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Sonam Kalra, masks, a secret ESIC Scheme and food (Weekly update from Safe in India-Manzil)

Dear friends and supporters of Safe in India-Manzil

Here is our report on progress and challenges in weeks 5 & 6 of our COVID19 relief initiative, since re-purposing Safe in India and Manzil. We were delighted to have the amazing Sufi musician and singer, Sonam Kalra, perform a facebook live show to thank all of you. We have had more than 3,500 views! Thank you Sonam for your pro-bono contribution to the cause and hope to see you again soon! A 2 minute video recap below:

For the full video, click here.

1. Masks Masks Masks: We believe that everyone venturing out of homes, symptomatic or not, should use a mask to reduce infection rate (“R-Value”) in the densely populated worker areas, where social distancing is not easy to achieve. So, starting last week, we have diverted some of our resources to focus more on masks and distributed 1,500+ high quality cotton masks, which are washable and reusable for six months, in worker villages areas of Naharpur, Kho, Meako and Manesar. We will accelerate this in near-term so that as many as possible workers and daily wage-earners start using them when they go out of homes as lock down lifts in phases. We request our partners/NGOs/etc to consider increasing investment in masks for these communities.

2. Continued serving c.5,000 adults/children daily dry ration needs in under-penetrated areas:

Another 50,772 daily rations (Adult units) distributed in the past two weeks (previous week 26,730) of which 6,000 were in partnership with GNEM. We reduced our distribution in Kasan, some parts of Manesar and Khoh (where we had already distributed twice and saw less need for proactive distribution) and increased in newly identified areas of Manesar, Khoh, Naharpur and Hayatpur. We continue to provide balanced nutrition in our food ration packs.

"रहने की कोई व्यवस्था नहीं है, पैसों की भी बहुत प्रॉब्लम हो रही है. खाने-पीने तक को नहीं होता यहाँ."
"We are not able to find a place to live and just have no money at all. We don’t have enough to have three proper meals a day."
....Devesh, 22

3. ESIC launched a medicine reimbursement scheme for COVID19 lockdown on 9th April, but a month later 78% of potential beneficiaries do not know about it. We have been working constructively with ESIC for more than two years and have been encouraged by their response to number of our suggestions. However, the COVID19 schemes for workers need to be communicated widely and proactively to be of much use to workers. Eg: ESIC has allowed registered workers to buy medicines needed during lock down from private pharmacies and claim reimbursement. But in our sample of 96 workers, 74 did not know about the scheme, 10 needed medicines, 8 bought medicine for Rs 40-6000 each but 6 workers did not keep the invoices as they did not know about the scheme so probably will not get any reimbursement. You can extrapolate that to 4 crore workers! We are sending our findings to ESIC with a number of new recommendations as a follow up of our last recommendations sent on April 10, 2020. More on that in the next blog.

“अनवर अली: उन्होंने कहा कि अभी लॉक डाउन है और सरकारी काम नहीं चल रहा है.
I was told that lockdown was in place and all government related work was on hold.....Anwar Ali, 24.

4. Workers, Industry and the State: Unsurprisingly, many workers want to go back home as the lock-down lifts and some home states (UP, Jharkhand, Bihar, etc) have started providing transport to return. Gurgaon industry wants to retain them in current worker colonies but we see no serious effort on their part to do anything better than the past.

“मैं ये चाहता हूँ कि मुझे पर्मानैंट रखा जाये. जब ज़रूरत होती है वो बुला लेते हैं और जब बंदे पूरे होते हैं तो कोई काम नहीं देते. इस हालत में मैं अपने परिवार को कहाँ ले कर जाऊँ, आप ही बताओ.”“I want a permanent job. They call me when there is a need but when they have enough workers, they leave me out. Now you tell me how I am going to run my family in such a scenario?....Vimlesh, 26

5. The new Social Security and Safety Labour Codes, on which we have been pushing back (along with many others), in their draft form were inadequate. We worry that they will be pushed through without much improvements. States like UP, MP, Gujarat, Odissa, etc are now diluting already ineffective labour laws and their implementation and probably most other states will follow. Regulatory environment is poised to become even less labour-friendly and even more pro-business. We are happy with and indeed supportive of measures taken to support businesses, which in themselves, appear inadequate and late compared to many other countries; however, we need to see an equal, and indeed more, support for the working class to tackle the injustices of an unequal society that so many of us worry about. This is an opportunity to repair the past fault-lines, we have seen amplified in recent weeks, not exacerbate them! Many of you are in leadership positions. Let's do what we can. Now please!

We will continue developing our assistance to the above communities and change our service proposition as needs evolve, while also continuing to contribute to systemic change in ESIC and Labour Issues. This problem is not going to go away anytime soon. We have a very long struggle ahead! Thank you. Here you are: supporters of our COVID19 relief work!

Keep safe and spread the word!


Indian passport-holders paying from their Rupee accounts/cards:

Foreign passport holders, foreign currency payers:

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