Skip to main content

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.
Pointing out that these communities are the “outside any social safety net”, the letter regrets, “We are yet to see any immediate relief measures being announced by the government to ensure these communities are protected and enabled to sustain with medical supplies, relief package, social security, livelihood support being announced for people out of work and for Dalits working in unsafe conditions, such as the sanitation workers.”
Appealing to the government to take measures that are “inclusive and non-discriminatory”, keeping in mind that “several of these communities will be disproportionately affected”, the letter wants the government to take “effective actions” to also ensure that during the lockdowns “people without homes, child labourers, daily wage labourers, sanitation workers and domestic help” are not left out.

The letter demands the government to:

  1. Ensure that all preventive measures and actions are equitable, inclusive, non-discriminatory, and dignified.
  2. Institute inclusive relief measures through relief packages (food stocks etc), and social security measures (pensions), unemployment allowances – till the pandemic passes for marginalised/informal sector/ self-employed/ casual workers. 
  3. Enhance the number of testing centres and its capacity to ensure that samples are taken from all such settlements which typically accommodate marginalised communities so that the scale of infections are detected by the State early enough to make arrangements for quarantine and care/treatment. 
  4. Introduce livelihood support compensation packages and undertake a systematic process of enumerating informal/migrant sector workers, together with immediate relief compensation in the form of direct cash assistance as a well-established practice during the times of natural disasters in India and internationally, to enable them to sustain in the absence of (regular) wage work, to prevent them from distress induced indebtedness and exploitation. 
  5. Enhance financial assistance for the informal sector workers, those mentioned above and beyond, and create and extend provisions as per the Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act of 2008 and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 to ensure they have access to state entitlements and legal assistance to meet their cumulative needs after having lost or at the brink of losing /restricted livelihoods. 
  6. Additionally, integrate the losses of informal/migrant sector workers as recognised and described by the corresponding laws, into the State /National Disaster Response Fund Norms. 
  7. Institute alternative means, in coordination with local authorities and civil society organisations to continue the provision of mid-day-meal, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)/ anganwadi services to children where schools and ECCE centres have been indefinitely halted. 
  8. Introduce innovative digital means of making up for the loss of school days in a safe and confidential manner. 
  9. Ensure that the designated public fair price/distribution shops are functioning with adequate stocks of provisions as per schedule but enhance the entitlement till the uncertainty over Covid-19 passes. 
  10. Wherever mohalla clinics are established, have their strength increased to reach out to urban poor with correct information and awareness drive. Institute similar local community-based systems to support and complement regular public healthcare systems to prevent, test and treat the Covid-19 issues among marginalised communities. 
  11. Ensure the supply and provision of safety kits for sanitation workers in the Government, private sector undertaking at no cost across government and private health institutions. 
  12. Ensure provision of basic amenities like water supply and hygiene kits, soaps, sanitisers, masks and other essential commodities to every Dalit, Adivasi, homeless, floating population, inmates in various homeless shelters, night shelters/relief camps and slum dwelling population across India. 
  13. Create greater awareness about testing labs, free testing and treatment of Covid-19 to avoid private practitioners and quacks from exploiting and deceiving the poorest sections by charging money. 
  14. Put in place accessible and people friendly complaints and grievance registration and redress mechanisms under the designated local authorities to provide and ensure justice along with humanitarian relief. 

In a separate background note justifying its demands, the letter says:

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the country is in the second stage of transmissions, i.e. local transmission. The Centre and state Governments domestically have invoked the ‘Epidemic Act’ and ‘Disaster Management Act’ to prevent spread of coronavirus, and issues advisories and awareness drive encouraging private sector undertakings to permit work from home for employees; frequent hand washing, strict hygiene and covering of their nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing; prohibiting gathering of more than 50 people; Covid-19 symptom, guidelines for prevention; and the dos and don’ts of home quarantine, ordering closure of schools, colleges, exams being postponed in addition to various restrictions on international travel.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also released an elaborate list of things to do and not do while using and dumping masks amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
Emphasis of advisories has been on social distancing, which reminds us of  uncivilised practice of untouchability, exclusion
A perfunctory look at all the measures so far reveals a distressing bias against the underprivileged sections, which will invariably be the depressed classes and caste of citizens. They seem to be tailored to protect the privileged citizens but completely inadequate and irresponsive to the marginalised communities particularly the Dalits, who are predominantly engaged in manual forms of occupations, which don’t allow them any safety and hygiene even in normal times.
The emphasis through all these advisories has been on ‘Social Distancing’, which reminds us of the uncivilised practice of untouchability and exclusion practiced viciously over centuries.
According to the Safai Karmchari Andoldan, lakhs of safai karmcharis/sanitation workers are engaged in hazardous occupations without any protection whatsoever. This continues even with the Covid-19 pandemic. They continue working, in all areas affected by the virus, exposed to infections, not provided with the requisite protective medical wherewithal to protect themselves against infections.
Different important sources have estimated 90% of India’s workforce to be predominantly informal employment as self-employed and casual workers. Women’s participation in the informal sector, predominantly as domestic help and sanitation works, and the likelihood of them being engaged as contractual or informal workers in the formal sector have placed their overall health and wellbeing at high risk.
---
*Endorsed by the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch - National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, National Dalit Movement for Justice, RIGHTS-Kerala, Ambedkar Lohia Vichar Manch Odisha, SASY-Tamil Nadu, Prayas Gramin Vikas Manch-Bihar, Bundelkhand Dalit Adhikar Manch-Uttar Pradesh, and the Asia Dalit Rights Forum
Copy of the letter sent to Amit Shah, Minister, Home Affairs; Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister, Health & Family Welfare; Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister, Finance; Thawar Chand Gehlot, Minister, Social Justice & Empowerment; Arjun Munda, Minister, Tribal Affairs; and GV Sarma, member secretary, National Disaster Management Authority

