32 Days and Counting: Covid-19 Lockdown, Migrant Workers and the Inadequacy of Welfare Measures in India

FOCUS

On March 25, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19. Two days later, on March 27, volunteers associated with the Right to Food Campaign (a network of individuals and organisations in India) and the Samaj Parivartan Shakti Sangathan (an organisation that works on accessing government programmes in Muzaffarpur, Bihar) formed the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) to respond to distress calls from migrant workers in different parts of India.

This is their second report, which documents information collected from the calls of 1,531 groups of 16,863 stranded workers, up to April 26, 2020. SWAN’s first report – 21 Days and Counting: Covid-19 Lockdown, Migrant Workers and the Inadequacy of Welfare Measures in India – was released on April 15, with data on 640 groups of 11,159 stranded workers up to April 13, 2020.

This second report discusses the demographic profile of the migrant workers, the ‘Rate of Hunger and Distress’ and the ‘Rate of Relief’ and ‘Social Security as a Right’. It includes region-wise data on migrant workers stranded in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa; Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala; Delhi and Haryana; Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir; Rajasthan; Madhya Pradesh; West Bengal; Assam and Odisha.

It contains recommendations for the government on food security, wage compensation, social security, housing and shelter, transport facilities for migrant workers, and rural and urban employment guarantees.

    FACTOIDS

  1. SWAN received calls related to 16,863 workers – 12,838 men and 4,024 women and children. Most of these workers were stranded in Maharashtra (4,823), Karnataka (4,736), Uttar Pradesh (1,869) and Delhi (1,361).

  2. SWAN noted that the average and median daily wages of those who called were Rs. 380 and Rs. 365.

  3. Nearly 82 per cent of 12,248 workers had not received rations from the government, and 68 per cent of 9,743 workers had not received any cooked food. This indicates a 14 per cent improvement in ‘access to rations’ since SWAN’s first report was published, and 2 per cent in ‘access to cooked meals’.

  4. About 64 per cent of all the surveyed workers had less than Rs. 100 with them, 78 per cent had less than Rs. 300 and 74 per cent had less than Rs. 200.

  5. More than 97 per cent of 10,383 workers had not received any cash relief from the government.

  6. As of April 26, 6 per cent of 10, 929 stranded workers received their full wages during the lockdown, 16 per cent were paid partially and 78 per cent were not paid at all.

  7. More than 99 per cent of the ‘self-employed’ workers (such as street vendors and rickshaw pullers) that SWAN received calls for had no earnings since the lockdown began.

  8. The report notes that a majority of the stranded workers were from ‘poorer states’ like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.

  9. The Bihar government was the first to introduce an app-based cash transfer of Rs. 1,000 for stranded workers from the state, the report observed. Jharkhand introduced a similar app through which stranded migrants from the state could get up to Rs. 2,000. The report notes that 13 lakh people successfully registered on the Bihar government’s app.

  10. According to the National Statistical Office’s Periodic Labour Force Survey of 2017-18, about 82 per cent of all households in India earned less than the ‘minimum living wages’ of Rs. 18,000 per month. And 69 per cent of all households earned less than Rs. 400 per day.

  11. SWAN recommends an emergency cash relief of Rs. 7,000 per month – without biometric authentication – to each poor household or migrant worker, for a period of three months.

  12. It recommends that the budget for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, should be increased by at least four times, and that it should be made applicable for the entire year. (The Act stipulates that state governments shall provide 100 days of guaranteed employment and wages to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.)


    Focus and Factoids by Sruti Penumetsa.

AUTHOR

Stranded Workers Action Network

COPYRIGHT

Stranded Workers Action Network

PUBLICATION DATE

01 May, 2020

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