Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang

India’s workforce demands fiscal support following the second wave of Covid-19!

On-ground voices and detailed reports highlight the need for cash transfers to keep vulnerable groups afloat in face of a growing unemployment

19 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:business-standard.com

Many experts and reports analysing the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 have demanded fiscal support for India’s vulnerable and below poverty line (BPL) population amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

On June 17, 2021, this notion was reaffirmed when Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) President T. V. Narendran said, “There is an estimated fiscal headroom of up to Rs. 3 lakh crore that can be channelised towards direct cash transfers to vulnerable people, higher allocation for MNREGA, short-term GST rate cuts and lower excise duty on fuel.”

However, recent protests by India’s peasantry, ASHA workers and labourers indicate that these demands are still a distant dream, especially cash transfers.

An urgent need for cash transfers

In May, the Azim Premji University released the ‘State of Working India 2021’ report that recommended the union government carry out cash transfers of Rs. 5,000 (per month) for three months, in addition to food packages, to as many households using digital infrastructure, not limited to Jan Dhan accounts.

The same month, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said that over 15 million jobs were lost. Employment fell from 390.8 million in April to 375.5 million in May. This means a loss of 15.3 million jobs, and the decline continues even in June.

“This is not as bad as the loss of 114 million in April 2020 but comes second only to that draconian month of a nationwide lockdown. The May 2021 fall in employment is higher than the 12.3 million fall recorded in November 2016, the month of demonetisation,” said CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas in his report.

Already, the Pew Research Center on March 18 reported how India contributed over 75 million people out of the over-131 million estimated poor people calculated after the global pandemic.

The Government of India, for its part, on April 23 announced the restart of the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana that provides five kgs of grain for free to priority households for May and June. However, the fiscal issue for India’s labour force remains.

How are the BPL groups faring?

Working at the very frontline of the Covid-pandemic, ASHA workers have been suffering due to dismal wages for years. On June 15, Maharashtra’s ASHA workers went on an indefinite strike refusing the pittance of Rs. 30 to Rs. 35 a day. The women’s group firmly demands a monthly salary of Rs. 18,000 for ASHAs and Rs. 22,000 for ASHA supervisors.

“We have been constantly working during the Covid-19 pandemic, raising awareness among people for hardly Rs. 30 a day. Now that the rains have begun, our work will increase because more people are likely to fall sick. But when we fall sick, not a single rupee of help comes from the government,” a ASHA worker supervisor from Maharashtra told SabrangIndia.

Similarly, the ‘No Country for Workers’ report by the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) suggests monthly cash transfers of Rs. 3,000 for six months. SWAN volunteers had already helped 7,050 people avail money transfers from SWAN. However, around six percent of the people required an additional cash transfer due to the continued lack of external aid.

Citing one of numerous unemployment stories, the report said, “Asha and her husband are self-employed and have a nine-month old baby. They sell pani puri to earn a living but their income has dried up since New Delhi announced a lockdown. Left with only a meagre amount of dry ration, the couple has been desperately searching for ways to buy milk for their baby.”

Incidentally, SWAN volunteers received more distress calls from women during the second wave compared to 2020 due to the rising unemployment.

Limitations in delivering cash transfers

The State of Working India 2021 report found that the Public Distribution System (PDS), MGNREGA and to a lesser extent cash transfers helped in preventing widespread starvation. However, observations of 2020 also showed that there is an urgent need to make financial infrastructure accessible to the vulnerable sections of society. Further, there is a need to increase the amount of cash transfers.

Regarding the procedure of direct benefit transfer, there is also a growing discourse around the JAM trinity (Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar card and mobile phones). The need for zero balance Jan Dhan accounts, mobile connectivity and an administrative demand for Aadhaar card hinders the non-digital population from accessing money transfers.

For example, during the Covid-crisis, the PM-KISAN programme announced cash transfers of Rs. 500 per month between April and June 2020 for all women Jan Dhan account-holders. These accounts refer to the PM Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) that can provide banking services to every unbanked adult.

However out of around 400 million Jan Dhan accounts, 205 million accounts were owned by women as of April last year. Around 326 million women live below the national poverty line, meaning that more than one-third of poor women would be excluded from the benefit, even if all female-owned PMJDY accounts belonged to poor women.

Moreover, in contrast to the ration-pension-NREGA system where lists of beneficiaries are publicly available, and beneficiaries are usually certain about their status of inclusion, not all women know if their accounts are PMJDY accounts.

Another issue is the final step where people have to actually access the cash. Surveys used in the report found that 26 percent of poor women live more than 5 km away from the nearest bank or ATM.

“Still, the potential coverage of a cash transfer programme undertaken via the Jan Dhan accounts, at 150 million, would be higher than any other programme barring PDS, if the cash did reach every BPL account holder and they were able to avail of it,” said the report.

Related:

92 percent of India’s workforce faces historic and unprecedented crisis: SWAN report
India’s dairy farmers face another harsh summer – but not because of the heat
Provide ration, transport, community kitchens for migrant workers: SC
Formulate medical scheme for migrant workers: Delhi HC to gov't

India’s workforce demands fiscal support following the second wave of Covid-19!

On-ground voices and detailed reports highlight the need for cash transfers to keep vulnerable groups afloat in face of a growing unemployment

Image Courtesy:business-standard.com

Many experts and reports analysing the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 have demanded fiscal support for India’s vulnerable and below poverty line (BPL) population amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

On June 17, 2021, this notion was reaffirmed when Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) President T. V. Narendran said, “There is an estimated fiscal headroom of up to Rs. 3 lakh crore that can be channelised towards direct cash transfers to vulnerable people, higher allocation for MNREGA, short-term GST rate cuts and lower excise duty on fuel.”

However, recent protests by India’s peasantry, ASHA workers and labourers indicate that these demands are still a distant dream, especially cash transfers.

An urgent need for cash transfers

In May, the Azim Premji University released the ‘State of Working India 2021’ report that recommended the union government carry out cash transfers of Rs. 5,000 (per month) for three months, in addition to food packages, to as many households using digital infrastructure, not limited to Jan Dhan accounts.

The same month, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said that over 15 million jobs were lost. Employment fell from 390.8 million in April to 375.5 million in May. This means a loss of 15.3 million jobs, and the decline continues even in June.

“This is not as bad as the loss of 114 million in April 2020 but comes second only to that draconian month of a nationwide lockdown. The May 2021 fall in employment is higher than the 12.3 million fall recorded in November 2016, the month of demonetisation,” said CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas in his report.

Already, the Pew Research Center on March 18 reported how India contributed over 75 million people out of the over-131 million estimated poor people calculated after the global pandemic.

The Government of India, for its part, on April 23 announced the restart of the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana that provides five kgs of grain for free to priority households for May and June. However, the fiscal issue for India’s labour force remains.

How are the BPL groups faring?

Working at the very frontline of the Covid-pandemic, ASHA workers have been suffering due to dismal wages for years. On June 15, Maharashtra’s ASHA workers went on an indefinite strike refusing the pittance of Rs. 30 to Rs. 35 a day. The women’s group firmly demands a monthly salary of Rs. 18,000 for ASHAs and Rs. 22,000 for ASHA supervisors.

“We have been constantly working during the Covid-19 pandemic, raising awareness among people for hardly Rs. 30 a day. Now that the rains have begun, our work will increase because more people are likely to fall sick. But when we fall sick, not a single rupee of help comes from the government,” a ASHA worker supervisor from Maharashtra told SabrangIndia.

Similarly, the ‘No Country for Workers’ report by the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) suggests monthly cash transfers of Rs. 3,000 for six months. SWAN volunteers had already helped 7,050 people avail money transfers from SWAN. However, around six percent of the people required an additional cash transfer due to the continued lack of external aid.

Citing one of numerous unemployment stories, the report said, “Asha and her husband are self-employed and have a nine-month old baby. They sell pani puri to earn a living but their income has dried up since New Delhi announced a lockdown. Left with only a meagre amount of dry ration, the couple has been desperately searching for ways to buy milk for their baby.”

Incidentally, SWAN volunteers received more distress calls from women during the second wave compared to 2020 due to the rising unemployment.

Limitations in delivering cash transfers

The State of Working India 2021 report found that the Public Distribution System (PDS), MGNREGA and to a lesser extent cash transfers helped in preventing widespread starvation. However, observations of 2020 also showed that there is an urgent need to make financial infrastructure accessible to the vulnerable sections of society. Further, there is a need to increase the amount of cash transfers.

Regarding the procedure of direct benefit transfer, there is also a growing discourse around the JAM trinity (Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar card and mobile phones). The need for zero balance Jan Dhan accounts, mobile connectivity and an administrative demand for Aadhaar card hinders the non-digital population from accessing money transfers.

For example, during the Covid-crisis, the PM-KISAN programme announced cash transfers of Rs. 500 per month between April and June 2020 for all women Jan Dhan account-holders. These accounts refer to the PM Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) that can provide banking services to every unbanked adult.

However out of around 400 million Jan Dhan accounts, 205 million accounts were owned by women as of April last year. Around 326 million women live below the national poverty line, meaning that more than one-third of poor women would be excluded from the benefit, even if all female-owned PMJDY accounts belonged to poor women.

Moreover, in contrast to the ration-pension-NREGA system where lists of beneficiaries are publicly available, and beneficiaries are usually certain about their status of inclusion, not all women know if their accounts are PMJDY accounts.

Another issue is the final step where people have to actually access the cash. Surveys used in the report found that 26 percent of poor women live more than 5 km away from the nearest bank or ATM.

“Still, the potential coverage of a cash transfer programme undertaken via the Jan Dhan accounts, at 150 million, would be higher than any other programme barring PDS, if the cash did reach every BPL account holder and they were able to avail of it,” said the report.

