before they could recover from the earlier disruption of their livelihood, many poor and vulnerable groups are experiencing other livelihood and income disruptions over which they do not have any control. In these conditions there is a compelling need for government to announce adequate measures for providing immediate relief to migrant workers as well as other vulnerable groups.

While most attention just now is understandably focused on the problems faced by patients and their family members in hospitals, the condition of many ordinary people deprived of livelihoods and income is also quite desperate. As the problem of reduced income has been quite prolonged for several people, on top of the low income they have in normal times, one can imagine that a large number of people hardly have any savings to fall back upon.

In addition there are reports of several more specific and local problems. From Maharashtra a recent report said that when the migrant workers went away during the previous exodus and their rations were not drawn, their ration cards were cancelled arbitrarily. The result is that after they came back  they could not draw the ration at subsidized rate.

Elsewhere there are reports of Kisan sammaan payments being delayed or the procurement payments and NREGA payments being delayed. Unattended health problems (other than Covid) have led to deterioration and the increased urgency of accessing medical care but this is not possible due to complete absence of savings.

Hence it is clear that a substantial section of our population needs support to keep away hunger and meet at least some minimum satisfactory norms of food security. Fortunately India has more than adequate stocks of at least wheat and rice to be able to provide what and rice generously. So subsidized rations and free supply of some grain should be ensured and in addition pulses should also be added, as before, and ways of adding to this to ensure a more generous mix should be explored. In dry ration in  lieu of mid-day meals reaching them and is nutritious food meant for distribution through anganwadis reaching children and women? This should be ensured.  What is more, food is not the only essential need and there should also be some cash transfers to needy people, in addition to the normal welfare and social security measures whose implementation too should be improved. For example, it begins even more important in these difficult times for the already approved pensions meant for the elderly , widows and disability affected people to reach them in time and without hassle.

Recently three activists know for their commitment to the needs and rights of weaker sections Harsh Mander, Anjali Bharadwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar have approached the Supreme Court seeking directions to the union government and state governments to ensure food security, cash transfers and other essential welfare measures in these exceptionally difficult times. One hopes that this initiative and the resulting decision will contribute much to provide badly needed relief to people. In any case it is a very important duty of the government to announce a suitable and generous package of relief as early as possible.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children ad Planet in Peril.


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