Alternative Livelihood Opportunities Need to be Created at Migrants' Source in Context of COVID 19
The spread of Covid 19 across the country and subsequent lock down has badly affected the lives of the poorest section of our population specially migrants, small and marginalized farmers, land less laborers, unorganized sectors, single women, women headed household, destitute and aged people with no support.
The fear of loss of livelihood has been witnessed into large exodus of millions of migrants returning to their native places. Most of them travel barefoot with their families bundling up all their belongings---including infant, toddler, pregnant women, youth, and disable, elderly—covered hundreds of kilometres without any basic amenities. The current migration has been considered as the largest post partition migration in the history of India. Marginalized community with low income are more likely to be affected from CORONA as they are more likely to live in small areas and are engaged in informal livelihood avenues and thus the first one to be affected. Their inability to bear the cost of health care services, nutritional food makes the situation worse for them. The uncertain future in front of them, little savings and poor social security net make them more vulnerable and deprived. Their social and food security safety nets need to be strengthened and advocacy need to be done at various levels to ensure that poor and marginalized get their legitimate entitlements.
For Civil society organizations/charity organizations, urgency lies in the fact that rural economy needs to be revived as soon as possible. Apart from agriculture and agriculture allied activities, focus should also be on non-farm sectors like artisans, hand loom, handicraft, small cooperatives, processing units etc The idea of skill building and setting up small scale industries in rural areas, in addition to prioritizing agriculture and allied sector could be one of the best way to tackle the current situation . CSOs have started collecting data with an aim to map the skills available amongst migrants who have arrived. The skill related data base will enable all the CSOs to design livelihood strategies for the migrants in the long run. The skill gap assessment and preparing a plan for using skills of returnees for local development, promotion of local enterprises that focuses on non- farm sectors are very critical in the current context. Policy advocacy interventions can also be planned with an aim to give relief to farmers for loan wavier as the lock down has jeopardized the agriculture very badly.
MGNREGA is the need of the hour as millions of migrants have come back to their villages with no livelihood options. As a result there has been surge in demand for work under MGNREGA in past few weeks. MGNREGA is primarily for unskilled work. Masons are getting work under MGNREGA but the scheme cannot provide avenues to other skilled workers. This is an area of concern. Various civil society organizations have taken this opportunity by facilitating the process of demanding jobs and those who have no job cards to provide cards with the help of sarpanch and panchayat secretary. Efforts have been taken to include most of the card holders for MGNREGA work and the work has been started in most of our operational area.
As agriculture session is coming and people have no money to hire labor in this condition CSOs have encouraged our leaders to motivate community to work collectively from each other in which time and money will be saved. Our existing strength of people's organization, youth leaders, platforms, networks, CBOs will have to be reoriented in view of existing corona crisis and possible ways of dealing with the situation.
Developing micro plan with panchayat: To raise demand for work at various places in operational area micro plans have been conducted in consultation with community and as per the need and requirement developed plan and submitted to panchayats for MGNREGA work. Special support to specially communities like physically challenged people have been identified and provide dry ration like rice, pulses etc through community contribution and request has been put at the panchayat and bock level officials for future support .
Linkage and collaborate with government departments like agriculture for supply and support of agricultural inputs: During the lock down community consume their seeds which they keep for paddy/wheat cultivation. Linkages with departments help them in accessing benefits in terms of seed/manure/technology etc
NTFP collection and marketing: Non Timber Forest Produce is another very vital part of tribal economy. This has become more important during covid time. Govt has allowed to collect NTFP with certain Dos and Don’t. CSOs have encouraged forest dwellers in operational area to collect NTFP and sell it at the local market though nationwide lock down has cast a shadow on the trade of NTFP as weekly markets are not functioning and traders are not allowed to move freely in nearby towns.
This is also the time to think about the social security slabs, fixed income, special packages, housing, health care, cash transfers and other social measures so that the migrants don’t have to go through such difficulty, depend on others and would not be exploited. Sudden emergence of migrant’s crisis resulting from outbreak of Covid 19 has flagged the issue of strategizing approach while integrating concerns of migrants with development interventions. Issues related with Hunger, Food Security, Livelihood and Health issues will emerge with more intensity in near future and affecting a larger population, where, priorities need to be reset with identification of most needy and vulnerable people. For this purpose we need to develop sharp criteria’s for the inclusion of the people in our future programme interventions so that our resources reaches to most needy and disadvantaged people in the post Covid-19 scenario.
Contextual understanding of whole scenario with a DRR perspective and its integration to our development interventions is very much required as this has become more challenging than any other Disaster we have faced in the history, where our physical presence is restricted not only because of the fear of infection but this is the technical requirement as well to deal with the epidemic with different capacities and skills along with variety of preparedness available at various levels