To deal with the huge migrant crisis following the countrywide lockdown in India owing to COVID-19 pandemic, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) – a Anand, Gujarat based not-for-profit organization has developed a GIS enabled portal under the India Observatory. The portal provides information to decision makers and other interested organizations/individuals to plan for setting up relief centers and undertake suitable relief measures.
On March 24, 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown to prevent the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country. This was initiated as the number of confirmed cases touched 500 in India and the government purported that the only solution to control the spread of the disease is by breaking the cycle of transmission by social distancing. The lockdown restricts India’s 1.3 billion people from stepping out of their homes. All transport services, including road, air and rail are suspended. Educational institutions, industrial establishments and hospitality services also remain closed. The only exemptions to the lockdown are transport of essential goods, fire, police and emergency services, running of services such as grocery shops, banks and ATMs, petrol pumps, other essentials and their manufacturing.
Even though the lockdown seems to have curtailed an immediate drastic spread of the virus, it upended the lives of millions of migrant workers employed in unorganized or informal sector or as daily wage earners in Indian cities and towns, resulting in an exodus of an estimated 139 million migrant workers in the country to their hometowns and villages. With factories and workplaces shut down, the migrant workers – many of them daily wage earners — were left with no means to survive in the cities. Within a few days of the lockdown, there were long processions of migrant workers painfully walking hundreds of miles to their native villages, often with families and young children on shoulders.
The Government of India along with many state governments responded by setting up relief camps for the migrant workers, enforcing employers of migrant workers to pay their salary, even when work is off and asked landlords to not charge them rent for the period of the lockdown. However, these interventions are not enough and more needs to be done.
Aimed at addressing the hardships faced by migrant people during the lockdown, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) – a Anand, Gujarat based not-for-profit organization has developed a GIS enabled portal under the India Observatory to provide information to decision makers and other interested organizations/individuals to plan for setting up relief centers and undertake suitable relief measures.
The India Observatory aims to demystify and present comprehensive information on India’s social, ecological and economic parameters on a single spatial and temporal platform. It is designed as an action oriented initiative to supplement local level decision making by village communities, Panchayats, NGOs and government officials.
As an immediate and first version, it displays all the connecting national and state highways from migration hotspots like Delhi or Mumbai to the regional headquarters of various districts/blocks. It maps all the potential schools and health care facilities within a 2 km buffer area of the migration routes. By visualizing the facilities (like schools and hospitals) along the road networks on maps, the administrators could plan setting up facilities like relief camps, quarantine facilities and healthcare services to populations on the move and people who have reached their destinations.
The GIS-enabled dashboard is a user-friendly, open source, public dashboard that is built to provide that information pooled from official sources for decision makers and other stakeholders. FES plans to add other features and analytical layers to the platform in this rapidly changing situation.
Such a resource could assist national, state and district level officials in deciding on logistics and planning their response to address the prevailing migration, says Jagdeesh Rao, CEO, FES, adding his organization would gladly offer its assistance to the officials in using the information and adding further analytical layers.
FES is calling for insights on how this initiative could be further enriched. Considering the enormity and multi-dimensional nature of the challenge, FES calls to join hands to share data and analytics to serve the larger community. Contact Jagdeesh Rao ([email protected]). You may like to share the availability of the information resource (https://www.indiaobservatory.org.in/) to the several important decision-makers that you are associated with and advise them to embed it in their planning exercises.