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