The Covid-19 pandemic has brought difficulties for the Hindu migrants from Pakistan living in eight border districts of Rajasthan. They struggle for beds, vaccines, insurance cover and free ration provided by the state due to their foreign status and absence of citizenship as per a report in Times of India.
Since 20 March, seven of them have died in Jodhpur, which has 2,500 such families waiting for Indian citizenship for the previous decade or more.
Baser Mal, one such refugee from Sindh in Pakistan, died of Covid-19 on 2 May in his makeshift mud hut on the outskirts of Jodhpur.
He was taken to two private hospitals in Jodhpur but was reportedly denied a bed due to his non-citizen status.
"The hospitals asked for his ID proof when we took him there on 26 April. Even for his RT-PCR test, we had to use our connections in the administration. This is how those who don't have Indian citizenship struggle for basic facilities," a close relative of Mal Dr Rajkumar Bheel said, who is also a refugee. Bheel, a dentist from Hyderabad in Sindh, is among the very lucky few to have been granted Indian citizenship in 2016.
The Foreigners' Registration Office (FRO) said 22,146 migrants, who have applied for citizenship, live in huts with no proper facilities. They have become vulnerable to Covid-19.
Seemant Lok Sangathan, however, lays the number over 25,000.
"Neither they are protected under free food schemes, nor any state insurance/health schemes. They are left to fend for themselves in the most brutal manner, which is a matter of collective shame," laments Hindu Singh Sodha, president of Seemant Lok Sangathan that works for the basic rights of migrants from across the border.
"I have written to higher authorities, seeking their guidance in providing the migrants vaccination and benefits under social welfare schemes. I am awaiting their response," said Sodha.
Sodha adds that the state's proposal to issue special ration cards to migrant families, considering them "special citizens" under the National Food Security Act, is also awaiting the Central government's say so.
Rajashtan chief medical and health officer Balwant Manda says guidelines, in this case, are pending from the state government. "After a policy decision is taken at the government level, the requisite steps can be taken for vaccination of Pak migrants,"
Meanwhile, a door-to-door survey is being carried out in their settlements for testing and treatment for Covid-19, Manda adds.
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