With the country under a 21-day lockdown, trade unions, irrespective of party allegiance, have sought a financial assistance for the unorganised sector.
Both the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliated to the RSS, and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), linked with the CPI(M), have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to see that Rs 5,000 is transferred to every worker as wage relief in this lockdown period.
In a letter to Modi, the BMS made a list of demands, including sufficient budget allocation as a relief for those who do not get their wages or (small traders) who have shut down their units due to crisis, distribution of essential commodities through PDS, and making available essential medicines at affordable prices to everyone.
“The government should urgently transfer RS 5,000 as income support/wage relief to every worker in the unorganized sector as well as other unpaid workers through DBT (direct benefit transfer) by depositing directly to their bank accounts for subsistence for one month. Such money will sustain the purchasing power of people and if spent, will activate the market and economic activities without getting paralyzed,” the union wrote, according to BMS national president Saji Narayanan.
In his letter to Modi, CITU general secretary Tapan Sen asked the government to ensure transfer of Rs 5,000 for workers in the unorganised and informal sector aged up to 25 years, and Rs 10,000 to those above 25 on a monthly basis through their jan dhan bank accounts.
The Indian Express had on Wednesday reported that Prime Minister Modi has told Opposition leaders that a financial assistance package for the daily wagers could be considered at the second stage, as the government is focusing on implementation of social distancing in order to contain the community transmission of the virus.
Both BMS and CITU leaders also pointed out that the worst hit in the coronavirus crisis would be the daily wage workers in the unorganised sector.
Sen stated that he has got reports that “in many places workers are being compelled to forgo part of their wages, and in some cases leaves, and just go without wages”. He said the situation is especially worrisome for unorganised sector workers.
Sen said many private factories have downsized production, which has hit contract workers.
Lauding the Prime Minister for his leadership and efforts in the crisis, BMS’s Narayanan pointed out that the situation is “grave”, as “migrant workers have already started returning to their villages empty-handed”. He stated that those most affected are contractual workers, casual workers, fishers, domestic workers, home-based workers, street vendors, ragpickers, the self-employed, and other workers.
The BMS, which in the past has criticised the labour policies of the BJP-led government, also asked the government to ensure that pension under various schemes is paid on time. “The EPFO should release March pension immediately. Just as advice is given on the construction welfare fund, all labour welfare boards should assist their members in the crisis period,” he stated.
ANJU an English teacher and District Mentor for English in the Parho Punjab Project (Jalandhar district), said that teachers have formed WhatsApp groups with the senior students and with the parents of the junior classes.
Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: Are smokers at high risk form coronavirus? | Can Vitamin-C prevent or cure coronavirus infection? | What exactly is community spread of coronavirus? | How long can the Covid-19 virus survive on a surface? | Amid the lockdown, what is allowed, what is prohibited?
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines