2. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of many population groups. What in your opinion are the most adversely impacted populations? What measures would you suggest to provide relief to those groups? Discuss.
चल रहे COVID-19 महामारी ने कई जनसंख्या समूहों की कमजोरियों को उजागर किया है। आपकी राय में सबसे अधिक प्रभावित आबादी क्या है? आप उन समूहों को राहत देने के लिए क्या उपाय सुझाएंगे? चर्चा करें।
Demand of the question:
It expects students to observe the vulnerabilities of many population groups which are exposed due to COVID-19 pandemic. It also expects students to express their opinion on which population group is the most adversely affected and suggest measures to provide relief to those groups.
The economic crisis induced by COVID‐19 could be long, deep, and pervasive when viewed through migration lens. Lockdowns, travel bans, and social distancing have brought global economic activities to a near standstill. In India there are multiple socio-economic disadvantages that members of particular groups experience which limits their access to health and healthcare.
The vulnerable groups which are exposed to their vulnerabilities during COVID-19 pandemic are- Women, Children, Students, Aged, Disabled, Poor migrants, unorganised sectors workers, People living with ailments and Sexual Minorities. The COVID-19 pandemic affected these vulnerable sections of population differently:
- While children’s health appears less impacted by COVID-19 than older adults, children’s education are interrupted, protective structures disrupted and their families and communities placed under stress by health and economic burdens.
- COVID-19 pandemic, increased girls’ and young women’s duties caring for elderly and ill family members, as well as for siblings who are out of school.
- Girls, especially those from marginalised communities and with disabilities, may be particularly affected by the secondary impacts of the outbreak. It also put at women at greater risk of exploitation, child labour and gender-based violence.
- The impact on older adults is notable. According to World Health Organization (WHO) data from April 2020, more than 95% of COVID-19 deaths were among people over 60 years of age, and more than half of all deaths occurred in people of 80 years-plus.
However, we know that COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown forced the industries, factories, cities to standstill. It affected the poor people in the city, migrant workers and their dependents, more harshly than the other sections of the population.
- As per Economic survey 2017, there are 139 million migrants in the country. The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicted that due to the pandemic and the lockdown, about 400 million workers would be poverty-stricken.
- Migrant workers majorly comprise of daily-wage labourers working in the manufacturing and construction industries. They are often denied adequate healthcare, nutrition, housing and sanitation facilities. Many have no savings and lived in factory dormitories, which were shut due to the lockdown.
- Additionally, there was no central registry of migrant workers, despite the existence of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979.
- Thousands of migrants gathered at the train termini and bus stations, seeking transport to their hometowns. With the nationwide lockdown, all transport facilities were closed. With no work and no money, and lockdown restrictions putting a stop to public transport, thousands of migrant workers were seen walking or bicycling hundreds of kilometres (or even more than a thousand kilometres) to go back to their native villages, some with their families.
- Due to the lockdown, more than 300 deaths were reported till 5 May, with reasons ranging from starvation, suicides, exhaustion, road and rail accidents,police brutality and denial of timely medical care.
- While government schemes ensured that the poor would get additional rations due to the lockdown, the distribution system failed to be effective as the ration cards are area-specific and fair price shops were largely inaccessible.
Measures to provide relief to these groups:
- First of all an online database needs to be created to register the names and places of origin and migration of the workers e.g. An online database named as National Migrant Information System (NMIS), by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). It will help streamline the movement of the migrant workers.
- Setting up of relief camp, facilitating food and healthcare to the poor people, migrants should be priority for the regions where transport facility is not available. e.g. Over 500 hunger relief centres were set up by the Delhi government. One nation One ration card scheme by Union government.
- Arranging the interstate transport facility for the migrants so that their migration can be streamlined. e.g. Shramic special trains were arranged by the Government.
- Relief measures also needs to be announced. For instance, Soon after the nationwide lockdown was announced in late March, Finance ministry announced a ₹1.7 lakh crore spending plan for the poor. This consisted of cash transfers and steps to ensure food security.
- Though these vulnerable sections were the mostly affected it doesn’t mean that other section of people faced less difficulties. The scale of adversities faced by different sections of people were different hence, necessary arrangements also needs to be implemented. e.g. now a days it is happening that health sector workers fell more prone to the COVID-19 infection. Which is a emerging challenge.
Hence, we can say that COVID-19 pandemic’s impact differs in its scale in different sections of people. But, the most affected one’s are the people who belonged to the vulnerable section of population. As ensuring the healthcare and providing adequate means of livelihood for all is one of the responsibility of the government. Poor people and migrant workers can’t be left outside this ambit.