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Rationed food by marking on hands 'ignores' issue of dignity, threatens infection: NGO

By Our Representative
Well-known Ahmedabad-based NGO Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in a detailed note has demanded a “more structured” involvement of civil society organizations (CSOs) in order to provide relief to the vulnerable sections of society, which have been adversely affected because of the coronavirus crisis.
The note, running in 40 pages and sent to senior Gujarat government officials, including chief secretary Anil Mukim, follows the Central agency, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), asking all state governments to respond to how they would be “engaging and involving NGOs.”
Seeking CSO involvement in monitoring whether the actual beneficiaries, who will be given grains under the Ann Brahma Yojana, are being identified and helped, the CSJ note particularly takes exception to marking on hands with a marker, which it says “ignores issue of dignity”, pointing out, it may lead to a situation where “the threat of infection increases multifaceted."
Pointing towards alternatives, the note says, photograph could be taken as sufficient evidence of distribution, adding, the scheme should be implemented without insisting on ration cards. People who don’t have cards, especially vulnerable categories, should be allowed to go ahead with their claim of grains on producing the aadhaar card.
Pointing out that shop owners have been instructed to make a list and get new cards issued, the note believes, this would only cause unnecessary delays in disbursement of food and other essential items under the scheme.
Asking the authorities to activate the State Legal Service Authority (SLSA), the note says, as there is a strong need to have a grassroots cadre for monitoring entitlements post lock-down, and for this it is “important to enroll NGO volunteers under the Disaster Victim Legal Services Scheme.”
Claiming the CSOs have their expertise among targeted communities like marginal farmers and landless labourers, single women, persons with disabilities, homeless, street children etc., the note says, they can help identify beneficiaries, generate awareness, facilitate claims, and in the process overcome challenges and bring about policy changes.
Asserting that there is a need for volunteers at nakas, the spots where migrants going out of the urban centres are being stopped and left unattended, the note says, National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers can be placed at such nakas.
These volunteers, it adds, should be asked to take details of the migrants for future entitlements, guide them for reaching the shelter especially created for them, facilitate access to food and ensure their immediate entitlements.
NGO involvement can identify beneficiaries, generate awareness, facilitate claims, overcome challenges, bring about policy changes
Also seeking to enroll student volunteers to track news reports, the note wants them to identify reporters to spot migrants who have been left out, adding, these volunteers can facilitate access through nodal officers or helplines such as 181, which is the abhaya helpline for women, or 1098, which is the child helpline.
Wanting the government to appoint police mitras and paralegal volunteers at the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to help the police, the note, however, says, “It does not make sense for police to play pranks and dance for COVID-19 awareness”, a job which should be left to “National Cadet Corps (NCC)/NSS volunteers.”
At the same time, the note says, in order to appoint paralegal volunteers, the current requirement of the procedure to be followed by the Paralegal Volunteer Scheme should be done away with, and active people should be coopted by passing the guidelines laid down in the paralegal volunteer scheme of 2009.
Further, the note says, while it is appreciable that NDMA has asked relief commissioners to give update of collaboration with NGOs, “What is needed is a framework for collaboration with CSOs which are able to aid and support the work the government is doing.”
Especially identifying three key areas in this respect, the note says, first of all, there should be a “broad directive, circular, or order from the Union government (ideally, the Prime Minister’s Office) granting permission to organisations so that they can start working and support the response on the ground.”
Secondly, a set of guidelines outlining should be issues identifying specific ways in which civil society can contribute and strengthen the government’s response.
And thirdly, there should be a dedicated point of contact with the government, who can be a separate body at the national level (such as NDMA) or at the state level (such as the Chief Minister’s Office), “whichever is more appropriate.”
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Click here to see the full CSJ note

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