31/3/2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – Comment on the mass migration of workers to their villages despite the complete lockdown orders of the government.
Context – The complete lockdown order and its effect on the migrant labourers.
Why in news?
- Lakhs of migrant labourers have been jostling to get any form of transport back home; walking and sleeping in the heat and rain, in the open, through day and night, dodging the police and sometimes even hiding under tarpaulin in trucks. Almost as many have died undertaking this inhumane journey as people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 so far.
- This virus upends the sharp divide of the two Indias we have manufactured.
- The lockdown has a disproportionate impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the poor and unorganised sector.
- With no work, and no guarantee from the government, migrant labourers logically sought the security of their distant homes, like all of us have. They decided to travel any way they could, including by foot, to go home.
- Contradictory and uncoordinated government orders followed in rapid succession adding to the chaos.
- On March 29, for instance, with lakhs walking home, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued orders to stop the home-bound and quarantine them for 14 days. The propagandists uttered platitudes of support reiterating mandatory ‘social distancing’. The pretended ignorance of how the labour force lives — crammed together, 10 in a room — makes such statements pointless. In the slum or basti, social distancing is a non-existent concept. No order will work unless the government recognises and addresses the dire circumstances of the so-called informal sector.
Way forward/ What can be done?
- People will stay where they are, only if real support is provided.
- . Those already walking home should reach safely with proper screening en route, food in their stomachs, practical health protocols in their minds, and some reassurance in their hearts. When they reach their blocks, they can be put under observation, further screening, isolation, testing, and quarantine where required. Their families also have to be given minimum guarantees of food, health, and some income by the government for the next few months. We must remember that they are primary breadwinners, and the added anxiety of the survival of their families back home is also pulling them back.
- Draconian orders and platitudes will not work. Governments must show leadership, resolve, commitment, and compassion. Resources have to be effectively and optimally used. There is no excuse for hoarding the 58 million tonnes of current foodgrains stock when only four million tonnes are required by the PDS every month.
- The Finance Minister’s announcement of free grains to Food Security Act card-holders for three months, the government must use these resources to immediately provide States with at least an additional month’s quota, without conditions, to help prevent hunger amongst those who may have no cards.
- While many front line functionaries such as sanitation workers, government officials and health care workers have been working zealously and extending assistance, the government needs to ensure that this response is uniform and persistent.
- If supply chains of our most essential services are to be maintained, front line workers of all these services in the formal or informal sector must be given equipment, quick basic training, and adequate insurance.
- COVID-19 will affect both the producer and the consumer. We have to work together to fight this pandemic.
Question – Comment on the possibility of a threat to food security as a result of the COVID-19.
Context – The pandemic.
The main threats to food security in the world:
- The main threats to food security are (1) world population growth, (2) the increase demand for food, (3) food price, (4) the disappearance of the variety of agricultural plant species (4) the increase in the area of scarcity water and the limitation of the availability of land and (5) the food losses and food.
But this is not we are talking about now. We are talking about a more serious risk arousing out of the coronavirus pandemic.
- While there’s no need to panic — there is enough supply of food in the world to feed everyone — we must prepare to face the enormous risk that food may not be made available where it is needed.
- Restrictions of movement, as well as basic aversion behaviour by workers, may impede farmers from farming and food processors (who handle most agricultural products) from processing. Shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could also affect agricultural production.
- Closures of restaurants and less frequent grocery shopping diminish demand for fresh produce and fisheries products, affecting producers and suppliers, especially smallholder farmers, with long-term consequences for the world’s increasingly urbanised population.
- Export restrictions put in place by exporting countries to increase food availability domestically could lead to serious disruptions in the world food market, resulting in price spikes and increased price volatility.
- Uncertainty about food availability can induce policymakers to implement trade restrictive measures in order to safeguard national food security. Given the experience of the 2007-2008 global food price crisis, we know that such measures can only exacerbate the situation. In 2007-08, these immediate measures proved extremely damaging, especially for low-income food-deficit countries.
So what can be done? / Way forward:
- We should all learn from our recent past and not make the same mistakes twice. Policymakers must take care to avoid accidentally tightening food supply conditions. While every country faces its own challenges, collaboration between governments and the full gamut of sectors and stakeholders is necessary.
- We are experiencing a global problem that requires a global response. We must ensure that food markets are functioning properly and that information on prices, production, consumption and stocks of food is available to all in real time. This approach will reduce uncertainty and allow producers, consumers, traders and processors to make informed decisions and to contain unwarranted panic behaviour in global food markets.
- The health impacts of the unfolding pandemic on some of the poorest countries are still unknown. Yet, we can say with certainty that any ensuing food crisis as a result of poor policymaking will be a humanitarian disaster that we can avert. We already have 113 million people experiencing acute hunger; in sub-Saharan Africa, a quarter of the population is undernourished. Any disruptions to food supply chains will intensify both human suffering and the challenge of reducing hunger around the world.
- So, Global markets are critical for smoothening supply and demand shocks across countries and regions, and we need to work together to ensure that disruptions of food supply chains are minimised as much as possible. COVID-19 forcefully reminds us that solidarity is not charity, but common sense.