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As India extends confinement nationwide for COVID-19, migrant workers continue to bear the brunt of the negative effects. Many sectors have stopped production as a result of restrictions due to the pandemic, which have led to increased unemployment and food insecurity for the most vulnerable populations.
On May 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan (Self-Sufficient India) aid and recovery plan, and information on the new path of India's confinement program called “4.0 Confinement”.
While the government maintains that this new plan meets the food needs of migrant workers, many critics – including the opposition party – are skeptical.
With the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan plan, Modi announced the disbursement of an Rs 20 trillion ($ 265 billion) economic reform package. He also asked the people to support Indian companies to boost the economy. Days after Modi's announcement, Economy Minister Nirmala Sitharaman released details of the economic aid package in a five-part announcement given in five days.
The economic stimulus package is not a completely new expense, but it does include the measures announced by the Reserve Bank of India in March 2020. According to Sitharaman, this package would deliver food to migrant workers who were unable to benefit from previous food plans. To achieve a better distribution, the Ministry of Economy initiated the “One nation, a ration card” plan. With the implementation of the program, people with ration cards will be able to buy subsidized grains from any fair price store (FPS) across the country. Currently, the grant can only be used in an FPS connected to the address listed on a person's ration card. This has been a particularly problematic obstacle for migrants who have been confined far from their registered addresses.
Sitharaman has also called on states to ensure the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (MGNREGS) which seeks to provide employment for migrant workers returning to their villages.
Social media users quickly took to the internet to comment on this program. Some made videos in support of the Government in favor of local companies. They used the labels #JanataArmy (Janata Army, which corresponds to the previous Janata curfew initiative) and #MainBhiFauji (I am also a soldier) to highlight the revival of the economy as a war against COVID-19:
A major crisis awaits us! COVID-19, India fights against coronavirus.
Join the Janta Army to build a self-sufficient India! People here must be defended to help revive the Indian economy. All you have to do is:
1. Buy an Indian product and make a post.
2. Label three friends to motivate them to do the same.
3. Use the labels #MainBhiFauji (I am also a soldier) and #JantaArmy (Janta Army)
Let's create a social media chain to save the Indian economy from collapse.
Year 2014 – Make in India
Year 2015 – Skill India
Year 2015 – Startup India
Year 2020 – #AatmanirbharBharat
Scheme Wahi …
Packing Nayi ..
– Arjun Modhwadia (@arjunmodhwadia) May 13, 2020
Year 2014 – To do in India
Year 2015 – Train in India
Year 2015 – Indian Startup
Year 2020 – Self sufficiency
(Same plan, same package)
The word ‘aatmanirbhar’ (self-reliance) started a trend and social media was inundated with memes:
– आत्मनिर्भर डॉन EpicRoflDon ™ (@EpicRoflDon) May 13, 2020
Nir (ice and water)
Bhar (fill the beer)
New definition of self-sufficiency.
When my dog heard that Narendra Modi was telling us to be self-sufficient.
Give me LIKE if you have a partner, comment if you are self-sufficient.
– #StayHome (@ExSecular) May 13, 2020
In a relationship
Latest civic status update 😁 self-sufficient
However, the program is receiving criticism for insufficient state spending to contain the fall in GDP. This is based on the fact that the amount allocated to the program is 10% of GDP along with a package of Rs 1.7 trillion (approximately US $ 13 billion) that was announced in March. The criticism is also based on the fact that the Ministry of Economy has decided to invest in companies to create salary jobs as part of a trickle plan instead of providing direct compensation.
Members of the opposition party were quick to express skepticism:
The first set measures announced by @FinMinIndia @nsitharaman, after 8 PM speech by @narendramodi, is disastrous & non-existent in terms of benefits to poor migrants, laborers, contract employees, farmers, etc.
– Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) May 13, 2020
The first group of measures announced by the Ministry of Economy, by the Minister of the Economy, Nirmala Sitharaman, after an 8 pm speech. of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is disastrous and non-existent in terms of benefits to poor migrants, day laborers, hired workers, farmers.
Graphics and cartoons flooded Twitter about the aid package:
– mrityunjaycartoonist (@chmrityunjay) May 17, 2020
A great relief to my dear migrants!
A migrant worker carries his sleeping son on a suitcase.
– Dipankar (@Dipankar_cpiml) May 18, 2020
Mitron, we have privatized your man!
Sparkly! Privatization of hunger! The pinpricks of hunger are the drums of the revival program.
– Satish Acharya (@satishacharya) May 14, 2020
The poor and the package.
– PENCILASHAN (@pencilashan) May 13, 2020
Who will help us get home, mom?
– The self-sufficient plan, son..
It is not a country for the poor.
Insight into AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan by #NirmalaSitharaman .
She made it more clear for us to understand. #AtmaNirbharBharatAbhiyan #JumlaPackage #atmanirbhar https://t.co/SWIO7IW3y0 pic.twitter.com/9AsprJgHAX
– Catalyst (@CatalystVoid) May 14, 20
Extract from the “Great speech”.
Result of having studied Narendra Modi's speech all night long 👇.
Contributions of the economic aid package, of the Nirmala Sitharaman policy.
He made it clearer for us to understand.
So far, the cabinet has approved the allocation of grains for 80 million migrant workers in the next two months, but they have yet to discuss other proposals under the plan.