Related:

92 percent of India’s workforce faces historic and unprecedented crisis: SWAN report
India’s dairy farmers face another harsh summer – but not because of the heat
Provide ration, transport, community kitchens for migrant workers: SC
Formulate medical scheme for migrant workers: Delhi HC to gov't

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Turmoil in the North East: Where are the Naga Peace Talks headed?

NSCN (IM) demands clarity on BJP’s stand on Naga independence and plebiscite, even as a Core Committee is formed by Nagaland CM for the talks

17 Jun 2021

Just a day after a Core Committee was set up to take the Naga Peace Talks forward, the Isak Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) has demanded that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led central government first make its stand clear on two key events in Naga history: the declaration of Naga independence in 1947 and the Naga plebiscite of 1951.

On June 10, the government of Nagaland constituted a Core Committee that comprises Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament KG Kenye and Lok Sabha MP Tokhedo Yepthomi, and all 60 members of Nagaland’s Legislative Assembly. It is noteworthy that the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDDP) is a BJP ally. Chief Minister Rio has convened a meeting of the Core Committee on June 19.

On June 11, the Times of India quoted a NSCN (IM) statement as saying, “BJP should make its stand very clear, either to admit these factual accounts of history or deny it.”

The subjects of independence and plebiscite were also mentioned in the latest issue of Nagalim Voice, a publication by the NSCN (IM). In an article titled Political Significance of Indo-Naga Ceasefires in Naga History, the publication says lays down the Naga version of events as they transpired post-independence.

“Not wanting to accept any form of foreign domination, alien subjugation and exploitation, the Nagas in the “Naga Hills District” formally declared their independence on August 14, 1947 from the British Rule,” says the publication adding, “The Nagas were invited to join the Union of India when it was formed for the first time in history in 1950, but they rejected the offer outright. On January 24, 1950, the Naga National Council (NNC) informed the Indian Government, the United Nations (UN) and those countries that had their embassies in Delhi that the Nagas do not accept the Indian Constitution.”

It further says, “To reaffirm the declaration of Naga Independence, the Naga people under NNC took the historical step to strengthen the Naga political movement as they organized a Naga Voluntary Plebiscite, and informed the Government of India (GoI) on January 1, 1951 of their intentions. The Plebiscite was held on the 16th May, 1951. The result tabulated eventually in March 1952 was 99.9% voted in favour of sovereign independent Naga state.”

Nagaland in Colonial times

As we have reported earlier, the history of how Nagaland came to be a part of India, is complicated.

A region with a large population belonging to Naga tribes came under the control of the British in 1881. In 1886, it was named the Naga Hills district. From 1875 to 1910 several other regions inhabited by various Naga tribes such as the Lotha Nagas, Ao, Sema Nagas and Konyak Nagas were annexed by the British and added to this district. In 1912, the Naga Hills district was made a part of the Assam Province for ease of administration. When Nagaland formally joined the Union of India in 1963, many lands with large Naga populations continued to be part of Assam.

In fact, at present there is also a dispute regarding the border between Nagaland and Assam, as Nagaland claims large swathes of land in four Assam districts of Shivsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong should be made a part of Nagaland given the large population of Naga people in the region and how historically the region was a part of Naga territory. These border dispute talks have been temporarily shelved till Covid-19 is brought under control in the region.

1947: Akbar Hyderi Agreement and Independence

In June 1947, the NNC and Assam Governor Akbar Hyderi initiated negotiations to settle the Naga issue by way of an interim political and administrative arrangement.

As per the agreement, the Nagas were granted varying degrees of judicial and administrative autonomy. The Naga Council was also granted taxation rights. The Governor of Assam and the Government of India were to ensure the observance of the agreement for a period of 10 years, following which a decision was to be taken to either extend the agreement or enter into a fresh one. 

However, the clause about the 10-year period has been interpreted by the two sides differently. While the Nagas saw it as independence from India after 10 years, India took it to mean that a new agreement would be entered into should the present one fail to address all concerns sufficiently.

However, this was not acceptable to the NNC and on August 14, 1947, Angami Zapu Phizo declared Nagaland’s independence, a move India did not find acceptable. 

Talks, violence, statehood and ceasefire

What followed was a period of talks with the Indian administration led by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This period was often marred by bouts of violence before Nagaland formally became a state of India subject to certain conditions in 1963. But this did not stop armed insurgency and bloodshed in the region. Armed Naga groups, many of whom were designated terrorist groups clashed with Indian security forces leading to multiple casualties on both sides.

Meanwhile, several excesses including gendered crimes were alleged to have been committed by security forces who allegedly misused the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that was originally enacted in 1958.

Finally, a ceasefire was declared in 1997 following with concerted efforts were made from both sides to begin a peace process.

We have covered these historical developments in detail our previous reportage that may be read here.

Framework Agreement and Peace Talks

The Naga Peace Talks follow from a Framework Agreement signed between Naga groups led by NSCN (IM) and the government of India in 2015. It deals with several unresolved matters related to Nagaland’s autonomy. In 2017, six other Naga nationalist groups joined the talks. These are NSCN (Kitovi Zhimomi), the Naga Nationalist Council, the Federal Government of Nagaland, the NSCN (Reformation), the National Peoples Government of Nagaland (Non-Accord), the Government Democratic Republic of Nagaland (Non-Accord). Later even the NSCN-K came onboard and declared a ceasefire in December 2020.

In fact, in a speech delivered on March 22, 2021, a day commemorated as Nagaland’s 42nd Republic Day, NSC (IM) Yaruiwo (Chairman) Q Tuccu recognized the importance of the Framework Agreement and said, “The Framework Agreement is the meeting point of the two sovereign peoples. Sensible Nagas understand that this is one of the options where the Indians and Nagas can come closer to each other because it serves the purposes of both the parties. And therefore, it would be a great loss for them if they would betray the Framework Agreement or miss the chance.”

Naga demands: Separate flag and Constitution, repeal of AFSPA

When it comes to talks between Naga groups and the government of India, a long list of subjects needs to be discussed in detail, including some demands by Nagaland such as a separate Constitution and flag, that the Indian government finds contentious.

This demand was in fact reiterated in Nagalim Voice’s May 2021 edition, where is says, “Naga people held two things dear: their political identity as symbolise by the Naga national flag and the Yehzabo (Constitution). These two issues are not negotiable. It cannot be bartered away in exchange for any temporary gains.”

Amidst all this, one can also not ignore how in January 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared the entire state of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958.  

Nagaland has remained under AFSPA for close to sixty years. AFSPA allows security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant. It has been condemned by many rights groups and most famously by human rights defender Irom Sharmila for its misuse by security forces to commit excesses, abuse and human rights violations.

In fact, scrapping the AFSPA was one of the key demands of the draft framework agreement to maintain peace in the region signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) and the government interlocutor RN Ravi in 2015. However, the act was not withdrawn.

Image courtesy: Ministry of Textiles, Government of India

Related:

MHA declares entire Nagaland ‘disturbed area’
Nagaland steps one step closer to lasting peace
Turmoil in the NE: The Naga Pact and its ramifications

Turmoil in the North East: Where are the Naga Peace Talks headed?

NSCN (IM) demands clarity on BJP’s stand on Naga independence and plebiscite, even as a Core Committee is formed by Nagaland CM for the talks

Just a day after a Core Committee was set up to take the Naga Peace Talks forward, the Isak Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) has demanded that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led central government first make its stand clear on two key events in Naga history: the declaration of Naga independence in 1947 and the Naga plebiscite of 1951.

On June 10, the government of Nagaland constituted a Core Committee that comprises Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament KG Kenye and Lok Sabha MP Tokhedo Yepthomi, and all 60 members of Nagaland’s Legislative Assembly. It is noteworthy that the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDDP) is a BJP ally. Chief Minister Rio has convened a meeting of the Core Committee on June 19.

On June 11, the Times of India quoted a NSCN (IM) statement as saying, “BJP should make its stand very clear, either to admit these factual accounts of history or deny it.”

The subjects of independence and plebiscite were also mentioned in the latest issue of Nagalim Voice, a publication by the NSCN (IM). In an article titled Political Significance of Indo-Naga Ceasefires in Naga History, the publication says lays down the Naga version of events as they transpired post-independence.

“Not wanting to accept any form of foreign domination, alien subjugation and exploitation, the Nagas in the “Naga Hills District” formally declared their independence on August 14, 1947 from the British Rule,” says the publication adding, “The Nagas were invited to join the Union of India when it was formed for the first time in history in 1950, but they rejected the offer outright. On January 24, 1950, the Naga National Council (NNC) informed the Indian Government, the United Nations (UN) and those countries that had their embassies in Delhi that the Nagas do not accept the Indian Constitution.”

It further says, “To reaffirm the declaration of Naga Independence, the Naga people under NNC took the historical step to strengthen the Naga political movement as they organized a Naga Voluntary Plebiscite, and informed the Government of India (GoI) on January 1, 1951 of their intentions. The Plebiscite was held on the 16th May, 1951. The result tabulated eventually in March 1952 was 99.9% voted in favour of sovereign independent Naga state.”

Nagaland in Colonial times

As we have reported earlier, the history of how Nagaland came to be a part of India, is complicated.

A region with a large population belonging to Naga tribes came under the control of the British in 1881. In 1886, it was named the Naga Hills district. From 1875 to 1910 several other regions inhabited by various Naga tribes such as the Lotha Nagas, Ao, Sema Nagas and Konyak Nagas were annexed by the British and added to this district. In 1912, the Naga Hills district was made a part of the Assam Province for ease of administration. When Nagaland formally joined the Union of India in 1963, many lands with large Naga populations continued to be part of Assam.

In fact, at present there is also a dispute regarding the border between Nagaland and Assam, as Nagaland claims large swathes of land in four Assam districts of Shivsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong should be made a part of Nagaland given the large population of Naga people in the region and how historically the region was a part of Naga territory. These border dispute talks have been temporarily shelved till Covid-19 is brought under control in the region.

