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NHRC questions UP Govt over 57 girls at a shelter home testing positive for Covid-19

The girls are between 10 – 18 years of age and seven of the infected were found to be pregnant

23 Jun 2020

UPRepresentation Image
 

After as many as fifty-seven girls at a state-run shelter home in Kanpur were found to be positive for coronavirus, The Indian Express reported. Five out of the affected 57 girls were pregnant, one was found to be HIV positive and another was found to be infected with Hepatitis C.

Various media reports on the matter had cited that the girls had been showing the symptoms for the infection for a few days, but the local administration informed the state health department about it on June 19, 2020. The Indian Express, quoted the shelter home superintendent as saying that the transmission of the virus only came forth after a random sampling test was conducted on June 12, one inmate was found to be positive. Thereafter, all 171 inmates were tested and 57 of them, aged 15 – 17 years were found to be infected.

 After the news sent the UP administration in a frenzy, Kanpur DM Brahma Dev Ram Tiwari said that the five girls who were pregnant had been referred by the Child Welfare Committees of Agra, Etah, Kannauj, Firozabad and Kanpur under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, adding that the seven girls were pregnant when they came to the shelter home, The Indian Express reported.

Kanpur officials suspect that a staffer, a class IV employee who also tested positive for the virus could have been the source of infection as she visited the girls for their treatment. All 57 girls and the employee have now been admitted to hospitals and the rest have been quarantined in a separate building, IE reported.

NHRC ISSUES NOTICE

In light of the incident, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to Rajendra Tiwari, Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh and the Director General of Police, asking for the health status of all the girls and action taken on the matter.

Citing the various media reports, the NHRC said, “The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, are enough to prima facie believe that the public servants have failed to provide safeguard to the victim girls and, apparently, were negligent in protecting their right to life, liberty and dignity in the custody of the State.”

From the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, the NHRC has asked for the health status of all the girls, their medical treatment and counseling provided by the authorities. It has asked the state government to order an inquiry into the matter from an independent agency and directed it to review the health status of female inmates lodged in shelter homes across the state and issue suitable directives so that such incidents aren’t repeated in the future.

From the Director General of Police, UP, the NHRC has called for a report regarding registration of FIR in this matter and status of investigation within 4 weeks.

The National Commission of Women, UP has also issued a notice to the UP administration asking for details about the health status and other details regarding the number of women in the shelter homes and the details of when they were brought there, to be submitted within 24 hours.

 

 

UP CHIEF SECY ISSUES NEW PROTOCOLS FOR SHELTER HOMES

Soon after the incident, UP Chief Secretary issued strict orders for implementation of all precautions to be taken to check the spread of Covid-19 in women’s shelter homes, nari niketans and orphanages. The orders stated that before entering the institute, every person, including the staff, should be thermally scanned and that the number of visitors to these institutions should be limited as much as possible.

 

 

India Today reported that the order issued by the Chief Secretary stated that infrared thermometers should be made available for checking all people, including staff members, in women shelter homes, nari niketans, orphanages and juvenile homes, and no one with cold, cough or fever should be allowed entry. He also added that sanitizers and face masks should be provided and social distancing norms should be followed at all times, apart from directing that caretakers of these homes should reside in the facilities and ensure that all precautions are being taken.

OPPOSITION SLAMS ADMINISTRATION

Citing negligence, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also attacked the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over the matter.

In a Facebook post she said, “The entire story of the Muzaffarpur (Bihar) shelter home case is in front of the country. Such a case had also come to light in Deoria, UP. In such a situation, the recurrence of such incidents show that in the name of investigations, everything is suppressed, but the incident that has taken place in the government’s child protection homes is very inhumane.”

Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav too has demanded a probe into the incident.

 

 

Related:

Sultanpur Rape Case: NHRC pulls up Uttar Pradesh police for negligence

NHRC, Delhi High Court spring into action, pull up governments on women’s safety measures, utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund

NHRC questions UP Govt over 57 girls at a shelter home testing positive for Covid-19

The girls are between 10 – 18 years of age and seven of the infected were found to be pregnant

UPRepresentation Image
 

After as many as fifty-seven girls at a state-run shelter home in Kanpur were found to be positive for coronavirus, The Indian Express reported. Five out of the affected 57 girls were pregnant, one was found to be HIV positive and another was found to be infected with Hepatitis C.

Various media reports on the matter had cited that the girls had been showing the symptoms for the infection for a few days, but the local administration informed the state health department about it on June 19, 2020. The Indian Express, quoted the shelter home superintendent as saying that the transmission of the virus only came forth after a random sampling test was conducted on June 12, one inmate was found to be positive. Thereafter, all 171 inmates were tested and 57 of them, aged 15 – 17 years were found to be infected.

 After the news sent the UP administration in a frenzy, Kanpur DM Brahma Dev Ram Tiwari said that the five girls who were pregnant had been referred by the Child Welfare Committees of Agra, Etah, Kannauj, Firozabad and Kanpur under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, adding that the seven girls were pregnant when they came to the shelter home, The Indian Express reported.

Kanpur officials suspect that a staffer, a class IV employee who also tested positive for the virus could have been the source of infection as she visited the girls for their treatment. All 57 girls and the employee have now been admitted to hospitals and the rest have been quarantined in a separate building, IE reported.

NHRC ISSUES NOTICE

In light of the incident, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to Rajendra Tiwari, Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh and the Director General of Police, asking for the health status of all the girls and action taken on the matter.

