Prioritise food and work for all

Synopsis:

The second wave of Pandemic has put immense stress on the Indian masses. They are facing job losses, food shortages, and hunger issues. In this scenario, the government should prioritise food and work for all.

Background:
  • The second wave of Covid-19 -19 has made it imperative for many states to impose a lockdown.
  • This is creating severe hardships for the marginalized and vulnerable masses. Migrant workers and the rural poor have been facing great distress over the past year and the crisis for food and work is only going to intensify further.

Dismal State of Affairs:

  • The ‘Hunger Watch’ report of the Right to Food Campaign and the Centre for Equity Studies compares the pre-lockdown situation to the situation in October 2020. As per the report, 
    • 27% of the respondents had no income; 
    • 40% of the respondents witnessed worsening of their food’s nutritional quality
    • 46% of the respondents had to skip one meal at least once a day in October 2020
  • According to the estimates of the Stranded Workers Action Network, 81% of stranded workers are without any work since April 15, 2021.
    • Further, 76% of the workers are short of food and cash and require immediate support.
Inadequate Efforts:
  • The government announced 5 kg free food grains for individuals enlisted under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), for May and June 2021. 
    • However, about 100 million deserving people are excluded from the ration distribution system. This is due to an outdated database based on the 2011 Census.
  • The Centre had allocated 73,000 crore rupees for 2021-22 for MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) and notified an annual increment of about 4% in wages.
    • This is 38,500 crore rupees less than last year’s revised estimate. Even if 1 crore fewer people enroll in the scheme than the previous year, then also this year’s amount can’t meet their demands.
Way Forward:
  • The government should expand PDS coverage immediately and include all eligible households under the schemes. It should extend the free food grains program to a year instead of limiting it to two months.
  • The government should give a wage hike of at least 10%. This would further call for an allocation of at least 1.4 lakh crore towards the MGNREGS for ensuring an uninterrupted implementation during the year.

Source: The Hindu

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