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Gurugram's distressed people don't have food coupons, getting ration 'seems distant'

By Our Representative
The Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch (GNEM), an NGO which claims to be providing an average of 350 ration kits per day since March 27, the third day of the lockdown, and about 25,000 cooked meals every day since April 4, has complained that the Haryana government’s response has “lagged behind the stark reality of distress” due to the Covid-19 crisis.
In a report, titled “Taking Stock: Assessing Distribution and Distress in Gurugram During the COVID-19 Lockdown”, GNEM said, “While civil society organizations are responding to the best of their capacities, they cannot fill the gap between demand and supply on their own”, insisting, “The government needs to step in urgently.”
However, GNEM regretted, “Despite early warning signals and adequate case studies of what other states are doing, the Government of Haryana dragged its feet in opening up its foodgrains to non-ration card holders. It was only on April 14, three weeks into the food crisis, that the state government announced its intent to distribute distress ration coupons to non-ration card holders.”
Despite the announcement, GNEM said, ground reports suggest, “People have not even received the coupons yet; getting rations seems distant and uncertain given that verification processes are also involved.”
It added, “While the government has announced that it has taken note of the extreme economic and food distress amongst the working poor in the state and proposed the distribution of distress ration coupons, the process remains unclear and entirely opaque.”
The report said, “Even with nearly 10,100 ration kits delivered until April 21, which provided food security for 40,400 people, GNEM has only been able to cater to 68% of those in need. GNEM has served close to four lakh cooked meals since the first week of April but is still only able to meet 74% of demand.”
The report said, it was found that most workers have little or no savings. “The extension of lockdown until May 3 created panic among the workers and insecurity about where the next round of rations would come from and when… Those without a locally registered ration card had no support from the government, nor was there any cash support schemes in place.”
Further, the report said, “The administration’s focus on mapping and intervening in coronavirus hotspots through establishment of containment zones and enhanced screening etc. is certainly the need of the hour… However, hunger hotspots that emerged in our data include clusters around industrial pockets like Dundahera, Sarhaul, Manesar, Dharuhera, Khandsa, Laxman Vihar, Nathupurand Naharpur do not find mention in any official announcement.”
The report said, a recent survey suggested that “despite the Ministry of Labour’s orders that all workers should be ‘deemed to be at work’ during the lockdown period, more than 85% of workers employed as casual labour at construction sites, in factories as well as domestic help in Gurgaon have not been paid their wages or at best been paid partially.”
Quoting surveys, the report said, about 89% of the workers “that made SOS calls had not been paid by their employers. No cash liquidity is a cause of tremendous mental anguish for daily wage workers…” In Manesar 37% “had not received their salaries for the month of March.”
It commented, “The distress, therefore, is not restricted to informal workers. The government’s lack of success in intervening with employers is adding additional pressure on the already fragile and fragmented relief ecosystem.”
Quoting an order from the Haryana chief minister directing all districts to register daily wagers such as casual labor and street vendors to receive Rs 1,000 as immediate cash relief, the report said, “None of the workers we have interacted with so far have received this money, let alone know how to register.”
It added, “Upon calling the ‘financial assistance helpline’ publicised by the CM, we were told that all new registrations were stopped on April 7 because verification of existing registrations was ongoing.”

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