Migrant workers wait in line to board a bus at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border | Photo : Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
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New Delhi: It’s a double whammy for migrant labourers and workers in the unorganised sector. Not only have they lost their livelihoods in the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, but many of them don’t have bank accounts, which means they will not get the benefit of the Rs 1.7 lakh-crore economic relief package that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced last week.

Sitharaman had said that 80 crore poor people will benefit from the package, but these are beneficiaries who have bank accounts into which the government can directly transfer money. The number of poor and homeless who do not have bank accounts might be small, but the government has not figured out how to reach out to them.

By the time the package was announced, many of these migrant labourers and unorganised sector workers had already left their place of work and had crossed borders on the way to their villages. With the government deciding to seal borders, these people are now stranded in the middle of nowhere without food or shelter, or in cities they have never lived or worked in and where they know nobody. Only a handful of them stayed back at their places of work.

“The government has said that employers should pay the wages of all labourers employed with them. But where are these labourers going to get their wages from, now that they have left the cities they were working in? A majority of them don’t carry any documents and don’t have bank accounts either,” said social activist Nikhil Dey, also a Right to Food campaigner.


Also read: Tablighi Jamaat blames ‘govt planning’ as BJP, AAP attack it for spike in Covid-19 cases


No strategy in place for those without accounts

Workers without bank accounts include temporary construction workers who have come to cities from villages and lived at construction sites as well as a segment of service providers like maids and drivers.

Multiple sources in the government said, as of now, there is no strategy in place for this segment of the population.

“These people can go to any of the food distribution centres in the cities they are presently in and get free meals. But there is no provision to give them any subsistence allowance,” said a government official who did not want to be named.

The official said the penetration of bank accounts in the country is about 90 per cent. These include the nearly 38.3 crore bank accounts that have been opened until date under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet Jan Dhan Yojana. Of these, more than 20 crore accounts are in the names of the women of the household.

“All of them will benefit from the economic relief package,” the official said.

The government has contended that it has managed to ensure a bank account for every household. According to Census 2011, there were nearly 25 crore households in India.

A finance ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, said the government has, through its announcements, tried to reach a vast section of India’s population.

“Be it through free foodgrains, free cooking gas, MGNREGA or benefit to construction workers, the aim has been to reach the maximum number of the vulnerable population,” the finance ministry official said, adding that even before the Covid-19 crisis, instructions were issued to banks to facilitate the opening of accounts.

To be sure, opening bank accounts at branches will be easier said than done in the current scenario for those workers who are left out.

From 27 March, banks have been offering only basic facilities at their branches, including cash deposits and withdrawals, clearing of cheques, remittances and government transactions, the Indian Banks’ Association said in a statement.


Also read: ‘No one wants to go near them’ — returning migrant workers in Bihar face social boycott


Give dry rations

Activists like Dey are now demanding that the government give dry ration food packets to the hundreds and thousands of labourers stuck across cities.

“The government should direct the states to give dry ration to all the migrant labourers, without any paperwork. The government has opened food distribution centres, but it will be a logistical challenge to provide food twice a day to the hundreds and thousands of labourers who are stranded across the country,” Dey said.


Also read: Sanitisers to migrant shelters — Rajasthan’s Covid-19 fight is a public-private venture


 

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5 Comments Share Your Views

5 COMMENTS

  1. I recall a photograph etched in my memorary since very very long time.. ..it showed a skinny farmer irrigating it’s near barren farm field by a pumpset from a tube well in back ground of huge dam (BhakraNangal)… This is the reality which remains even after so many many years while we keep allowing these politicians to continue to fool us by superlative speeches n emotions…
    They will never really fund the education n implementation systems (except symbolic) otherwise who will vote or let them fill their own or party coffers….
    We can continue with ignorants debate n time pass posts…

  2. When Modi government would distribute money in poor people I want to ask one question to modi, he said don’t go outside, as you know we would not go outside but we have no another way as I am student I’m reading 11th I have stuck out from house ,when I have no money and I have no eating for something when will you tell me what will I do these days

  3. Makes sense. How can GOI distribute money unless those people are registered. GOI sent people home to create account, AADHAR and get India follow a system however opposition and leftists created hurdles. How do you expect GOI to distribute money now? Deliver cash? Which we all know will not even reach to the poor folks.

    GOI can only deliver money to bank accounts for proper utilization of funds. Its time for anti-Modi to introspect and think and probably feel sorry too.

  4. When Modi Govt initiated Jan Dhan Bank account all over India with high spirit,Opposition party,their supporters in stooge Journalists were laughing & mocking Govt at sky high. But Govt boldly implemented & opened 38 Cr Bank accounts in record time which is now become easy to deposit subsidy in fraction of seconds. As far Labors concerned,they migrate from place to place & it is impossible to make them open Bank Account. Since most of them are homeless,stay in construction site etc, may not be able to use ration given. Let them get food for period of shut down period of 21 days. It is better Journalist keep silent & not to give crazy un-implementable ideas. The Author of article can visit Labors & ask Labors whether they have house & utilize ration. If substantial no of Labors have house , than contact Kejri Govt & arrange ration. Simply sitting in AC office Room & writing article won’t help labors.

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