An analysis of Government Resolutions, Advisories and Circulars issued by the Government of India and the Government of Gujarat and certain recommendations by the Centre for Social Justice team:
- As per circulars issued by the Ministry Of Labour & Employment, New Delhi, and the Labour Department, as also the circular on novel Coronavirus released to Shri Durgashankar Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Urban Affairs, urging the public and private organizations not to reduce the salary of workers/ workers and work of contract workers and work from home, if a worker or employee is identified and absent as suspected to be infected or unaffected by the virus then the person is considered to be present at work and their salary is not to be deducted.
Analysis: Such advisories requesting certain measures are not effective unless the government does not provide for a special package dedicated to this class of citizens affected by the lockdown. Also, in case the employer does not pay the salary, a helpline number for immediate complaint should be setup.
- Collector of Dahod District has circulated a GR for protection of rights of migrant labourers.
Recommendation: A similar GR should be circulated in all districts, especially those that are high in adivasi population for labourers who migrate to other districts and states in search of labour and work as migrant labourers for 6-7 months in the year in areas around districts for e.g. sugarcane cutting and various other labour sectors.
- GR dated 24-03-2020 of the Education Department of Gujarat, talks about the budget allotted for mid-day meals scheme. This cooking cost amount shall be disbursed to children studying with primary schools which are currently closed at the moment due to Coronavirus.
Analysis and Recommendation: Even if the amount is deposited in their bank accounts, availing the same during emergency is not always possible as all modes of transport have been discontinued and banks are located at the district or taluka levels which may not be accessible to people residing in the remote areas. This will affect the Adivasi areas (forest dwelling communities) the most. To resolve this issue it is advisable that either a facility is setup where mid-day meals are directly provided to the eligible children or distribution of grains amounting to the cooking cost is made possible.
- Collector, Ahmedabad District has announced a helpline number 079- 2760511 for all voluntary organizations, persons, institutions, associations, religious places, social and educational organizations etc. who wish to provide for food to poor, labour families.
Recommendation: Similarly, all district collectors should invite organizations and institutions to provide help. Also, their employees can join as paralegal volunteers under the State Legal Service Authority so that people can be provided urgently required legal help.
- The Honorable High Court of Gujarat has ordered for all courts of the State to stop their functions.
Analysis and Recommendations: It has been observed that the paralegal volunteers under the NALSA scheme of Assistance of Legal Services in times of Disaster, the SLSA, DLSA and TLSC should initiate providing relief services at each district and monitor the situations according to the scheme.
- Consumer department circular F.No.S-26/1/2020-ECR&E announced in line of the public announcement by Government of India dated 21.03.2020 deciding upon the price of masks and hand sanitizers, declaring them as essential commodities.
Analysis: Masks as well as hand sanitizers still remain unavailable even at medical stores which calls for an urgent action from the government to produce masks and hand sanitizers and distribute them free of cost or at highly subsidized rates to the public at large, especially in Taluka and village level.
Critique of the Pradhan mantri Gareeb Kalyan Package:
An insurance scheme of Rs. 50 lakh has been announced for health workers fighting against Covid-19 at government hospitals and healthcare centres. In districts like Amreli, help in this regard is being availed from ASHA workers to undertake survey of people who have returned from outside. However this insurance scheme does not provide for such workers along with the police force, home guard etc. who are doing their duty at various checkpoints and roads without fear of getting infected by the virus.
For farmers the relief amount to be released was declared to be Rs 2000. This must be increased by further Rs. 2000, as the amount which is been given is from an already existing scheme which provides for Rs 6000 annually. So increasing the amount should not be a problem as it has been accounted for in the budget. The farmers who will face loss due to destruction of crops must be adequately compensated. Additionally, for the produced crop, a minimum financial help must be provided and for maximum crop distribution at the village level, the Gram Sabhas and Panchayats must be involved.
The poor, aged citizens, poor widows and poor among disabled people are to be paid Rs. 1000 for the upcoming three months in the next two weeks. However this amount should be more than that in the widow and elderly aid scheme and must also be made available to widows and elderly citizens at the earliest.
Under the MNREGA, each job card holder must be paid daily wages worth 30 days. Also, at places where work has been completed as per the MNREGA but the wages have not been paid, the amount must be paid urgently and an announcement regarding the same must be made.
The Scheme provides for disbursal of an amount of Rs 500 per month to the account of those women who hold Jan Dhan accounts. But these Jan Dhan accounts are in a dire situation and in this case any amount credited to these accounts will not serve the purpose if banks take their charge on such amount. Furthermore, these banks are not easily accessible to each person in the public for which postal services can be availed to provide the amount to eligible people. Furthermore, Adivasi women will be the worst affected as they live in remotest parts of the country where banks are quite a few kilometres from the villages.
Under this package grains are being distributed at a decreased rate however there is no plan in place to undertake this distribution scheme. People living in the interiors and remote areas will face the brunt as they won’t be aware of the package and due to severe restrictions made by the state related to transportation, there is high risk of corruption and non-availability as it provides for one and two time provision for ration. In these areas, group Gram Panchayats are functional and in most cases ration shops are shared between four or five villages which make distribution of grains difficult. To resolve this situation it is required that facility of mobile shops distributing grains at decreased rates must be made or the responsibility of home to home distribution should be given to Gram Panchayat Samitis at the village level and in Adivasi areas.