The ongoing monsoon session of Parliament has seen the government admit to not having or maintaining data on a variety of issues, from health to employment. In multiple written answers to both Houses of Parliament, asked by various MPs separately, the government has said it is not maintaining specific data points on issues that transpired during COVID-19-induced national lockdown. The stringent lockdown that came into effect from late March saw the economy come to a standstill and an exodus of migrant workers from cities towards their home towns due to availability of jobs.
In most cases, the Centre is not maintaining the records altogether and in health-related subjects the Centre has passed the blame on the states for unavailability of data.
Here are the responses on six issues from the monsoon session - straight from Parliament.
Migrant death and migrant job losses
Neither does the government maintain records on the number of migrants who have died while returning to their homes during the lockdown, nor does it have data on the migrants who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
"No such data is maintained", was the response given by Minister of State Santosh Kumar Gangwar for Labour and Employment for two questions in Lok Sabha. Three MPs asked him to share state-wise details on the number of migrants who had lost their lives while returning to their hometowns, and those out of work due to the pandemic.
However, the statement did say that more than 1.04 crore migrants made their way home due to the efforts of 4,611 Shramik Special trains.
The response can be read here.
The government has no records on how many micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) shut down during the pandemic-induced lockdown between March and August.
In a reply to Rajya Sabha, the Minister of State for MSMEs, Pratap Chandra Sarangi said that the government has no records of MSMEs shutting down during the above mentioned period during the lockdown and its subsequent easing across various phases. "No such record is available", said the reply to Phulo Devi Nitam, a Congress MP representing Chattisgarh.
The reply also mentioned that there was no data on the number of MSMEs that had shut down between financial years 2014 - 2015 to 2019 - 2020. While they did not have data on closures, the reply did state that the number of MSMEs registered from FY 2015 - 2016 to FY 2019 - 2020 was 90,58,195, and had increased in this period, providing a year-wise drill down. The reply also highlighted steps taken by the Aatmanirbhir Bharat Abhiyan package to alleviate issues by MSMEs during the pandemic.
Read the response here.
The government has no estimates or data on stranded migrants according to a reply by MoS Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Danve Raosaheb Dadarao. In absence of the data, the government has allocated food grains under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Scheme based on a liberal estimate of 8 crore beneficiaries (or 10% of the eligible National Food Security Act population), with an allocation of 4 lakh metric tons [LMT] of food (10 % of the allocation under NFSA) for two months (May and June) each. Until August 31, 2020, 2.67 LMT have been distributed to 2.67 crore people.
The identification of the beneficiaries was up to the states, and this delay caused the government to extend the scheme to August 31, the reply states.
Health care professionals
The central government does not maintain data on the number of doctors who have died during the pandemic or violence committed against them, citing health as a subject which is a prerogative of the state.
The responses were given as separate replies to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on different dates. Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Chaubey told Lok Sabha that the government maintains no data on violence committed against health professionals and health workers; outlining that the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 was amended, and officers appointed at the state/UT level to ensure their safety. Read the reply here.
The government also said that they maintained no records on health professionals and workers who had died in the line of duty. As a proxy, the government provided data of those seeking relief under the PM Garib Kalyan Insurance Package - 155 in number. The Indian Medical association has said that 382 workers have lost their lives, slamming this reply.
Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale, responded that the government does not have data on the deaths of sanitation workers, who have died due to safety hazards and medical waste during the pandemic. This, he said, again was due to health (hospitals and dispensaries in particular) being a state subject - in a reply given in the Rajya Sabha to a question posed by Dr. Bhagwat Karad, a BJP MP representing Maharashtra.
The response goes on to state the safeguard measures outlined by the government to limit exposure of sanitation workers to the virus, including quarantine and PPE measures. .
You can read the response here.
The government does not maintain a central database on plasma banks, with a reply stating that states have taken the initiative of establishing them as needed.
Convalescent plasma therapy has been included in clinical management protocol for COVID-19 for a specific group of patients, states the reply.
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