Citing the various media reports, the NHRC said, “The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, are enough to prima facie believe that the public servants have failed to provide safeguard to the victim girls and, apparently, were negligent in protecting their right to life, liberty and dignity in the custody of the State.”

From the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, the NHRC has asked for the health status of all the girls, their medical treatment and counseling provided by the authorities. It has asked the state government to order an inquiry into the matter from an independent agency and directed it to review the health status of female inmates lodged in shelter homes across the state and issue suitable directives so that such incidents aren’t repeated in the future.

From the Director General of Police, UP, the NHRC has called for a report regarding registration of FIR in this matter and status of investigation within 4 weeks.

The National Commission of Women, UP has also issued a notice to the UP administration asking for details about the health status and other details regarding the number of women in the shelter homes and the details of when they were brought there, to be submitted within 24 hours.

 

 

UP CHIEF SECY ISSUES NEW PROTOCOLS FOR SHELTER HOMES

Soon after the incident, UP Chief Secretary issued strict orders for implementation of all precautions to be taken to check the spread of Covid-19 in women’s shelter homes, nari niketans and orphanages. The orders stated that before entering the institute, every person, including the staff, should be thermally scanned and that the number of visitors to these institutions should be limited as much as possible.

 

 

India Today reported that the order issued by the Chief Secretary stated that infrared thermometers should be made available for checking all people, including staff members, in women shelter homes, nari niketans, orphanages and juvenile homes, and no one with cold, cough or fever should be allowed entry. He also added that sanitizers and face masks should be provided and social distancing norms should be followed at all times, apart from directing that caretakers of these homes should reside in the facilities and ensure that all precautions are being taken.

OPPOSITION SLAMS ADMINISTRATION

Citing negligence, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also attacked the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over the matter.

In a Facebook post she said, “The entire story of the Muzaffarpur (Bihar) shelter home case is in front of the country. Such a case had also come to light in Deoria, UP. In such a situation, the recurrence of such incidents show that in the name of investigations, everything is suppressed, but the incident that has taken place in the government’s child protection homes is very inhumane.”

Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav too has demanded a probe into the incident.

 

 

Related:

Sultanpur Rape Case: NHRC pulls up Uttar Pradesh police for negligence

NHRC, Delhi High Court spring into action, pull up governments on women’s safety measures, utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund

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Two pregnant women die after being denied proper medical care

While Seema died in Jalandhar after allegedly being refused admission by seven hospitals, Asma died in Thane after reportedly being refused admission by five hospitals

04 Jun 2020

Two pregnant women die

Medical mismanagement and apathy has robbed many people of their loved ones during the lockdown. Scores of men, women and children have lost their lives because hospitals either remain closed or refuse to admit patients who are not suffering from Covid-19 either due to lack of infrastructure, lack of doctors, lack of funds or by just not understanding the urgency of the situation while asking severely ill patients to get a medical certificate proving that they don’t suffer from the coronavirus infection.

Yet another example of this was witnessed in Jaladhar when a pregnant woman and her child died after being made to do the rounds of seven hospitals in four days and not getting the required medical attention, The Tribune reported.

Vicky and his wife Seema (19), both migrants who used to live in Jalandhar were struggling just when Covid-19 exacerbated their challenges. Seema, who was due to deliver her child on June 5, complained of unease and pain around mid-May. Vicky said she was in normal condition on May 5 when her last ultrasound was done. However, the couple didn’t pay much attention to it as it wasn’t consistent and related it to uneasiness brought upon by the last month of pregnancy.

However, Seema’s pain turned unbearable on May 28 and she was rushed to a hospital in Adampur, but was denied admission. Then, she went to the Civil Hospital in Jalandhar where the doctors diagnosed her with a serious medical condition. They then referred her to the Amritsar Medical College after diagnosing her with a serious complication. However, before they could do that, they had asked that Seema’s Covid-19 test be done and precious time was lost before they got the results, which further worsened the condition of the unborn child.

At the Amritsar Medical College, Seema was treated for two days, but the doctors didn’t promise much. Vicky tried to take her to private hospitals but couldn’t get entry there due to lack of funds. Allegedly due to unsatisfactory care, Vicky got Seema back to the Jalandhar Civil Hospital where she breathed her last on May 31.

Civil Surgeon Dr Gurinder Kaur Chawla told The Tribune, “Seema required tertiary care in Amritsar, but the couple didn’t like it there and returned to us in a further complicated condition. Hers was a case of intra-uterine death. The baby died in the womb.”

However, this isn’t the only incident of such apathy.

In Thane’s Mumbra, a 28-year-old woman, Asma Mehendi who was six months pregnant died after several hospitals refused to admit her, the Mumbai Mirror reported. According to the police, Mehendi died in an auto-rickshaw on May 26 after two hospitals – Bilal Hospital and Prime Criticare Hospitals refused to admit her. Her husband, Akbar, however said that he took her to five hospitals, all of which refused admission. He told the Mumbai Mirror, “We went to five hospitals, but every hospital had a reason or the other to refuse admission. For hours, we ran from one hospital to another, and Asma breathed her last in an auto outside Kalsekar Hospital in Mumbra.”

A report by Hindustan Times stated that Mehendi’s X-ray showed a chest infection after which she was taken to Kalwa Hospital. By law, Kalwa Hospital cannot refuse emergency patients even then, she was denied admission there. Her husband then put her in an auto and took her to Kalsekar Hospital but they refused admission too, citing it was a Covid-19 designated hospital. However after much pleading they admitted her, but by then her health had deteriorated. RT Kendre, Thane Municipal Corporation Health Officer told HT that Kalsekar Hospital couldn’t admit suspect or negative Covid-19 patients. However, when Mehendi was finally given permission to be admitted, Dr. Afreen Saudagar said that she had no respiratory rate and though they put her on the ventilator, she had passed away.

