Appeal to the President of India on issues thrown up during lockdown
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Shri Ram Nath Kovind
Hon’ble President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhawan, President's Estate, New Delhi 110004
We hopefully place on record the following few facts which are agitating the toiling people of the country.
1. The sudden, unplanned national lockdown imposed by the Government of India and its administration, statedly on account of COVID – 19 pandemic, catastrophically affected the working people, the migrant workers amongst them being the worst hit. That they simply had no life support became clear as the days passed. Even the "advisories" issued belatedly by the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Home Affairs did not help, in fact they were withdrawn by the government without being implemented.
2. The health system was exposed to be woefully inadequate-the private hospitals either simply refused to cap the rates, as appealed by the government, for treatment of Covid patients, stating they were uneconomical or simply closed doors. The ventilators, PPEs, sanitizer required were in extreme short supply. Only the public health system-the public hospitals, their doctors, their staff, the health scheme workers(ASHA Workers), anganwadi workers, the municipal sanitation workers worked tirelessly, risking their own lives including being affected and even lost lives and won everyone's admiration and gratitude. It were the Ordnance Factory workers who swung into action to produce the much needed ventilators and PPEs. The much touted private enterprise failed completely.
3. Then the attention turned towards putting the wheels of the economy back on rails. The steps taken in this regard by the government defy all logic and the past experience as well as the advice of renowned Indian economists. The economy was already in recession from prior to the onset of the pandemic and was due to majority of Indian people lacking even the minimum purchasing power. It was necessary to put money in their hands. The sudden lockdown compounded the problem.
Yet what is being done? The increase in DA of government employees and DR of pensioners is withheld, Labour laws, including many of Hon'ble Supreme Court’s judgments on Equal Pay for Equal Work, are flouted mostly, with inspection being curtailed in the name of “ease of doing business”. Now even the Labour Laws, in whatever form they exist, were sought to be suspended for 1000 or more days through executive orders/Ordinances in many states, (The ILO had to remind the government of its commitment to various ILO Conventions), a slew of public sector enterprises were opened for privatisation, 100% FDI, ranging from blue chip companies such as the BPCL, LIC, Coal India, Electricity Sector, Ordnance Factories, the Railways, train routes as well as their manufacturing/repair workshops, airports, all during the continuing lockdown. Migrant Workers were actually sought to be prevented from going back to their villages by vested interests in the private sector. Their helpless crowding of stations was treated as law and order issue! The Hon'ble Supreme Court had to intervene to direct the government to handle the issue humanely and with top priority. Agriculture is pushed to corporatization through Ordinances. The Rs.20 lac crore package announced is once again Supply-side move rather than the necessary Demand-side push. Repeated Demands by the entire trade union movement for direct income-support and adequate food-support to all poor and non-income-tax-paying households is being arrogantly ignored.
4. Now it is coming to light that the ASHA Workers, who did the crucial Corona surveys, have not been paid at all! State governments have not been paid their share of GST. The income tax paying social strata has not been roped in to share the burden, but the non-income tax paying people are further burdened with relentless price increase of petrol and diesel. While GDP figures are bandied about as a measure of “national progress”, the question of equitable distribution is plainly ignored.
5. The entire trade union movement of the country has time and again raised these issues with the concerned ministries, through representations, demonstrations and even sectoral strikes. But the government is totally unresponsive. It has not even convened the Indian Labour Conference, the top most tripartite body in the country, in spite of repeated requests, since 2015.
In view of above points and issues, we the undersigned, urge you, as the Constitutional Head of the Government of India for the following reliefs:-
To direct Central and State Governments:-
1. To adequately compensate the dependents of those migrant workers, who lost their lives due to sudden lockdown effected from 12 Midnight of 25th March, 2020;
2. To provide free ration to all non-income- tax-paying people for the next six months, irrespective of whether they hold any ration card;
3. To pay every non-income- tax-paying person Rs.7500/- pm for the next six months; and pension of Rs.3000/-pm linked to cost of living to all above 60 years of age;
4. To issue Smart Id Card to all the workers with their Aadhar card number valid throughout India which should be useful for social security benefits;
5. To provide a corpus of Rs.10000 crores – a revolving annual FUND for the purpose of implementing Social Security Schemes under the provisions of Un-organised Sector Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008;
6. Scrap New Pension Scheme (NPS) and restore pre-2004 Pension Scheme for Government Employees; withdraw the order freezing DA and DR increase payable to Government Employees and Retiree’s, respectively;
7. To withdraw the proposed move of the Government to convert the 41 Ordnance Factories into a corporation and then to privatise the same and to convert the Army Base Workshops to GOCO Model by handing over these Workshops to Private Sector;
8. To withdraw move for Corporatisation of Railway Production Units and handing over 109 Railway routes to private Sector and privatization of railway stations;
9. To cancel the Privatisation of Public Sector enterprises and Services including State Transport, LIC, Banks, Insurance, Coal, BPCL, Air India, Airports, Telecom, Ports & Dock and Municipal services etc. Allow level playing field to PSUs, for example, allowing operation of 4G spectrum to BSNL.
10. To put on hold any labour law amendments through codification of all labour laws in to four codes and to convene Indian Labour Conference immediately; scrap all the Ordinances and executive orders altering and/or suspending operation of labour laws in many states.
11. To invest in and expand health, education and agriculture sectors; scrap plans to introduce Online Education and to hold examinations during lockdown conditions; scrap all the three Ordinances on Agriculture including on amendment of Essential Commodities Act.
12. To increase budgetary allocation for effective implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, increasing the job allocation for 200 days per annum and extend the similar scheme for urban areas also to address the issue of unemployment on war footing. The daily wage should be enhanced from Rs. 202/- to Rs. 500/-.
13. To launch drive to recover loans from Willful Defaulters, by using criminal prosecution, restore Wealth Tax.
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