Many stranded migrants surviving by eating frugally: Report

Deccan Chronicle.  | Aditya Chunduru

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An alarmingly high number of migrant workers are still unable to get any cooked food or dry ration

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Hyderabad: A report authored by a group of researchers and academics brings to light the troubles of migrant workers across the country because of the lockdown.

The group, Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), has collected the distress calls of over 11,000 workers from across the country.

Their report confirms news reports that despite the promises of the central goverment and various state governments, an alarmingly high number of migrant workers are still unable to get any cooked food or dry ration.

One of the most startling observations of the SWAN report is that half of all respondents said they would run out of ration in less than a day and 71 per cent said they would run out in less than two days. Several of the workers said they were conserving their ration by eating frugally.

One group of 240 workers from Bengaluru reportedly ate only one meal a day.

Ninety-six per cent of the respondents said that they hadn’t received any ration from government agencies. Around 70 per cent said they hadn’t received any cooked food from the government or charitable institutions.

The worst performer, the report found, was Uttar Pradesh. Things in states such as Delhi and Haryana were much better, where a higher percentage had access to cooked food.

The researchers note that their report is not based on a sample survey, and the results are likely to portray the experiences of people who are worst-affected by the lockdown.

Sakina Dhorajiwala, one of the authors of the report and a researcher at LibTech India, said, “The people who have called us are completely at their wits end. They have no options. Those who are in a slightly better position are not represented here.”

However, Ms Dhorajiwala noted that SWAN is tracking the respondents’ condition since March 27, and there wasn’t much improvement in most cases.

According to the report, a vast majority (78 per cent) have less than Rs 300 left. Roughly 79 per cent of respondents were daily wage labourers or construction workers whose average daily-wage prior to lockdown was Rs 402. An even more alarming statistic is that 70 per cent of them have less than Rs 200 saved up, roughly half their daily wage.

Almost all the respondents (98 per cent) said they hadn’t received any cash relief from state governments. A few had got Rs 500 credited to their Jan Dhan Yojana accounts.

“It is clear that hunger is rising, and the distribution of resources to the hungry is unable to keep up with the requirement,” Ms Dhorajiwala said.

The report reads: ‘There is a 14 percentage point increase in the proportion of people saying that they have just one day of ration left in the third week of lockdown. However, there is only a three percentage point increase in the proportion of people getting government ration supplies in the same period.’

This indicates that people are becoming hungrier five times faster than the rate at which the government is able to reach the needy.

The report has data until April 13. SWAN is continuing to collate responses from workers. It is also working to improve its network of volunteers and coverage in the country. The group plans on updating the numbers periodically