50 returned tribal migrants test positive for Covid-19, livelihoods and key education concerns

NEW DELHI: So far, 50 tribal migrant workers who have returned to their villages in native city states during the closure of COVID-19 have tested positive for the infection. The update on Covid's positive return is based on comments from 26 states shared with the union ministry of tribal affairs.

This information was shared by the states in a web meeting chaired by the minister of tribal affairs (MoTA) Arjun Munda to address livelihood concerns arising from the current situation and focus on the effective implementation of procurement of minor non-timber forest products to ensure that tribal gatherers can obtain a fair price for their products. The meeting was attended by five senior ministers and state ministers from 26 states.

As for the 50 tribal immigrants who tested positive upon returning to their villages, MoTA officials cite them for now as a cause for alarm with states claiming to have the situation under surveillance and adequate quarantine measures. However, with many more migrant workers returning home, testing and infallible compliance with the quarantine protocol will be more critical than ever before to protect the tribal region from the spread of infection. MoTA has been following the situation with the states.

Meanwhile, there is an emerging concern among states about the livelihood possibilities for returned migrants who are expected to stay longer than usual and some even choose not to return to the cities. Another concern is the future of education for children who dropped out of school halfway through urban cities and returned to villages. States have sought more Eklavya Model Residential Schools as a medium and long-term measure in case the number of tribal children applying for admission increases in the coming months.

To address the immediate livelihood challenge in tribal regions, the Center and states have decided to focus on purchasing products to effectively implement the Minimum Support Price for 49 non-timber items. To allow tribal forest product collectors to obtain a fair price for their products in the prevailing situation, the government increased the MSP for MFP from May 1 in the range of 6% to 90%. The average increase in MSP for most items was between 15% and 20% over current prices through April 30.

According to the Tribal Federation for Cooperative Marketing Development of India, the managing director since May 1 MFP worth Rs 340 million has been acquired in 16 states by government agencies (Rs 40 million) and private entrepreneurs (Rs 300 million) in the revised MSP and more than the revised rates respectively. He said that gradually all states are stepping up acquisitions.

Also 1,126 centers for adding value to MFPs under the Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Vikas Kendra scheme have been launched through 18,000 Self-Help Groups that touch 3.5 lakh tribes, Krishna added.