42% of labourers don’t have even a day’s worth rations left: Survey

Centre, States must take steps to prevent hunger deaths, it says

Updated - April 07, 2020 10:33 am IST

Published - April 06, 2020 08:36 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Daily wage earners, labourers and migrant workers are at the greatest risk of economic and social insecurity.

Daily wage earners, labourers and migrant workers are at the greatest risk of economic and social insecurity.

A survey of migrant workers in north and central India has found that 42% of labourers did not even have a day’s worth of rations left and that 90% had lost their only source of income over the past three weeks due to the lockdown imposed by the Centre to curb the spread of COVID-19 .

Also read | India’s efforts to combat COVID-19 have been lauded globally: PM Modi

In its report titled “Voices of the Invisible Citizens”, Delhi-based NGO Jan Sahas said that of the 3,196 migrant construction workers interviewed over the phone from March 27 to March 29, 55% said they used to earn ₹200 to ₹400 per day for four-member families, on average. About 90% of them reported having lost their source of income in the past three weeks and 33% said they were stuck in the cities they had moved to.

Also read |Stream of migrant workers dries up

“A staggering 94% of the workers” were not registered with the state Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards, which “rules out the possibility of availing any of the benefits that the State has declared from its ₹32,000 crore BOCW fund”, the report said. The survey found that 62% of the workers were not aware of the government’s emergency welfare measures and 37% said they did not know how to access existing schemes.

“The Centre must ensure that essential ration provision is uniformly enforced across States. Our survey demonstrates 14% labourers do not have ration cards. Immediate measures must be taken by the Centre and the States to provide them ration to prevent hunger deaths.”

The report recommended that the PM CARES fund should be used to provide income assistance to labourers for the real loss in wages for the next three to six months to prevent debt bondages and forced labour. A total of 31% of the workers said they had loans that they would struggle to pay without employment, the report said, adding that banks should be directed to waive off their debts.

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