1947: Akbar Hyderi Agreement and Independence

In June 1947, the NNC and Assam Governor Akbar Hyderi initiated negotiations to settle the Naga issue by way of an interim political and administrative arrangement.

As per the agreement, the Nagas were granted varying degrees of judicial and administrative autonomy. The Naga Council was also granted taxation rights. The Governor of Assam and the Government of India were to ensure the observance of the agreement for a period of 10 years, following which a decision was to be taken to either extend the agreement or enter into a fresh one. 

However, the clause about the 10-year period has been interpreted by the two sides differently. While the Nagas saw it as independence from India after 10 years, India took it to mean that a new agreement would be entered into should the present one fail to address all concerns sufficiently.

However, this was not acceptable to the NNC and on August 14, 1947, Angami Zapu Phizo declared Nagaland’s independence, a move India did not find acceptable. 

Talks, violence, statehood and ceasefire

What followed was a period of talks with the Indian administration led by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This period was often marred by bouts of violence before Nagaland formally became a state of India subject to certain conditions in 1963. But this did not stop armed insurgency and bloodshed in the region. Armed Naga groups, many of whom were designated terrorist groups clashed with Indian security forces leading to multiple casualties on both sides.

Meanwhile, several excesses including gendered crimes were alleged to have been committed by security forces who allegedly misused the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that was originally enacted in 1958.

Finally, a ceasefire was declared in 1997 following with concerted efforts were made from both sides to begin a peace process.

We have covered these historical developments in detail our previous reportage that may be read here.

Framework Agreement and Peace Talks

The Naga Peace Talks follow from a Framework Agreement signed between Naga groups led by NSCN (IM) and the government of India in 2015. It deals with several unresolved matters related to Nagaland’s autonomy. In 2017, six other Naga nationalist groups joined the talks. These are NSCN (Kitovi Zhimomi), the Naga Nationalist Council, the Federal Government of Nagaland, the NSCN (Reformation), the National Peoples Government of Nagaland (Non-Accord), the Government Democratic Republic of Nagaland (Non-Accord). Later even the NSCN-K came onboard and declared a ceasefire in December 2020.

In fact, in a speech delivered on March 22, 2021, a day commemorated as Nagaland’s 42nd Republic Day, NSC (IM) Yaruiwo (Chairman) Q Tuccu recognized the importance of the Framework Agreement and said, “The Framework Agreement is the meeting point of the two sovereign peoples. Sensible Nagas understand that this is one of the options where the Indians and Nagas can come closer to each other because it serves the purposes of both the parties. And therefore, it would be a great loss for them if they would betray the Framework Agreement or miss the chance.”

Naga demands: Separate flag and Constitution, repeal of AFSPA

When it comes to talks between Naga groups and the government of India, a long list of subjects needs to be discussed in detail, including some demands by Nagaland such as a separate Constitution and flag, that the Indian government finds contentious.

This demand was in fact reiterated in Nagalim Voice’s May 2021 edition, where is says, “Naga people held two things dear: their political identity as symbolise by the Naga national flag and the Yehzabo (Constitution). These two issues are not negotiable. It cannot be bartered away in exchange for any temporary gains.”

Amidst all this, one can also not ignore how in January 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared the entire state of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958.  

Nagaland has remained under AFSPA for close to sixty years. AFSPA allows security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant. It has been condemned by many rights groups and most famously by human rights defender Irom Sharmila for its misuse by security forces to commit excesses, abuse and human rights violations.

In fact, scrapping the AFSPA was one of the key demands of the draft framework agreement to maintain peace in the region signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) and the government interlocutor RN Ravi in 2015. However, the act was not withdrawn.

Image courtesy: Ministry of Textiles, Government of India

Related:

MHA declares entire Nagaland ‘disturbed area’
Nagaland steps one step closer to lasting peace
Turmoil in the NE: The Naga Pact and its ramifications

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

650 doctors dead due to Covid-19 in around 2 months

As per latest state-wise break-up, Delhi still has the highest number of deaths; Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu report a sizable increase in doctors’ death within a span of eight days.

10 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

As many as 650 doctors of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) died due to Covid-19 during the second wave of the virus, said Secretary General Jayesh Lele on June 10, 2021.

In a state-wise break-up of deaths country-wide over the last two months or so, the IMA stated that as many as 109 deaths were recorded in national capital Delhi. Bihar and then Uttar Pradesh follow close behind, indicating no change in state rank in IMA data.

However, a comparison with the June 2 state-wise break-up shows that Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have shown the highest increase in doctors’ death from 67 recognised deaths on June 2, to 79 deaths in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, and from 21 recognised deaths on June 2, to 32 deaths in Tamil Nadu on Thursday.

Overall, the two data sets show that at least 56 doctors died in India within eight days of which one death remains unknown. As per the IMA website, 864 modern medicine doctors sacrificed their lives in 2020 while working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, within the first half of 2021, the second wave is inching closer to last year’s toll. During an online workshop earlier, Lele has voiced his concern about the physical assault on doctors that is highlighted in the current health crisis. As per The Hindu, he said the medical fraternity was vulnerable to such attacks in the absence of adequate mechanisms to ensure their safety.

During earlier talks with SabrangIndia, IMA officials said that the family of these health workers could avail compensation via insurance. However, few urban families in Delhi and Tamil Nadu have been able to avail the compensation so far.

Related:

EXCLUSIVE: PM must intervene, stop misinformation campaign, recognise Covid martyr medics: IMA chief
594 doctors died during second wave of Covid-19: IMA
GDP contracts by 7.3 percent in 2020-21, an all-time low in the last four decades!
Great Number Game of Vaccine Funding: Zero Allotment = Rs. 35000 Crores !!!
Indian Medical Association seeks FIR against Ramdev

650 doctors dead due to Covid-19 in around 2 months

As per latest state-wise break-up, Delhi still has the highest number of deaths; Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu report a sizable increase in doctors’ death within a span of eight days.

Image Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

As many as 650 doctors of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) died due to Covid-19 during the second wave of the virus, said Secretary General Jayesh Lele on June 10, 2021.

In a state-wise break-up of deaths country-wide over the last two months or so, the IMA stated that as many as 109 deaths were recorded in national capital Delhi. Bihar and then Uttar Pradesh follow close behind, indicating no change in state rank in IMA data.

However, a comparison with the June 2 state-wise break-up shows that Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have shown the highest increase in doctors’ death from 67 recognised deaths on June 2, to 79 deaths in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, and from 21 recognised deaths on June 2, to 32 deaths in Tamil Nadu on Thursday.

Overall, the two data sets show that at least 56 doctors died in India within eight days of which one death remains unknown. As per the IMA website, 864 modern medicine doctors sacrificed their lives in 2020 while working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, within the first half of 2021, the second wave is inching closer to last year’s toll. During an online workshop earlier, Lele has voiced his concern about the physical assault on doctors that is highlighted in the current health crisis. As per The Hindu, he said the medical fraternity was vulnerable to such attacks in the absence of adequate mechanisms to ensure their safety.

During earlier talks with SabrangIndia, IMA officials said that the family of these health workers could avail compensation via insurance. However, few urban families in Delhi and Tamil Nadu have been able to avail the compensation so far.

Related:

EXCLUSIVE: PM must intervene, stop misinformation campaign, recognise Covid martyr medics: IMA chief
594 doctors died during second wave of Covid-19: IMA
GDP contracts by 7.3 percent in 2020-21, an all-time low in the last four decades!
Great Number Game of Vaccine Funding: Zero Allotment = Rs. 35000 Crores !!!
Indian Medical Association seeks FIR against Ramdev

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Covid-19 vaccines: How did 9 pvt hospitals corner 50% doses?

According to government data the “cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has exceeded 22.78 Cr” by Saturday

05 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:indianexpress.com

On Saturday, official Covid-19 figures stated that India reported 1,20,529 Daily New Cases in the 24 hours. Even though it is the “lowest in almost two months” according to the government data, it is still a significantly high number. Experts across the world have stated how universal vaccination is the biggest step to flatten the Covid-19 curve. According to government of India’s data the “cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has exceeded 22.78 Cr” by Saturday and doses were administered “through 32,00,677 sessions”.

However, the ‘vaccine inequality’ is on the rise as is seen by the constant flagging of shortages by many states, often led by the Delhi government which has now taken to issuing daily vaccine bulletins by senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and MLA Atishi. She stated on Friday, “No Covaxin available now for second doses of 45+ and 18-45” in Delhi’s government vaccination centres, adding that “Covishield doses are available for those above 45 years age category, but Coaxin doses will almost run out of stock from today.” According to the Delhi government, vaccines are “not available for youth in Delhi for 12 days, vaccination of youth is not being done in any government center. Only 5 lakh vaccines are not enough for Delhi in June, 50 lakh vaccines are needed in this month.”

However, in top private hospitals of the national capital region there is no shortage at all. Vaccines are reportedly available, at a premium price of course, and some hospitals are also trying up with non governmental organisations and venues to hold walk-in or drive through vaccination camps. Almost all of them require a pre registration on CoWin or Arogya Setu. That there is a gap in the system is all too glaring. 

Where should the poor go for vaccination?

The Supreme Court asked the Centre to clarify how it plans to mitigate the large digital divide in the country as vaccinations are available through online registration for people in the 18-44 age group. The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Ravindra Bhat and Nageswara Rao also questioned the Centre on how it plans to manage the logistics and storage of vaccines when the Centre was not procuring them in the Phase III. The court cited various government reports to demonstrate the lack of access to the internet among the larger population, and how this will impinge their right to equality and right to health. The court also sought clarifications from the Centre on how it plans to manage the logistics of vaccines. 

According to a report in the Indian Express, “Nine corporate hospital groups cumulatively bought 60.57 lakh doses of the total 1.20 crore doses of vaccines procured by private hospitals in the first full month since the Central government revised its vaccine policy and opened it to the market.” Most of these hospital groups are located in big cities and have reportedly “cornered 50 per cent of the Covid-19 vaccine stock meant for the private sector in the month of May” reported IE adding that “purchases by private hospitals in May added up to 1.20 crore doses or 15.6 per cent.”

