The existing supply of food in 44 per cent households of around 500 surveyed in Ahmedabad would last only for a week while around 40 per cent of the households reported urgent requirement of food or medicines for their neighbours, according to a study by a group of volunteers, including students and staff, from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA).
According to the survey conducted between March 29 and April 9 to identify the difficulties faced by these households during the nationwide lockdown initiated on March 25, 74 per cent households were not earning regular incomes anymore.
The volunteers held telephonic interviews with the members of these households to identify their immediate requirements, and provide information regarding symptoms, precautions, government schemes and helplines.
While people from 11 per cent households were able to return to their hometowns or villages (primarily Rajasthan), there are families stuck in transit or staying within Ahmedabad outside their usual residence, and of working males being separated from their families.
“Due to the sudden fall in incomes, most households were unable to procure vegetables, milk, washing powder, sanitary pads among other essentials,” the survey report says.
The responses included: “I have no job and have withdrawn all my money from the bank to feed my family of six…”, “…although food kits are being provided by the government and NGOs, they come in limited numbers… My family has enough food for more than a week so please help others who are more in need…”, “My family is relying on relatives for food and shelter…”, “I have only Rs 500-800 left…”
“More community kitchens should be started for migrant workers who are otherwise primarily reliant on street vendors… They neither have the means for cooking nor the space. More than 4,500 such workers have been identified in parts of around 4 wards of Ahmedabad (Ahmedabad has 48 wards),” said Prof Ankur Sarin, IIMA faculty associated with the survey.
Many of the households said they would not be able to pay next month’s rent, phone bills, electricity bills or next installment of school fees. The vulnerable groups are mostly drivers, tailors, daily wage workers, plumbers, rickshaw pullers, food stall owners and workers, vegetable sellers and cleaners. Only 16 per cent are receiving any external help, including from NGOs.
The survey revealed that many of them with ration cards were unable to get benefits under government schemes as it didn’t have the “sikka” or NFSA stamp. The offices where the stamp can be obtained are shut.
“We are not receiving proper supplies from the ration shop… I tried asking the ration shop owner, but he shooed us away…,” one of the families said.
Prof Sarin added that such workers should be brought to temporary shelters. “Network of Self Help Groups should be tapped to manage and run these community kitchens like the Kudumbashree model followed in Kerala. Migrant workers should be allowed to prove their identity through any means available to them to access government schemes,” he added.
The survey also suggests that a guidelines on identification of the beneficiaries, benefit, registration as well as process of application and aviling benefits should be communicated clearly.