COVID-19 Relief Efforts
SII has been active in supporting Indian worker community, especially migrants, in relatively remote parts of Manesar, Gurgaon, in a number of ways:
(a) During the Wave 1 lock-down: Supported the time-sensitive need in the relatively remote worker communities in and around Manesar, Gurgaon. As factories stopped production and workers lost their income and often homes, SII distributed 450,000+ adult ration units, 25,000+ masks, and helped 250+ workers get back home.
(b) Push for government support: During this period, SII also reported on the impact of the lockdown on workers’ jobs and wages and worked with ESIC to push for Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana scheme (unemployment benefit) for wage loss compensation during the pandemic. Many SII recommendations were accepted by ESIC in October 2020, contributing significantly to increasing disbursements from Rs 56 crores to Rs 80 crores now (October 2021) SII has since helped 1,500+ workers apply to access this scheme and of these, 300+ workers have received a huge amount of compensation. Updates on all these activities were reported on SII’s blog and its summary is here.
(c) Supplied much-needed and difficult to source 80 large oxygen tanks to ESIC Hospitals in Bihar, Karnataka and Delhi that cater to more than 5 lakh workers in these hospitals.
(d) Started a regular survey of workers on ESIC services during these Covid times called ESIC KI BAAT AAP KAY SAATH to provide this feedback to ESIC to improve their services.
(e) Vaccinated 1000 workers in community centre, Manesar and planning another 1.000 in November 2021. These vaccinations are not only important for their health, but often a pre-requisite to find a job as many factories had made it mandatory but refused to pay for them, when we tried but were happy to send workers to our camps for free vaccinations.
We will continue to provide Covid relief as and when needed in our communities, where we see a gap in provision of such services from the government and/or employing industries.
Plans for Covid-19 Wave 2
There are six initiatives being developed, with the aim to make the most impact on migrant worker communities using our strengths, while avoiding duplication of other good initiatives in the region. We are not rushing into quick fixes as India and its poor will need assistance in this for several months; we would therefore rather fill gaps left open by others. These will, therefore, evolve as things are changing very quickly on the ground and we will need to be nimble to assist in real needs rather than get fixated on any ideas:
Set up Oxygen generation capacity in ESIC Hospitals
As many of them are short in this capacity. This is a long term solution for growing number of workers insured under ESIC – up from c.40m to c.45m (+ their family members) in about last 3 years. Our (and others’) recommendations has apparently reached PMO and they have allocated funds for this, but as of this morning the two ESIC hospitals we are in touch with, that cover probably more than 1m workers, are not satisfied with the oxygen plants being offered to them and have sought assistance. One plant agreed in principle with ESIC
Supply oxygen concentrators/cylinders in areas of dire need
The extreme shortage of oxygen, oxygen cylinders in India is well covered in the media. Chinese imports of mixed quality may not be the answer. Better quality hardware is needed in areas where main stream distribution does not reach.
Provide an income source to worker community through start of a regular survey programme (“Bolo Toh Jaane”) on ESIC’s Covid services
Workers will conduct regular surveys, based on participatory research principles as far as practical, of their fellow workers on ESIC’s health and compensation services that are needed by about 14 crore Indian workers and families. ESIC has declared a number of Covid relief services which have mixed quality of delivery. Quick regular feedback will help thousands, if not lacs of workers eg. a better unemployment scheme can disburse 500+ crore rupees compared to Rs50 crores now. A better vaccination process through their 1000+ dispensaries and/or better covid bed allocation to workers (who do not have the connections we have) can help thousands of workers, who do not have access to quality care. The surveys will also empower these workers with knowledge of ESIC benefits for the long term. This initiative pilot has started this week with a manual survey, and can be expanded to 1000+ workers with time and investment in survey expertise and technology with the right partners. This programme can even reach villages where workers have gone back in UP, Bihar, Orissa, etc.; c.20% of workers who went back to villages in wave 1 did not return to cities and are earning c.50% less than before, which will result in long term poverty in their families and further reduced investment in education and health by them.
Set up a multiple Covid care bed facility
In Gurgaon given the shortages and provide them to all local communities on first come first serve basis. Haryana government has already issued partial guidelines on the process of setting up these. The project will be done in partnership with medical and logistical experts. Discussions are ongoing.
Set up an Isolation/Assistance Centre (“Bachao Ghar”)
In Naharpur village, Manesar (near Gurgaon; population c.1.5 lacs) with basic medical equipment for workers who live in crowded rooms/tenements, with separate space and toilets for women, in coordination with local Sarpanch, police and administration, who are important for its success and managing the crowds/discipline. Materials like awareness content, masks, medicines, testing kits, oxygen, sanitising machines at the village gates, etc, depending in evolving needs, may be distributed in the village from this Centre. A community kitchen may be added to the Centre. Discussions ongoing with Administration.
Join partner NGOs to set up a call centre
That sits in the middle of workers and doctors to improve coordination, provide reliable latest information/advise on disease, equipment, medical facilities available, etc and to refer only the deserving cases to doctors for advise. Oxygen meters and thermometers will be provided in the community, potentially followed by oxygen concentrators. Local temporary staff will be recruited to outreach and refer. We also aim to include ESIC medical system (doctors and ESIC Covid schemes) in this initiative. The pilot will start next week.
Budget and Reporting
The total cost of all the above, will be in excess of Rs4 crores. However, some of the funding will be done through by partners in projects 4 and 5. SII is currently looking to raise INR 50 lakhs - One crore to quickly invest in one or more of these projects as they are approved internally and externally. The funding need will increase as more projects are approved depending on circumstances.
Progress will be reported through regular SII blogs/updated, at least monthly and can also be sought from email@example.com
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