As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to mount across the country and several states undertaking total lockdown to contain the outbreak, a group of concerned and eminent citizens have written to the central and state governments urging the adoption emergency measures to deal with the crisis facing the vulnerable and marginal groups.
The letter states that amid the increasing risks of COVID-19 “those likely to be affected the most would be the informal labour force, agricultural workers, small and marginal farmers, MGNREGA workers, old age pensioners, widows, the differently abled, slum dwellers, the homeless and other such vulnerable communities.”
In addition to making use of the necessary infrastructure via programmes such as Natioanl Food Security Act, MGNREGA, Pensions, Ujjwala, PM-KISAN to deliver emergency relief to those who need it, the concerned citizens also raise the concerns of the large number of urban informal workers, migrant labourers, construction workers, nomadic communities, and the homeless who are unlikely to be listed in any welfare programme.
In order to make sure that the relief measures reach all such sections of the society, the letter suggests the adoption of a number of immediate measures, emergency relief packages as well as medium and long-term measures.
Among the immediate measures suggested are supply of free ration along with cooking oil, pulses, salt, masala, and soap for a period of 3 months (April, May, June) to be distributed in advance to all those covered under NFSA [Antodyaya Anna Yojana, Priority Household (PHH) and Non-priority Households (NPHH)]. It also demands the immediate clearance of all pending liabilities of wages and materials to the tune of Rs. 8,396 crore under MGNREGA as well as payment of full wages to all registered MGNREGA workers during the lockdown period. Additionally, it should also be ensured that there is an immediate transfer of the first instalment of the PM-Kisan scheme.
The letter also proposes an emergency relief package programme of Rs 7,000 per poor household per month for the months of April and May. It states that the total amount required for this one time emergency relief is about Rs 3.75 lakh crore (1.92% of the GDP).
It has been endorsed by eminent citizens including economist Jean Dreze, social activist Harsh Mander, economist Jayati Ghosh, National Federation of Indian Women’s Aruna Roy, All India Progressive Women’s Association’s Kavita Krishnan, and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan’s Nikhil Dey among others.
The full letter can be accessed here.