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The wide gap between government facilitated relief and people’s access

By June 23, 2020December 23rd, 2023No Comments

Urban poor families across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region continue to struggle with lack of access to relief and entitlements

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only an unprecedented health crisis but has also resulted in unparalleled loss of livelihood. In India, the worst affected have been the urban poor, a large majority of whom are migrant workers who work in cities and often send remittances homes to their families in the rural areas. Weeks into a suddenly announced lockdown, with no income and fast running out of meagre savings to purchase food and basic necessities, the country witnessed a massive reverse migration of this vast population.

Soon after, the Central and State Governments announced relief packages for the millions of vulnerable people. The Central Government’s 21,000 billion+ packages included, among other aspects, announcement of:

  • Direct cash transfers to several categories, including women holding Jan Dhan accounts.
  • Additional supply of food grains (5 kg wheat/rice and 1 kg preferred pulse) free of cost for three months under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
  • Free gas cylinders for three months to women under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
  • Directions to the State governments to utilize 31 billion under Building and Other Construction Worker’s Fund to support construction workers.
  • Collateral free loans worth up to 2 million for women self help groups (SHGs) registered with National Urban Livelihoods Mission.

On 14 May 2020, the Finance Minister announced the second tranche of India’s second special relief package of 20,000 billion for migrant workers, farmers and the urban poor among others.

Among the Maharashtra Government’s measures was announced:

  • The stocking up of the Public Distribution System (PDS) ration shops with food grains for six months with 2.5 billion allocated for this. Later, however, the state government mentioned that the additional free ration announced by the Centre would only be available post the purchase of the regular quota allotted to the household, making the free ration inaccessible to several households who do not have a ration card. In April, the state government approved a scheme to provide 3 kg of wheat at INR 8/kg and 2 kg of rice at INR 12/kg to saffron ration cardholders for the month of May and June, providing some respite to the state’s middle class population.
  • As directed by the Centre, the state government on 18 April announced a payment of INR 2,000 to each construction worker registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers board through Direct Benefit Transfer

YUVA’s rapid needs assessment of the situation among the urban poor in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region in March 2020 provided an insight into hardships being faced by people even prior to the lockdown and assisted in developing YUVA’s intervention strategy for the coming weeks which have aimed to:

  • Provide relief and support to protect the dignity of people in distress
  • Ensure access to state-provided entitlements
  • Ensure people’s agency in the access of rights.

All households that have been provided relief through the provision of dry rations in 6 cities across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region between 20 March–28 April form the universe of the interim report Access to Entitlements and Relief among the Urban Poor in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region during COVID-19 which has highlight the following revealing trends:

  1. While free grain through the Public Distribution System is a crucial relief measure, 37 per cent households surveyed were unable to secure subsidised or free food grains from the PDS due to the lack of a ration card.
  2. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana that provides free cooking fuel (LPG cylinders) — expanded as a relief measure to ensure cooking fuel for 3 months — was accessed by only 6.36 per cent of the total households surveyed. Many vulnerable households in dire need of food and cooking gas have not been able to access the same.
  3. With only 32.27 per cent of the households having a bank account in the name of the woman of the household, access to cash transfers to Jan Dhan accounts would only reach a small percentage of households in need.
  4. The same can be seen with regard to cash transfers for construction workers. Only 5.29 per cent reported being registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Board, the first step to accessing the cash transfer.
  5. Livelihood regeneration will assume significance and larger collateral-free loans are required by self-employed groups. However, only 1.13 per cent of the total households surveyed reported having a family member registered with the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) self-help groups.

To read the interim report, which also includes recommendations for decision-makers, click here.

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