The top nine private corporate hospitals chains and the doses they got, as reported by IE are: Apollo Hospitals (nine hospitals of the group procured 16.1 lakh doses); Max Healthcare (six hospitals, 12.97 lakh doses); Reliance Foundation-run HN Hospital Trust (9.89 lakh doses); Medica Hospitals (6.26 lakh doses); Fortis Healthcare (eight hospitals bought 4.48 lakh doses); Godrej (3.35 lakh doses); Manipal Health (3.24 lakh doses); Narayana Hrudalaya (2.02 lakh doses) and Techno India Dama (2 lakh doses). Most charge around Rs 850-1000 for Covishield and Rs 1,250 for Covaxin per shot. 

Related:

Delta variant, a. k.a B.1.617.2, is 50 percent more contagious: UK study
Using digital portal for vaccination will impede universal immunisation: SC
New vaccine policy conflicts with balance of constitutional mandate for Centre and States
Why can't allocated budget of Rs.35,000 crores be used for vaccinating 18-44 year olds: SC asks Centre
Centre’s paid vaccination policy for 18 to 44 years, prima facie arbitrary and irrational: SC
Odisha CM bats for centralised procurement of vaccines

Covid-19 vaccines: How did 9 pvt hospitals corner 50% doses?

According to government data the “cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has exceeded 22.78 Cr” by Saturday

Image Courtesy:indianexpress.com

On Saturday, official Covid-19 figures stated that India reported 1,20,529 Daily New Cases in the 24 hours. Even though it is the “lowest in almost two months” according to the government data, it is still a significantly high number. Experts across the world have stated how universal vaccination is the biggest step to flatten the Covid-19 curve. According to government of India’s data the “cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has exceeded 22.78 Cr” by Saturday and doses were administered “through 32,00,677 sessions”.

However, the ‘vaccine inequality’ is on the rise as is seen by the constant flagging of shortages by many states, often led by the Delhi government which has now taken to issuing daily vaccine bulletins by senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and MLA Atishi. She stated on Friday, “No Covaxin available now for second doses of 45+ and 18-45” in Delhi’s government vaccination centres, adding that “Covishield doses are available for those above 45 years age category, but Coaxin doses will almost run out of stock from today.” According to the Delhi government, vaccines are “not available for youth in Delhi for 12 days, vaccination of youth is not being done in any government center. Only 5 lakh vaccines are not enough for Delhi in June, 50 lakh vaccines are needed in this month.”

However, in top private hospitals of the national capital region there is no shortage at all. Vaccines are reportedly available, at a premium price of course, and some hospitals are also trying up with non governmental organisations and venues to hold walk-in or drive through vaccination camps. Almost all of them require a pre registration on CoWin or Arogya Setu. That there is a gap in the system is all too glaring. 

Where should the poor go for vaccination?

The Supreme Court asked the Centre to clarify how it plans to mitigate the large digital divide in the country as vaccinations are available through online registration for people in the 18-44 age group. The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Ravindra Bhat and Nageswara Rao also questioned the Centre on how it plans to manage the logistics and storage of vaccines when the Centre was not procuring them in the Phase III. The court cited various government reports to demonstrate the lack of access to the internet among the larger population, and how this will impinge their right to equality and right to health. The court also sought clarifications from the Centre on how it plans to manage the logistics of vaccines. 

According to a report in the Indian Express, “Nine corporate hospital groups cumulatively bought 60.57 lakh doses of the total 1.20 crore doses of vaccines procured by private hospitals in the first full month since the Central government revised its vaccine policy and opened it to the market.” Most of these hospital groups are located in big cities and have reportedly “cornered 50 per cent of the Covid-19 vaccine stock meant for the private sector in the month of May” reported IE adding that “purchases by private hospitals in May added up to 1.20 crore doses or 15.6 per cent.”

The top nine private corporate hospitals chains and the doses they got, as reported by IE are: Apollo Hospitals (nine hospitals of the group procured 16.1 lakh doses); Max Healthcare (six hospitals, 12.97 lakh doses); Reliance Foundation-run HN Hospital Trust (9.89 lakh doses); Medica Hospitals (6.26 lakh doses); Fortis Healthcare (eight hospitals bought 4.48 lakh doses); Godrej (3.35 lakh doses); Manipal Health (3.24 lakh doses); Narayana Hrudalaya (2.02 lakh doses) and Techno India Dama (2 lakh doses). Most charge around Rs 850-1000 for Covishield and Rs 1,250 for Covaxin per shot. 

Related:

Delta variant, a. k.a B.1.617.2, is 50 percent more contagious: UK study
Using digital portal for vaccination will impede universal immunisation: SC
New vaccine policy conflicts with balance of constitutional mandate for Centre and States
Why can't allocated budget of Rs.35,000 crores be used for vaccinating 18-44 year olds: SC asks Centre
Centre’s paid vaccination policy for 18 to 44 years, prima facie arbitrary and irrational: SC
Odisha CM bats for centralised procurement of vaccines

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Delta variant, a. k.a B.1.617.2, is 50 percent more contagious: UK study

Even as positivity rate dipped below 10 per cent now, experts have warned that India cannot take it easy yet

04 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:in.news.yahoo.com

It was once called B.1.617.2, then it was referred to in some reports as the “India variant” offending many, and has now been renamed Delta. Call it what you may, but it is this  Coronavirus variant of concern (VoC) that was first discovered in India, that is more “likely to lead to hospitalisations than the Alpha variant first detected in Kent”, according to a report from Public Health England, reported in the Guardian. It was this variant that was also reported to have caused the maximum havoc in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana, during the second wave, and was also found in other states.

Even as the positivity rate is reported to be below 10 per cent for more than a week now, experts have warned that India cannot take it easy just now, as many big challenges are still unfolding in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19.

According to the Guardian report the Delta variant, is “accounting for up to 75% of new coronavirus cases” in the UK and is “believed to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant, and somewhat more resistant to Covid vaccines, particularly after just one dose.” The analysis of “38,805 sequenced cases in England “revealed that the Delta variant was “associated with a 2.61 times higher risk of hospitalisation”. According to epidemiologists in the UK, if the “trend continues and case numbers continue to rise quickly, that would point to a larger number of people being seriously affected as this variant continues to replace the alpha variant over coming weeks.” The study by scientists of the Indian SARS COV2 Genomic Consortia and the National Centre for Disease Control is investigating the cause of the second wave. It concluded that the Delta variant is 50 per cent more contagious than the Alpha strain.

Meanwhile, according to health ministry data, India's active caseload is now at 16,35,993. India reported around 1.32 lakh new cases in the past 24 hours, and the daily positivity rate is at 6.38%. The government has claimed that 22.41 crore vaccine doses have been administered under Nationwide Vaccination Drive so far. The following graph from covid19india.org shows the 

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/aSivrRjohZ_zre4NkRKsRhfo7DJy3PDfHamtzjUZnAklJVqIcJUOoL1iIGzV1mFti_pYKq73q2lUZnQtmYSXcE2334UbwsB1Lpd5zqHs-L_R6PkLPrvAsIw1PSksQO4c7Nv9NXXb

Related 

EXCLUSIVE: PM must intervene, stop misinformation campaign, recognise Covid martyr medics: IMA chief
Bhima Koregaon case: 3 accused test Covid positive at Taloja jail
Using digital portal for vaccination will impede universal immunisation: SC

Delta variant, a. k.a B.1.617.2, is 50 percent more contagious: UK study

Even as positivity rate dipped below 10 per cent now, experts have warned that India cannot take it easy yet

Image Courtesy:in.news.yahoo.com

It was once called B.1.617.2, then it was referred to in some reports as the “India variant” offending many, and has now been renamed Delta. Call it what you may, but it is this  Coronavirus variant of concern (VoC) that was first discovered in India, that is more “likely to lead to hospitalisations than the Alpha variant first detected in Kent”, according to a report from Public Health England, reported in the Guardian. It was this variant that was also reported to have caused the maximum havoc in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana, during the second wave, and was also found in other states.

Even as the positivity rate is reported to be below 10 per cent for more than a week now, experts have warned that India cannot take it easy just now, as many big challenges are still unfolding in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19.

According to the Guardian report the Delta variant, is “accounting for up to 75% of new coronavirus cases” in the UK and is “believed to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant, and somewhat more resistant to Covid vaccines, particularly after just one dose.” The analysis of “38,805 sequenced cases in England “revealed that the Delta variant was “associated with a 2.61 times higher risk of hospitalisation”. According to epidemiologists in the UK, if the “trend continues and case numbers continue to rise quickly, that would point to a larger number of people being seriously affected as this variant continues to replace the alpha variant over coming weeks.” The study by scientists of the Indian SARS COV2 Genomic Consortia and the National Centre for Disease Control is investigating the cause of the second wave. It concluded that the Delta variant is 50 per cent more contagious than the Alpha strain.

Meanwhile, according to health ministry data, India's active caseload is now at 16,35,993. India reported around 1.32 lakh new cases in the past 24 hours, and the daily positivity rate is at 6.38%. The government has claimed that 22.41 crore vaccine doses have been administered under Nationwide Vaccination Drive so far. The following graph from covid19india.org shows the 

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/aSivrRjohZ_zre4NkRKsRhfo7DJy3PDfHamtzjUZnAklJVqIcJUOoL1iIGzV1mFti_pYKq73q2lUZnQtmYSXcE2334UbwsB1Lpd5zqHs-L_R6PkLPrvAsIw1PSksQO4c7Nv9NXXb

Related 

EXCLUSIVE: PM must intervene, stop misinformation campaign, recognise Covid martyr medics: IMA chief
Bhima Koregaon case: 3 accused test Covid positive at Taloja jail
Using digital portal for vaccination will impede universal immunisation: SC

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

594 doctors died during second wave of Covid-19: IMA

Delhi ranks highest in terms of doctor deaths in 2021, during the second wave of the pandemic

03 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:khn.org

As many as 594 doctors across India died due to Covid-19 during the second wave, said the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on June 2, 2021.

