Need to Prioritise Vaccination for Migrant workers

Synopsis: The migrant workers contribute significantly to the economy, however, they are also more vulnerable to the Covid crisis. Hence, the government needs to prioritize Vaccination for the migrant population.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out across the nation and nearly 105 million Indians have been vaccinated so far.
  • Priorities for vaccination in India are based on occupation, age and health conditions.
  • But the migrant community with no specific definitions based on any criteria, are not on the priority list for vaccination
Why Migrant population needs to be added in the priority list for vaccination?

First, the Migrant Population is more vulnerable to the Covid crisis than any other community. For instance,

    1. One, Covid crisis has severely impacted their livelihood opportunities. During lockdown, millions of migrant workers lost their jobs, forcing them and their families to poverty.
    2. Two, owing to their informal employment, they lack access to adequate healthcare, nutrition, housing as well as sanitation facilities.
    3. Three, the COVID-19 crisis displaced nearly 200 million migrants. It was the second-largest population displacement since Partition

Second, despite their informal nature they contribute significantly to the Indian economy. For instance,

      • Out of 90 percent of work in the informal sector, 75 percent of work comes from migrants. Further, vulnerable circular migrants manage most of the essential services.

Third, lack of access to vaccination will deprive them of employment opportunities. This will result in a drop in developmental indicators such as the health and education of migrant families. The migrant community needs an adequate support system to survive this Pandemic.

Fourth, further, failure to prioritize their vaccination will result in an economic crisis such as low productivity, increasing unemployment, and breakdown of the critical informal services.

Welfare measures for the migrant population

To ensure food security, the government announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore spending plan for the poor through cash transfers and other measures.

    • One, the average daily wages under the MGNREGA were increased to Rs 202 from the earlier Rs 182.
    • Two, free food grains for 80 million migrant workers through PDS were also announced.
    • Three, the government-operated separate buses for the stranded migrants.
    • Four, the Centre issued an order instructing landlords not to demand rent and employers to pay wages without deduction during the lockdown period. (the order regarding payment of wages was later withdrawn)
Issues in welfare measure for migrants 

Despite these efforts, the welfare measures have not been able to effectively address the problems of the migrant population.

  • One, migrants were unable to benefit from the food security schemes. Because ration cards were area-specific and some fair-price stores were inaccessible during the lockdown. Further, lack of awareness about One Nation, One Ration Card schemes denied them access to free food grains.
  • Two, the Supreme Court denied a plea requiring payment of the minimum wage to the migrant population. It stated that labourers had already been supplied with free food at the relief camps.Source: Indian Express
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