New Delhi: As the Indian government takes steps to contain the spread of novel coronavirus or COVID-19, such as shutting down schools, colleges, restricting movement etc., it is the poor and vulnerable who are bearing the brunt of social distancing as it is hitting their livelihoods, nutrition needs and health.
Highlighting the plight of the poor, the Right to Food Campaign, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has, therefore, sough urgent measures to support the most vulnerable sections of the population, such as enhancing of rations under the public distribution system by at least 50%, including pulses and cooking oil.
At a time when the better off are stocking essentials apprehending a lockdown, the supply crunch will hit the poor the most.
“Cooked food needs to be made available to a much larger section of people including destitute, homeless and migrants through multiple mechanisms,” says the letter, adding that the government must also make available handwashing facilities (with adequate water and soap) in various places in urban areas – outside dhabas, food shops, metro stations and so on.”
A mapping must also be done to ensure that there is water supply (with additional facilities put in place if needed) in areas which do not have regular piped water facilities, the letter adds.
Also, as some states have already done, the use of biometric devices/PoS machines for the delivery of access to all welfare schemes should be immediately stopped as this could spread the infection.
The RTF letter also urged the Prime Minister that since schools and anganwadi centres have been closed down, arrangement must be made to home-deliver nutrition and meals to all target groups, such as children, pregnant and lactating mothers. Kerala government is already doing this.
“Older people are worst affected by the coronavirus. The old age pensions must be enhanced (it is very low in any case) and arrangements made for them to reach people on time,” the letter added.
Read the full letter here.