Migrant workers’ return en masse from urban hubs a concern: Empowered group
The return of migrant labourers en masse from urban hubs of work to their villages is a primary area of concern, the Empowered Group, headed by Niti Aayog chairman Amitabh Kant, has noted in a progress report. Scores of NGOs are coordinating efforts and working closely with the district administrations and state governments so that measures of care, quarantine, and treatment go hand in hand, it added.
The group had directed all chief secretaries to appoint state-level nodal Officers to coordinate with all NGOs and resolve their issues apart from leveraging their resources and networks.
“Almost all States have appointed Nodal Officers to liaise with NGOs/CSOs.All Chief Secretaries were requested to instruct the District Administrations to leverage the bandwidth of NGOs and CSOs; Nominate Nodal NGO for each district, or groups of Districts for coordinating with the District Nodal Officer; and identify areas and sectors to stop duplicity and overlaps,” it said.
“NGOs were also urged to lift and distribute rice and wheat from the Food Corporation of India’s godowns at the subsidized rate of Rs 21-22 per kg respectively so that no one in the country remains hungry,” it added.
The empowered group committee is monitoring and coordinating with the NGO and Civil Society Organisations across all states and 700 districts on a real time basis to fight the spread of Covid-19. It has engaged with Civil Society Organisations, NGOs, development partners, UN Agencies, and industry associations in over 15 meetings.
“In the Aspirational Districts Programme piloted by NITI Aayog, as of now there are about 610 cases in 112 aspirational districts which is considered fairly low at less than 2% of the national level of infections,” the empowered group said. Of these, six districts have reported the first case after April 21. Major hotspots are Baramula (62), Nuh (57), Ranchi (55), YSR (55), Kupwara (47) and Jaisalmer(34) it added.
NITI Aayog has taken steps to ensure that these districts are able to contain the spread of the virus and has actively referred the requirements in testing kits, PPE and masks to the respective empowered groups for necessary action in order to address supply constraints, it noted.
“Collaboration has been one of the guiding principles in Aspirational District Programme and these partnerships have enabled the District Administrations in ramping up isolation camps, setting up control rooms, door-to-door food supplies, distribution of cooked foods, mobilization of Self Help Groups for making home-made masks, sanitizers and re-usable & sterilizable protective gear while simultaneously sustaining their livelihoods during lockdown period. Osmanabad is one such district where a testing Centre has been established by utilizing the CSR corpus,” it said.
The empowered group has also mobilised these 92,000 NGOs across districts for monitoring and coordinating. “It is a record of sorts, to harness their strengths and resources, expertise in key social sectors-nutrition, health, sanitation, education, and extensive reach in the community,” a Niti Aayog official said.
The group has involved them in identifying hotspots and deputing volunteers; delivering essential services to the vulnerable, including the homeless, daily wage workers, migrants, and urban poor families; and in creating awareness about prevention, social distancing, and isolation.
In the next phase, the group will mobilise CSOs and NGOs for movement against Covid-19 stigmatisation and in protecting the elderly and senior citizens. The UN in India has prepared a Joint Response Plan (JRP) with prevention, treatment and essential supplies as key components.
“Skill building of 15,300 trainers, training for 3951 surveillance/ health officers on Integrated Health Information Platform, infection prevention and control training in 890 hospitals, support to ICMR for testing, strengthening risk communication and community engagement capabilities of healthcare workers, procurement of 2 lakh PPEs and 4 lakh N95 masks, have been initiated by WHO and UNICEF,” the report said.
The UN is also engaged in the procurement of medical supplies including ventilators (initially 1000 units as per the current requests, but potentially higher based on future demand) for 25 States. Further, an order of 10,000 ventilators and 10 million PPE Kits to UNICEF was expedited by group, it said.
Niti Aayog has also engaged with the Indian Red Cross Society whose 40,000 volunteers are working with district administration in over 500 districts. It has created quarantine/isolation facilities at 33 locations, facilitated donation of ventilators, masks, PPEs, and test kits valued at Rs 5.50 crore, apart from relief and advocacy across the 500 districts, it added.
The group has also urged all CSOs, NGOs, International Organisations and Industry partners to effectively utilise the Arogya Setu app in their operations. According to Niti Aayog, 80 million people have installed the app thus far.