The Corona virus and the ensuing lockdowns impacted most urban areas in India in an unprecedented situation. The pandemic majorly impacted lives across India especially the migrant workers and other blue collared workforce. It affected the citizens employed in the organised and unorganised sector both. In the organised sector at least some systems were there in place courtesy companies or trade unions. However, there were hardly any processes in place to take care of citizens in the unorganised sector belonging to different states of the country but were employed in the NCR for better employment opportunities.

During these challenging times, it was interesting to see the collaboration between entities including different wings of government who demonstrated to help the workforce in unorganised sector.

To understand the problems, loopholes and challenges faced by these organisations and government while addressing the concerns of the citizens, MDI Gurgaon invited some of the key members from these organisations to discuss and deliberate upon the welfare architecture which is woefully inadequate not just for an emergency situation, but even for ‘normal’ times.

‘Coping with the Corona Crisis’ the second webinar of the series on Towards new Social Welfare Architecture of Gurugram demonstrated the ways in which civil society, corporate, and the government together attempted to face the Covid crisis.

The power-packed panel incorporated domain experts such Shri. Rahul Roy - Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch  - on food distribution, Ms. Shubhi Kesarwani - GuruJal Gurugram , Capt. (retd) Rupinder Kaur –Member, Gurugram Nagrik Ekta Manch, or transportation of domestic migrant workers and Shri. Salil B. Lal, General Manager – Human Resources, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

The discussion started with the views and experiences Shri. Rahul Roy - Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch - on food distribution experienced while addressing the crisis. He said “When GNEM realised that there was going to be a problem due to the pandemic, their first response was that we needed an information hub to collect data on the migrant workers. We had to start collecting data on the people who were in distress. On 4th April 2020 they started their first kitchen in association with a local school to feed the migrants and soon they started providing 25,000 meals per day. During the last 2 and half months, they have fed more than 20 lakh people and 1.25 lakh people were provided dry rations. With the help of other organisations they are planning to build handwash stations at various places in the city”.

Ms. Shubhi Kesarwani from GuruJal Gurugram emphasised on the interventions made by Gurujal and also on the systems thinking approach which was necessary to manage the crisis. Gurujal followed a systematic three-pronged approach to handle this pandemic. First, they managed Deputy Commissioner’s social media accounts to provide clutter-free and chaos free information to the citizens of Gurugram. Second, supported the district administration with the technology solutions like Careti.org and Quarantine Support Group. Thirdly, Volunteer management which involved inviting collaborations and partnerships which included 1500 volunteers from institutional voluntary organisations, Corporates, Civil Defence, Red Cross, Panchayats, Youth Clubs and Self-help groups.

The third panellist Capt. (Retd.) Rupinder Kaur, GNEM highlighted the transportation challenges migrant people and workforce faced while going back to their respective hometowns. When the government announced that the people who wish to go back to their native places need to register, approx. 7.74 lakh people from Gurugram registered for the requirement of a transport. But the process or registration itself was not very user friendly. According to her, from the very beginning the crisis was addressed as a law and order problem and not as a humanitarian problem. Government had set up an online registration system but it was not sufficient. The coordination amongst various agencies who were implementing such relief measures was very important.

Mr. Salil B. Lal, General Manager – Human Resources, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd shared how Maruti Suzuki India Limited coped up with the challenge. He said that Maruti Suzuki distributed around 1.5 lakh food packets to the needy in Manesar and around 2.5 lakh food packets in Gurugram. The company helped the migrant labours who were stranded in the adjacent areas and provided them food as well as arranged for their shelter. It involved setting up of isolation centres as well as dormitories for people to sleep. The company took some time to assimilate the facts and came up with an organised way to approach the crisis. It also engaged in developing detailed SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for people during the crisis as well as post the lockdown phase was over. They coordinated not only with the local administration but also with the nodal officers of various states where the migrant workers belonged to. The company was getting full support from the local administration whereby the administration remained active even at odd hours to respond to their needs or grant clearances or passes.

The participants carried on a lively discussion about whether a universal PDS was a handout to the undeserving or an essential service by any responsible government. They also threw light on the ways through which the coordination could have been done in a better way and fixed timely. Their views affirmed that the indefatigable, dedicated and exemplary work to respond to the crisis by NGOs is praiseworthy. In conclusion, panellists expressed that this experience will help craft a more responsive 'disaster' management system. Possible recommendation must include structural reforms on labor housing and social security for the labor to come back to work especially in MSMEs.

Dr. Rupamanjari Sinha Ray and Dr. Rohit Prasad, Professors, MDI Gurgaon moderated the panel, supported by a group of faculty, Prof. Shiv S Tripathi, Prof. Sunil Ashra and Prof. Tanuja Sharma.

The three-part webinar series will contribute to the planning of a new welfare architecture for the millennium city (covering NCT of Delhi) going forward. The aim is not just to be better prepared to manage such outbreaks/disruptions in public life but to create new social welfare architecture for Gurugram where members of the informal economy can get their right to a life of dignity and empowerment. The last webinar of this series will be held on 24th of July, 2020 (Friday). Eminent panellists include educationist, policy makers and representative from MSME.

The dialogues created in the webinar will be shared with relevant government stakeholders after the completion of the series.

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