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

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

Across the board, among Muslims, Hindus, there's enormous fury at Delhi Police: Report

Counterview Desk
A quick report, prepared by Delhi's concerned citizens, "Let Us Heal Our Dilli", based on one-day visit (February 27) to several areas and mohallas of North East Delhi affected by the riots that gripped the country's capital -- Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri, Chaman Park, Shiv Vihar, Main Mustafabad (including Bhagirathi Vihar and Brijpuri) -- has said everywhere there is "zero trust" towards that the police.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

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.

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.