Migrants who have returned to their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are not only being accused of carrying the coronavirus from the cities, but are also being deprived of proper healthcare, employment and food, claims a survey. Worse, it claims that the migrants are now vulnerable to debt, bondage, child labourand human trafficking.
The survey by Human Liberty Network (HLN) calls for urgent collaboration between communities, state governments and Civil Society Organizations to improve social protection, nutrition, and education of this lot.
HLN released the findings of the survey conducted in 15 districts of Bihar and 6 districts of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday with 1200+ respondents revealing major challenges related to livelihood, access to health services, nutrition and basic needs.
The survey titled “Immediate Requirements to Allay Rural Distress and Human Trafficking” says that in Uttar Pradesh the unemployment rate has risen to 23.8 per cent in May 2020 and work demanded under MGNREGA has increased by 307 per cent but 60.77 per cent of the Panchayats in the study area did not have details of the employment sought or provided in the past two months. Nor had they conducted any village level survey to conduct nutritional data.
Difficulties in accessing free rations and free gas cylinders under Pradhan Mantri UjjwalaYojana were also found in UP. The report says that some of the major barriers to accessing the government schemes were seen in Bhadohi and Prayagraj districts of UP and Purnea (80%) and Katihar (74%) districts in Bihar, where women are not being able to access government benefits and are forced to borrow money from private moneylenders.
Lack of access to preventive healthcare through Village Health Nutrition Data (VHND) and ANM/ ASHA workers etc. has led to rising incidence of Anaemia among children and women where Chandauli (66.4% & 55.4%) and Azamgrah (61.8% & 61.7%) in UP and Kishanganj (65.2% & 62%) and Purnea (66.5% & 72.2%) in Bihar recorded the highest prevalence.
A high number of children in Bhadohi (57%) and Prayagraj (44%) in UP and Katihar (57%) and Saharsa (58%) in Bihar were found to have been excluded from Anganwadi rolls, depriving them of nutritious food distributed through ICDS.
In Bihar only 29 per cent of the population were found to have active job cards with Saharsa, Sitamarhi, and Gopalganj districts lagging behind in providing jobs while only 37 percent of Gram Panchayats have adopted special measures for single women workers
It is estimated that 30 lakh people have returned to Uttar Pradesh and 32 lakh have returned to Bihar after the lockdown.
Speaking on the findings of the survey, a member of the Human Liberty Network, said “The impact of COVID-19 and lockdown have been most severe on communities that are already disadvantaged and vulnerable to shocks. “
“Our top recommendations are that the issues need to be addressed through coordinated efforts. The governments should adopt measures for strengthening the accountability of Rozgar Sewaks and improve monitoring mechanisms through door to door registration of job cards for returning migrants, ” he added.