Stranded Migrant Workers and Homeless Citizens - Background Context
The Prime Minister of India announced and asked the center and the state government to make provisional arrangements for basic necessities (food, shelter, and clothing) for migrant workers who facing the worst imaginable living conditions and are currently in the middle of the unfortunate times due to the unforeseen and immediate lockdown (21-days) imposed by the government, as a preventive measure to control and minimize the spread and widespread effect of the coronavirus.
The ministry of home affairs directed everyone to stay where they are, and Joint Secretary clearly mentioned these actions are for people’s safety.
The Centre directed respective state governments to arrange the free food and basic necessities for citizens, especially the migrant workers who cannot go to their native places due to the nationwide lockdown. Governments are encouraging citizens to stay home or wherever they are and find the closest shelter to stay safe.
The general consciousness in peoples' minds, that we’re dealing with just one virus and nothing special and eventually everything will be at peace once we are on top of it, - is the most ignorant and dangerous thing to do during global crises. Despite this, together we have to fight the COVID-19, considered to be the worst pandemic after misinterpreting ‘Spanish Flu’, the year 1918.
Despite the Indian Government's several efforts and the implementation of strategies to keep COVID-19 at bay, it managed to traverse corners of the nation and is currently the only major headache that affected from rich to the poor and hampered every industrial segment to its core. In response to these events, the Indian government Initiated the first major nationwide lockdown since independence.
Unsalvageable Elemental or Fundamental collapse
In this modern world of ever-changing economies and power-killing sprees, where everyday disruption is unfortunately considered to be the new normal, the outbreak of the COVID-19 has put everyone into unsalvageable fundamental shock, added the updates to the geo-political fault-lines, losses, and new opportunities. In this global COVID-19 tragedy, there are no immediate winners, however, the stories of crises & sufferings, hope & survival, empathy & charity, and lessons learned, are narrated and remembered in the after-effect.
Even though we try to embattle responses or deploy remarkable measures to the prodigious disaster that the COVID-19 pandemic has to untether (discharge) globally, regularly several failed attempts are made to deflect mindfulness as to the origin and outcome of the worldwide pandemic.
The History of Tragedy and Setbacks
- India witnessed a heavy loss of around 18-21 million (i.e. 1.8 to 2.1 crore) lives during the short time span between, 1918 to 1921. To put it into actuality, 1921 was the only year in the history of the Indian census that recorded the decline in rural population.
- Looking at the health infrastructure in India, it would be unwise not to announce that, India has the largest population that is not geared well enough to face the outbreak and crises like COVID-19, India needs health foundation of India for public health.
- There is a saying “Lesson goes away with the scare”, the world experienced numerous diseases and outbreaks in past and it is imminent that such events may unleash the hell on earth ahead in the future. Alone in 90’s we had SAR and MERS (both belong to Crona Virus Family).
- In 1994, Surat, India had an outbreak of “Plague” which rocked the nation, despite the series of such ill events, we are least prepared for the 21st century’s era.
- 1990, the decade of globalization of communicable diseases, however instead of building robust healthcare systems and infrastructure to tackle the deadly crises, many countries decided to privatize the healthcare segment to curb their losses incurred from the outbreak.
- The Indian subcontinent (especially India) is dominated by the privatization of the healthcare sector and we have the least expenditure on healthcare (I.e. barely 1.2 percent of our total GDP – in the world.
- India is unknown to the concept of the government healthcare systems or centralized universal healthcare infrastructure and this was steadily declined due to policy-driven standards.
- The current public health foundation and health infrastructure scenarios and movements from governments are hinting toward the privatization of district-level hospitals to address public health.
- Nowadays Indian household expenses are majorly spent on health expenditures, and that really is the big reason for rising rural family debts.
- A disturbing report (2018) from the Public Health Foundation of India, unveiled that at least 55 million people are downed into poverty in the year 2018 because they had no provision of healthcare and had to pay for their own medical expenses. At least 30 million others went below the poverty level due to medicinal expenses without any healthcare support.