According to reports, the Mumbra Police in Thane have registered an FIR against three private hospitals and sent show-cause notices to 78 private hospitals in Mumbra, Kausa, Kalwa and Diva.

As hospitals run out of beds and insist on following protocol, will the suspect / non-Covid 19 patients continue to lose lives in the bargain?

Related:

Apathy kills Agra woman's unborn baby

Two pregnant women die after being denied proper medical care

While Seema died in Jalandhar after allegedly being refused admission by seven hospitals, Asma died in Thane after reportedly being refused admission by five hospitals

Two pregnant women die

Medical mismanagement and apathy has robbed many people of their loved ones during the lockdown. Scores of men, women and children have lost their lives because hospitals either remain closed or refuse to admit patients who are not suffering from Covid-19 either due to lack of infrastructure, lack of doctors, lack of funds or by just not understanding the urgency of the situation while asking severely ill patients to get a medical certificate proving that they don’t suffer from the coronavirus infection.

Yet another example of this was witnessed in Jaladhar when a pregnant woman and her child died after being made to do the rounds of seven hospitals in four days and not getting the required medical attention, The Tribune reported.

Vicky and his wife Seema (19), both migrants who used to live in Jalandhar were struggling just when Covid-19 exacerbated their challenges. Seema, who was due to deliver her child on June 5, complained of unease and pain around mid-May. Vicky said she was in normal condition on May 5 when her last ultrasound was done. However, the couple didn’t pay much attention to it as it wasn’t consistent and related it to uneasiness brought upon by the last month of pregnancy.

However, Seema’s pain turned unbearable on May 28 and she was rushed to a hospital in Adampur, but was denied admission. Then, she went to the Civil Hospital in Jalandhar where the doctors diagnosed her with a serious medical condition. They then referred her to the Amritsar Medical College after diagnosing her with a serious complication. However, before they could do that, they had asked that Seema’s Covid-19 test be done and precious time was lost before they got the results, which further worsened the condition of the unborn child.

At the Amritsar Medical College, Seema was treated for two days, but the doctors didn’t promise much. Vicky tried to take her to private hospitals but couldn’t get entry there due to lack of funds. Allegedly due to unsatisfactory care, Vicky got Seema back to the Jalandhar Civil Hospital where she breathed her last on May 31.

Civil Surgeon Dr Gurinder Kaur Chawla told The Tribune, “Seema required tertiary care in Amritsar, but the couple didn’t like it there and returned to us in a further complicated condition. Hers was a case of intra-uterine death. The baby died in the womb.”

However, this isn’t the only incident of such apathy.

In Thane’s Mumbra, a 28-year-old woman, Asma Mehendi who was six months pregnant died after several hospitals refused to admit her, the Mumbai Mirror reported. According to the police, Mehendi died in an auto-rickshaw on May 26 after two hospitals – Bilal Hospital and Prime Criticare Hospitals refused to admit her. Her husband, Akbar, however said that he took her to five hospitals, all of which refused admission. He told the Mumbai Mirror, “We went to five hospitals, but every hospital had a reason or the other to refuse admission. For hours, we ran from one hospital to another, and Asma breathed her last in an auto outside Kalsekar Hospital in Mumbra.”

A report by Hindustan Times stated that Mehendi’s X-ray showed a chest infection after which she was taken to Kalwa Hospital. By law, Kalwa Hospital cannot refuse emergency patients even then, she was denied admission there. Her husband then put her in an auto and took her to Kalsekar Hospital but they refused admission too, citing it was a Covid-19 designated hospital. However after much pleading they admitted her, but by then her health had deteriorated. RT Kendre, Thane Municipal Corporation Health Officer told HT that Kalsekar Hospital couldn’t admit suspect or negative Covid-19 patients. However, when Mehendi was finally given permission to be admitted, Dr. Afreen Saudagar said that she had no respiratory rate and though they put her on the ventilator, she had passed away.

According to reports, the Mumbra Police in Thane have registered an FIR against three private hospitals and sent show-cause notices to 78 private hospitals in Mumbra, Kausa, Kalwa and Diva.

As hospitals run out of beds and insist on following protocol, will the suspect / non-Covid 19 patients continue to lose lives in the bargain?

Related:

Apathy kills Agra woman's unborn baby

Related Articles


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Evictions & sexual harassment and livelihood loss affect women street vendors: Survey Covid19 Lockdown

Thrice oppressed, women street vendors have turned to exhausting personal savings for survival besides bearing the overarching burden of household chores reveals this survey by ISST-Janpahal in Delhi

03 Jun 2020

street vendor

Gender disparities sharpen during calamities and conflicts making the burden worse. So it has been for the impact of the Covid19 pandemic lockdown. While migrant labourers and workers from the unorganised sector in general have been utterly ignored by the policy making of this government, women from this sector have it worse. Many have been evicted from their homes, have lost their jobs and face an uncertain impact on their livelihoods. 

Women working in the unorganised sector, street vendors and daily wagers including domestic workers, have had to face sharper repercussions after completely losing their livelihoods in the wake of the pandemic. Apart from losing incomes and being evicted from homes, they face the additional threat of sexual harassment.

According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (2017-2018), 54.8 percent female workers were involved in the non-agriculture, 72.3 percent of them had no written job contract, 50.4 percent of the salaried workers were not eligible for paid leave and 51.8 percent were not eligible for any social security benefit. A study by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WEIGO) quoted the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) 2019 figures which revealed that of the approximately 300,000 street vendors in Delhi, around 30 percent are women.

