‘Hardly a Relief Package’: Ground Reality of Maha Lockdown Plan
Though the government claims that it has allocated Rs 3,000 crore as relief funds, the ground reality is different.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government made headlines when relief packages were announced for the unorganised and organised sectors before a lockdown due to rising COVID cases was imposed on 14 April. However, an investigation by The Quint exposed that the ground reality and implementation of these policies are a stark contrast from what was proposed.
While announcing the lockdown restrictions, Chief Minister Thackeray had said that the state government has allocated Rs 5,500 crore to provide food and financial assistance to families, women, senior citizens, windows, the disabled, unorganised sector workers, and the economically weaker sections of the society.
According to information received by The Quint, the government has stated it has allocated Rs 3,000-4,000 crore under the various schemes so far.
The Quint received exclusive access to the list of schemes that the Maharashtra government has proposed and the claims under them:
Grain Security Scheme Beneficiary (Free Grain):
Scheme Objective: 3 kg of wheat per person, 2 kg of rice free grain for one month
Scheme Claimed: As of 24 May, 2,74,211.22 metric tonnes of free grain has been distributed to the beneficiaries.
Shivbhojan Thali Scheme:
Scheme Objective: Free 2 lakh Shivbhojan thali for one month.
Scheme Claimed: Till 25 May, 54,12,430 platters have been given to the needy.
Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, Centre-Awarded Indira Gandhi Senior Citizen, Widow, and Divyang Pension Schemes:
Scheme Objective: As of 22 April 2021, Rs 435 crore funds have been issued under the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, Rs 870 crore to the Shravan Bal Yojana, and Rs 123.5 crore were allocated under various pension schemes.
Scheme Claimed: Out of the total of Rs 1,428.50 crore released by these welfare schemes, only Rs 850.28 crore has reached the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) account of the beneficiaries till 24 May.
Registered Construction Workers Welfare Scheme:
Scheme Objective: A one-time payment of Rs 1,500 from the Maharashtra Construction Workers Welfare Board Fund.
Scheme Claimed: 10,33,000 labourers out of total 12 lakh have deposited Rs 154,95,000 in the DBT account till 24 May.
Household Worker Scheme:
Scheme Objective: Rs 15,82,50,000 was allocated to 1.55 lakh domestic workers under the scheme.
Scheme Claimed: Only 2,295 beneficiaries are eligible for the scheme, who have so far deposited Rs 34,42,500 in their DBT accounts.
Street Vendors Welfare Scheme:
Scheme Objective: For a total of 4,11,745 street vendors, a fund of Rs 61.75 crore has been allocated for the distribution of Rs 1,500 to each vendor.
Scheme Claimed: Only 3,47,000 beneficiaries have received deposits under the scheme. 64,666 vendors are yet to get their share.
Auto Rickshaw and Cycle Rickshaw Driver Welfare Schemes:
Scheme Objective: A portal has been launched to provide Rs 1,500 to rickshaw drivers.
Scheme Claimed: 7.20 lakh auto rickshaw drivers and 509 cycle rickshaw drivers are still in the process of being provided with the financial assistance.
Scheme Objective: Rs 3,300 crore has been made available to all districts for the management of COVID-19.
Scheme Claimed: Due to COVID-19, funds amounting to Rs 3,300 crore have been disbursed for medicines, equipment, facility construction, and other arrangements in all districts.
However, after analysing the official numbers and the speaking to beneficiaries, we found that many workers were unable to get any consolidation under the scheme.
“7,000 women are registered in this organisation out of 26,500 women. But in all these, only a few women have received help money. Due to the lockdown, most of the women are not able to get the registration renewal due to which they have been held ineligible. The number of domestic women workers in the entire state is about 35 to 40 lakh. In such a situation, only two-and-a-half thousand women are eligible. Is it not a joke?” Marathe said.
‘Rs 1,500 Is Not Enough Even for a Week’
Similarly, construction workers and street vendors have only been disappointment instead of getting help from the state government.
Dadasaheb Dongre, a former member of the Maharashtra Construction Workers Welfare Board, says, “The relief package that the government has announced is actually part of the developers cess. This cess fund has always been allotted to construction workers. There have been no funds that have been allocated by the state.”
“Labourers are dependent on the government to receive the money. For a lockdown which has lasted over 1.5 months, Rs 1,500 is not enough to sustain even for a week.”Dadasaheb Dongre, Former Member of the Maharashtra Construction Workers Welfare Board.
Must Step Out to Earn: Rickshaw Drivers Affected
The lockdown in the state has severely impacted over 15 lakh rickshaw drivers in Maharashtra and 30 thousand taxi drivers in Mumbai.
Shashank Rao, Chairman of the Maharashtra Rickshaw - Taxi Malak-Chalak Kriti Samiti, says, “During the lockdown, transport has been hit so bad that about 25 percent of the rickshaws have been seized due to non-payment of bank installments. If we do not get out, we do not have an income.”
“In a city like Mumbai, where almost 2 lakh rickshaws ply, a driver earns about Rs 500-1,000 a day during normal times. However, due to the lockdown, there is no income and almost Rs 20 crore of the income is lost every day in Mumbai. We demand that drivers should be paid at least Rs 10,000 per month, which will aid in sustaining their families. But we are not getting any help from the government,” Rao said.
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