Bhubaneswar, Jun 1 (PTI) Odisha Human Rights Commission Monday directed Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation to provide food and rations to sex workers who are facing difficulties due to lockdown in the capital city.

The direction was issued by OHRC member Asim Amitabh Dash while hearing a petition filed by Namrata Chadda, Chairperson of MADHYAM and Mahila Adhikar Abhyan.

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The rights panel directed the BMC commissioner to provide ration to sex workers irrespective of whether they have ration cards or not.

The order specified that strict compliance should be made and reported in the next hearing on June 18.

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Chadda in her petition had highlighted the plight of the sex workers in the lockdown and coronavirus scenario. She also claimed to have arranged rations for them from NGOs and other sources.

We are facing a lot of difficulties due to the lockdown. The livelihood of our community is at a great stake, said Nagamani Rao, the leader of the sex workers at Mali Sahi, the only red light area in Odisha state capital.

She said there are 90 permanent residents of Mali Sahi while 40 others used to come to the place from elsewhere, including Kolkata to earn their livelihood.

BMC officials said that the ration card holders of Mali Sahi have been supplied with rice for three months.

Anil Dhir, a volunteer, had earlier written to the authorities about the condition of the sex workers of Bhubaneswar and Paradip saying that they were among the most vulnerable and marginalised groups affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The loss of income has put them in anxiety and deprivation. None of them have Jan Dhan accounts, in spite of the fact that they have Adhar cards, Dhir said requesting BMC to convert their existing bank accounts into Jan-Dhan accounts so that they receive Rs 500 each month as announced by the government under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.

All women account-holders under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) are eligible to receive direct cash transfers of Rs 500 per month for next three months, Dhir said.

Chadda said this is the right time for the government to announce a specific economic package for them to help them tide over the crisis.

The sex workers should now be rehabilitated properly, said Pradipta Tripathy, the General Secretary of Bharat Raksha Manch.

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