As per state-wise list released by the IMA, national capital Delhi has recorded the highest number of fatalities with 107 deaths, followed by 96 deaths in Bihar and 67 deaths in Uttar Pradesh. These three regions together account for 40 percent of doctor deaths recorded in 2021.

According to the NDTV, 748 doctors died due to Covid-19 in 2020. However, as shown on IMA’s website, 864 modern medicine doctors sacrificed their lives as healthcare workers dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic last year.

Meanwhile, India reported 1.34 lakh daily new cases in the last 24 hours on June 3. The Covid-19 India website recorded 3.38 lakh deaths in the country so far with Maharashtra (96,751), Karnataka (30,017), Tamil Nadu (25,205), Delhi (24,402) and Uttar Pradesh (20,787) ranking as the top five states.

Related:

Centre’s paid vaccination policy for 18 to 44 years, prima facie arbitrary and irrational: SC
NHRC issues new advisories for bonded and migrant labourers amid Covid-19
Deaths certificates should clearly state Covid-19 as the cause: SC
Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?

594 doctors died during second wave of Covid-19: IMA

Delhi ranks highest in terms of doctor deaths in 2021, during the second wave of the pandemic

Image Courtesy:khn.org

As many as 594 doctors across India died due to Covid-19 during the second wave, said the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on June 2, 2021.

As per state-wise list released by the IMA, national capital Delhi has recorded the highest number of fatalities with 107 deaths, followed by 96 deaths in Bihar and 67 deaths in Uttar Pradesh. These three regions together account for 40 percent of doctor deaths recorded in 2021.

According to the NDTV, 748 doctors died due to Covid-19 in 2020. However, as shown on IMA’s website, 864 modern medicine doctors sacrificed their lives as healthcare workers dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic last year.

Meanwhile, India reported 1.34 lakh daily new cases in the last 24 hours on June 3. The Covid-19 India website recorded 3.38 lakh deaths in the country so far with Maharashtra (96,751), Karnataka (30,017), Tamil Nadu (25,205), Delhi (24,402) and Uttar Pradesh (20,787) ranking as the top five states.

Related:

Centre’s paid vaccination policy for 18 to 44 years, prima facie arbitrary and irrational: SC
NHRC issues new advisories for bonded and migrant labourers amid Covid-19
Deaths certificates should clearly state Covid-19 as the cause: SC
Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

NHRC issues new advisories for bonded and migrant labourers amid Covid-19

The commission has laid down specific suggestions for prevention, identification, rescue and rehabilitation of bonded workers

02 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:business-standard.com

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued more advisories to various ministries and States on the adverse impact faced by labourers and migrant informal sector workers titled Advisory to identify, release and rehabilitate bonded labourers during Covid-19. This has been prepared in consultation with civil society organisations and other stakeholders covering the aspects of prevention, identification, rescue, as well as rehabilitation of the bonded labourers.

Last year, under the Supreme Court’s directions, the National Human Rights Commission had issued “Comprehensive Guidelines for All States/ UTs for Identification, Release and Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers during Covid-19 Situation.” But with the new challenges of the second wave, the NHRC has an additional set of guidelines in place to cover the aspects of prevention, identification, rescue, as well as rehabilitation of the bonded labourers, ensuring that prompt actions are taken by the government authorities to protect the most vulnerable section.

Prevention  

The human-rights body has suggested that Panchayats may be asked to maintain a record of information about persons residing in the village and those who migrated to towns/cities for work. The record will also maintain details of the labourers, middlemen, location of the workplace, etc. The District administration is supposed to coordinate with the railway authorities in the district to monitor if labourers are being trafficked and investigate it immediately, especially if it involves children.

The advisory also reads, “State Government should consider creating dedicated funds for providing free ration and healthcare to the vulnerable and daily wagers who lost jobs due to Covid-19 pandemic. The state should direct the district administrations to identify households in extreme vulnerable conditions and provide essential social security cover. This will prevent trafficking for bonded labour.”

NHRC has given more responsibility to the District administration that can consider coordinating with local NGOs working on labour issues to provide information on illegal migration.

Identification

Panchayats have been advised to immediately monitor and inform the District Magistrate (DM) if they have identified or received any complaints from family members on child/bonded labour conditions in the workplace of the labourer. Further, the District Magistrate should constitute/ activate the Vigilance Committee as per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 to carry out a survey of offences committed.

The DM should also constitute teams with relevant department officials to inspect industries/ brick kiln/other workplaces twice a month and identify if labourers are working under bonded labour conditions, as per NHRC.

Rescue

The DM and Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDM) have been advised to complete the investigation within 24 hours upon receiving a complaint of the bonded labour system. Due to the current pandemic, the DM/SDM need to ensure that the rescue team is trained on Covid-19 precautions and a thermal screening of the team should be made mandatory before conducting a rescue /spot inquiry.

During the process of rescue, the rescue team should ensure that the face masks and sanitisers are provided to the labourers and physical distance is adequately maintained among the labourers. After the rescue process is completed, NHRC has advised that the DM or SDM should ensure and arrange for basic health screening and Covid tests of rescued bonded labourers.

“If any rescued labourer is suspected of Covid-19, arrangements should be made to immediately escort the labourer to the nearest health facility to access free testing and treatment. Released Bonded Labourers should be vaccinated and if possible, vaccination should cover all age groups”, reads the advisory dated May 31.

Efforts should be made by the officials to recover the unpaid wages of the labourers on the spot as delay in payment of wages can make them vulnerable to re-bondage. The labourers also need to be provided with Release Certificates on priority and within 24 hours of the rescue. Transport facilities have to be arranged if the workers are willing to go back to their homes, suggested NHRC.

Rehabilitation

As prescribed in the Central Sector Scheme 2016, immediate cash assistance upto Rs. 20,000 should be provided by the District Administration to the rescued person out of the District Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Fund at the disposal of the District Magistrate. The District Administration has also been advised to ensure that additional cash and non-cash benefits other than the provisions in the CSS-2016 scheme be made available for the rescued labourers as part of social security cover to avoid the possibilities of re-bondage.

The Administration has been asked to undertake all measures to provide a safe and healthy environment for children of rescued bonded labourers/child labourers in coordination with relevant Government departments. Health screening, psycho social counselling and education shall be an integral component of this rehabilitation package.

In cases where the rescued bonded labourers are not willing to go back to their native place, proper protocols should be followed in places of their work and they must be ensured access to basic benefits, according to NHRC.

Legal Aid

For offences under laws other than Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, where statements under Section 161 CrPC are required to be recorded, the DM/SDM have been instructed to ensure that the same is done at the earliest, prior to repatriation and with appropriate Covid guidelines.

Given the risks involved in travel during the ongoing pandemic, the DM/SDM along with the police authorities have been asked to make efforts to ensure that the testimony of the released bonded labour is recorded by the concerned court through video conferencing.

In a scenario wherein a person released from bondage has been repatriated, but if later physically summoned by the Magistrate for evidence in trial, he/she should be provided with adequate safety and the proper health care norms should be followed during and post-trial.

Additional recommendations for the Centre and States/UTs

  1. The Principal Secretary, Labour Department, could appoint a State Nodal Officer not below the rank of Under Secretary to coordinate with the Ministry of Labour and Employment for status on submitted proposals and reimbursement of cash assistance under various components of the Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers, 2016.
  2. The district administration should ensure that the district bonded labour rehabilitation fund with a permanent corpus mentioned in the Scheme is available for immediate cash and travel assistance to released bonded labourers, post rescue.
  3. The State Labour Department shall create a helpline number connected with the labour officials in the district, to provide immediate help to labourers in distress at workplaces.
  4. The State Government should arrange virtual trainings for the State/ District officials working on bonded labour issues. The training should be conducted at least twice in a calendar year on the following: Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers, 2016 and Standard Operating Procedures to identify, rescue, release and rehabilitate bonded labourers.  
  5. The State Government should maintain a database of bonded labour rescues and rehabilitation. It should also mention the number of surveys/inspections conducted by the authorities to identify bonded labour.
  6. The Union Labour Ministry and State Labour Departments should update their websites regularly and ensure that data is properly managed with updated information.
  7. Efforts should be made by the District Administration to work closely with the Education Department to encourage enrolment of children into schools, to minimize the number of children falling out of education system and into child labour.

The NHRC advisory dated March 31, 2021 may be read here: 

Related:

NHRC’s advisories on Covid-19
Covid-19: Which states fared worst and why?
Right to Health: The forgotten Constitutional mandate

NHRC issues new advisories for bonded and migrant labourers amid Covid-19

The commission has laid down specific suggestions for prevention, identification, rescue and rehabilitation of bonded workers

Image Courtesy:business-standard.com

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued more advisories to various ministries and States on the adverse impact faced by labourers and migrant informal sector workers titled Advisory to identify, release and rehabilitate bonded labourers during Covid-19. This has been prepared in consultation with civil society organisations and other stakeholders covering the aspects of prevention, identification, rescue, as well as rehabilitation of the bonded labourers.

Last year, under the Supreme Court’s directions, the National Human Rights Commission had issued “Comprehensive Guidelines for All States/ UTs for Identification, Release and Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers during Covid-19 Situation.” But with the new challenges of the second wave, the NHRC has an additional set of guidelines in place to cover the aspects of prevention, identification, rescue, as well as rehabilitation of the bonded labourers, ensuring that prompt actions are taken by the government authorities to protect the most vulnerable section.

