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Reflections on our efforts to support migrants and daily wagers

By Siddhartha Prakash, Founder DWWP

Daily Wage Worker Platform started as a volunteer organization in response to the devastating impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns on the lives of migrants and daily wage workers that comprise 90% of India’s total workforce. Millions of workers lost their livelihoods, food security and access to basic healthcare at a time when they needed it most. A group of volunteers quickly established an online platform to aggregate the relief efforts being carried out by NGOs, corporates and state governments to provide cooked meals, dry rations and cash transfers. With the support of Shawview Consulting in Australia and students from Jindal Global University, we documented the work of over 200 organizations including resident welfare associations, religious organizations, local police and individuals who risked their lives to provide two square meals to migrants walking home.

Feeding workers in Dharavi

As the pandemic worsened in April, we moved into operations and developed a dynamic social media and crowdfunding campaign to raise USD 50,000 to feed 30,000 workers in Asia’s largest slum – Dharavi in Mumbai that was rife with Covid-19. DWWP volunteers developed a creative fundraising campaign: To Dharavi with love using music and dance. Swiss musicians developed music videos based on poems by Dharavi youth. Jazz musicians from New Orleans dedicated songs to them. Indian classical and contemporary dancers and composers including Ambi Subramanium and Astad Debu performed special compositions to raise funds.

Providing healthcare in slums

After food, healthcare was our next call to action in June. DWWP partnered with three leading healthcare NGOs to develop an emergency health package for 30,000 migrants in several slums across India. With public health systems collapsing and all resources being diverted towards Covid-19, migrants had no access to health services to treat other diseases including NCDs and monsoon related fevers. This gave birth to Project Swaasthya to provide a package of counseling, diagnosis, medicines, referrals to migrants using social distancing and Tele-medicine. In addition, soap and sanitary pads for women were distributed with awareness sessions on the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands. We developed a survey to capture data about local health conditions, health seeking behavior and access to healthcare in these slums. Operation Asha provided these services to local communities in the slums of Okhla in Delhi and Smile Foundation used a mobile van to reach ten slums in Hyderabad. Funding was provided by Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation and Omidyar Network.

Due to the persistent efforts and rigorous approach followed by Smile foundation, supported by the DWWP team, the Swaasthya project was successfully able to exceed its targets in a matter of three months. It is one of the pioneers to have successfully delivered primary healthcare to migrants and daily wage workers since the onset of Covid-19 and ongoing lockdowns.

Here are some highlights:

  • 3847 Beneficiaries were treated through 60 out patient clinics held near the slums.

  • 3120 survey forms completed to capture patient data in the operating slums.

  • 3000 Hygiene Kits were distributed in the operating slums.

  • 1130 of the beneficiaries were Male 2044 beneficiaries were Females and the rest 673 beneficiaries were children.

  • 224 Point of Care (POC) tests were conducted.

  • 34 Community Meetings were conducted to increase community participation in issues concerning health especially on COVID-19 and NCD.

  • 47 cases were referred to various specialists in Government Hospitals.

Addressing root of migrant worker crisis

Our next Project Rozgaar seeks to address the root causes of the migrant worker crisis. We have developed a consortium of NGOs working with migrants in several states to develop a comprehensive package of services for 200,000 workers. This will include supporting migrants with data, jobs, skills, access to government schemes and legal awareness about their rights under the proposed new labour codes being established by the Government. Our NGO partners recently completed a survey of 7000 migrants that showed their conditions continue to worsen in 2021.


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