The impact of the pandemic and its aftermath on women street vendors has been foregrounded through a recent study conducted by the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) and Janpahal. The study aims to understand the impact of the lockdown on paid and unpaid care activities of women workers and also the impact on access to essential resources and services.

Overview on street vendors

The study highlights findings that the street vending economy approximately has a parallel turnover of Rs. 80 crore a day and as self-employed entrepreneurs, street vendors are part of a “low-circuit” economy. According to the estimates by the National Hawkers Federation, 50 percent of the vendors sell food and at least 35 percent of all the fruits and vegetables sold in urban and remote areas are sold by these vendors.

There are roughly 2 crore (recent numbers estimate closer to 4 crore) hawkers in India. 1/3rd of this population consists of women street vendors who mostly sell their wares in weekly haats/ streets/ roadside stalls or by helping their families / husbands in the back-end work.

The street as a workspace for women is doubly insecure, with them being more vulnerable to the constant threat of sexual harassment. In a telephonic interview while the story was being conducted, a woman vendor responded, saying, “Do you think as a woman I can go around selling vegetables on the cart? Mobility is not possible for a woman.”

Findings of the study

The study was formulated after a telephonic survey with around 35 women workers in the sector. As many as 71.1 percent of the respondents were married and 22.9 percent were widowed. Most of the street vendors in the sample study belonged to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and were dependent on the daily wages that they earned from street-vending.

Causes

Street vending is generally possible in urban India in crowded markets; no wonder that the impact of the lockdown has worst hit this sector. According to the study, 97.14 percent have had a severe impact on their incomes with those running tea stalls, or putting up their wares at weekly markets (haats) having to completely shut down during the pandemic. Only those selling fruits and vegetables, essential items during the lockdown, have continued to sustain as 98 percent of all fruits and vegetables in urban areas are sold through a network of street vendors.

Fear of contracting the disease was the biggest reason for women, at least 88 percent of the respondents, not being able to continue work.

The other problems faced by women vendors were that wholesale markets had been difficult to access during this time and those 20 percent previously engaged in selling miscellaneous items had also shifted to selling fruits and vegetables to earn a living, leading to a chaos in wholesale markets.

Furthermore, as a woman vendor told ISST-Janpahal, vendors were allowed to sell items only during designated times of the day, one hour in her area – from 4 PM to 5 PM. This caused issues as many not many customers showed up during that time to purchase vegetables, due to which their incomes dipped to around Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 per day. Those without vending carts were especially at a disadvantage as they had restricted access to customers. These women street vendors also faced harassment by the police and 6 percent of the respondents attributed the loss in income due to mobility restraints or police patrolling during the lockdown.  About 3 percent of the respondents attributed the loss of work due to their wages being denied or withheld by employers.

Immediate impact

Impact on paid work

Most of the street-vendors have been evicted from their rented homes by landlords as they are unable to pay rent due to the dip in incomes.  As many as 54 percent of women workers interviewed for the study had taken loans to sustain themselves during the lockdown and out of those, 37.1 percent have been unable to repay the loans. The cash transfers through Jan Dhan or pensions have not been enough for them to suffice. Also with most of their bank accounts and other government IDs like Aadhaar cards being linked to the village, most of them lose out on their benefits. A member of Janpahal informed that many street vendors did not have ration cards or any other government documents to avail the subsidised/free food services and information regarding e-coupon for non-ration cardholders was limited.

Thus, a majority of the women vendors are using up their personal or household savings to sustain themselves and their families. One respondent shared her experience of her family using up the savings kept aside for her daughter’s wedding to help them sustain the loss of income.

Impact on unpaid work

For women who were engaged in unpaid work, the travails were especially severe with 21 respondents not getting any support from family members in sharing household chores and the care burden. A respondent said, “There is no lockdown for a woman. Earlier if we used to make tea 2 times, now it is 4 times a day.” Some of the respondents that said they did receive help (10 respondents) said other female members of the family provided it. Only 7 respondents stated that a male family member / husband contributed to the chores.

Accessing cooked food from relief camps too was an additional responsibility the women had to shoulder. A Janpahal member explained, “For instance – as the food gets distributed at 12p.m, they have to reach the camp/school by 10 a.m. to stand in the queue. If they have young children at home, they are compelled to leave them behind which becomes difficult.”

Impact on access to essential resources and services

It was found that a majority of women respondents procured food from the Public Distribution System Shops (PDS) and the government canteens providing free ration, apart from availing the extra 2 kg of ration provided by the government. About 2.85 per cent respondents said that they accessed cooked food distributed by the government and there was a long queue while availing the same. They also said the quality of food was quite minimal.  Women with young children faced more difficulties as the ration from the PDS shops contained only rice, wheat and dal, but not food for infants.

Furthermore, another challenge the women faced in accessing food was standing in queues with other men / elders which was viewed as culturally inappropriate.

Recommendations

Based on their findings, the ISST and Janpahal have made recommendations, which include the urgent need to generate work for this sector, to stop retrenchment, to ensure wage security, to support MSMEs and to provide access to regulatory tools so that workers can recover themselves from the impact. The report also recommends that the street vendors be given health insurance to preserve their rights of a dignified livelihood.

