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COVID-19: Despite Niti Aayog directions, Gujarat govt 'reluctant' to involve NGOs

By Rajiv Shah
 A top Gujarat-based non-government organization (NGO) has regretted that despite clear directions from the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Niti Aayog, which is a Government of India think tank, and a subsequent letter from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), regarding importance and role of NGOs during the COVID-19 crisis, “there seems to be reluctance on the part of the State of Gujarat to collaborate with NGOs.”
A detailed letter, written by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Ahmedabad, and signed by its director Gagan Sethi, insisting on the need to take NGO support in every possible way, says, this is particularly needed in order to implement of the schemes for providing food grains to the needy during the lockdown period “to prevent the further spread of the pandemic.”
Even as appreciating Niti Ayog and NDMA effort involve NGOs, the letter wants “a better-thought-out" strategy is needed for "effective involvement". It says, instead of individual negotiation with NGOs, an open call for collaboration needs to be made, particularly the current situation requires urgent measures.
The letter comes close on the heels of a Ministry of Home Affairs asking nonprofits that have a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence to send them information on their COVID-19 related activities by April 15, 2020; and “to do so every month thereafter as well.” This order follows an MHA announcement earlier lauding the work of civil society organisations requesting them to help the government provide support to all those affected by the pandemic. 
Pointing towards areas where NGOs can help, the letter says, the assumption that migrants have reached their homes is just not true, adding, many are still in transit or stuck at their work places. The situation requires local sarpanch, police and the labour department to collaborate with NGOs to identify them and ensure their well-being. A systematic tracking through social media, news reports etc. with NGO help could be put in place for those stuck.
There is lack of clarity on whether payments under NREGA is to be made against the work done, as also the type of work to be given
“In our experience, food is being provided by NGOs to migrants”, the letter says, pointing out, this is happening because  "there is no clarity as to what the migrants are entitled to from the state." It adds, "Clarity at all levels is needed in this regard. Also, an information kit should be given to the migrants when they are identified and registration of their names.”
In fact, NGO volunteers can help compile “a list of workers registered under various laws like the Unorganized Workers Act 2008, the Migrant Workers Act, the Construction Workers’ Act, Contract Labourers’ Act etc. in order to facilitate their claims", asserts the letter. 
GSDMA CEO Anuradha Mall, CSJ director Gagan Sethi
The letter laments, as of today, there is lack of clarity regarding the entitlements where there is a central as well as a state scheme with respect to the provision of benefits to several of the needy sections. Noting that one such section is fisherfolk, spread across Gujarat’s coast, which is 20% of the country's, it regards, it is not clear what amount of money they should be given, as there is no scheme or government resolution (GR) for them.
Then, it says, there is also lack of clarity regarding whether payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is to be made against the work done, and if so what kind of work would be taken from them under the present lockdown conditions, especially when there is a “high demand for sanitizers and masks” needed for the work to be undertaken under NREGA.
“Given the situation, work may not be a feasible option”, the letter empasises, adding, “Hence it is proposed that unemployment allowance be given in such cases.” At the same time, there should be a service camp under the legal services authority with NGO help in order to help urgently resolve previous payment related issues, job card discrepancies etc.
Other areas where NGOs can be of help include setting up quarantine facilities at village level primary schools, community centres etc., provision of food to school going children, widow pension, regularizing availability of vegetables, monitoring of fair price shops, helping forest dwellers get proper price for their produce, smooth functioning of primary health centres, and so on.
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Click HERE to read full letter

Comments

Unknown said…
A nice suggestion to entrust some services to some selected NGOs in this crical time of lock down to curb some evil activities like hoarding commodities before they reach to the needy people. Some selfless organisations can work with 100% results relieving government machinery from extra burden.
Uma said…
If NGOs do the work there is nothing to boast about at the next election campaign; and no way of filling pockets.

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