Day 7: 14th March 2021

At the end of a week of Feminist Resistance and Reflection, we strive to carry with us all the concerns and struggles that movements have been raising in different ways. We return once again to the responsibility that the State holds for ensuring the ‘basics’ (education, food, health, social security) for all, in a universal manner, but especially for the most marginalized individuals and communities, which constitute a majority of our population.

The government’s response to the pandemic has been rightly criticized for lacking awareness and empathy for masses of working people, especially for migrant workers and informal workers who suffered sudden loss of livelihood, and for those engaged in work that is not recognized, such as sex work. The past year affected all marginalized communities, and women and people marginalized on grounds of gender and sexuality were disproportionately impacted. Lack of aadhaar cards, identity documents and bank accounts meant that even where direct cash transfers were (eventually) made, many of the most vulnerable people were unable to access them. This situation is only an extension of the one prevailing even before the pandemic, with the move towards digital access to entitlements, making an already difficult process even more unapproachable.

The overall push towards privatization across sectors, reflected in policy, is about refusal to acknowledge education, food security, healthcare, social security and housing as public goods and the responsibility of the State. Sweeping legislative changes in labour laws and farm laws geared towards offering incentives to corporates, are only likely to make matters worse. These measures would further deprive marginalized communities of subsistence through displacement from land, farming and livelihoods; forced migration; attempts to produce masses of cheap labour through changes in education, and through state orchestrated or condoned violence against individuals and communities.

The Union Budget 2021 makes the government priorities clear, and voices from different movements have criticized it severely for obfuscating the lack of allocation to marginalized and oppressed communities. The budget has been criticized on grounds of failing to respond to the immense stress to which the pandemic subjected Dalit, Adivasi, Vimukta people, migrant labourers, women and trans* persons, people living with disabilities, children from marginalized backgrounds in education etc. Rather than moving in the direction of providing a minimum and universal social protection guarantee, including basic income security, healthcare, nutrition, shelter, maternity entitlements, and addressing the basic entitlements precarity triggered by Covid, the allocations in the Union Budget barely touch targeted schemes, the only ones that would actually reach the intended communities.

On the final day of Feminist Resistance Week, we attempt to look at the four key components — food security, health, education and social security — and their gendered implications.

NAPM re-affirms our commitment to struggle for a universal social security net for all the working population of the country, which includes basic income security, healthcare, food and nutrition, shelter, maternity entitlements, education, insurance. We stand with the grassroots movements of Dalit, Adivasi, Vimukta people, migrant labourers, women and trans* persons, people living with disabilities, children from marginalized backgrounds and their struggle in this direction. As stated by Dr. BR Ambedkar, we also believe that social solidarity is necessary to actualize social security, especially in a deeply unequal society such as ours. This task is even more challenging in the present assault by fascism, neoliberal economic forces, and the pandemic.

NAPM India