In continuation with the ongoing discussions on the Rural Realities around the country, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi and Orissa Economics Association, Odisha organised a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities | Odisha Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 15, 2021, as the second wave of coronavirus pandemic is engulfing the length and breadth of our country, India, and hitting the heartland of our country which is the rural areas.
Migrant Labourers and their Livelihood Issues
Mr Umi Daniel, Director, Migration & Education, Aide et Action International, Bhubaneswar, said that out of the 10 million migrants in India, 10 lakh migrants came back to Odisha in February 2021 with the highest percentage in Ganjam district with 20%. NREGA which was supposed to provide household work to 4-5 lakh people during normal month jumped to 14 lakh and then fell to 8 lakhs in March 2021. In April 2020, 20 lakh people were added, and the government did provide financial support, but the distress condition was huge.
In conclusion, the data which was collected by the government of Odisha, during 2020, when people came back was done beautifully but when few labourers went back during September 2020 no data was recorded. Hence, in the second wave, one can’t say how many labourers came back. That’s a very big loss even though Odisha has a strong Panchayat.
In the year 2020, 12000 temporary medical centres were opened but this year only 500 is there. Last year the government of Odisha was much more prepared in terms of medical centres and data collection but during the second wave, not much focus is given to these things.
Because of seasonal migration, a lot more labourers are expected to arrive back in Odisha in the coming month, so, the government should start to provide a lot more medical assistance and equipment in the medical centres as the migrants will be coming from the deadlier states where the coronavirus rates are much higher.
Mr Daniel says that saving lives and livelihood should be the priority of the government. New temporary medical quarantine centres should be set up. A decentralised approach is needed to reduce the distressing migration and to tackle this situation as well. MGNREGA should be merged with agriculture as well.