COVID-19 Relief Work
Maarga has been actively involved in supporting the slum dwelling and migrant workers with relief and their other entitlements during the national lockdown due to COVID-19 disease/ disaster. Our work has been featured in The News Minute and The Indian Express.
The sudden announcement of lockdown was an unexpected event which caused unprecedented sustenance crises for daily wage earners, unorganized workers, domestic workers, drivers, physically challenged, transgenders, and migrant workers even struggled to meet the day-to-day need for living.
The public institutional support system was ill-prepared and inefficient to respond to the crisis of this proportion as the situation was totally unanticipated. Sensing the gravity of the situation, MAARGA initially mobilized the resources to distribute the food packets to the needy and ensured that they must reach the most vulnerable.
However, being rooted in the community, soon MAARGA realized that instead of food packets, community members are more interested in dry ration as it offers the flexibility of making the food as per their own taste. This realization led to Maarga’s effort in making dry ration available to community members.
You can continue reading about our Covid Intervention below.
While we worked with daily wage earners, unorganised workers, domestic workers, drivers, physically challenged, transgenders to provide relief support, we also witnessed the real grief, agony and difficulties of migrant workers who are facing in isolated location in Bangalore while doing relief work.
Migrant workers of Jharkhand, Bihar, Bengal are especially more vulnerable than others. As a stranded lot, they face indifference, exclusion and sometimes insult and antipathy from local people. Their labour contractors, employers are completely out of reach to seek any sort of help. The migrant workers who are living in the slums, especially from the north-east including Bengal and Nepal face complete isolation and were not able to reach out even to the neighbors to seek any help or support in this hours of hunger and deprivation. The locals wrongly attribute the spread of corona virus to ones from north-east and there have been cases of abuses, hate, and threats.
The government does not have any form of data of the migrant workers in Bangalore. These migrant workers are let to mend themselves in temporary sheds and single room accommodations, wherein 5-7 people have to stay together at times. They are living in subhuman living conditions, both as bachelors and some with their families. The COVID-19 national shutdown has thrown them out of gear without any source of livelihood, income to manage. The relief work such as dry ration kit/cooked food distribution done by NGO's, political outfits, individuals has not reached all. Since most of the workers do not have ration cards/voter cards, they are left bereft of relief support and are being made to live as "non-citizens" in the city.
Our Relief Work
Maarga initially organised relief program in the urban slums focusing on the daily wage earners, unorganised workers, domestic workers, drivers, physically challenged, transgenders and migrant workers suddenly we realised the plight of migrant workers stranded in different parts of the city and who are our guest worker from the backward regions/states/UTs of India.
We received a data base from an NGO working in Hyderabad of about 30,000 migrant workers all from Odisha working in Bangalore. When we reached out to their residences and called their phone numbers, 98% of their phone numbers were found correct. We also realised that there are more number of vulnerable migrant workers residing apart from the ones in colonies of workers from Odisha.
Majority of the migrant workers seem to live in ignorance and have no awareness about the necessary precautions that need to be followed in the context of COVID-19. Atleast 95% workers we met during relief support were not wearing face masks or maintaining physical distance. The vulnerability indicators of migrant workers from seem to be different for each group of workers. There is a critical need to document their stories and have them expressed in atleast a few different states - Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam/Manipur and Uttar Pradesh.
Maarga has so far distributed 26000 food packets, reached out to 4000 families with dry rations, including 1800 migrant workers. Through crowd-funding and other initiatives, Maarga has also mobilised a total of 17.25 Lakh Rupees, of which 5 Lakh Rupees are from individuals and 12.25 Lakhs from Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (APPI).
While we reached out to migrant workers as part of Mukti Karnataka, we also mobilised ration kits from Gubbachi NGO, Hasiru dala and International Justice Mission. We thank all donors, supporters, volunteers, and others for joining hands with Maarga in its mission and providing continous support.
With an absolute dearth of information or data of the migrant workers working in Bangalore, it becomes difficult for any intervention to be implemented amongst the migrant workers. Also, the migrant workers we met during our relief work are ignorant and unaware of precautionary measures to be undertaken with respect to COVID-19.
Hence, data collection and processing about every single migrant worker is the crucial need along with documentation of their stories and facilitation of health awareness.
The present relief phase will naturally walk into rehabilitation phase.