Skip to main content

Re-exodus and lockdown: Citymakers have 'no confidence' in government assurances

By Arjun Kumar, Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda

On April 20, 2021 Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation about the rise of Covid-19 cases in the country for the second time. In his national address, he assured the myriad of workers that national lockdown will not be declared as a response to the pandemic. He declared that the solution would be to create ‘micro-containment zones’, requesting all-state Chief Ministers to respond similarly and work with the central government.
With the surging cases and mass deaths, the most affected states in India are Maharashtra, Punjab, Chandigarh Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh, where Maharashtra is home to the highest number of cases. With the average number of daily cases is touching the three lakh mark, states were compelled states to adopt lockdown.
Currently, 11 states including the largest states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra are in lockdown. States like Jharkhand decided not to stop the economic activity. Delhi, Rajasthan, and eight districts in Chhattisgarh, decided complete lockdown except for essential services.
Maharashtra issued Break the Chain guidelines which reduce the number of people in a public gathering to be 25, with offices operating at a 15 percent capacity. The Uttar Pradesh government, meanwhile, flouted the decision of the Allahabad High Court and chose only to impose a weekend curfew. Odisha’s government followed suit with only night curfews. Punjab and Kerala resorted to travel restrictions with necessary negative RT-PCR reports for domestic travelers and night curfews.
These details indicate that while there might not be a nationwide lockdown and there is no united front of the governmental response to the second wave of rising of corona cases. Migrant workers have been assured multiple times that an economic lockdown will not be imposed and yet some photographs have already started to emerge of reverse migration. The citymakers have no confidence in governmental assurances. The cities are far from economic recovery and they seem to be staring down another possible lockdown.
India started recording a rise in Covid-19 cases from February 10, 2021. The second wave has hit the country harder. On June 18 last year, India recorded 11,000 cases, and in the next 60 days, it added 35,000 new cases on average every day. On February 10 this year, at the start of the second wave, India confirmed 11,000 cases -- and in the next 50 days, the daily average was around 22,000 cases. But in the following 10 days, cases rose sharply with the daily average reaching 89,800.
On April 23, 2021 India recorded 3,46,786 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours. The pilling up of corpses and shortage of beds, oxygen, and necessary pharmaceuticals is an indication that healthcare system and infrastructure are failing again. 
Almost one year after the lockdown in March 2020, the government could have developed its capacity to provide healthcare services, however, it seems no lessons were learned from 2020. The health infrastructural lapses that were the direct response that India had fought away the COVID crises is delusional.
In the space of just 12 days, the Covid positivity rate doubled to 17 percent, while in Delhi it hit 30%. Hospitals across the country have filled to capacity but this time it is predominately the young taking up the beds; in Delhi, 65% of cases are under 40 years old.
The dead, meanwhile, have continued to overload crematoriums and graveyards in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Delhi faster than they could be burned, and families waited days to cremate their loved ones. On Sunday, Delhi’s largest cremation facility, Nigambodh Ghat, ran out of space, despite doubling its funeral pyres to more than 60.

Second wave of reverse migration, social security

With the rising cases and lockdowns migrant workers are readopting the familiar path to their native origins, the country has once again is starting to see the crowded bus stands, railway stations.
The one-year-old history is repeating itself resurfacing the similar miseries which citymakers faced during March 2021, when the virus trains were speeding throughout the country. The wounds are still afresh in the minds of citymakers, thus forcing them to walk away before sudden lockdown takes rebirth. The crisis of confidence in the governance has been the root cause of migrant mass mobility.
The citymakers were not considered before imposing a sudden lockdown in 2020. The government response of central schemes was unsatisfactory with MGNREGA reaching its full capacity. The economic loss of 2021 is something migrants have still not recovered from the lockdown in 2020.
In a recent study of 2,917 migrants in six states -- Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal by ICRIER in collaboration with the Inferential Survey Statistics and Research Foundation (ISSRF), it is found more than a third of the reverse migrants (38.6 per cent) reported having no work after returning to their native place. With no proper employment opportunity in their native places, the household incomes of migrants fell by as much as 85 per cent during the first wave.
This could mean a burden on public transport infrastructure which still has not made adequate social distancing norms. With those norms in place the infrastructure cannot need the demand for reverse migration and without the norms the health of the nation would be jeopardized. Given the virulent strain it would mean a return to virus trains.
This reverse migration would not only over extend transportation infrastructure, but also the already strained health care infrastructure with no possibility of economic recovery. There needs to be a swift response to meet the needs of the citymakers within the cities only.
This time around the government response has not been a similar lackadaisical approach. Understanding an immediate response to ease the fears of migrant workers, the Delhi government announced a financial aid of Rs 5000 to every registered construction worker in the wake of an extended lockdown of one week till April 26, 2021. There are reports that the Delhi government is mulling over a continued lockdown after April 26, 2021.
The Delhi government further aims to provide a helpline number to registered building and construction workers for redressal of grievances and provide help to them in distress situation. The state also ordered to provide food facilities to migrant workers at 205 night shelters across the city. Though, central government is silent on the financial aid.
However, they have set up 20 control rooms to address grievances of workers. The concerns though remains that with an asymmetrical federal approach will be the answer for the approaching second wave of reverse migration.
Earlier in 2020, the migrant crisis were worse with insufficient supply for essential commodities such as food, water and shelter which forced the citymakers to leave the cities. However, they were given adequate relief packages -- transfer of Rs 500 in women Jan Dhan accounts, 5 kg of rice/wheat and 1 kg of pulses to one family through Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY). Though, these supplies ensured mere survival.
However, the same situation is arising today when many states and cities such as Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Delhi, and the state of Maharashtra have resort to lockdown which should be the last option, according to our honorable Prime Minister.
Real crisis is not stemming from the fact that the government is not aware of the problem but there is no knowledge of the quantum of the problem
The One Nation, One Ration Card, scheme has been implemented in 17 states according to Ministry of Finance. At the same time, the Finance Minister in the budget 2021 had announced that the scheme was being implemented in 32 states and union territories, reaching about 69 percent of core beneficiaries. The Finance Minister informed that the scheme has covered 86 per cent of the beneficiaries, adding that the remaining four states and UTs will be integrated into the scheme in the coming few months.
Though the ground reality in the 17 States is abysmal. Even though the scheme was to be rolled out in the entire country by June 2020 the ground reality of the scheme has been very different. Individual migrants have recounted myriad experiences where there has been denial of the ration in the fair price shops. The scheme holds the potential to answer the migrant crisis for availability of food. Recently the SC started hearing a plea to immediately role out the scheme nationally.

