Public policy strategists list out five ways Indian ‘jugaad’ can maximise resources in the fight against coronavirus pandemic⁠

Public policy strategists list out five ways Indian ‘jugaad’ can maximise resources in the fight against coronavirus pandemic⁠
A helping hand. the government’s hugely-successful midday meal programme can be leveraed to feed millions of India's vulnerable children and nursing mothers amidst coronavirus lockdown. PTI Photo/Ashok Bhaumik)

  • In a war-like scenario, everyone is a resource. India must create a second line of defence to align with efforts of the frontline workers.
  • Tackle multiple problems using an established proven initiative, for example, the government’s hugely-successful midday meal programme.
  • Only six out of India’s 28 states and 8 Union Territories have used the midday meal mechanism effectively.
India is combating the COVID-19 outbreak with the largest lockdown in the history of mankind. It is likely to be longer than the 21 days announced last month and scheduled to end on April 14. The closure of schools and anganwadis — a state-sponsored rural child care centre in India started by in 1975 to combat child hunger and malnutrition — has made the crisis worse by depriving children and nursing mothers from the vulnerable sections of the society of their one assured nutritional meal in a day.

Even the Supreme Court of India also highlighted the plight of the hundreds of thousands of stranded urban migrant labourers who are currently jobless with inadequate access to food, shelter, or any form of social security.

Public policy strategists list out five ways Indian ‘jugaad’ can maximise resources in the fight against coronavirus pandemic⁠
Members of the All Assam Primary and Upper Primary Mid-Day Meal Workers Union raise slogans during a protest pressing for their various demands, in Dispur.Photo)(

This begs the question, “What else can India do to protect the interests of its most vulnerable citizens under lockdown?” Any proposed solution needs to incorporate a balanced strategy portfolio ensuring multiple outcomes, while minimising risk by utilising established proven initiatives in innovative ways. In India, it’s called ‘ jugaad’.
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Public policy strategists list out five ways Indian ‘jugaad’ can maximise resources in the fight against coronavirus pandemic⁠
<a href="https://www.businessinsider.in/business/news/delhi-chaat-and-panipuri-vendors-have-started-selling-vegetables-amidst-coronavirus-lockdown/articleshow/75003010.cms">SEE ALSO: Delhi's chaat and panipuri vendors have started selling vegetables amidst coronavirus lockdown</a><a href="https://www.businessinsider.in/business/news/delhi-chaat-and-panipuri-vendors-have-started-selling-vegetables-amidst-coronavirus-lockdown/articleshow/75003010.cms"></a><br />

Leverage the mid-day meal scheme

One such opportune springboard is India’s midday meal scheme which caters to around 115 million children across the nation.

States that have effectively used the midday meal mechanism to make food available to its public school students include Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. But that's just six out India's 28 states and 8 Union Territories. TN and Kerala are delivering ration ⁠— rice, 4 eggs, 150 grams Dal and vegetables ⁠— to anganwadi kids.

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These are the possible options where other state governments can use its existing systems to deliver basic services to the millions of vulnerable people:

  • State governments can employ displaced migrant workers for the preparation and distribution of food packages and rations under the supervision of anganwadi workers.
  • Reimbursement to these migrant labourers can be in the form of a basic per diem in cash and food rations. Not only will this solve the problem of nutrition in children from disadvantaged homes, but also provide a means of subsistence to these dispossessed workers.

    Public policy strategists list out five ways Indian ‘jugaad’ can maximise resources in the fight against coronavirus pandemic⁠
    Children maintain social distance as they stand in a queue for food at a relief camp, during a nationwide lockdown in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, in Patna.Photo)(
  • As schools and other educational centres under the midday meal scheme remain shut, they can be converted to temporary safe shelters for migrant labourers and homeless. The Supreme Court recently rejected a petition to convert hotels to shelters for the homeless.

    Such an initiative would help tackle the issue of providing sanitary living conditions to grounded workers. In hotspots, these institutions can even be converted to isolation wards to house the sick. This will also help provide employment to migrant labourers, who can execute such work under the supervision of trained personnel, local authority, and the police.

    Public policy strategists list out five ways Indian ‘jugaad’ can maximise resources in the fight against coronavirus pandemic⁠
    Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRTC) staff cooks food for homeless and poor people during a nationwide lockdown in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, at Patna Junction campus. As the Railways prepare to convert coaches into isolation wards, time is ripe to utilise existing 8.45 lakh kitchen-cum-stores to provide basic meals to the millions of migrant labourers with no social security net.
  • The private sector also needs to step up to the challenge. Uber recently launched UberMedic in partnership with the National Health Authority (NHA) across India - a 24/7 dedicated transport service for COVID-19 healthcare workers. Grocery and food delivery players such as Swiggy, Zomato, Grofers, and others, are currently promoting ‘contactless deliveries’.

  • State governments can initiate an arrangement with such companies to utilise a part of their fleet, technology, and trained agents for last mile delivery of food and other essential items during lockdown. As other on-demand startups such as Urban Company struggle with orders and their workers face uncertainty, their repository of trained personnel such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians etc., can be roped in to bolster the national response to the crisis.

  • Akshay Patra Foundation, an NGO and partner in the government’s midday meal programme in several states, is currently engaging corporate volunteers to distribute freshly cooked food and relief kits. Unemployed gig economy workers could easily supplement the efforts of such relief organisations.
  • Local elected representatives and administrative agencies can also initiate grassroots level relief efforts and help mobilise critical resources through communal partners such as non-governmental organisation (NGO), social and religious organisations etc. An example of this was set by the District Magistrate of South West Delhi who enlisted the help of ISKCON Dwarka to serve food to disadvantaged groups across the district.

About the authors: Vijay Raju is the former Head of Strategy for World Economic Forum Members and Aryatta Agrawal is an entrepreneur and an public policy strategist.

Disclaimer: The views expressed belong solely to the guest authors and do not represent the opinion of Business Insider

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