COVID Wave 2 worker-relief actions; and Safe in India wins ESIC national award – thank you donors!
Updated: Jul 17
Dear Supporters of the Indian worker community and Safe in India Foundation We are delighted to win ESIC'a national award for top 5 organisations (NGOs/Corporate) that assisted ESIC during Covid. We owe this award to our tireless on-the-ground team of Hari Ji, Masab, Amitesh, Jitender, Praveen, Aparna, Mukta and Chitra, and to our many worker-volunteers, and to you dear donors and supporters, who have helped us assist thousands of workers and families, in the past year, traumatised by Covid!
When COVID Wave 2 hit, we had barely recovered from Wave 1. Between Mar 20 and Aug 20, we had repurposed and distributed about 460,000 adult meal rations, about 25,000 masks, and transported about 250 migrant workers back to their villages in Bihar. While some of our team-members, and their families too, suffered from this disease, it did not deter us from engaging with our worker communities and doing our best.
Around mid July 20, we had resumed our normal activities in Manesar Worker Assistance Centre. By this time, factories had restarted production and we too were back again in the field to provide assistance to injured workers with their ESIC healthcare and compensation. In Jan 21, we had also opened a new Worker Assistance Center in Faridabad. As a result, despite lockdowns, we have been able to assisted another 500+ Injured workers in the past year, about the same annually as previous three years!
So, when Wave 2 hit we repurposed again. But this time, we had some lessons from the Wave 1 and focused on both immediate relief and building resilience in the system:
1. Making available Oxygen plants and cylinders. With the support of one of our partners, we supplied a 440 LPM oxygen plant to ESIC Manesar (it was however redirected to another hospital last minute) and will be a permanent upgrade to the hospital. At a time, when oxygen cylinders could not be found anywhere, more than 85 oxygen cylinders, some being jumbo size, were arranged by our resourceful team and donated to ESIC hospitals in Delhi, Bihar and Karnataka. Here is one of many letters of appreciation received from ESIC.
2. Helping design and process improvements in ESIC’s worker Covid-Unemployment Scheme: We started pushing for this once we saw 46% unemployment in our worker community, in June 20. Among the first six schemes announced by FM in April 20, only the unemployment scheme seemed to have great potential. However, by Mar21, ESIC had disbursed only Rs 50 crores against a target of about Rs 6,500 crores. We have been, therefore, constantly suggesting practical solutions to ESIC to improve the worker awareness and its operational experience to make it more worker-friendly. By Oct20, ESIC had accepted 7 of our 10 such recommendations. In Jun21, we have made another set of recommendations including extension of the scheme at least until Dec21. Since the launch of the scheme, we have hand-held 1,400+ workers to apply; of these 332 workers have received about Rs 25 lacs of unemployment benefits. We expect to assist another 1,000 workers by Apr22 and use the experience to help improve the scheme further.
3. Start of regular feedback to ESIC while generating income for unemployed workers (“ESIC Ki Baat Aaapkay Saath"): We decided to start a series of quarterly worker-surveys, to provide regular worker feedback to ESIC. This is on similar lines that we have been recommending to CAG, as ESIC-issues-advisors, for past two years. The first survey Report on awareness among IP on ESIC’s Covid-Relief scheme, has already been discussed with ESIC’s top management. The results of the survey show extremely low awareness of these schemes among the workers. We are pleased to see that ESIC has increased its awareness activities recently, at least on their Facebook page, and we are hoping they start SMS campaigns to crores of workers soon; we have been pushing this too for two years now. We aim to create 100+ shramik saathis this year conducting these surveys among fellow workers and we will pay them for these surveys.
4. Vaccination Camp for 1,000 workers/families: With the support of our able partner, I-am-Gurgaon, and two large IIMA91 alumni funders (Gopal Sarma and Bhriguraj Singh) who funded 50% of this camp unsolicited, we held our first weekend Vaccination Camp on 26- 27 June '21, for workers/families in Manesar. Our focus was on those workers who were finding it difficult to get to government vaccination centers or take time off work or were in relatively remote locations. 992 vaccines were administered over the weekend. Workers queued from 4:00 am and crowd management was, expectedly, an uphill task. But, our team, supported by nine ‘shramik saathis’, were able to manage it well. Demand for vaccination is currently endless and we may do more depending on the outcome of already announced Haryana government’s large camps for lakhs of free vaccinations. Although, we limited our camp to small contractors and direct community outreach as far as practical, it was unfortunate to see a few large factories trying to get their worker vaccinated for free.
This camp, like many others, will also dispel many doubts about vaccines in the worker community; in one of our surveys of 25 workers in May21, we found 48% did not want to get vaccinated and were scared that ‘vaccination leads to death’, 36% did not know the process or were not able to book the slot.
5. We also supported, in a small way, Project Chhaav, an excellent initiative by the faculty of IIMA and IIMB, to supply PPE (masks, face shields, sanitisers and oxymeters) to Front Line workers (Anganwadi and Asha workers) in Indian villages across the country. We have assisted with sourcing of oximeters and distribution of sanitisers from warehouses. Also, lead by our local partner, Agrasar, and project managed by five of the Ashoka University students, a pilot was conducted in Mewat, Haryana, where PPE kits were distributed to 300+FLWs. Hopefully, this experience will help scaling up further in the state.
Clearly, Covid may already have or will become endemic. We will all have to learn to cope with it. Our hope and plan is to react to changing circumstances on the ground and in the worker-community, act as quickly as our resources allow, and focus on actions that provide for immediate, but also long term systemic relief to the Indian worker community rocked by this shock from their already precarious working and living conditions.
Thanks are due to our Wall of Supporters, especially those who have donated/committed to donate this financial year: Azim Premji Foundation, Lal Family Foundation, Raja V, Chetan Shah, Rajnish Dhall, Joydeep Sengupta, Vinay Dixit, Gopal Sarma, Bhriguraj Singh, Arjun Khullar, Kalpana, Sameer Tivare, Anand Gupta, Subodh Goel, Rajiv Chaba, Club Millionaire, Tej Chabra, Prakash Kanth, Namrata Chakaiyar, Sudhir Rao, Arnab Dutta, Varun Kapoor, Sharad Doshi, Nirbhay Salaar, Devlina Chatterjee, and many other friends and well-wishers. We need to raise another 75 lacs this financial year. We need your continued support to keep increasing our impact – in above and in our ongoing operations for assisting injured workers, improving safety for 10m+ workers in the auto-sector’s component supplying factories, pushing ESIC to improve its healthcare and insurance services for 140m+ Indians, and increasing workers' awareness about ESIC and work place safety.
Please donate at www.safeinindia.org/donate and refer us to your philanthropist friends/CSR/Foundations.
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