May 4, 2021

Indigenous communities in Assam protest construction of power plant

Environment: Indigenous communities and Adivasi farmers of Mikir Bamuni Grant village in Nagaon, Assam have been protesting against the forceful takeover of their land for the setting up of a 15 MW solar power plant by Azure Power Forty Private Limited.

An All-India-Fact-Finding Committee (FFC) was constituted by the Delhi Solidarity Group to address the grievances of the local people. Members such as Prafulla Samantara, Leo Saldanha, Bhargavi Rao, and Amit Kumar visited Mikir Bamuni to meet with the local communities, district police, and revenue officials.

Based on the evidence gathered during this visit the committee has released a report titled ‘The Anatomy of a Solar Land Grab’.

The report establishes that the construction of the solar plant is on fertile agricultural land and that it blocks an active elephant corridor in an ecologically sensitive region. It also states that there was use of police power to coerce local people into submission. The members of the FFC group, during the launch of the report, also highlighted how the Government of Assam and police officials worked in the interests of Azure Power at the cost of human rights, livelihoods, and fundamental rights of the villagers.

The report demands that the Assam government step in and immediately pause the construction of the plant, take necessary steps to restore the land, and hand it back to the tillers of the lands. Additionally, there is a need to initiate an enquiry into the human rights violations, fraud, and illegalities carried out by the state officials in the unlawful transfer of the land.

Read this article to understand why we need an integrated approach towards lives and livelihoods.


May 11, 2021

Government halts four key surveys due to COVID-19 second wave

COVID-19: Four key surveys on migrants, domestic workers, jobs created by the transport sector, and the employment potential of professionals, have been suspended by the central government in light of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is likely to delay the national employment policy which would have been based on these surveys.

The government will proceed with the fifth survey—the quarterly employment survey (QES). Unlike in past years though, this survey will be conducted online.

These surveys are important as they can provide a holistic picture of the employment market, and the socioeconomic condition of migrant and informal workers. However, government officials said that with lockdowns and curfews across the country, surveyors will find it difficult to meet the respondents at homes, offices, and worksites. They also added that the surveys will be restarted once the situation improves.

The national surveys which are designed and implemented by the Labour Bureau in consultation with an expert committee, might have to be reworked considering the change in ground realities owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of the QES—which is a physical establishment-based survey cutting across companies and industries, the survey is being administered after a gap of four years. The results for this will be released by July-end.

The national jobs and social-economic survey results were expected to form the base of the national employment policy being considered by the government, along with the four labour codes by the Parliament in 2020.

“We have put the four surveys on hold as the surging COVID-19 makes it almost impossible to do the household surveys. We are talking to our expert committee on how to incorporate the new realities in these surveys. It’s a difficult situation, and sending our field workers to houses and offices will have a huge implication on their health and well-being. Second, no one will entertain surveyors at their homes during a second wave,” said D P S Negi, Director General, Labour Bureau, and Chief Labour Commissioner.

He also added that they hope to restart the process in a couple of months once the situation improves. The initial survey was to have been released by November 2021.

 Read this article to understand how rural India can respond to the second wave effectively.


May 11, 2021

In Tamil Nadu, COVID-19 fatalities higher among women and youth in second wave

COVID-19: A comparison of COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in Tamil Nadu reveals that a higher proportion of women and youth have died in the second wave. In the first wave, women accounted for 27 percent of all deaths, whereas in the second they comprise nearly 33.5 percent of all deaths. However, the gender distribution of cases remains the same with women accounting for 40 percent and men 60 percent.

People aged between 21-60 years accounted for 43.6 percent of deaths in the second wave—a sharp rise from the 38.7 percent in the first wave. On the other hand, percentage of deaths among those aged 60 and above have declined from 61 percent in the first wave to 56.3 percent in the second wave. This is despite the fact that the percentage of elderly among cases reported has increased from 13.2 percent in the first wave to 14.4 percent in the second wave.

Overall, the daily deaths reported during the second wave has been increasing, with 1,200 deaths occurring in the past week. Compared to this, there were 7,900 deaths in the 12 weeks between July to September 2020. Case fatality however is lower at 1.03 percent currently compared to 1.62 during the peak of the first wave (July to September). The decline of case fatality is most pronounced among the elderly.

According to Prithvi Mohandas, the managing doctor at MIOT International Hospital, the relaxed curbs, and disregard for precautions has led to more exposure for all age groups. He said that many of the young who needed hospitalisation tended to choose home care and would only go to hospitals when the illness became severe.

Read this article to know about a day in the life of a social worker in Lucknow working to arrange cremations, counselling bereaved families, and help COVID-19 patients find hospital beds.