22 February, 2021

Assuring food security for migrants

Migrants have seen their jobs disappear and their food security worsen during the Covid-19 pandemic. Tata Trusts’ Mission Gaurav finds ways to help

Madhuri Bai Baghel with her newly-acquired ration card
Madhuri Bai Baghel with her newly-acquired ration card
Madhuri Bai Baghel with her newly-acquired ration card
Madhuri Bai Baghel with her newly-acquired ration card

Madhuri Bai Baghel is a migrant labourer from Borsi village in Balodabazar district, Chhattisgarh. She, her husband and three children move from place to place in search of work at brick kilns, in order to sustain themselves. When the pandemic broke out and a national lockdown was implemented, the family had no work. Their situation forced them to return home.

Covid-19 guidelines were already in place in their state. Madhuri Bai and her family were quarantined in the village school. But life after quarantine was even more difficult. They were facing an everyday battle for basic essentials. Their meagre savings weren’t sufficient to help them sustain their household for long. In the absence of any work or the promise of an income, the situation kept worsening.

Give us this day our daily bread

The problem of migrant workers’ access to food is not new. But the situation was exacerbated during the pandemic. The state government of Chhattisgarh had announced free rations for two months for vulnerable households like Madhuri Bai’s.

When she approached the sarpanch of her village to avail the free rations, he sent her away saying that she could only avail these benefits if she possessed a ration card. As a long-time migrant, no one in Madhuri Bai’s family had ever had a ration card. She was completely unaware of how to get one.

The spectre of starvation made Madhuri Bai desperate. Somehow, she managed to submit an application for a ration card. Three months passed. Each week, she approached the panchayat secretary and was told that it was being processed but there was no progress. Madhuri Bai was desperate; without the free rations, it was becoming difficult for her to sustain her household.

Help around the corner

It was during one of her visits to the panchayat office that Madhuri Bai met Bhagwat Yadav. Yadav is a Jan Saathi, a community facilitator, working for the Tata Trusts’ Mission Gaurav initiative. The Trusts had launched Mission Gaurav in order to support the vulnerable, migrant community during this unprecedented socio-economic crisis. The aim is to create awareness of government schemes, and to support migrants in availing eligible entitlements.

Madhuri Bai discovered that Yadav was mapping migrant workers in the village and helping them avail social security schemes for which they were eligible. She disclosed her problem to the Jan Saathi, and Yadav promptly contacted the district coordinator to resolve the issue. He then followed up with the sarpanch and panchayat secretary and submitted an application for a new ration card on Madhuri Bai’s behalf.

The results of his intervention were seen immediately. While earlier the panchayat avoided giving Madhuri Bai clear answers for the delay, Yadav’s follow up ensured that her application was forwarded to the district coordinator. Before long, she received her ration card.

Madhuri Bai and her family have been able to receive free rations on a monthly basis from October 2020 onwards. The Trusts’ migrant-support programme has helped countless individuals and their families avail their social security entitlements, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.