Rebuilding Lives - An Action-Oriented Campaign To Rebuild Lives Of Migrant Communities
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#RebuildingLives: Addressing Health, Education And Livelihoods Needs Of The Migrant Community Affected By Coronavirus Pandemic

#RebuildingLives: Addressing Health, Education And Livelihoods Needs Of The Migrant Community Affected By Coronavirus Pandemic
New Delhi: 

Around 40 million migrant daily-waged workers have been hit hard by COVID-19 induced economic distress, lockdowns, travel bans and social distancing requirements. As they reach home enduring unprecedented ordeals, they face the risk of hunger, indebtedness and prolonged unemployment. Their families face high infection risk and their children, particularly girls, the loss of learning. While the need of the hour is to address the immediate needs of migrants and their families which include providing food, hygiene essentials and monetary help, it's also essential to rebuild their lives.

In an attempt to do the same, the American India Foundation (AIF) in partnership with NDTV has launched an action-oriented campaign - Rebuilding Lives. The initiative is an effort to ensure dignified lives for migrant workers everywhere.

As part of the campaign, a two-hour special telethon was organised to raise funds that will help migrant communities affected by Coronavirus pandemic get back on their feet. The funds raised through the initiative will be used in addressing health, education and livelihoods needs - both in the source and destination areas of migration.

Experts, philanthropists, social workers, joined the telethon and talked about the sufferings of migrants, and the need and ways to support migrant communities in the field of health, education, and livelihoods. It also stressed on making the migrants visible.

Joining the telethon with NDTV's Dr Prannoy Roy, Nishant Pandey, CEO, American India Foundation stressed on the ordeal of migrants and their needs and said,

Working very closely with the government, we have served over 7 million people. Our team working on COVID relief has reached out to 3 lakh people. They are still serving ration to the people in need. Children rarely get a second chance in life if they miss proper nutrition and proper education in the initial years. As millions of people go back to their native village, it is putting a lot of pressure on already weak public health infrastructure.

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Nishant Pandey, CEO, American India Foundation

Actress Taapsee Pannu who had recently brought the attention of the nation on the plight of migrants through a video and poem ‘Pravaasi' also lent her support to the campaign and talked about how we didn't do enough to support migrants. She said,

I just hope that the migrant workers are not too disheartened or hopeless that they don't want to come back. The least we can do is to reach out to them and ask them if they need something.The entire world is going through the pandemic but our country is going through a major humanitarian crisis along with the pandemic. Let's try to repair the damage.

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Actress Taapsee Pannu on the hardships of migrant workers during Coronavirus pandemic

Also Read: Actor Taapsee Pannu Joins #RebuildingLives, Highlights Sufferings And Ordeal Of Migrants Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Pratap Jena, Minister, Panchayati Raj & Drinking Water, Law, Housing & Urban Development, Government of Odisha also joined the #RebuildingLives telethon and talked about Odisha's plan to rehabilitate migrants. Elaborating on the same, Mr Jena sai,

We are going to provide them training like mason training and others. After that training, we are going to engage them in different activities in the building work and different types of work. And at the same time, we have made arrangements for the MGNREGA program, which is the flagship program of the government of Odisha and in that program also, we are involving migrant labors to participate in the different types of work in the villages.

Speaking at the special telethon organised for migrants, Kiran Majumdar-Shaw, Chairperson, Biocon Limited also talked about providing a livelihood to migrants.

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Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson, Biocon Limited

I think corporate India would want to do whatever best is possible for migrant workers. And the biggest service to do for them is to engage them and provide them with a livelihood. Maybe by creating jobs in rural India or in Urban India. The economy has to get back into normalcy. If we can focus on test, trace and quarantine and keep the environment safe, it will be easier to get the economy back, said Ms Shaw.

Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, United Nations, talked about the need for access to healthcare to migrants who are on the move and are one of the most vulnerable groups.

Further elaborating on the healthcare, Ms Fleming said, 

The important thing coming from this pandemic is that inequality is more visible. People need to have access to healthcare. The plight of the people on the fringes of our society is exposed due to the pandemic. It is not sustainable that people live hand to mouth every day.

Manu Shah, CEO, MS International talked about the need to educate and train workers, especially in rural areas and small towns. Mr Shah stressed on increasing India's per capita income by improving education and training for blue-collared work.

Mathew Joseph, India Country Director, American India Foundation also talked about addressing the healthcare needs of migrant workers which is also one of the key objectives of the campaign - Rebuilding Lives.

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Mathew Joseph, India Country Director, American India Foundation

Talking about the work done by AIF during coronavirus pandemic, Mr Joseph said,

We responded to the government's requests from 16 states. We have provided medical equipment in hospitals in these states. We have responded to health and protective need of migrants workers. We have provided them with hygiene kits. Our volunteers are going door to door to raise awareness.

Dr Abhay Bang, Activist and researcher in community health and a Padma Shri Awardee talked about the needs of migrants - immediate needs which include shelter, food, and hygiene and psychological needs.

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Dr Abhay Bang, Activist and Researcher in community health

They need security. They are not being welcomed in their own village. So the need for acceptance is their important need. They also need economic sustainability.

Ashwath Narayan CN, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka also joined the telethon and talked about the stigma attached to migrants coming back from cities. The Chief Minister stressed on the need to focus on the revival of the economy and livelihood.

KK Shailaja, Minister for Health & Social Welfare, Kerala talked about people coming back to Kerala from different parts of the world and the state's fight against Coronavirus pandemic. Talking about flattening the curve, Ms Shailaja said,

This is what we expected, that whenever stringent lockdown is lifted, people will come back to Kerala. Our strategy is tracing, testing, quarantining. Now, people are coming back from the epicentre. It is more difficult now to flatten the curve now. 99 per cent of the patients are those who have come back from other parts of the country and world.

The Coronavirus induced lockdown and migrants moving back to their hometown has impacted the studies of their children badly. At #RebuildingLives telethon, Anil Swarup, Former School Education and Literacy Secretary to the Government of India talked about addressing the educational needs of children.

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Anil Swarup, Former School Education and Literacy Secretary to the Government of India

We have to segment these sets of children into two parts; the first of children that have access to the internet and smartphones, the strategy for them will be different from children who do not have access to smartphones or the internet. So, two sets of strategies will have to be worked out.  

For children who don't have access to access to the internet and smartphones, Mr Swarup suggests making use of other means of communication like radio and television.

Sharing a similar opinion, Ashish Dhawan, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Ashoka University asserted that the digital divide is high not only among migrants but in low-income families as well and that's impacting the learning further.

Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative for the UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office covering Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka also talked about the impact on education and the importance of migrants.

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Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative for the UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office

The special focus is on female learners. The pandemic has not only highlighted the plight of migrant workers but has also shown how important they are. They need to be provided with access to credit, access to new market, local government can play an important role by providing training to migrants and WASH facilities, noted Mr Falt.

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