CSJ petition to state govts on activating District Legal Services Authorities: COVID 19 Response

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A Centre for Social Justice  petition to State Governments:

Thousands of labourers are currently stranded with no means of returning home and no access to shelter or food as a result of the COVID 19 lockdown. According to ground reports, migrant labourers have started embarking on dangerous journeys by foot to return home in the absence of any state support.

At such a time, the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) are meant to play an active role pursuant to the National Legal Services Authority’s (NALSA) Scheme For Legal Services to the Victims of Disaster and Scheme for Legal Services to Workers in the Unorganised Sector. According to NALSA’s Disaster scheme, DLSAs are responsible for coordinating with State Disaster Management Committees to facilitate victims’ entitlements under various state schemes/announcements and provide relief, safe transit, shelter, food and medical assistance.

The Scheme calls for the constitution of a core group to ensure implementation of the Scheme. Similarly, the Unorganised Workers Schemes mandates DLSAs to constitute a special cell to facilitate workers’ entitlements under various laws and coordinate with labour welfare boards to provide benefits to workers.

Not only can DLSAs perform the critical coordination/integration function needed at this time, but they can also mobilise their paralegals to fill the human resource gap on the ground through operating helplines, engaging people to deliver ration, disseminate information on government programs for affected communities etc.

As per our assessment, DLSAs in Gujarat, MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are not unable to function due to the following reasons:

  • Phone numbers are not accessible and email IDs are not available or not funcioning functioning
  • DLSAs have not been given directions from State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA) regarding imlementation of the Disaster Victim Scheme
  • DLSA staff members are under quarantine

It took several days of our combined efforts to reach a very cooperative Member Secretary in Gujarat SLSA who shared the mobile numbers of all DLSA Member Secretaries. However, accessibility is a very important aspect at this moment.

There is an urgent need to ensure that migrant labourers and others affected by the lockdown are able to avail benefits under government schemes and get access to shelter, food, safe transit etc. Our demands are as follows:

  1. Annouce a helpline or use existing helplines [childline 1098, abhaya 181, 108 and 100] where people in distress can call to seek assistance.
  2. Proactively seek assistance of civil society organisation who have a grass root base of volunteers who are not able to access the system due to lack of information or proper means of contact
  3. Urgently appoint paralegal volunteers in coordination with local NGOs and provide them with passes and protective gear to coordinate relief activities
  4. Prepare information packages for circulation regarding various announcement in collaboration with local law and media colleges and disseminate it through FM radio, whatsapp and other means
  5. Issue instructions to all DLSAs to implement the Disaster Victims Scheme

Sign this petition HERE to urge SLSAs/DLSAs to activate relevant schemes to provide relief to affected communities.

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