After the Prime Minister’s 21 day nationwide lockdown announcement to combat the infection of the coronavirus, began from 25 March, the effects of this lockdown has begun to show in a mere two days. This lockdown has had a drastic effect on people who have a hand-to-mouth existence and stray animals, whose existence depends on the kindness of strangers.
In the nation’s capital, Delhi, there have many reports of the poor who have gone days without food ever since the lockdown, which in Delhi started earlier from 23 March. On 25 March, the Union Cabinet raised the quantity of affordable grain by 2kg to 7kg under the food security scheme and the Centre also announced that while the Centre is keeping an eye on the situation, it is up to the State Governments to announce their own measures to address the hunger of the marginalized. Most poor people in the country fear that hunger will kill them faster than the coronavirus.
Going by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s report, 30% of India’s lowest income class could be hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and according to the International Labour Organization’s statistics, at least 90% of India’s workforce, are employees in the informal sector in roles like security guards, rickshaw pullers, street vendors, domestic help etc. and most do not have access to sick leave, paid leave and or any kind of insurance. Also, a lot from the 90% of the workforce are migrant workers who are residents of a altogether different state. In addition, heightening the risk of community transmission, days before the lockdown on 23 March, hundreds and thousands of these migrant workers travelled in packed trains from COVID-19 effected states to their home states.
While several state governments have announced relief measures for it’s poor like in Gujarat the Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani, announced free ration for it’s 3.25 crore ration card holders who belong to the poor families in view of the 21 day lockdown in the country. Gujarat government has decided to give every ration card holder 3.5kg wheat, 1.5 kg of rice for every family member, 1kg sugar, 1kg pulses and 1kg salt for a month free of cost from 1 April.
In Kerala, the State Government announced a home delivery of kits of food essentials to the poor in the state, along with the kits the families who fall in the category of the below poverty line will continue to avail 30kg of food grains which has been mandated by the Public Distribution System (PDS). In addition, those who qualified for 2kg of rice at subsidized rates will now be able to get 15kg of rice for free.
Closer to home, in Kolkata a number of ‘hunger heroes’ have come together to help feed the poor and elderly people living alone.
The Centre Government also announced that 8.3 crore BPL families will get free gas cylinders for the next three months.
While in Sikkim,
the State BJP President, D.B. Chauhan has urged that the SKM party’s government
do something as a relief policy for it’s daily wage earners.
BJP’S Twitter page on 26 March updated that- “BJP is putting in place a mechanism to link up community kitchens, which can serve at least 1000 per day, so that we can ensure food to the urban poor, migrant workers and construction labourers, daily wage earners and those in the unorganised sector.”
Coronavirus has not only affected the health of the people but in a broader spectrum, the economy has also been thumped with a stiff blow. The ones who are in a cumbersome muddle have seen to be the daily-wage earners in India. The lockdown imposed by the government hasn’t helped these daily wage earners, not on the front of their livelihoods anyway.
Former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, Madhavan Nair, in a statement made to the Press Trust of India, stressed on this issue of the plight of daily-wage earners, that government should take steps to reach out and provide welfare to ensure the livelihoods of daily-wage earners who have been severely impacted by the lockdown imposed to fight the coronavirus.
“I am more concerned about the people in the daily wages category,” Nair said.
“One thing which the government has to take up on a war-footing is ensuring the livelihood for the people…bulk of the people, may be 30 per cent of the people…they may be living on what they earn daily,” the former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman told Press Trust of India.
“You have to provide them, either by material, or cash… the compensation, and reach them immediately. There is no point in delaying and giving them. There is no point in giving through intermediaries also. Directly reach the beneficiaries. How fast we can do this and how efficiently we do this, that is going to be a real issue,” Nair added.
In the voyage of establishing anti-coronavirus measures, state governments across Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are cooking up different efforts to provide with financial assistance for businesses and people to compensate for their hiatus, especially for daily wagers. The state administrations are also coming up with guidelines for safety and security of those who are being affected by the lockdown.
Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced a financial aid of over Rs 353 Crores to give as cash hand outs to an estimated 3.53 million daily wage earners and labourers, who are suspected to be hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and by the lockdown that follows.
In the same light, Sikkim state BJP President, D.B. Chauhan has demanded SKM government, the ruling government in Sikkim to provide relief measures for the daily wage earners whose livelihoods are now dwindling due to the 21-day lockdown. These workers are to be severely affected, likely to have their businesses and livelihoods incapacitated by the almost month-long lockdown.
Chauhan, in a press statement, spoke about the different class of workers who are working during the lockdown, and how the state government should be coming up with measures to ensure lively hood, sustenance, and health care for these workers.
“The lengthy period of the national lockdown will have a crippling effect on hawkers, daily wage earners and labourers, and their means of sustenance. In this crucial hour, State BJP demands the Sikkim government to efficiently provide relief to the economically backward sections of the society. It is incumbent for the Sikkim state government to take up welfare measures for this section of daily wage labourers, different states in India have started to take decisions and steps in this directions and it is vital for Sikkim government to do so as well,” Chauhan said in his press statement.
Chauhan also stressed that SKM government should ensure strong health protection measures to the number of workers occupied in the pharmaceutical factories as well and that similar measures should also be provided to people who are actively working in emergency services including media personnel and drivers. He also appealed to the people to stay home in this crucial period of lockdown, to remain patient and to come together to fight this global pandemic.