Field Diaries from Covid Action Collab partners with Migrants – live webinar notes
25 APRIL 2020 / 11:00 AM
Context Setting by Shaonli Chakraborty, Swasti
Currently, as we are witnessing global health pandemic we are also leading to a social and economic crisis. The most affected are specially to formal and informal workers almost a 10 million population – experiencing a serious threat to their livelihood, safety and overall well being.
Despite being a crisis we are witnessing that the pandemic is proving opportunity to be effective and be humanitarian in terms of the responses which need to be people centric and localized. Information and coordination need special attention and are most required.
The Collab is brought together to build a multi sectoral response to the crisis from multidisciplinary expertise to achieve long term sustainable outcomes. Migrants comprise a major focus area for the Collab owing to the complexity of their issues and diversity of response – health, sp, livelihood and rehabilitation required. Major partner organizations in the collaborative include Centre for Migration and inclusive development, FIA Foundation, Change Alliance, GraamVani, LabourNet, Vihaara, Inchara, IRDWSI
- Jimmy Nirmal – Sara Seva Sansthan Samiti
- Preetham Rodrigues – Inchara foundation
- William Stanley- IRDWSI
Jimmy- Sara Seva Sansthan Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
Context of the region-
Jhabua district is a tribal district- located at the border of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. Population 10-12 lakh
Migration- 60-70% to Gujarat and Maharashtra due to low landholding and high debts. Highly dependent on rains. No diversification of crops. MNREGA employment is provided to only one member in the household. June is the beginning of the farm cycle and also the beginning of the new academic session.
Covid related implications-
4-5 lakhs migrants have come back while government reports of 70, 000 migrants without income. Ration is being provided to Households and only 10% of the Households in need including 25-30 thousand urban poor. Jimmy discussed at length the adversity that will emerge in the post lockdown period since:
- Employment will be a problem and ration will be given to more than one member of the family
- Land will also have to be sold to meet the needs and recover from existing debt in the times to come.
- Number of suicide will increase
- Rate of crime related to women and children will be on a rise due to increase in unemployment (domestic violence, human tracking and child abuse)
- Reduction on the number of school going girls because of the more number of household members will be required to work for income.
Providing food to the affected households but this is only a short lived solution. Most interventions are restricted to awareness generation activities and distribution of masks which do not really meet the needs of these groups. Remoteness of area and resource constraint are two major challenges restricting the reach of response activities. A lot is being done but it is still not sufficient to fulfill the needs. Therefore, a collective action for generating human as well as material resources is the most important need of the times.
Preetham Rodrigues- Inchara Foundation
Inchara foundation works on child safety , prevention of child sexual abuse with special focus on children in the migrant families. With respect to relief related to child safety local resources have been mobilized.
In the current situation, the lack of food is the major issue that the foundation is trying to address through the community kitchen initiative. The current mobilization of local resources was done for food resources and not funds. The initiative is not restricted to migrant families anymore, and includes lower and middle income families facing similar challenges as well.
A major insight shared by Preetham was that the families need dignity and respect more than sympathy. They are looking for long term sustainable solutions in terms of livelihood opportunity and earning more than short lived interventions only suppressing the immediate need for food etc.
Lack of financial inclusion is a major issue with the migrant families. Preetham finds the lack of savings as one of the key reasons for their dire condition. A future action could also look at making these communities more resilient by providing them financial services as a cushion in difficult times. Lack of funds has halted the community kitchen interventions.
Prettham also highlighted the lack of safety gears in the taluk hospitals.
William Stanley -IRDWSI
Mr Stanley highlighted the issue of migrants- their suffering, exploitation and fear of infections and death. He acknowledged that the Corona pandemic has triggered our mindset and approach. He further laid down the major failures of the government that led to and escalated the negative impact on the migrants:
- MNREGA implementation not done well which led to increase of migration from these areas
- FRA act not implemented well
He said that both these programs were instruments to keep people home, prevent them from becoming labors but producers
The traditional structure of discrimination and issues of social distancing in these communities were also raised. In the Orissa context, major displacement happened due to massive emergence of projects and industries resulting in a more landless population. Literacy is low among the migrants with most of them educated only upto 10th standard.
He also discussed that the high debt and rate of interest have made the poor become poorer. Even those who have houses, do not have access to electricity or education or finance or healthcare.
As an NGO, the funds are reduced and dependence on local resources has increased. Technology is now used as a tool to mobilize resources and direct the impact of the migrant laborers. Digitization in India has led to linkage to bank accounts but not the increase of their savings. MR. Stanley pointed towards the chaos in planning on the part of the government. He also discussed policy amendments which are now archaic and obsolete in the current times. He stressed on the need to reach the vulnerable population at their doorstep rather than asking them to reach out for availing the services.
The lack of documentation especially Aadhar cards with migrant laborers is a barrier to availing the services.
Spoke about leveraging simple technology as a tool to provide access to information at the community level . GraamVani’s mobile vani is an IVR based platform that uses feature phones to give a missed call and listen to the programmed content on COVID 19. It also has a self assessment survey and identifies the high risk and middle risk cases which are then shared with the local authorities to act upon.
It is an interactive platform to help people record their grievances and share with local government bodies to understand and respond to.
Parting thoughts by key speakers:
Long term solutions need to be worked out. Risk of getting people into employment to prevent from involving in criminal activities. Focus on income generation activities is important.
Daily wage workers lack savings and financial inclusion is a priority in the long term. The need of the hour is the collaboration of different organizations and CSR initiatives and government support.
Social Distancing is a challenge for migrant workers in light of their living conditions. Collective reach out to other organizations, make government work collectively
Barriers related to Documentation (Aadhar Card) should be removed for availing services in order to promote the wellbeing of migrants.