Some Measures and Initiatives from the Kerala Government.
- Firstly, prepare the large-scale emergency food distribution of surplus food grain stock (approximately 60 million tons).
- Immediate implementation of policy through an effective task force to reach reaching out to migrant workers and other poor divested by the crises.
- Closing of all schools, colleges, universities, and community places and converting them into provisional shelters for labour class migrant workers, and homeless people.
- Secondly, strengthen the farmer's community to grow a new cycle of crops and keep the steady flow of food grains and basic essentials.
- With the present situation of the lockdown and losses incurred by the farmers, a disastrous food situation looms. Farmers won’t be able to sell their precious and essential produce amid lockdown.
- Moreover, the vaccine for COVID-19 may be months or years away, we never know, during this time period the entire stock of surplus food stocks will perish.
- To avoid this situation, the government needs to start buying produce directly from the farmers on a large scale. Due to the compulsive practice of social distancing, farmers are unable to employ farm labours, thus resulting in unharvested rabbi crops fields, and those who already made the harvest are now unable to transport it anywhere. This seems like a deadlock situation for the farmers.
- Even if farmers decide to take a Kharif crop; they will access support services such as transport, market, agents, and marketing assistance.
- The government needs to establish a chain of nationalized private medical staff across the nation to ensure adequate and required medical assistance to everyone who so ever is in need of it.
- To think on the ground of Spanish Measures: Spain took good control and nationalized all of its healthcare centers, medical laboratories,, and hospitals, citing that a profit-driven infrastructure system is ineffective in resolving the current national crisis.
- Sanitation Workers (सफाई कर्मचारी - Saifi Karmachari): Thousands of these workers need to be regularised locally in municipalities and on a permeant basis, and ₹5000/month to be added to their current salaries structure, full healthcare benefit, required occupational protective gears to safeguard protect self.
- For ages this particular class of sanitation workers was always kept out of occupational basics and vulnerable to health issues, deprived of public services, outsourcing their work & jobs to private companies, who in return hire the same sanitation labourers on a contract basis without any occupational or health benefit, in worst cases, some of these workers weren’t even paid their wages.
- Declare or announce rush-free food and rations for straight three months to the poor and less fortunate class of citizens.
- Regularise the unsung Anganwadi ASHA and mid-day meal workers – they are already serving better in the frontline battle with COVID-19. To be more precise, the lives of the young Indian children are in their hands. Hence, they need to be regularised as full-time government employees, with appropriate wages, healthcare benefits, adequate training for further employment progression and needed protective occupational gear.
- Provide daily wages to labourers and farmers until the crises are over. Provide ₹6000/month wages to urban labourers.
We as the nation need to implement these measures as soon as possible. The government's recent announcement of lucrative packages is apathetic and only once, are we going to need long-term solutions with careful and heavy investments towards stabilizing the disrupted socio-economic situation.
It's not only the virus we are worrying India but also the distress package that comes along with the virus (i.e. the recession, economic loss, plunged rupee value, unemployment, and financial distress for every Indian citizen).
If the virus curve is not flattened at the earliest then and decides to persist then the government's attention might turn towards the farmers who might get under great pressure to feed the entire nation, during the coming Kharif season.
The world is experiencing and going through heavy crises, it is the duty of each individual, citizen of the respective country to help, contribute in whichever way possible, without any expectation in return.
As of now, we are facing situations in metro cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, etc, where thousands of migrant workers are rendered homeless with absolutely no means of transportation, shelter, fresh food-water, and sanitation.
As human beings are our social and moral responsibility to be generous and provide a helping hand to those in need. Times come and go, and so is the accumulated wealth and borrowed health. We decided to modify the poem by Horatius and present it as such …
Sooner or later, Death cometh to handpicks every individual.
And how can a man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the well-being of his fellow countrymen,
And protecting the borders of his nation.