Skip to main content

COVID-19 'pushes' Jharkhand to economic crisis as migrants return from Maharashtra

Counterview Desk
The civil rights organization Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand, has called for urgent overhaul of social security and public health system in the state even as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is beginning to be felt in the state. In a statement, Asharfi Nand Prasad, convener of the campaign, said it is not just the pandemic that concerns the state.
The problem has aggravated, he said, as a large number of unemployed migrant workers working in different “developed” states, are returning to the state in view of the economic crisis facing the economy because of the pandemic.

Text:

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads, a double crisis looms over Jharkhand: a health crisis and an economic crisis. Already, unemployed migrant workers are returning en masse from different states, including some (e.g. Maharashtra) with many coronavirus cases. Food vendors are losing business, and more occupations are likely to be hit as economic activity slows down. As more and more people are confined to their homes, life is likely to become increasingly difficult for many.
In this situation, the Jharkhand government must take swift measures not only to stop the spread of the virus but also to support poor people in their hour of need. Since time is of the essence, the first step is to make good use of existing schemes to protect people from hunger and destitution. The Right to Food Campaign (Jharkhand) calls for the following, by way of immediate steps:
Social security pensions
  • Advance payment of (at least) three months’ pension should be made immediately, to help widows and the elderly who the most vulnerable in this crisis.
  • The government should also increase the coverage of social security pensions, by fast-tracking all pending applications. 

Mid-day meals in schools and anganwadis

Schools and anganwadis are closed, but the government should ensure that they continue to provide cooked meals and/or take-home rations to children as well as pregnant and nursing women. Home delivery of dry rations (rice, pulses and boiled eggs) can be considered. Alternatively, schools and anganwadis can continue to function (with due safeguards) as distribution centres for cooked meals and/or dry rations.
  • The provision of eggs in schools and anganwadis should be urgently scaled up (ideally, five times a week for both children and pregnant/nursing women). Eggs are nutritious, safe and affordable – in fact, very cheap right now because of the slump in the poultry industry.

Public Distribution System

  • PDS rations should be enhanced (say doubled) on a temporary basis, until the crisis is over.
  • The coverage of the PDS should be expanded, by fast-tracking all pending applications for ration cards as well as for addition of missing names in existing ration cards. 
  • The decision to suspend biometric authentication in the PDS is helpful. But instead of switching all electronic Point-of-Sale (ePoS) machines to offline mode, the government is imposing the OTP system. This system is unreliable (e.g. due to poor connectivity) and prone to abuse. Instead of the OTP system, the government should immediately switch all ePoS machines to offline mode. 
· Emergency action must be taken against corrupt dealers and functionaries – some of them may take advantage of the confusion to siphon off people’s rations.

NREGA and employment-support

  • The NREGA wage in Jharkhand should be immediately raised from the current Rs 171 to the state minimum wage for agricultural labour (Rs 275), at the very least.
  • The state government should pro-actively pay the unemployment allowance (one fourth of the NREGA wage for the first 30 days, one half thereafter) to all SC/ST job-card holders, for the duration of the crisis. 
  • The government should consider providing a weekly income support to all workers of the state – migrants or informal-sector workers. 
Some of these measures (e.g. expansion of PDS) will be easier to take with the support of the central government, but the state government should take the initiative. Some states, notably Kerala, have already taken extensive measures of this sort.
In addition to these measures, the state government should ensure the presence of adequate numbers of trained doctors, ANMs and nurses as well as supplies of all types of medicines in all primary and community health centres. The state government should also ensure that no one is harassed by the police in search of COVID-19 suspects. Policing by people should also be discouraged. The poor and marginalised are bound to bear the brunt of these actions.
Beyond these immediate measures, the government should move at faster pace towards a comprehensive social security system, including universalization of all social security schemes (PDS, NREGA, pensions, school meals, ICDS, maternity benefits and health care) with enhanced benefits. Failing that, poverty and hunger will continue to haunt Jharkhand, and strike with force whenever a similar crisis occurs.

Comments

TRENDING

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

#StandWithStan: It's about Constitution, democracy and freedom of expression

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is more than three weeks now: On the night of October 8, 2020, the 83-year-old Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy was taken into custody by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) from his residence in Ranchi to an undisclosed destination. According to his colleagues, the NIA did not serve a warrant on Fr. Stan and that their behaviour was absolutely arrogant and rude.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.

Dalit, Adivasi protest in Jharkhand against 'illegal' transfer of land for development

By Rishit Neogi Displacement and eviction are not new terms. It is surprising that they are still continuing and have become a tool in the hands of state backed corporates to forcibly occupy lands in the name of development.