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With talk of the entire nation going into another lockdown to fight the pandemic, here are 5 things we wish the govt. would take into consideration.
The country has been in lockdown for over two weeks now and we have seen the economy as well as the society reach a critical point. But, in hindsight, there are a few measures that could possibly have been taken in advance to mitigate some of the negative impacts that we see.
Over the past few days, we have read shocking headlines about the plight of migrant workers and the nearly exodus-like situation. We’ve read about the horrific and painful stories of domestic violence, abuse and shattering stories of loss and suffering.
Though it was necessary to immediately take on the spread of the virus, the haste and lack of preparation amplified the risks to vulnerable individuals and groups.
Here is a wish-list of what could have been done to decrease the risk to the vulnerable groups and people- including migrant workers and victims of domestic abuse.
The migrant workers and daily wage workers are enduring a number of obstacles since the lockdown announcement. Measures should have been taken in advance to give businesses and individuals a cooling-off period. This would have helped give them the time and resources needed. Critical transport and infrastructure services too, could have been mobilised to help the migrants make their way home safely and without overcrowding.
Given the rise in number of calls to the childcare helpline in the last eleven days, an unfettered and unrestricted access to a helpline could have been there. Six leading child mobilisation agencies have requested the Prime Minister to provide immediate and uninterrupted access to critical services to support these children.
These include SOS Children’s Villages of India, Plan India, ChildFund India, World Vision India, Terre des Hommes and Save the Children India. A further priority should have been given to healthcare services and cash transfer initiatives, if need be.
During this time, it is is important to mobilise resources provided to vulnerable groups and even reclassify what is deemed an ‘essential service.’ This includes the delivery of services such as hygiene and sanitary products for women and children.
Apart from answering calls of distress, immediate legal assistance should also be freely available to women in need. This needs to include psychologists, therapists and other crucial support systems. We could even follow France’s example by converting hotels to shelter victims of abuse.
It is important to make helplines more accessible for abuse victims and vulnerable women and children. There have already been a number of pleas by child rights agencies to declare 1098 free to provide more immediate assistance. And also help to those in need and ensure protection mechanisms are available at all times to help vulnerable groups.
Multiple helplines could be established with an increase in the pool of staff and professional offering help and assistance. A direct and uninterrupted helpline should also cater to pregnant women.
Not only is it important to respond to domestic violence distress calls, but it is also necessary to expand reporting mechanisms. And further diversify communication channels to include social media, for instance.
A large number of community initiatives have proven effective in helping migrant workers and providing them meals. Several community soup kitchens have emerged across a few states, with a large portion of them being NGOs and some state-sponsored.
To provide more assistance to older people, Seniority is launching a volunteering platform to better assist old people with essentials during this particular time. Hack the Crisis India is selecting ten innovative non-medical solutions to address the crisis.
Overall, protecting women and vulnerable groups has definitely been of secondary concern. But it seems to have taken a back seat during the pandemic crisis management.
While everyone is focused on flattening the curve and decreasing the number of cases, we also forget the storm that is raging outside the comfort of our homes.
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Shivani is currently an undergraduate political science student who is passionate about human rights and
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