Comments

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

PLFS data: Is rising employment good news? Deeper analysis suggests contrary results

By Ishwar Chandra Awasthi, Puneet Kumar Shrivastav*  Results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2020-21 , released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India (GoI) on June 14, 2022, show improvement in work force participation rate (WPR) and labour force participation rate (LFPR) and declining unemployment rate. Four rounds of data have been released from 2017-18 to 2020-21 based on PLFS. The general trend in the last four rounds clearly shows consistent increase in WPR and LFPR and falling unemployment rates by usual status (PS+SS). Though increase in WPR and LFPR is reported highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19, yet rising trend in these two key indicators continues throughout, and similarly fall in unemployment is registered highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19. Clearly, the recent results give some solace and relief after unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic that has entailed enormous loss of human lives and livelihoods and crippled economic activit

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Chennai residents 'suffering': Faulty design, implementation of storm water project

By NS Venkataraman*  The Greater Chennai Corporation is now implementing storm water drainage project in 559 roads, covering a distance of 1033 kilometres, which cost around Rs 4,070 crore. For this massive project, which is targeted to be completed between April and September this year, huge loan has been availed from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others. Several technocrats have pointed out that the project has been designed with outdated technology and quality of the implementation is so poor that the residents have been put to great hardships. As part of the project, digging of the road has been done to around 5 to 6 feet deep and width of around 4 to 5 feet. The drains are being constructed using steel reinforced cement concrete with two walls on either side with provisions for manhole, chute etc. This has been done in front of several houses leaving little space between the gate of the house and that of the drainage structure. As the work has been going on for mor

'Drop all falsed charges': 150 citizens demand early release of AltNews co-founder

Counterview Desk  About 150 concerned citizens have demanded the release of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checkng newsportal AltNews, arrested over a 2018 tweet which allegedly hurt religious sentiments, even as booking for criminal conspiracy and having received foreign funds in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Denied bail last weekend and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the concerned citizens, in a statement, regretted that while the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Delhi police on a petition filed on behalf of Zubair challenging the legality and propriety of his police remand and the seizure of his electronic devices, the “frivolous case” continues. Excerpts: The illegal arrest of Mr. Mohammed Zubair happened on June 27, 2022, by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity over a tweet from 2018. The IPC Sections included 153(a) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race,

Prime Minister's 'affordable' housing policy fails to help Gujarat slum dwellers: Study

By Rajiv Shah  A new study on the implementation of one of the major policy initiatives for the urban poor by the Narendra Modi government after it came to power, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), has said that in Gujarat, which happens to be the Prime Minister’s home state, has quoted state officials as “confirming” that no progress towards tenure regularization, a key requirement for providing housing to the state’s slum dwellers. Stating that this particularly true of smaller town, the study, carried out by the non-profit Homes in the City (HIC), which is based in Bhuj, district headquarter of Kutch that saw a devastating earthquake in 2001, says, the failure to provide affordable housing is there despite the fact that there has been “significant demand” in all the 83 out of 153 Gujarat municipalities studied by experts involved in the study. According to the study, out f a total of 1.41 lakh demands for housing under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) category, 94,232 (66.7%)

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Contractor-official nexus led to RTI activist's murder': Fact-finding team seeks probe

Courtyard inside of PWD office where Ranjeet Soni was killed Counterview Desk  A fact-finding team* visited Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh (MP) on June 19, 2022 to meet with the family of Ranjeet Soni, who was shot dead on June 2, 2022 inside the premises of the PWD office in Vidisha. The objective was to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ranjeet Soni and his work on exposing corruption through the use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A report prepared by the team members says that Ranjeet had been extensively using the RTI Act to access information from the government, and upon receiving documents showing misuse of public funds or corruption, he was filing complaints to various authorities including the Lokyukta, Publi Works Department (PWD) and the Chief Minister’s Office. It notes, Ranjeet used to work as a contractor and often undertook government works in collaboration with other contractors, including those being investigated for his murder. A f

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria