CoAST India's Response to the Migrant Worker Crisis

by Sofia Mareque

CoAST India is a transaction platform providing crucial information on the location of stranded migrants and their needs in terms of food, healthcare and transportation. They also provide the locations of local infrastructures such as road networks, food shelters, and health facilities. CoAST India is connecting health seekers and providers.


CoAST is a collaboration of civil society organizations who are working to ensure that citizens (migrants and vulnerable populations) are able to receive help and relief during the COVID-19 lockdown and thereafter. Besides addressing immediate relief, the CoAST grew into a GIS enabled tech platform to aid coordinated support across various civil society organizations as well as government bodies.The founders of CoAST (Collaborative/COVID Action Support Team) are made up Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, Azim Premji University (APU), Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), E-Health Research Centre IIIT Bangalore, Partnering Hope into Action (PHIA) Foundation, Foundation Libtech India, Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), WASSAN and Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRAN).


Image source: affairscloud.com


Due to the increasingly alarming situation of Covid-19 in India, a large number of migrant workers have embarked on long and tiring journeys to return home from the cities they were working in to join their families. CoAst is working to ensure that they can reach their homes safely and is helping arrange transportation for them. More than 200 civil society organizations across the country, including noted national level organizations, are deeply engaged in relief measures and they have a footprint in more than 150 rural districts.


CoAst have been working closely with the Jharkhand government on supporting migrant related matters and are working with other state governments on assisting in relief measures in rural areas. The organizations are working on meeting immediate needs such as PPE, dry rations, community kitchens, awareness programmes, local quarantine facilities and shelters across the country. One of the immediate focus areas is on helping migrant labour workers who are embarking on long walks to return home. CoAst is helping them get to their home destinations in various states by coordinating with governments and civil society organizations and ensuring safe transportation. As a platform they are addressing immediate migrant needs but are also growing to address rehabilitation needs for the migrant workers such as NREGA, preparation for kharif agriculture, and other livelihood needs as things evolve over time. They aim to do it in a manner ensuring physical distancing and quarantine where necessary.


Their immediate needs are in the range of Rs 2 crore, with raised funds to be used on an ongoing basis. Breakdown - Estimated total cost = Rs 5000 (cost per booth) * 20 (no: of booths)* 10 (no: of routes) * 20 (no: of days) = Rs 2 crore. Booth is the hosting point where civil society will be helping with lodging/boarding/ de-boarding. This will be primarily used to help migrants to reach their homes, provide them with basic food/ration/water/ sanitation/lodging and support with medical access.


Given the complexities, it is no secret that there is "no one size, that fits all" and hence, it is going to be impossible for the governments to address the emerging situations. It is best that local communities and Civil Society Organizations (CSO's) are enabled and empowered to be able to deal with the challenges more effectively and efficiently. This will help CoAst to work with the communities after they reach their homes as well. Once people have reached their destinations, further followup support will be needed to ensure that livelihood activities which have been hit in numerous places can restart. This will include support with inputs for agriculture (aim being to move them towards sustainable agriculture) and other livelihoods. 


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