Ineffective statistical architecture

The real crisis is not stemming from the fact that the government is not aware of the problem but there is no knowledge of the quantum of the problem. With no real data on the migrants, how will government plan any future course of action? The last survey on migration held in 2007-08 and the latest data on migration is available in Census 2011.
The Economic Survey 2016-17 estimated 80 million migrant workers and over half of these migrants belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while Delhi region received around half of total migration. Further, the survey suggested around 9 million workers migrate across states annually. However, these data numbers are characterized by data lags. The decennial statistical activity of Census 2021 has been halted which could have provided the new dataset.
With the last year migrant crisis, government came to realize the need for data of migrant workers in the country. Thus, they proposed an online portal -- National Migrant Information System (NMIS) in May 2020. In her Budget speech of 2021, honorable finance minister Nirmala Sitaraman announced to launch a portal collecting relevant information on gig, building, and construction-workers among others.
In March 2021, the labour bureau announced the five labour surveys -- All-India Survey on Migrant workers, All-India Survey on Domestic Workers, All-India Survey on Employment Generated by Professionals, All-India Survey on Employment Generated in Transport Sector, and All-India Quarterly Establishment based Employment Survey.
The government claims to have complete these surveys within the period of six months. They have already trained the field investigators for two surveys All India Quarterly Establishment based Employment Survey (AQEES) and All India Survey of Migrant Workers.
With these novel practices, the data collected will be produced in the next six months which creates a huge lag and make social security disbursement a tedious process till time. This current statistical architecture in policy has zero impact and the ill planning of elite functionaries making statistical activity a complex process making it difficult to deliver effective services.

Comments

TRENDING

Nobel laureates join international figures, seek release of Bhima Koregaon accused activists

Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk,  Wole Soyinka Counterview Desk  As many as 57 top international personalities, including Nobel laureates, academics, human rights defenders, lawyers cultural personalities, and members of Parliament of European countries, have urged the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India to ensure immediate release of human rights defenders in India “into safe conditions”.

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".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Russia, China to call the shots in Middle East, as Muslim nations turn into house of cards

By Haider Abbas* Only a naive would buy that the ‘situation of ceasefire’ between the State of Israel and Hamas would continue, as if the foiled attempt to demolish Al Aqsa this time, is not be repeated, if not in any near future then in sometime to come. Israel already has spurned the ‘ceasefire’ by storming Al Aqsa after the Friday prayers on May 21.

Collapse of healthcare system? Why 90% of Covid patients treated at home survived

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhu shan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs 1.5 lakh for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week.

Modi-led regime 'contributed' 60% to rise of global poverty, yet Hindutva is intact

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* In recent years, the Hindutva politics has caused long term damage to India and Indians. The so called 56-inch macho PM, the propaganda master manufactures and survives all political crisis including the current mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic in India. In spite of deaths and destitutions, the social, cultural, economic and religious base of Hindutva is intact.

Rooted in mistrust? Covid-19’s march into rural India is a very different ball game

By Sudhir Katiyar* As the Covid-19 virus penetrates rural India, the rural communities are responding very differently from their urban counterparts who rushed to the hospitals. The rural communities are avoiding the public health facilities and any mention of the disease. The note argues that this supposedly irrational response is based on a deep-seated mistrust of the state by the rural communities. It can not be resolved with routine Information, Education and Communication (IEC) measures suggested in the Government of India SOP for tackling Covid-19 in rural areas.

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh*  According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS*  All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.

Why hasn't Govt of India responded to US critique of freedom of religion under Modi?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* About two weeks ago, on May 12, 2021, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken released in Washington the ‘2020 International Religious Freedom Report.’ This official annual report of the US Government details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories and describes US actions to support religious freedom worldwide. Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, this report highlights the fact that ‘religious freedom is both a core American value and a universal human right’.