Prevention  

The human-rights body has suggested that Panchayats may be asked to maintain a record of information about persons residing in the village and those who migrated to towns/cities for work. The record will also maintain details of the labourers, middlemen, location of the workplace, etc. The District administration is supposed to coordinate with the railway authorities in the district to monitor if labourers are being trafficked and investigate it immediately, especially if it involves children.

The advisory also reads, “State Government should consider creating dedicated funds for providing free ration and healthcare to the vulnerable and daily wagers who lost jobs due to Covid-19 pandemic. The state should direct the district administrations to identify households in extreme vulnerable conditions and provide essential social security cover. This will prevent trafficking for bonded labour.”

NHRC has given more responsibility to the District administration that can consider coordinating with local NGOs working on labour issues to provide information on illegal migration.

Identification

Panchayats have been advised to immediately monitor and inform the District Magistrate (DM) if they have identified or received any complaints from family members on child/bonded labour conditions in the workplace of the labourer. Further, the District Magistrate should constitute/ activate the Vigilance Committee as per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 to carry out a survey of offences committed.

The DM should also constitute teams with relevant department officials to inspect industries/ brick kiln/other workplaces twice a month and identify if labourers are working under bonded labour conditions, as per NHRC.

Rescue

The DM and Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDM) have been advised to complete the investigation within 24 hours upon receiving a complaint of the bonded labour system. Due to the current pandemic, the DM/SDM need to ensure that the rescue team is trained on Covid-19 precautions and a thermal screening of the team should be made mandatory before conducting a rescue /spot inquiry.

During the process of rescue, the rescue team should ensure that the face masks and sanitisers are provided to the labourers and physical distance is adequately maintained among the labourers. After the rescue process is completed, NHRC has advised that the DM or SDM should ensure and arrange for basic health screening and Covid tests of rescued bonded labourers.

“If any rescued labourer is suspected of Covid-19, arrangements should be made to immediately escort the labourer to the nearest health facility to access free testing and treatment. Released Bonded Labourers should be vaccinated and if possible, vaccination should cover all age groups”, reads the advisory dated May 31.

Efforts should be made by the officials to recover the unpaid wages of the labourers on the spot as delay in payment of wages can make them vulnerable to re-bondage. The labourers also need to be provided with Release Certificates on priority and within 24 hours of the rescue. Transport facilities have to be arranged if the workers are willing to go back to their homes, suggested NHRC.

Rehabilitation

As prescribed in the Central Sector Scheme 2016, immediate cash assistance upto Rs. 20,000 should be provided by the District Administration to the rescued person out of the District Bonded Labour Rehabilitation Fund at the disposal of the District Magistrate. The District Administration has also been advised to ensure that additional cash and non-cash benefits other than the provisions in the CSS-2016 scheme be made available for the rescued labourers as part of social security cover to avoid the possibilities of re-bondage.

The Administration has been asked to undertake all measures to provide a safe and healthy environment for children of rescued bonded labourers/child labourers in coordination with relevant Government departments. Health screening, psycho social counselling and education shall be an integral component of this rehabilitation package.

In cases where the rescued bonded labourers are not willing to go back to their native place, proper protocols should be followed in places of their work and they must be ensured access to basic benefits, according to NHRC.

Legal Aid

For offences under laws other than Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, where statements under Section 161 CrPC are required to be recorded, the DM/SDM have been instructed to ensure that the same is done at the earliest, prior to repatriation and with appropriate Covid guidelines.

Given the risks involved in travel during the ongoing pandemic, the DM/SDM along with the police authorities have been asked to make efforts to ensure that the testimony of the released bonded labour is recorded by the concerned court through video conferencing.

In a scenario wherein a person released from bondage has been repatriated, but if later physically summoned by the Magistrate for evidence in trial, he/she should be provided with adequate safety and the proper health care norms should be followed during and post-trial.

Additional recommendations for the Centre and States/UTs

  1. The Principal Secretary, Labour Department, could appoint a State Nodal Officer not below the rank of Under Secretary to coordinate with the Ministry of Labour and Employment for status on submitted proposals and reimbursement of cash assistance under various components of the Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers, 2016.
  2. The district administration should ensure that the district bonded labour rehabilitation fund with a permanent corpus mentioned in the Scheme is available for immediate cash and travel assistance to released bonded labourers, post rescue.
  3. The State Labour Department shall create a helpline number connected with the labour officials in the district, to provide immediate help to labourers in distress at workplaces.
  4. The State Government should arrange virtual trainings for the State/ District officials working on bonded labour issues. The training should be conducted at least twice in a calendar year on the following: Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, Central Sector Scheme for Rehabilitation of Bonded Labourers, 2016 and Standard Operating Procedures to identify, rescue, release and rehabilitate bonded labourers.  
  5. The State Government should maintain a database of bonded labour rescues and rehabilitation. It should also mention the number of surveys/inspections conducted by the authorities to identify bonded labour.
  6. The Union Labour Ministry and State Labour Departments should update their websites regularly and ensure that data is properly managed with updated information.
  7. Efforts should be made by the District Administration to work closely with the Education Department to encourage enrolment of children into schools, to minimize the number of children falling out of education system and into child labour.

The NHRC advisory dated March 31, 2021 may be read here: 

Related:

NHRC’s advisories on Covid-19
Covid-19: Which states fared worst and why?
Right to Health: The forgotten Constitutional mandate

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Why can't allocated budget of Rs.35,000 crores be used for vaccinating 18-44 year olds: SC asks Centre

The court has asked the Central Government to clarify how this sum of money has been spent on vaccines so far

02 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:economictimes.indiatimes.com

In the suo motu matter titled In Re: Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre, “The Union Budget for Financial Year 2021-2022 had earmarked Rs. 35,000 crores for procuring vaccines. In light of the Liberalized Vaccination Policy, the Central Government is directed to clarify how these funds have been spent so far and why they cannot be utilized for vaccinating persons aged 18-44 years.”

With different prices of the vaccine for the Centre and States/UTs, the Centre informed the court that this policy has been adopted to instill a competitive market which would drive the market towards affordability and attract offshore vaccine manufacturers. It had also clarified that all persons of all age groups will get free vaccination throughout the country since all State/UT Governments have announced free vaccination for persons aged 18-44 years, in addition to the Central Government vaccinating persons over 45 years for free.

The Court thus, questioned the justification given by the Centre in its affidavit that the pricing policy has been framed to enable competitive pricing to incentivise more private manufacturers. When there are only two manufacturers to negotiate with pre-fixed prices, the Court wondered how this justification was tenable.

The current Liberalized Vaccination Policy enables State/UT Governments and private hospitals to procure 50 percent of the monthly CDL (Central Drugs Laboratory) approved doses in the country at a pre-fixed price. The justification for this Policy has been adduced in a bid to spur competition which would attract more private manufacturers that could eventually drive down prices, opined the court.

“Prima facie, the only room for negotiation with the two vaccine manufacturers was on price and quantity, both of which have been pre-fixed by the Central Government. This casts serious doubts on UoI’s justification for enabling higher prices as a competitive measure”, read the judgment.

The court further pointed out that the Central Government justifying its lower prices on account of its ability to place large purchase orders for vaccines “raises the issue as to why this rationale is not being employed for acquiring 100% of the monthly CDL doses.”

The Central Government in its affidavit stated that the eventual beneficiary of the vaccine would not be affected by the Liberalized Vaccination Policy since every State/UT has promised to vaccinate its residents free of cost. But the Supreme Court was not convinced and recorded in the judgment, that the UoI should consider utilising its position as the “monopolistic buyer in the market” and pass down the benefit to all persons.

“Even if the States/UTs were to fund the higher-priced vaccines, a burden they were not discharging before the Liberalized Vaccination Policy was introduced and potentially may not have planned in advance for, these funds are expended at the behest of the public exchequer”, said the court.

The three-judge Bench reiterated that if the Central Government’s unique monopolistic buyer position is the only reason for it receiving vaccines at a much lower rate from manufacturers, “it is important for us to examine the rationality of the existing Liberalized Vaccination Policy against Article 14 of the Constitution, since it could place severe burdens, particularly on States/UTs suffering from financial distress.”

On the pricing issue of the two vaccines in India, the court has asked the Union Government to state the comparison between the prices of vaccines being made available in India, to their prices internationally. The court also wants to know the manner in which the pricing of vaccines has been arrived at, with the Central Government refusing to intervene statutorily. “The justification for intervening in pre-fixing procurement prices and quantities for States/UTs and private hospitals, but not imposing statutory price ceilings”, is another point that the court has sought clarification.

The Central Government’s fresh affidavit is to be filed within 2 weeks, and the matter will be taken up on June 30. The court has also directed the Centre to ensure that copies of all the relevant documents and file noting reflecting its thinking and culminating in the vaccination policy are annexed to the affidavit on the vaccination policy.

The judgment may be read here:

Related:

Centre’s paid vaccination policy for 18 to 44 years, prima facie arbitrary and irrational: SC
Can't say you’re the Centre and you know what’s right: SC questions Centre’s vaccine strategy
SC sets up National Task Force for oxygen allocation across all States, UTs

Why can't allocated budget of Rs.35,000 crores be used for vaccinating 18-44 year olds: SC asks Centre

The court has asked the Central Government to clarify how this sum of money has been spent on vaccines so far

Image Courtesy:economictimes.indiatimes.com

In the suo motu matter titled In Re: Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre, “The Union Budget for Financial Year 2021-2022 had earmarked Rs. 35,000 crores for procuring vaccines. In light of the Liberalized Vaccination Policy, the Central Government is directed to clarify how these funds have been spent so far and why they cannot be utilized for vaccinating persons aged 18-44 years.”

With different prices of the vaccine for the Centre and States/UTs, the Centre informed the court that this policy has been adopted to instill a competitive market which would drive the market towards affordability and attract offshore vaccine manufacturers. It had also clarified that all persons of all age groups will get free vaccination throughout the country since all State/UT Governments have announced free vaccination for persons aged 18-44 years, in addition to the Central Government vaccinating persons over 45 years for free.

