May 30, 2021 11:50:55 pm
As the Covid-19 pandemic raged through the country, one of the worst affected was migrant workers. According to a rapid survey of migrant workers in Ahmedabad, 74 per cent of them reported limited food, while their average weekly earnings have fallen by 30 per cent.
The migrant workers are unable to find work as due to rural distress, 70 per cent of them opted to stay back in the city during the lockdown. The most affected are stitching units and construction sector, where weekly wages fell by 47 and 51 per cent, respectively, revealed the survey by the Ahmedabad Centre of Aajeevika Bureau — a public service initiative working with migrant communities across Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Sixty per cent of migrant households reported that they had immediate cash and dry ration stock to survive for less than 15 days, as per the rapid telephonic study held in May, 2021, where nearly 200 migrant workers in Ahmedabad were surveyed. Around 54 per cent reported reduced wages, while another 32 per cent reported non-payment of wages.
“Unlike last year, the conditions are different this time. Migrants have decided to stay back in the city because of rural distress and the workers have not yet recovered from last year’s shocks. Also, there is no economic support from the state or central government so far,” said Mahesh Gajera, programme manager, Aajeevika Bureau.
Gajera added that 90 per cent of migrant workers from tribal districts of Dahod, Panchmahal and other districts bordering Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have returned to Ahmedabad city after Holi festival, but were still struggling to find livelihood.
Based on the findings of the survey, the non-government organisation submitted a representation to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on May 25 and demanded that the state government secure the livelihood, food security and health needs of these workers. The organisation also suggested several solutions, including income support of Rs 5,000 per month for unorganised workers for three months and additional income support to infected workers, registration of workers, free ration supply to for six months and walk-in vaccination facilities for unorganised workers.
Around 60 per cent workers surveyed shared that they were willing to take vaccine for Covid-19 of which, 55 per cent even stated that they would be willing to pay.
“However, the remaining 40 per cent workers expressed hesitation and lack of information about vaccination and its possible effects. Also, losing a day’s wages for taking vaccine and recovering from possible side-effects also emerged as reasons. None of the workers had taken the vaccine at the time of the survey since the vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group commenced only on May 1,” said Shubham Kaushal, a lawyer associated with Aajeevika Bureau.
The findings also covers relief and support from the government that are largely expected on two fronts — supply of free ration (57 per cent) and cash transfers (49 per cent).
Around 51 per cent workers wanted to be provided with work opportunities, while 39 per cent demanded assistance for medical expenditure. Regarding housing, 38 per cent workers expressed need for support in payment of rent and 34 per cent in waiver of electricity bills.
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