State must respond to needs of the poor

An interim report by YUVA recommends how to plug gaps in implementation of relief work

June 24, 2020 12:10 am | Updated 12:10 am IST - Mumbai

Ground work:  Volunteers from YUVA conducting surveys in various parts of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The report is based on reponses from 7,515 households from the urban poor section of the region.

Ground work: Volunteers from YUVA conducting surveys in various parts of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The report is based on reponses from 7,515 households from the urban poor section of the region.

An interim report on the ‘Access to Entitlements and Relief among the urban poor in Mumbai Metropolitan Region during Covid-19,’ prepared by Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) highlights the prevailing and continued anxiety over survival amongst the poor. The question marks over future livelihood, distressed families in debt, and lack of any savings further adds to their uncertainties.

“YUVA has been actively engaged in relief work for past three months of lockdown across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region in the urban poor section. This interim report is based on the survey of 7,515 households in this region,” said Roshni Nugehalli, executive director, YUVA. A detailed report, with results of survey of over 15,000 households, will be released next month.

In the interim report, recommendations have been made to the three levels of governance — central, State and local — keeping in mind relief packages that have already been announced, with pointers to enable access and plug gaps in implementation. Immediate actions by local and State governments to respond to immediate needs of the poor in the region are suggested, along with medium-term and long-term measures for the post-COVID situation.

“The Government of India must bring out a central mandate to allow provision of emergency ration cards in an attempt to universalise the Public Distribution System (PDS). There are a large number of workers and families who do not possess ration cards in their current place of residence,” the interim report said.

For the State government, it recommended a fast-track process at every Fair Price Shop (FPS) / ration shop to issue emergency ration cards issued based on current place of residence which will help millions of poor workers in securing food. “These can be for six months, and with these ration cards, people can access the benefits announced by the Government of Maharashtra under the PDS,” the report recommended.

Local civic bodies can ensure FPS shops register individuals, families or groups of migrant workers living together and issue them a single ration card. Each FPS should have a jurisdiction of slums and low income neighbourhoods for this fast-track emergency ration card preparation to avoid duplication, the interim report says.

The Maharashtra government has announced a direct transfer of ₹2,000 into the accounts of all construction workers registered under the Building and Other Construction Worker’s (BOCW) Welfare Board.

“The Board has currently over ₹7,482.33 crore collected through building cess. Those who are unregistered must be encouraged to do so through a simple non-bureaucratic process and the government should disassociate the 90-day work certificates as proof to be registered. It will be of enormous help to construction workers,” it said.

The report has also recommended measures such as expanding the scope of central government’s scheme of direct cash transfer; ensuring Ujjwala gas access to all poor households; loan benefits under National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) to be spread through self help groups; waiver on rentals in all slums for three months; child protection committees at the ward level under the leadership of the corporators for the well-being, nutrition and protection; and municipal and private schools to make arrangements for free access to technology if the lockdown persists for educational institutions.

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