Social security measures needed to ensure the cover of weaker sections of the society
The Covid-19 has overwhelmed the entire world, and India has borne the brunt of the same. After being declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it has affected the daily lives of all people. Due to lockdowns implemented in various parts of the globe, the world economy is under stress. While this measure was necessary and prudent, it brought therefore India’s track record of poorly executing decisions that affected the whole country, especially as it stranded thousands of suddenly out-of-work migrant workers and placed marginalized communities further at risk.
While the government has taken some steps to prevent infections from spreading more rapidly, it has been far more difficult to reach hundreds of slums and weaker sections. Many day laborers were unable to earn wages due to the closure of construction and other industries. They were also unable to buy food for their families since these rations are purchased on a day-to-day basis. Meanwhile, local authorities overwhelmed by the myriad challenges of responding to the pandemic simply lack the capacity to meet the needs of marginalized communities.
Some present social security measures for the weaker sections include:
- India announced a Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package for the poor, vulnerable populations and those who need immediate help amid a lockdown.
- Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a press meet in New Delhi that the Garib Kalyan Scheme which will cover 80 crore poor people, will include cash transfers and food security.
- The scheme also focuses on giving payments to different sections of society directly into their bank accounts. This will cover farmers, widow pensioners, disabled, women running self-help groups, construction and wage workers, senior citizens, etc.
- NGOs like the Hira Foundation (Bangalore) have formed an Emergency Response Team and began aid works under the campaign name called Mercy Mission on a pass basis to conduct food distribution drives for those sections identified at most risk.
With more than 80 percent of India’s workforce employed in the informal sector, and one-third working as casual laborers, it is crucial that the authorities make use of maximum available resources to ensure the delivery of services.
Hence the government should take urgent steps to get stranded migrant workers to safety. State governments across the country should immediately set up shelters and community kitchens for those most at need, taking measures to ensure physical distancing. The government should provide healthcare schemes free of charge and not use Aadhaar (identity card)-based biometric authentication for the distribution of free food grains to the poor. Farming communities are also facing losses during harvest season and the government needs to step up procurement to protect agricultural income and save the produce, etc.
The authorities in India should take all necessary steps to ensure that everyone has access to food and medical care and that the poor and marginalized are not mistreated or stigmatized as it is the Indian government’s responsibility to protect its people from the outbreak which should not come at the cost of human rights violations.
At Mitti Ke Rang, we started with a COVID-19 community support fundraising, as an emergency response to provide a safety net to families. This will help them survive in the lockdown period. We aim to directly support these families by providing a minimum wage, through transferring the same into their accounts or partner with local NGO, Organisation, Fellow or a Volunteer, and support them with groceries.
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