The most significant recommendation includes the proper implementation of the Street Vendors Act (2014). The Act promotes the regulation of street vending as a livelihood opportunity for vendors by designating vending areas and by statutorily providing for registration of vendors for access to protection and social security benefits. Also, the licensing of street vendors is imperative to ensure that the livelihoods of street vendors are secured.  The entire study by ISST-Janpahal may be read below.

Related:

India needs a stimulus package to fight the COVID-19 Economic battle

Plea in SC highlights plight of people in informal sector, seeks compensation scheme

 

Evictions & sexual harassment and livelihood loss affect women street vendors: Survey Covid19 Lockdown

Thrice oppressed, women street vendors have turned to exhausting personal savings for survival besides bearing the overarching burden of household chores reveals this survey by ISST-Janpahal in Delhi

street vendor

Gender disparities sharpen during calamities and conflicts making the burden worse. So it has been for the impact of the Covid19 pandemic lockdown. While migrant labourers and workers from the unorganised sector in general have been utterly ignored by the policy making of this government, women from this sector have it worse. Many have been evicted from their homes, have lost their jobs and face an uncertain impact on their livelihoods. 

Women working in the unorganised sector, street vendors and daily wagers including domestic workers, have had to face sharper repercussions after completely losing their livelihoods in the wake of the pandemic. Apart from losing incomes and being evicted from homes, they face the additional threat of sexual harassment.

According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (2017-2018), 54.8 percent female workers were involved in the non-agriculture, 72.3 percent of them had no written job contract, 50.4 percent of the salaried workers were not eligible for paid leave and 51.8 percent were not eligible for any social security benefit. A study by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WEIGO) quoted the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) 2019 figures which revealed that of the approximately 300,000 street vendors in Delhi, around 30 percent are women.

The impact of the pandemic and its aftermath on women street vendors has been foregrounded through a recent study conducted by the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) and Janpahal. The study aims to understand the impact of the lockdown on paid and unpaid care activities of women workers and also the impact on access to essential resources and services.

Overview on street vendors

The study highlights findings that the street vending economy approximately has a parallel turnover of Rs. 80 crore a day and as self-employed entrepreneurs, street vendors are part of a “low-circuit” economy. According to the estimates by the National Hawkers Federation, 50 percent of the vendors sell food and at least 35 percent of all the fruits and vegetables sold in urban and remote areas are sold by these vendors.

There are roughly 2 crore (recent numbers estimate closer to 4 crore) hawkers in India. 1/3rd of this population consists of women street vendors who mostly sell their wares in weekly haats/ streets/ roadside stalls or by helping their families / husbands in the back-end work.

The street as a workspace for women is doubly insecure, with them being more vulnerable to the constant threat of sexual harassment. In a telephonic interview while the story was being conducted, a woman vendor responded, saying, “Do you think as a woman I can go around selling vegetables on the cart? Mobility is not possible for a woman.”

Findings of the study

The study was formulated after a telephonic survey with around 35 women workers in the sector. As many as 71.1 percent of the respondents were married and 22.9 percent were widowed. Most of the street vendors in the sample study belonged to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and were dependent on the daily wages that they earned from street-vending.

Causes

Street vending is generally possible in urban India in crowded markets; no wonder that the impact of the lockdown has worst hit this sector. According to the study, 97.14 percent have had a severe impact on their incomes with those running tea stalls, or putting up their wares at weekly markets (haats) having to completely shut down during the pandemic. Only those selling fruits and vegetables, essential items during the lockdown, have continued to sustain as 98 percent of all fruits and vegetables in urban areas are sold through a network of street vendors.

Fear of contracting the disease was the biggest reason for women, at least 88 percent of the respondents, not being able to continue work.

The other problems faced by women vendors were that wholesale markets had been difficult to access during this time and those 20 percent previously engaged in selling miscellaneous items had also shifted to selling fruits and vegetables to earn a living, leading to a chaos in wholesale markets.

Furthermore, as a woman vendor told ISST-Janpahal, vendors were allowed to sell items only during designated times of the day, one hour in her area – from 4 PM to 5 PM. This caused issues as many not many customers showed up during that time to purchase vegetables, due to which their incomes dipped to around Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 per day. Those without vending carts were especially at a disadvantage as they had restricted access to customers. These women street vendors also faced harassment by the police and 6 percent of the respondents attributed the loss in income due to mobility restraints or police patrolling during the lockdown.  About 3 percent of the respondents attributed the loss of work due to their wages being denied or withheld by employers.

Immediate impact

Impact on paid work

Most of the street-vendors have been evicted from their rented homes by landlords as they are unable to pay rent due to the dip in incomes.  As many as 54 percent of women workers interviewed for the study had taken loans to sustain themselves during the lockdown and out of those, 37.1 percent have been unable to repay the loans. The cash transfers through Jan Dhan or pensions have not been enough for them to suffice. Also with most of their bank accounts and other government IDs like Aadhaar cards being linked to the village, most of them lose out on their benefits. A member of Janpahal informed that many street vendors did not have ration cards or any other government documents to avail the subsidised/free food services and information regarding e-coupon for non-ration cardholders was limited.

Thus, a majority of the women vendors are using up their personal or household savings to sustain themselves and their families. One respondent shared her experience of her family using up the savings kept aside for her daughter’s wedding to help them sustain the loss of income.

Impact on unpaid work

For women who were engaged in unpaid work, the travails were especially severe with 21 respondents not getting any support from family members in sharing household chores and the care burden. A respondent said, “There is no lockdown for a woman. Earlier if we used to make tea 2 times, now it is 4 times a day.” Some of the respondents that said they did receive help (10 respondents) said other female members of the family provided it. Only 7 respondents stated that a male family member / husband contributed to the chores.

