Ensure everyone’s access to food, medical care: Bhalla to Govt

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STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: JKPCC Vice President and former Minister Raman Bhalla on Wednesday appealed LG Administration to urgently adopt measures to protect the J&K’s poorest and most vulnerable people and ensure COVID-19 containment and relief measures adequately.
This was stated by former Minister after meeting several vendors and Rehriwallas facing extreme hardships to cope up with COVID-19 lockdown.
“The J&K government is facing an extraordinary challenge to protect people, but ramped-up efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in J&K need to include rights protections,” said Bhalla.
“Authorities should recognize that malnourishment and untreated illness will exacerbate problems and should ensure that the most marginalized don’t bear an unfair burden from lack of essential supplies,” he said.
Bhalla further said COVID-19 vaccination for people over the age of 18 years began in the second phase of India’s vaccination drive amid limited availability of units across the country. While the drive continues to go on at the best of its capacity, slots are hard to find, especially for those over 18 and below 45 years of age. The only way to get oneself vaccinated is to register through the government’s official CoWin portal and get a slot booked. Apart from the low availability of slots, the problem is that there is no way CoWin can notify users when a slot is available in their area.
Bhalla demanded central government to announce a relief package to provide free food and cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable populations, and health insurance for healthcare workers, among other things.
The government should ensure that those at heightened risk, including sanitation workers (safai karamcharis), community health staff (ASHA workers), early childhood caregivers (Anganwadi workers), and people such as midday meal workers – often poorly paid public service officials – who are at the front lines during this crisis, are provided protective equipment, medical benefits, and timely wages.
It is crucial that the authorities make use of maximum available resources to ensure the delivery of services.
He also demanded community kitchens for those most at need, taking measures to ensure physical distancing.
The government should not use Aadhaar (identity card)-based biometric authentication for the distribution of free food grains to the poor.
The government should pay pending wages for all work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and expand its scope to those now forced out of work. Rural laborers will not be able to work because of the lockdown and should be given wages during the crisis. Farming communities are facing losses during harvest season and the government needs to step up procurement to protect agricultural income and save the produce.