New Delhi: Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the country’s largest labour organisation, in a letter to Prime Minister on March 25, 2020 urged to urgently transfer Rs 5000 as income support/wage relief to every worker in unorganised sector as well as other unpaid workers through DBT 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 paralysed. The BMS also sought the declaration of sufficient budget allocation as a relief to those workers who are not getting wages especially from the employers who are not able to pay due to shut down.
“Your motivational leadership and efforts in a crisis period of handling COVID-19, a global epidemic, are unique in recent history. It is highly inspiring that the entire country stood in solidarity with your request for Janata curfew. Just as we have instructed the workers on Janata Curfew, we urge all the workers in the country to wholeheartedly co-operate with the decision for national lockdown for 21days. We also appreciate the good initiatives that have come from the Labour Ministry. Along with this we also place our appreciation to all those state Governments which have initiated measures to assist the economically affected people,” the BMS letter by general secretary Virjesh Upadhyaya said.
“The global epidemic has created a grave situation in the working population in India. Migrant workers have already started returning to their villages empty-handed. Workers, in general, are away from their work-places since they are now stuck in their homes due to complete lock-downs, quarantine measures, etc. Daily wage workers, contractual workers, casual workers, fishers, domestic workers, home-based workers, street vendors, rag pickers, self-employed and other workers in sectors like private industries, large retail sector, transport, shops, hotels, restaurants, airlines, BPO, tourism, entertainment and cinema, transport including autorickshaw and taxi, automobile, beedi, aviation, hospitality, apparel, consumer durables and electronics, Poultry and Seafood, construction, railway, agriculture, etc. and the unorganised sector in total have virtually no source of income to sustain life,” the letter added.
In such circumstances, the BMS said that since this year the country has registered record food grain production, the foodgrains along with other essential commodities should be distributed through PDS with the assistance of states. The Central Government should direct all the State Governments to start Ratios Shops on Wheels (mobile supply) to provide ration at the doorsteps. The government should make available essential medicines at affordable prices to everyone and assure that pension under various schemes is paid in time.
“Just as advice is given on the construction welfare fund, all labour welfare boards should assist their members in the crisis period. Your advice to the private sector not to cut down the workforce is commendable. Labour Ministry also has advised the public/private industry not to terminate or reduce wages and to provide leave with wages etc. New trends have begun like termination, forcing compulsory leave without wages, wage/salary deduction, closures, etc. Executive orders under the provisions of the law are required to curtail such trends. Those workers staying in the home during the lockdown period should be treated as on duty. One year time extension on payment of loans, recoveries like EMI, and moratorium on interest accumulation should be granted,” the BMS said.
The BMS said that in ESI and other hospitals, apart from earmarking few beds, additional health care facilities are to be provided like screening of patients, response activities, masks, sanitizers, medicine, safety kit for doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff, staff education about Covid-19 via electronic and other means, integration with the public health care system of the State, etc. ESI eligibility conditions of minimum contribution period for Super Specialty Treatment (SST) and other benefits are to be suspended during the self-quarantine and lockdown period.
The BMS on March 25 also wrote to all Chief Ministers requesting them to announce and implement some cash transfer scheme as well as ensure the availability of essential commodities for all.