Accessing cooked food from relief camps too was an additional responsibility the women had to shoulder. A Janpahal member explained, “For instance – as the food gets distributed at 12p.m, they have to reach the camp/school by 10 a.m. to stand in the queue. If they have young children at home, they are compelled to leave them behind which becomes difficult.”

Impact on access to essential resources and services

It was found that a majority of women respondents procured food from the Public Distribution System Shops (PDS) and the government canteens providing free ration, apart from availing the extra 2 kg of ration provided by the government. About 2.85 per cent respondents said that they accessed cooked food distributed by the government and there was a long queue while availing the same. They also said the quality of food was quite minimal.  Women with young children faced more difficulties as the ration from the PDS shops contained only rice, wheat and dal, but not food for infants.

Furthermore, another challenge the women faced in accessing food was standing in queues with other men / elders which was viewed as culturally inappropriate.

Recommendations

Based on their findings, the ISST and Janpahal have made recommendations, which include the urgent need to generate work for this sector, to stop retrenchment, to ensure wage security, to support MSMEs and to provide access to regulatory tools so that workers can recover themselves from the impact. The report also recommends that the street vendors be given health insurance to preserve their rights of a dignified livelihood.

The most significant recommendation includes the proper implementation of the Street Vendors Act (2014). The Act promotes the regulation of street vending as a livelihood opportunity for vendors by designating vending areas and by statutorily providing for registration of vendors for access to protection and social security benefits. Also, the licensing of street vendors is imperative to ensure that the livelihoods of street vendors are secured.  The entire study by ISST-Janpahal may be read below.

Related:

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Two women rescued from human traffickers in Jharkhand

The organization has demanded an investigation into human trafficking networks and sustainable employment options for migrating women

02 Jun 2020

Two women rescued from human traffickers in Jharkhand

Last week, an incident in Bangalore exposed the underbelly of human trafficking and bonded labour and rape in the country.

A story by The Hindu on May 26 reported the plight of two women from Jharkhand who worked at Bharat Chemical Products, Kumbalagodu. During the lockdown, the two women along with their children, were trying to get home had gone to the Kumbalagodu police station to secure a train ticket. There they met Nicolas Murmu, a migrant labourer who was a native of Jharkhand  too. When the three got talking and the women expressed their plight to Murmu. He told The Hindu, “They told me they had escaped from a factory where they were held captive and harassed. They were now living in a building under construction. They had been given shelter by a contractor. However, he was not treating them well.”

The victims recounted that were taken from Dumka district in Jharkhand to Delhi by a man named Dhamaru where he handed them over to unknown people who brought them to Bengaluru in October 2019 to work at the factory. The women had escaped from the factory in March where they were held captive. One of the victims who managed to escape from the factory in January was located by the supervisor Sanjeev and forced to return and was then beaten and locked up in the room. She said that at the behest of the supervisor, she was raped twice in two days by two men, Sanjay and Kiran, who used to work in the factory.

The victims also told Murmu that they were paid only Rs. 200 per week against the promised Rs. 9,000 per month, were made to work for 15 hours every day, had to sleep with other workers in a cramped room, were confined to the factory and not allowed to purchase basic essentials like soap and oil.

They managed to flee in March and survived by begging and scrounging for food. During that time, they met a man called Asgar Ali who promised them food and took them to an under construction building. However, once there, he misbehaved with one of the women and made sexual advances against her.

Hearing their ordeal, Murmu contacted friends for help and in turn reached activists from Karnataka Janashakti and the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) who rescued the women and children. 

Statement by SWAN

Explaining the series of swift action taken in the matter, SWAN issued a statement saying, “Two FIRs have been filed against the perpetrators of rape and sexual violence and the two women with their children are now safe in a shelter provided by an NGO. A complaint against the factory owner has been registered while the main contractor, Sanjeev, is yet to be nabbed. We welcome the promptness with which the Karnataka administration and Jharkhand Police have responded. The concerned police acted with urgency, The Social Welfare Department issued a compensation cheque to the rape survivor quickly. The Revenue department has issued compensation under the Bonded Labour Act with urgency and the Rural Development department has also extended support.”

However, the organization added that the process to register police complaints still remains complicated due to the legally mandated district Local Complaints Committees (LCC) being almost non-existent.

SWAN also stated that the current lockdown only exposed the frailties and the lives of unorganized workers who have met with death, hunger, dehydration and police brutality. The incident regarding the two women, SWAN said, showed a “lack of enforcement by the government mandating private companies to maintain clear and transparent records of workers in their firm opens more avenues for multiple forms of exploitation. This, in turn, implies that private companies are unaccountable and workers are unable to avail of various benefits under these laws that they are entitled to”.

It pointed out to the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act where only 3 crore workers could garner a registration while the actual number stood at 10 crore. This was because of the hardships workers faced in accessing their entitlements through the welfare boards. It also highlighted that women workers were had more so been pushed to the brink of anxiety due to the lack of shelters and toilets, apart from fending to survive in the absence of basic facilities like drinking water.

The organization said that the “saga of the two Santhali women underscored the need to strictly enforce various progressive labour laws -- in letter and spirit -- such as the Payment of Wages Act (1936), the Minimum Wages Act (1948), The Factories Act (1948), Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976), Interstate Migrant Worker Act (1979), , Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013,BOCW Act (1996), Street Vendors Act (2014) among others.”

