90% Workers Lost Livelihood, 94% Ineligible for Govt Relief: Study
According to the survey, 42% workers said that they don’t have enough rations even for a day.
The lockdown imposed due to coronavirus may prove to be catastrophic for India’s poor, especially labourers.
According to a survey conducted by NGO Jan Sahas, “90% labourers (approx) have already lost their source of income in the last three weeks”.
What’s worse is that despite the government of India announcing a compensation for construction workers whose livelihood has suffered due to the lockdown, it may not be easy for the vast majority of workers to avail the compensation.
The survey, which was conducted among 3,196 construction workers across India, says that as many as 94 percent of the workers do not have the Building and Construction Workers identity card required for availing the central government’s compensation.
“A staggering 94% of the workers do not have the Building and Construction Workers identity card, which rules out the possibility of availing any of the benefits that the State has declared from its Rs 32,000 crore BOCW fund."Survey by Jan Sahas
The study pegs the number of workers who may be rendered ineligible at around 5.1 crore.
“If our dataset is representative of the 55 million (5.5 crore) labourers currently employed in the construction sector then more than 51 million (5.1 crore) labourers will not have access to any benefits,” the study says, advising that these labourers should all be brought under the ambit of the board.
According to the study, 17 percent of the labourers surveyed do not have bank accounts, which may make it difficult for them to access the government’s economic benefits.
Jan Sahas advises that they can be paid using “Aadhaar identification and cash payment at doorstep using Gram Panchayat and postal offices”.
Another obstacle to the labourers getting relief is lack of information. According to the survey, 62 percent of the workers said that they did not know how to access the government’s emergency relief measures, while 37 percent said that they were unaware of how to avail of government’s existing schemes.
Crisis of Survival
With no income, many labourers don’t have enough to survive even a day, leave alone the complete duration of the lockdown.
According to the survey, 42 percent of labourers mentioned that they had no ration left even for the day.
But the issue isn’t just lack of money.
“About 33 percent workers mentioned they did not have the money to buy it, 14 percent mentioned that they did not have ration cards and about 12 percent mentioned that they could not access it in their current location as they were migrants,” the study said.
Another major problem is debt. The study says that 31 percent of workers mentioned they have loans and they will find it difficult to repay it without employment.
While the medical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has itself been a major challenge, the economic impact of the lockdown is likely to be even worse. There have already been reports of hunger deaths and of migrant labourers dying trying to walk their way home. It remains to be seen whether the government’s relief measures reach those who need them and whether they are even adequate in the first place.
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