Watch: There’s a Trade-Off, Ensuring People Don’t Die from Lack of Supplies, or from COVID-19

The Union finance minister’s Thursday package of measures offered nothing to directly relieve the dire predicament of migrant daily-wage workers, said Pronob Sen, former Chief Statistician and the present chairman of the Standing Committee on Economic Statistics.

If their wives have Jan Dhan accounts, then those accounts will be with banks in their villages and not in the cities where they work. The money can help their families but not them. This means that daily-wage workers who are not registered construction workers — and who will therefore be covered by the construction workers relief fund — have been left to fend for themselves.

This is because our system has no mechanism for reaching out to such people, said Sen. Nor, it seems, has the government attempted to hastily put one in place.

In a nearly 60 minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Pronob Sen said this is why these daily-wage workers are walking back to their villages in thousands through the temperature is rising and there is no food or shelter available during the journey which will take days. “They’ve lost trust in the system”, he said. They are perhaps hoping that on April 14, when the 21 days lockdown ends, the system will function again but till then they have greater trust in their village social kinship networks than the government’s ability to look after them.