In light of the incident, SWAN stated that the need for a comprehensive evaluation and implementation of social measures made by the erstwhile National Commission for the Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) was critical. It also said that India being a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966, should ensure social protection which the Indian Labour Organization (ILO) defines as “a set of public measures that society provides for its members to protect them against economic and social distress caused by the absence or a substantial reduction of income from work as a result of various contingencies (sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, invalidity, old age or death of the breadwinner), the provision of healthcare and the provision of benefits for families with children.”

Asserting that the current crisis that was faced by the unorganized workforce and women in particular strongly demanded the need to re-imagine strong security measures and strict accountability and regulatory norms for private enterprises, SWAN put for the demand for minimal non-negotiable principles to be followed.

Demands

  1. There has to be a comprehensive investigation of human trafficking networks that is the source of exploitation and subversion of constitutional rights. The government must put in place safe, sustainable employment options for women to prevent such distress migration. Strengthening NREGA is critical to this.  
  2. The government must ensure that they maintain a detailed record of all the migrant workers, proactively register them in welfare boards and ensure adequate social security is extended to them. 
  3. The government must monitor and have strict regulatory oversight of private companies.
  4. Form statutory action groups to focus on women migrant workers and ensure that basic universal social protection measures such as safety, security, nutrition, education, health are proactively provided. Special provision must be made for historically marginalised communities such as Adivasis and Dalits. 
  5. Have a single-window grievance redressal system where women can register and seek redressal from multiple government departments in the event of any form of exploitation. Such a system should have minimal documentation pre-conditions. Officials in such places must be sensitised to handle such cases with compassion and care. 

The government must ensure that legal help is provided for free and must bear all the logistics cost on behalf of those in need.

That there have been increased Instances of rape, domestic violence and marital rape against women during the lockdown has been widely reported by the media. From March 23 to April 18, a total of 587 complaints were of offences against women had been registered, reported the NCW.

Related:

Dilution of Section 498A belittles the ongoing domestic abuse suffered by women

Sexism in the time of Corona: How the “Corona Dayan” took over social media

Lockdown impact: Distraught mothers, dead babies and more

 

Two women rescued from human traffickers in Jharkhand

The organization has demanded an investigation into human trafficking networks and sustainable employment options for migrating women

Two women rescued from human traffickers in Jharkhand

Last week, an incident in Bangalore exposed the underbelly of human trafficking and bonded labour and rape in the country.

A story by The Hindu on May 26 reported the plight of two women from Jharkhand who worked at Bharat Chemical Products, Kumbalagodu. During the lockdown, the two women along with their children, were trying to get home had gone to the Kumbalagodu police station to secure a train ticket. There they met Nicolas Murmu, a migrant labourer who was a native of Jharkhand  too. When the three got talking and the women expressed their plight to Murmu. He told The Hindu, “They told me they had escaped from a factory where they were held captive and harassed. They were now living in a building under construction. They had been given shelter by a contractor. However, he was not treating them well.”

The victims recounted that were taken from Dumka district in Jharkhand to Delhi by a man named Dhamaru where he handed them over to unknown people who brought them to Bengaluru in October 2019 to work at the factory. The women had escaped from the factory in March where they were held captive. One of the victims who managed to escape from the factory in January was located by the supervisor Sanjeev and forced to return and was then beaten and locked up in the room. She said that at the behest of the supervisor, she was raped twice in two days by two men, Sanjay and Kiran, who used to work in the factory.

The victims also told Murmu that they were paid only Rs. 200 per week against the promised Rs. 9,000 per month, were made to work for 15 hours every day, had to sleep with other workers in a cramped room, were confined to the factory and not allowed to purchase basic essentials like soap and oil.

They managed to flee in March and survived by begging and scrounging for food. During that time, they met a man called Asgar Ali who promised them food and took them to an under construction building. However, once there, he misbehaved with one of the women and made sexual advances against her.

Hearing their ordeal, Murmu contacted friends for help and in turn reached activists from Karnataka Janashakti and the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) who rescued the women and children. 

Statement by SWAN

Explaining the series of swift action taken in the matter, SWAN issued a statement saying, “Two FIRs have been filed against the perpetrators of rape and sexual violence and the two women with their children are now safe in a shelter provided by an NGO. A complaint against the factory owner has been registered while the main contractor, Sanjeev, is yet to be nabbed. We welcome the promptness with which the Karnataka administration and Jharkhand Police have responded. The concerned police acted with urgency, The Social Welfare Department issued a compensation cheque to the rape survivor quickly. The Revenue department has issued compensation under the Bonded Labour Act with urgency and the Rural Development department has also extended support.”

However, the organization added that the process to register police complaints still remains complicated due to the legally mandated district Local Complaints Committees (LCC) being almost non-existent.

SWAN also stated that the current lockdown only exposed the frailties and the lives of unorganized workers who have met with death, hunger, dehydration and police brutality. The incident regarding the two women, SWAN said, showed a “lack of enforcement by the government mandating private companies to maintain clear and transparent records of workers in their firm opens more avenues for multiple forms of exploitation. This, in turn, implies that private companies are unaccountable and workers are unable to avail of various benefits under these laws that they are entitled to”.

It pointed out to the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act where only 3 crore workers could garner a registration while the actual number stood at 10 crore. This was because of the hardships workers faced in accessing their entitlements through the welfare boards. It also highlighted that women workers were had more so been pushed to the brink of anxiety due to the lack of shelters and toilets, apart from fending to survive in the absence of basic facilities like drinking water.

The organization said that the “saga of the two Santhali women underscored the need to strictly enforce various progressive labour laws -- in letter and spirit -- such as the Payment of Wages Act (1936), the Minimum Wages Act (1948), The Factories Act (1948), Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (1976), Interstate Migrant Worker Act (1979), , Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013,BOCW Act (1996), Street Vendors Act (2014) among others.”

