Only 13% Beneficiaries Received Food Grains Promised Under the ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’ Package: Report
The report cites assessments made by economists Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera, and Meghana Mungikar which shows 100 million eligible individuals — the equivalent of the population of Egypt — being left outside the food safety net
884 migrant lives were lost till 26 June 2020 due to the mayhem caused by an unplanned lockdown. In a report titled ‘Reverse Migration During COVID-19', the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) highlights the plight of migrants workers, the issue of reverse migration, and the way forward after the pandemic.
The report notes that starvation and continuous walking were the most common reason for death during the lockdown. As per the data, 167 migrants died due to starvation and 209 died to exhaustion by continuous walking or standing in line while other reasons include financial distress and suicide. Around 80 people died on Shramik Special trains meant to ferry migrant workers home.
The informal sector in India comprises of close to 81% of the employed workforce with 77% coming under the category of vulnerably employed. The Economic Survey of India 2017 estimated an annual 9 million inter-state migration in India between 2011- 2016 while the 2011 census puts an estimation at 139 million accounting for both inter- and intra-state movements.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, more than 122 million people lost their jobs in April itself due to lockdown. In a survey done by Jan Sahas at the beginning of the lockdown showed nearly 93% of the workers surveyed earned between Rs 200–600 per day and 92.5% have already lost work ranging from 1–3 weeks.
The report reveals the limited range of social safety net and its effect on the migrant lives. The report cites assessments made by economists Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera, and Meghana Mungikar which shows 100 million eligible individuals — the equivalent of the population of Egypt — being left outside the food safety net.
On 12 May 2020, the government announced free of cost food grains for two months under the ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’ package to 80 million people who were not covered under National Food Security Act or State scheme PDS card. However, as of 2 July 2020, only 13% of beneficiaries have received the food grains as was promised under the package.
Focusing on the reverse migration kickstarted by the lockdown, the report sheds light on the lack of opportunities back home for migrant workers. As per the report by the Centre for Policy Research, the average day of work generated under MGNREGA has been declining. The average day of work during 2015–16 was 49 which further declined to 41 days of work per rural household during 2018–19.
At least 10 states following the path of Uttar Pradesh govt have suspended important labour laws like the Minimum Wages Act including, The Maternity Benefit Act year, etc to “attract investors”. The report states that “The suspension of labour laws might increase the further exploitation of informal workers, as it will allow the employers to downsize their workforce at will and force workers to work for more than eight hours during a day, as opposed to what is currently mandated by the law.”
The International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC’s) Global Rights Index 2016 ranks India as one of the worst countries for labour rights with the potential for proposed labour law reforms to worsen the situation. “The pandemic has highlighted the highly precarious nature of employment in the unorganised sector as well the inability of social protection schemes to deliver its benefits to the people it was designed for — the economically and socially vulnerable,” the report noted.