Arjun Kumar, Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Anshula Mehta, Sajili Oberoi
Keeping the migrant workers issues at center stage and recognizing the social and economic cost of COVID-19 Pandemic IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute , Working Peoples’ Charter and Indian Social Institute organized a Panel Discussion on Migrant Workers, Labour Rights, Policy: Impact and Way Forward.
Ms. Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary, All-India Trade Union Congress shed light on how the COVID situation was attempted by the government to be used as an opportunity, The government delayed salvaging the migrant worker from their suffering because they were busy with the political agenda. Meanwhile, the government also sold the national wealth and national resources. The PSU’s were sold, in the second wave, we realize the indispensability of public institutions.
No lessons were learnt from the last year. Though the transportation has not stopped this time because there is no national lockdown. The public sector is not prepared for the demand which results in workers having no choice but being left to the mercy of private transportation services which are exploiting the conditions.
Government Policies under a Microscope
Contrary to the belief that the national draft migrant workers’ policy is the result of deliberation and debate, it seems to be an attempt to safe face. One cannot be but suspicious about the time of the policy released by Niti Ayog which is close to the virtual meeting of ILO. The government wants to pose their seriousness and create records of deliberation with the trade unions. This is just to create the conditions which looked as though the tripartite structure was respected.
The labor code bills were introduced the day when trade unions were on strike. The minister while introducing the code on wages instead of repeating the recommendation of their expert committee of Rs 376 per day as minimum wages they stated the amount to be Rs 178 per day. They did not change the national minimum wage but only spoke of any change to floor wages. So the legal implications of minimum wages were left and no recommendations were accepted from the standing parliamentary committee.
The labor codes when introduced in the parliament had to face a complete boycott by the opposition. The current migrant law which is in existence presents the migrants’ occupational safety health code which has not been changed in the draft national migrant workers policy. There is no recalibration to evaluate the needs at the origin or destination, there is no evaluation of demand, etc.
Absence of Social Welfare
The government has been callous without understanding the quantum of the issue. The health infrastructure’s growth has been impeded. The oxygen plants that the government had to set up to ensure no health failure work only began in October. The government has no intention of collating data because it dismantled its own institutions like NSSO, Statistical Institute and Labor Bureau statistics are actively hidden.
In the last pandemic Government of India presented the Cess funds under their relief package. He mineral institutes used their own money that was used to provide welfare to the workers. The relief that was provided to the farmers as part of budget allocation as a special COVID-19 relief. Trade unions demands Rs 7500 for non income tax-paying people. The Government itself has agreed to its lapses where 10 crore people did not receive the ration card. Government backtracked from the promise to pay lockdown wages and ensure there will be no entrenchment.
May Day celebrations began with the government returning to 8 hours working day, they had attempted change to 12 hours working day. The legalization of trade unions was he result of a law passed in 1926; While the government is not doing much for the formwal organised sector we are her speaking of the informal economy which is outside the purview of estbalishmwntl In neo-liberal era the regular fixed jobs are comin to an end with contractization and casuakization of kabour.
Kissan organisations have shown the way and trade unions stand by their side. They have shown the government that arbitrary decisions cannot take place. This fulcrum will be used to create a better future and thi struggling hope of the people is the only hope.