The Court thus, questioned the justification given by the Centre in its affidavit that the pricing policy has been framed to enable competitive pricing to incentivise more private manufacturers. When there are only two manufacturers to negotiate with pre-fixed prices, the Court wondered how this justification was tenable.

The current Liberalized Vaccination Policy enables State/UT Governments and private hospitals to procure 50 percent of the monthly CDL (Central Drugs Laboratory) approved doses in the country at a pre-fixed price. The justification for this Policy has been adduced in a bid to spur competition which would attract more private manufacturers that could eventually drive down prices, opined the court.

“Prima facie, the only room for negotiation with the two vaccine manufacturers was on price and quantity, both of which have been pre-fixed by the Central Government. This casts serious doubts on UoI’s justification for enabling higher prices as a competitive measure”, read the judgment.

The court further pointed out that the Central Government justifying its lower prices on account of its ability to place large purchase orders for vaccines “raises the issue as to why this rationale is not being employed for acquiring 100% of the monthly CDL doses.”

The Central Government in its affidavit stated that the eventual beneficiary of the vaccine would not be affected by the Liberalized Vaccination Policy since every State/UT has promised to vaccinate its residents free of cost. But the Supreme Court was not convinced and recorded in the judgment, that the UoI should consider utilising its position as the “monopolistic buyer in the market” and pass down the benefit to all persons.

“Even if the States/UTs were to fund the higher-priced vaccines, a burden they were not discharging before the Liberalized Vaccination Policy was introduced and potentially may not have planned in advance for, these funds are expended at the behest of the public exchequer”, said the court.

The three-judge Bench reiterated that if the Central Government’s unique monopolistic buyer position is the only reason for it receiving vaccines at a much lower rate from manufacturers, “it is important for us to examine the rationality of the existing Liberalized Vaccination Policy against Article 14 of the Constitution, since it could place severe burdens, particularly on States/UTs suffering from financial distress.”

On the pricing issue of the two vaccines in India, the court has asked the Union Government to state the comparison between the prices of vaccines being made available in India, to their prices internationally. The court also wants to know the manner in which the pricing of vaccines has been arrived at, with the Central Government refusing to intervene statutorily. “The justification for intervening in pre-fixing procurement prices and quantities for States/UTs and private hospitals, but not imposing statutory price ceilings”, is another point that the court has sought clarification.

The Central Government’s fresh affidavit is to be filed within 2 weeks, and the matter will be taken up on June 30. The court has also directed the Centre to ensure that copies of all the relevant documents and file noting reflecting its thinking and culminating in the vaccination policy are annexed to the affidavit on the vaccination policy.

The judgment may be read here:

Related:

Centre’s paid vaccination policy for 18 to 44 years, prima facie arbitrary and irrational: SC
Can't say you’re the Centre and you know what’s right: SC questions Centre’s vaccine strategy
SC sets up National Task Force for oxygen allocation across all States, UTs

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Science and Tech Ministry introduces XraySetu as an alternative to RT-PCR for rural areas

Acknowledging the lack of Covid-test availability in villages, the Centre works with Bengaluru-based start-ups to work on a platform that helps with early intervention

02 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:zeenews.india.com

In a move that can facilitate easy and quick detection of Covid-19 in rural areas, the Government of India introduced a new AI-driven platform ‘XraySetu’ to screen chest X-ray images over WhatsApp on June 2, 2021.

“As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across rural heartlands of India, it has become critical to drive rapid testing, contact tracing, and create dedicated containment zones. At a time when such tests are taking more than a week across some cities, the challenge is even more for rural areas. Easy alternative tests are necessary as RT-PCR tests also give a ‘false negative’ for some variants,” said the press release by the Science and Technology Ministry.

Accordingly, officials worked with Bengaluru-based not-for-profit foundation ARTPARK (AI & Robotics Technology Park) and HealthTech start-up Niramai and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), to develop an app that identifies Covid positive patients even from low-resolution chest X-ray images sent over WhatsApp messenger. XraySetu will assess the photo to see if the patient has any lung abnormality that indicates Covid-19 infection.

“In the absence of Covid-positive X-Ray images, we developed a unique Transfer Learning framework that leverages easily available X-ray images of lungs, not necessarily Covid positive, to learn useful features which have high predictive power. We also developed a confidence score which is guided by the areas of lungs that are infected. The system outputs a prediction, localizes the infected parts, and creates a report which gives a confidence score, all within a few minutes”, said IISc Professor Chiranjib Bhattacharyya.

The app uses information of affected areas for review and localized heatmap by doctors to help them verify it easily with other modalities. According to the government document XraySetu has already served close to 1,200 reports from the interior parts of India.

To conduct the health check via the beta version of the app, a doctor can simply visit www.xraysetu.com from where he will be redirected to another page that gives an option to engage with the WhatsApp-based web chatbot or smartphone application.

Doctors can also send a WhatsApp message to +91 8046163838 to start the service. After clicking the picture of the patient’s X-ray, the doctor will obtain 2-page automated diagnostics with annotated images in a few minutes. Along with the probability of the coronavirus contraction, the report will also highlight a localized heatmap for a quick perusal of the doctor.

The government states the app scored 98.86 percent sensitivity and 74.74 percent specificity in terms of performance after being tested and validated with over 1,25,000 X-ray images from National Institute of Health, UK and over 1000+ Indian Covid-patients.

According to ARTPARK Founder Umakant Soni, “We need to scale technology for addressing the needs of 1.36 billion people, especially considering we have one radiologist for over one million people. Built with the collaboration of industry and academia, XraySetu paves the way for exponential technologies to leapfrog and provide cutting-edge healthcare technology to rural India in an extremely cost-effective manner.”

Besides coronavirus, the platform can also detect 14 additional lung-related ailments like tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc. It can further be used for both analog and digital X-rays and has been successfully piloted by more than 300 doctors in rural areas over the last 10 months, said the Centre.

Related:

53 Rohingyas test positive at Kathua jail facility
Covid-19 has spawned more quacks than a duck pond
Medical system in rural Uttar Pradesh is ‘Ram Bharose’: Allahabad HC
EXCLUSIVE: 225 pilots Covid positive already but no vaccine or help from Air India: ICPA

Science and Tech Ministry introduces XraySetu as an alternative to RT-PCR for rural areas

Acknowledging the lack of Covid-test availability in villages, the Centre works with Bengaluru-based start-ups to work on a platform that helps with early intervention

Image Courtesy:zeenews.india.com

In a move that can facilitate easy and quick detection of Covid-19 in rural areas, the Government of India introduced a new AI-driven platform ‘XraySetu’ to screen chest X-ray images over WhatsApp on June 2, 2021.

“As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across rural heartlands of India, it has become critical to drive rapid testing, contact tracing, and create dedicated containment zones. At a time when such tests are taking more than a week across some cities, the challenge is even more for rural areas. Easy alternative tests are necessary as RT-PCR tests also give a ‘false negative’ for some variants,” said the press release by the Science and Technology Ministry.

Accordingly, officials worked with Bengaluru-based not-for-profit foundation ARTPARK (AI & Robotics Technology Park) and HealthTech start-up Niramai and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), to develop an app that identifies Covid positive patients even from low-resolution chest X-ray images sent over WhatsApp messenger. XraySetu will assess the photo to see if the patient has any lung abnormality that indicates Covid-19 infection.

“In the absence of Covid-positive X-Ray images, we developed a unique Transfer Learning framework that leverages easily available X-ray images of lungs, not necessarily Covid positive, to learn useful features which have high predictive power. We also developed a confidence score which is guided by the areas of lungs that are infected. The system outputs a prediction, localizes the infected parts, and creates a report which gives a confidence score, all within a few minutes”, said IISc Professor Chiranjib Bhattacharyya.

The app uses information of affected areas for review and localized heatmap by doctors to help them verify it easily with other modalities. According to the government document XraySetu has already served close to 1,200 reports from the interior parts of India.

To conduct the health check via the beta version of the app, a doctor can simply visit www.xraysetu.com from where he will be redirected to another page that gives an option to engage with the WhatsApp-based web chatbot or smartphone application.

Doctors can also send a WhatsApp message to +91 8046163838 to start the service. After clicking the picture of the patient’s X-ray, the doctor will obtain 2-page automated diagnostics with annotated images in a few minutes. Along with the probability of the coronavirus contraction, the report will also highlight a localized heatmap for a quick perusal of the doctor.

The government states the app scored 98.86 percent sensitivity and 74.74 percent specificity in terms of performance after being tested and validated with over 1,25,000 X-ray images from National Institute of Health, UK and over 1000+ Indian Covid-patients.

According to ARTPARK Founder Umakant Soni, “We need to scale technology for addressing the needs of 1.36 billion people, especially considering we have one radiologist for over one million people. Built with the collaboration of industry and academia, XraySetu paves the way for exponential technologies to leapfrog and provide cutting-edge healthcare technology to rural India in an extremely cost-effective manner.”

Besides coronavirus, the platform can also detect 14 additional lung-related ailments like tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc. It can further be used for both analog and digital X-rays and has been successfully piloted by more than 300 doctors in rural areas over the last 10 months, said the Centre.

Related:

53 Rohingyas test positive at Kathua jail facility
Covid-19 has spawned more quacks than a duck pond
Medical system in rural Uttar Pradesh is ‘Ram Bharose’: Allahabad HC
EXCLUSIVE: 225 pilots Covid positive already but no vaccine or help from Air India: ICPA

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Sabrang

Huge mismatch between Gujarat’s Covid records and data from crematoria, cemeteries

Despite ranking among the top three states in terms of vaccination drive, the state’s data in terms of Covid-deaths barely accounts for even 10 percent of the actual data presented on-ground.

02 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:businesstoday.in

Three months into the second wave of Covid-19, newspapers continue to document the gulf-like disparity between the government Covid-data and on-ground reports. Such is the difference between the two numbers that media reports claim Surat's crematorium data records 11 times more Covid-deaths than official figures.

