In conversation with the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development

The Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID) is an independent non-profit devoted to migration and inclusive development in India. Set up by a fraternity of international development experts in 2016, CMID has been advocating for and promoting the social inclusion of migrants and other socially disadvantaged populations since its inception. It is a robust, innovative and well resourced organization at the forefront of addressing the challenges faced by the migrant population in the country. 

 

The COVIDActionCollab (CAC) spoke with Dr. Benoy Peter (Executive Director of CMID) to discuss their COVID-19 response. 

 

What have been your key actions and initiatives around the COVID-19 response?

In response to the pandemic, we rolled out Bandhu ClinicsIndia’s first mobile COVID-19 screening unit for migrant workers – in partnership with the government. Through these clinics we have so far covered 20,000 workers, screened over 6300 and linked 105 people for further follow up.

We also set up the Bandhu helpline which is a multilingual helpline to address distress calls from migrant workers. This was a joint initiative with Gram Vikas, ESAF Small Finance Bank and Cognizant and was set up immediately after the lockdown commenced. Migrants calling in are supported with information on prevention, sourcing food, addressing issues related to rentals/house owners, train schedules and getting treatment (if needed). 

In addition to the clinics and helpline, we provided the Government of Kerala’s National Health Mission (Ernakulam district) with technical support to train and deploy ‘link’ workers. These link workers are selected from the migrant worker population and trained to work with their peers to improve access to healthcare. During the COVID-19 lockdown, they were responding to calls received on the government helpline for migrants and have connected over 3000 migrants to services available so far. CMID also helped the government in Kerala develop contextualized information, education and communication (IEC) material for migrant workers on COVID-19. 

In Delhi, we distributed 2000 gloves, 1000 N95 masks and 400 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to nurses while in Odisha we conducted a rapid assessment on the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on migrant labourers from Kalahandi – one of the most backward rural regions in the state. 

 

How have you leveraged the COVIDActionCollab?

We have worked with the COVIDActionCollab to support migrant workers in two instances so far. The first was when we identified that a group of migrants from West Bengal was stranded without access to food on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Karnataka. We reached out to the CAC and they immediately mobilized another network partner – Inchara Foundation – to help. Inchara arranged for the rations and sent their volunteers to deliver them to the stranded workers. 

More recently, CAC identified a group of migrants from West Bengal who were stuck in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. While they had the finances to travel, they were unaware of how to secure permits, tickets, etc. to go back home. The CAC, knowing that would be the best placed to help in this regard, reached out to us for support. We connected them to the right people in Gujarat which allowed them to get the transport passes and tickets arranged. 40 migrant workers were able to get home safely because of this collective effort. 

Both of these cases showcase the power of networks and collaboration in combatting the pandemic – no organization can do it alone.

 

What are your biggest learnings/challenges?

There are two major learnings that we can share based on our experience and work on the ground. The first, and perhaps most important, learning is that data helps you respond more effectively during disasters. When we started responding to the pandemic, no one had any reliable information on migrants. This limited the capacity of both civil society organizations and governments to respond quickly and efficiently to support migrant workers. A lot of states are still struggling to cope. 

Our second major learning was that migrant workers as a group are highly vulnerable to disasters of any kind. Therefore, there is an urgent need for governments to develop disaster preparedness programs specifically for them. This will help us avoid the kind of chaos we saw at the beginning of this lockdown in the future. 

 

About the Author: 

Jaya Raizada is a senior fundraising and partnerships specialist currently working with an Anti Human Trafficking organization in India.

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