In light of the incident, SWAN stated that the need for a comprehensive evaluation and implementation of social measures made by the erstwhile National Commission for the Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) was critical. It also said that India being a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966, should ensure social protection which the Indian Labour Organization (ILO) defines as “a set of public measures that society provides for its members to protect them against economic and social distress caused by the absence or a substantial reduction of income from work as a result of various contingencies (sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, invalidity, old age or death of the breadwinner), the provision of healthcare and the provision of benefits for families with children.”

Asserting that the current crisis that was faced by the unorganized workforce and women in particular strongly demanded the need to re-imagine strong security measures and strict accountability and regulatory norms for private enterprises, SWAN put for the demand for minimal non-negotiable principles to be followed.

Demands

  1. There has to be a comprehensive investigation of human trafficking networks that is the source of exploitation and subversion of constitutional rights. The government must put in place safe, sustainable employment options for women to prevent such distress migration. Strengthening NREGA is critical to this.  
  2. The government must ensure that they maintain a detailed record of all the migrant workers, proactively register them in welfare boards and ensure adequate social security is extended to them. 
  3. The government must monitor and have strict regulatory oversight of private companies.
  4. Form statutory action groups to focus on women migrant workers and ensure that basic universal social protection measures such as safety, security, nutrition, education, health are proactively provided. Special provision must be made for historically marginalised communities such as Adivasis and Dalits. 
  5. Have a single-window grievance redressal system where women can register and seek redressal from multiple government departments in the event of any form of exploitation. Such a system should have minimal documentation pre-conditions. Officials in such places must be sensitised to handle such cases with compassion and care. 

The government must ensure that legal help is provided for free and must bear all the logistics cost on behalf of those in need.

That there have been increased Instances of rape, domestic violence and marital rape against women during the lockdown has been widely reported by the media. From March 23 to April 18, a total of 587 complaints were of offences against women had been registered, reported the NCW.

Related:

Dilution of Section 498A belittles the ongoing domestic abuse suffered by women

Sexism in the time of Corona: How the “Corona Dayan” took over social media

Lockdown impact: Distraught mothers, dead babies and more

 

Related Articles


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Sexism in the time of Corona: How the “Corona Dayan” took over social media

The term “dayan” refers to “witch” and on coming into popular use may harm women, especially in rural areas

11 Apr 2020

corona

As if the coronavirus induced quarantine wasn’t bad enough, rural India and social media is giving it a push in another direction. The word ‘quarantine’ is now being twisted into कोरोना डाईन. Due to its phonetic similarity, people in India have largely started referring to the infection as ‘dayan’ (witch). In rural India, the word ‘dayan’ is colloquially used to refer to a problem, and now so is the Covid-19 infection being called so.

 

Popular news channels have used the term on their prime time shows have used the term in their headlines.

 

There have been a barrage of posts on social media with the term too.

 


(This post was posted on Facebook on March 29, 2020)

 

This is hugely problematic because the term ‘dayan’ or ‘chudail’ (witch) is an inherently sexist term. Women are targets of hostility and branded as witches. They are demonized, ostracized, lynched and even killed due to the superstition and illiteracy and accused of practicing ‘black magic’ and harming men and children. Usually they are either childless but wealthy single women or widows, or have dared to go against established social norms in some way. The 'witch hunt' therefore, is patriarchy's way of punishing a woman for exercising her agency.

While witch hunting is generally viewed to be a thing of the past, it is very much in practice today, especially in rural India. Every other day, women in villages are either beaten up brutally or killed for being a ‘witch’ and allegedly indulging in sorcery.

Not only this, even in urban India, women are being called witches by men, especially for having a dissenting voice.

 

 

https://twitter.com/JBSingh75/status/1245738576056184832

https://twitter.com/shatrughanJaisw/status/1245400479036669952

Attaching the term ‘witch’ to a disease, is only going to make it a sexist term. According to the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) for naming diseases, the names should be gender neutral and not involve cultural, population or occupational references.

If this term comes into popular use, it may also lead to the demonisation and killing of women who may be afflicted with the disease, especially in the rural parts of India. This is going to be crime against women who if ostracized, will have nowhere to go and fend for themselves. The scales with regards of justice for women are already not tipped in their favour. In this age, while feminism is taking shape and people are asked to work with a scientific temper, reigniting terms like ‘dayan’ and ‘chudail’ which signify taboo practices, is an example of utter regression.

To say the least, attaching the term ‘witch’ to a disease is going to give it a sexist boost. Already women in India, mostly from the North East are being called ‘corona’, accused of being Chinese because of their ethnicity and features, and being held responsible for spreading the virus. If this racism is combined with sexism, women in India may not be able to escape this vilification.

 

Related:

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Racists target Indians from North-East amidst Covid pandemic

Sexism in the time of Corona: How the “Corona Dayan” took over social media

The term “dayan” refers to “witch” and on coming into popular use may harm women, especially in rural areas

corona

As if the coronavirus induced quarantine wasn’t bad enough, rural India and social media is giving it a push in another direction. The word ‘quarantine’ is now being twisted into कोरोना डाईन. Due to its phonetic similarity, people in India have largely started referring to the infection as ‘dayan’ (witch). In rural India, the word ‘dayan’ is colloquially used to refer to a problem, and now so is the Covid-19 infection being called so.

 

Popular news channels have used the term on their prime time shows have used the term in their headlines.