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

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was a 'frustrated' reformer who turned into a conservative

By Bhaskar Sur "If someone says the Manusamhita was written by all wise Manu and the principal scripture of the land and if he asks me to throw it away, I'll say it is nothing short of atrocious audacity." -- Iswarchandra Vidyasagar

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.

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

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".

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Economy in tatters, labour codes 'take away' workers' safety, benefits, right to form TU

By Our Representative  The four new labour codes promulgated by the Government of India came in for sharp criticism from several labour unions and civil rights groups at one-day discussion meeting organised in Ranchi (Jharkhand) on the issue of ‘changes in labour laws. Participants in the meeting asserted that under these new codes, many of the benefits and safeties accorded to labourers have been "taken away", while the right of labourers to create trade unions has been attacked.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Politically-motivated: Global NGO network on ED 'harassment' of Harsh Mander

Counterview Desk  CIVICUS , a top global alliance of civil society organisations seeking to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world with a claimed membership of more than 10,000, objecting to the alleged harassment of IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander by the Government in India, has said that the the the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on his house and office highlights “an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India”.