According to Reuters, at least seven cemeteries, including graveyards, in the city conducted more than three-fold cremations and burials in April compared with a year ago. Site visits and logs revealed 6,520 deaths in April compared to 1,980 deaths in the same month last year. Yet, the administration recognises only 585 Covid-deaths for both city and district toll.

Similarly, Surat’s renowned Ashwini Kumar crematorium claimed 3,129 cremations in April, Trustee Prashant Kabrawala told the news agency. Last year in April, the same place conducted 1,200 cremations. Workers at the crematorium reported incessant arrival of bodies even at night with nine gas crematoriums working non-stop.

The consequences of such stress on infrastructure were survived by people at the Kurukshetra crematorium where a chimney collapsed due to overheating as furnaces ran without break for a prolonged period of time. As per records, the facility cremated over 100 bodies a day on several days. Another place in Umra area, recorded 874 deaths in April, 2021 as opposed to 212 bodies in April, 2020.

Meanwhile, four Muslim burial grounds said that workers had to hire mechanical excavators to keep up with demand. The largest one in Surat, Gore Gariba Kabrastan, said burials spiked to an all-time high of 91 bodies in April 2021. According to Secretary and Managing Trustee Aiyub Mohamed Yacoobali the average number of burials prior to the second wave was around 20 burials per month.

Later in May, The Wire reported severe space constraints for two small graveyards in Muslim-populated Juhapura in Ahmedabad district. Steadily decreasing labour force resulted in a six-hour waiting period for a burial. Grave diggers that are joined by volunteers end up working till 3 AM.

Last year, mechanical excavators dug the ground at Namara Chhota Kabrastan as deep as 10 feet. Workers are now digging up the same spots six feet deep to bury this year’s casualties. As for Christian and Parsi communities in the state, members agreed to cremate their dead instead of conventional burials.

Recently, local Gujarati paper Gujarat Samachar announced 783 official deaths recorded during the first five months of the year at Modasa town of Aravalli district. Journalist Deepak Patel, who has been vigilantly recording the gaps between state and newspaper obituaries, stated that in the pre-pandemic era, the town noted an average of 60 deaths per month. This means that there are nearly 483 deaths in 2021 that have not been accounted for by officials.

Moreover, the state government data states 74 Covid-death in the whole Aravalli district between 2020 and 2021, even though there are more than 680 villages in the area. On June 2, Patel noted that 750 bodies were cremated as per Covid protocol at a cremation ground in Navsari, Gujarat within the last 2 months. However, Gujarat official data only recognised 23 people who died due to Covid-19 in the area.

Reports comparing obituary entries and government figures have become routine reports. Most recent data sourced from Gujarat Samchar of June 1 alone shows the significance of such articles in the state:

District

Gujarat Samachar deaths

Official deaths

Gandhinagar

5

0

Vadodara

35

3

Kheda

8

0

Surat

12 (at least)

3

Bharuch

6 (at least)

0

All

66 (at least)

6

Aside from this, the newspaper also recorded 34 Covid-deaths in Jamnagar, Rajkot and Gir Somnath districts on Tuesday while government data showed only five deaths in the three places. Similarly, Navsari and Valsad reported five Covid-deaths but government figures did not note any of these deaths.

Using such data, Patel also created a detailed table that compared data collated using Sandesh newspaper reports and Gujarat government information from April 25 to May 24.

What about vaccination?

On May 5, experts had questioned government data that showed 60 percent of the 86,023 people vaccinated by then were administered in Gujarat. Indeed, Gujarat is among the nine states that has vaccinated more than one crore people in its jurisdiction.

However, this huge lead has not helped the state considering Gujarat ranks only third in terms of number of vaccinations.

Maharashtra, leading in terms of vaccination, records 2,30,24,889 doses while Gujarat has conducted only 1,74, 53,553 doses in all. Even compared to Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat lags behind by more than 15 lakh doses.

The state is also not exempt from peculiarities such as incidents wherein people who had died years ago have been declared as vaccinated. According to India Today, more than 10 such cases have been observed so far. Among them, a man named Natwarlal Desai died in 2011. Angered families have demanded an investigation into the matter.

As of June 1, Covid19India records 8,10,730 confirmed cases with 29,015 confirmed cases and 9,855 deaths. Including the 60 outstanding deaths mentioned by Gujarat Samachar on Tuesday, this brings the death toll to at least 9,915 deaths.

Related:

Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?
Did Gujarat get preference over other states in Covid vaccination for 18-44 year olds?
Anger simmers as bodies pile up outside crematoria in Gujarat
Are obituaries in Gujarat newspapers a better indicator of real Covid-deaths?

Huge mismatch between Gujarat’s Covid records and data from crematoria, cemeteries

Despite ranking among the top three states in terms of vaccination drive, the state’s data in terms of Covid-deaths barely accounts for even 10 percent of the actual data presented on-ground.

Image Courtesy:businesstoday.in

Three months into the second wave of Covid-19, newspapers continue to document the gulf-like disparity between the government Covid-data and on-ground reports. Such is the difference between the two numbers that media reports claim Surat's crematorium data records 11 times more Covid-deaths than official figures.

According to Reuters, at least seven cemeteries, including graveyards, in the city conducted more than three-fold cremations and burials in April compared with a year ago. Site visits and logs revealed 6,520 deaths in April compared to 1,980 deaths in the same month last year. Yet, the administration recognises only 585 Covid-deaths for both city and district toll.

Similarly, Surat’s renowned Ashwini Kumar crematorium claimed 3,129 cremations in April, Trustee Prashant Kabrawala told the news agency. Last year in April, the same place conducted 1,200 cremations. Workers at the crematorium reported incessant arrival of bodies even at night with nine gas crematoriums working non-stop.

The consequences of such stress on infrastructure were survived by people at the Kurukshetra crematorium where a chimney collapsed due to overheating as furnaces ran without break for a prolonged period of time. As per records, the facility cremated over 100 bodies a day on several days. Another place in Umra area, recorded 874 deaths in April, 2021 as opposed to 212 bodies in April, 2020.

Meanwhile, four Muslim burial grounds said that workers had to hire mechanical excavators to keep up with demand. The largest one in Surat, Gore Gariba Kabrastan, said burials spiked to an all-time high of 91 bodies in April 2021. According to Secretary and Managing Trustee Aiyub Mohamed Yacoobali the average number of burials prior to the second wave was around 20 burials per month.

Later in May, The Wire reported severe space constraints for two small graveyards in Muslim-populated Juhapura in Ahmedabad district. Steadily decreasing labour force resulted in a six-hour waiting period for a burial. Grave diggers that are joined by volunteers end up working till 3 AM.

Last year, mechanical excavators dug the ground at Namara Chhota Kabrastan as deep as 10 feet. Workers are now digging up the same spots six feet deep to bury this year’s casualties. As for Christian and Parsi communities in the state, members agreed to cremate their dead instead of conventional burials.

Recently, local Gujarati paper Gujarat Samachar announced 783 official deaths recorded during the first five months of the year at Modasa town of Aravalli district. Journalist Deepak Patel, who has been vigilantly recording the gaps between state and newspaper obituaries, stated that in the pre-pandemic era, the town noted an average of 60 deaths per month. This means that there are nearly 483 deaths in 2021 that have not been accounted for by officials.

Moreover, the state government data states 74 Covid-death in the whole Aravalli district between 2020 and 2021, even though there are more than 680 villages in the area. On June 2, Patel noted that 750 bodies were cremated as per Covid protocol at a cremation ground in Navsari, Gujarat within the last 2 months. However, Gujarat official data only recognised 23 people who died due to Covid-19 in the area.

Reports comparing obituary entries and government figures have become routine reports. Most recent data sourced from Gujarat Samchar of June 1 alone shows the significance of such articles in the state:

District

Gujarat Samachar deaths

Official deaths

Gandhinagar

5

0

Vadodara

35

3

Kheda

8

0

Surat

12 (at least)

3

Bharuch

6 (at least)

0

All

66 (at least)

6

Aside from this, the newspaper also recorded 34 Covid-deaths in Jamnagar, Rajkot and Gir Somnath districts on Tuesday while government data showed only five deaths in the three places. Similarly, Navsari and Valsad reported five Covid-deaths but government figures did not note any of these deaths.

Using such data, Patel also created a detailed table that compared data collated using Sandesh newspaper reports and Gujarat government information from April 25 to May 24.

What about vaccination?

On May 5, experts had questioned government data that showed 60 percent of the 86,023 people vaccinated by then were administered in Gujarat. Indeed, Gujarat is among the nine states that has vaccinated more than one crore people in its jurisdiction.

However, this huge lead has not helped the state considering Gujarat ranks only third in terms of number of vaccinations.

Maharashtra, leading in terms of vaccination, records 2,30,24,889 doses while Gujarat has conducted only 1,74, 53,553 doses in all. Even compared to Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat lags behind by more than 15 lakh doses.

The state is also not exempt from peculiarities such as incidents wherein people who had died years ago have been declared as vaccinated. According to India Today, more than 10 such cases have been observed so far. Among them, a man named Natwarlal Desai died in 2011. Angered families have demanded an investigation into the matter.

As of June 1, Covid19India records 8,10,730 confirmed cases with 29,015 confirmed cases and 9,855 deaths. Including the 60 outstanding deaths mentioned by Gujarat Samachar on Tuesday, this brings the death toll to at least 9,915 deaths.

Related:

Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?
Did Gujarat get preference over other states in Covid vaccination for 18-44 year olds?
Anger simmers as bodies pile up outside crematoria in Gujarat
Are obituaries in Gujarat newspapers a better indicator of real Covid-deaths?

Related Articles


Theme

Campaigns

Videos

Archives

IN FACT

Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

Analysis

Archives

Podcasts

Subscribe to India