SAFETY and SOCIAL SECURITY of INFORMAL SECTOR WORKERS during the lockdown due to COVID-19

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To

Shri Narendra Modi,

Prime Minister of India

Dated: 25 March 2020

With the COVID-19 spreading to 190 countries, we are facing an unprecedented crisis at the world level. As the pandemic unfolds, India faces the twin challenge of protecting the livelihoods of millions in the informal sector amid complete lockdown and immediately upgrading its already over-stretched public health system to effectively deal with the sudden rise in patients in the near future. The GoI not only needs an urgent and massive investment in health infrastructure to expand the testing capacity of COVID-19 to contain the possibility of community spread but also provide adequate safety measures to all medical practitioners, and all other workers providing essential services to keep them safe from infection. It is time now that all private hospitals start conducting COVID tests for free or the GoI should consider issuing a GO to this effect. 

At a time when physical distancing is very important, the aim that your announcement of 21 days lockdown attempts to achieve, it is of utmost importance that during this period we also maintain social harmony. India is a society where more than 90 per cent of the working population is engaged in the informal sector, and the country cannot afford to leave them on their own during these difficult times. With travel bans, border closures and quarantine measures, many workers will not be able to carry out their jobs, which has knock-on effects on incomes, particularly for informal and casually- employed workers. Millions of daily wages labourers, migrant workers, self-employed households, Aanganwadi and ASHA workers, and domestic help and care workers need assurance of government support to tide over the period of lockdown and till the time economy recovers.

In the light of this, the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University demands that the Government of India implement the following measures immediately:

1. NO MIGRANT WORKERS be forced to leave their workplace during the lockdown period as it will not only cause inconvenience to them but will defeat the very purpose of the lockdown. Adequate arrangements be made in every state for their safety and health security.

2. Draconian police action against informal workers are being reported from all over the country. Effective steps must be taken to rein in the police and law enforcing agencies so that no worker is subjected to unnecessary violence and coercion.

3. ESI Hospitals be provided adequate facilities for COVID-19 tests and other necessary support to handle the pandemic and be accessible to workers during the crisis, even if they do not have proper IDs. Mobile hospital vans must also be brought into service in order to reach out to workers in need of medical attention.

4. FREE DISTRIBUTION of alcohol based hand sanitisers to all workers.

5. TERMINATION OF EMPLOYEE FROM THE JOB OR REDUCTION IN WAGES BE MADE ILLEGAL. The advisory issued by Ministry of Labour and Employment on March 20, 2020 be made to be bound legally.

6. SIX-MONTH MORATORIUM ON ALL LOAN PAYMENTS to all workers including those in organised sector.

7. UNIVERSAL CASH TRANSFER OF RS 7000 in the form of basic income to all for at least six months except govt salaried employees and those in the organised sector.

8. UNIVERSALISE DISTRIBUTION OF FOOD GRAINS through PDS at schools and anganwadis and ensure that supply to PDS must be adequate with expanded rations. 

9. IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF ALL MGNREGA WAGE ARREARS along with advance payment of pensions .

10. DOOR STEP DELIVERY OF FOOD to all MID-DAY MEAL beneficiaries. ENSURE FREE MEALS to all those in need.

We hope that the government will pay urgent attention to the concerns raised above and do the needful immediately.

Thanking You!

Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies

School of Social Sciences

Jawaharlal Nehru University

New Delhi