'Give Rs 7,000 each for two months to poor households'

Give Rs 7,000 each for two months to poor households: Activists

Representative image (iStock Photo)

Over 50 activists and academicians on Tuesday urged central and state governments to provide Rs 7,000 each for two months to poor households, expand the scope of rural job guarantee scheme and advance payment of three months pension to help people who suffered a "devastating impact" on their lives and livelihoods due to the spread of Covid-19.

In a letter to the governments, they also said that the poor households be given free ration along with cooking oil, pulses, salt, masala, and soap for a period of three months, immediate clearance of all pending liabilities of wages and materials to the tune of Rs 8,396 crore under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and immediate transfer of the first instalment of the PM-Kisan scheme.

Fifty-three activists and academicians who signed the letter said the government should be aware that a large number of urban informal workers, migrant labourers, construction workers, nomadic communities, and the homeless are unlikely to be listed in any welfare programme and there should be an attempt to reach out to them.

"The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be a serious public health issue and will possibly have a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of crores of people. As in most cases, those likely to be affected the most would be the informal labour force, agricultural workers, small and marginal farmers, MGNREGA workers, old age pensioners, widows, the differently-abled, slum dwellers, the homeless and other such vulnerable communities," they said.

They said that immediate relief package should be done as a doorstep delivery and handed to people as cash along with the three months of ration in advance.

"There can be a box with rations, an envelope with the cash and a pen (to be kept by the household) to sign upon receiving the entire package of rations and cash," the letter signed by academicians Jayati Ghosh and Jean Dreze and activists Yogendra Yadav, Annie Raja, Aruna Roy, Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander, Kavita Krishnan and Nikhil Dey among others, said.

"We propose an emergency relief package programme for each poor household. The package is Rs 7,000 per household per month for the months of April and May. The total amount required for this one-time emergency relief is about Rs 3.75 lakh crore (1.92% of the GDP)," they said.

Another suggestion was the payment of full wages to all registered MGNREGA workers during the lockdown period and this should not be an unemployment allowance but instead wages for the period where they should have been working but are unable to work.

They also said Covid-19 specific requirements such as making of masks and sanitisers can be brought under the admissible works under MNREGA.

With several migrant workers returning to their villages due to lockdown across Indian cities, the activists said there would be more demand for work under MNREGA, which will "serve as a critical source of social security" over the coming fiscal. It said the number of days of work per rural household should not be limited to 100 days per year in these "extraordinary circumstances".

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