Covid-19 has changed the scenario across the globe. It is impacting everybody. The crisis has affected the urban poor most. They are migrant workers, domestic workers, daily wage earners, construction workers, waste pickers, rickshaw pullers, petty shop owners etc. The 21-day lockdown in India has forced these people from out of the livelihood system. There are families who struggled to manage food for the families. Most importantly there are uncertainty whether they will get work once the lockdown is lifted.
FST has been working with around 1000 urban poor families to give them immediate assistance providing food kit during this time crisis. We have been raising resources from individuals to support this relief work. This has given us learning that people are disadvantaged and much publicised government relief package does not reach them due various reasons. In fact it is the development organisations and individuals activated the system of supporting these families once the lockdown started or job retrenchment began. Government system is slow to assess the conditions of the poor people. The disturbing fact is that government has no data about the number of urban poor families living in Guwahati city or across the country.
We are convinced that these families will struggle more after the lock down period. There are uncertainties about employment, daily wages etc. They have become more vulnerable now. The recently declared relief package of government of India will take time to reach these people. Majority of them are even not aware about it. The complex system of accessing makes it more difficult for them. Families have to run from pillars to pillars to access the benefits. Many of the families does not have required documents like ration card, permanent home address in Guwahati, electricity bills etc., for example the construction workers and daily labourers are not able to register under the Building and Other Construction Workers Act to get benefits because they do not have those documents. Last year there is a scam of more than INR 300 crore meant for the welfare of the construction workers. FST consider these families poor because they do not have access to rights and justice, secure livelihoods and dignified living. The complexity of the issue is that there are distresses in the rural areas among the poor. Reports are pouring that farmers are losing their crops because they are not able to sell it. This will force increase in distress migration from rural areas to the cities. In a way they are marginalised.
- Enable community collectives cutting across various occupations – construction workers, domestic workers, petty traders, waste pickers etc.
- Assist in developing their knowledge about rights, entitlements, and government relief benefits. Facilitate the process of accessing this.
- Develop the leadership capacity of the groups with special emphasis on the women.
- Identify the most vulnerable families and assist them in strengthening their economic system.
- Work with municipal and respective government departments to extend the benefits.
- Start dialogue with local development organisations to build perspective on people led development with specific emphasis on urban poor. We feel this important because there are practically no organisations that have been working with the urban poor.
- Build the resilient capabilities of community collectives of urban poor to cope with any crisis.
- Enable the emergence of grassroot leaders among the collectives
- Assist the families in accessing the rights, entitlements that government has announced due to Covid-19