Release urban employment scheme, disable wage cuts: NHRC in Center, States
With lockdowns during the second wave of Covid-19 leading to unemployment and “severely” affecting informal and unorganized workers in the sector, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the Center and States to launch a urban employment program, increase wages and working days under MGNREGA and take measures to prevent wage cuts in the name of pandemic.
The ‘Advisory 2.0: Protect the rights of informal workers during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic’ issued by the NHRC on Monday wants the United States to be notified against Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) imposing of curbs on the entry of domestic workers while leaving only such decisions to the employer and home help.
Recognizing that the pandemic has left women economically vulnerable and their responsibilities of unpaid workplace care have increased, negatively affecting their participation in the labor force, it also urged the government to start a national job -sharing campaign to reduce their burden on unpaid care work.
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Citing Azim Premji University’s ‘State of Working India 2021: A year of Covid-19’, the NHRC said 23 crore Indians had been pushed into poverty in the past one year and it was the families who were mainly in the informal sector more of 50 crore Indians. . It said other surveys also indicate high unemployment and wage loss among informal sector workers in various states.
It was noted that there are many specific groups of workers in the informal sector such as crematorium / burial ground workers, domestic workers, traditional artisans, gig workers and small businesses among others who are faced with additional weakness in the second wave.
“Crematorium and burial ground workers have emerged as frontline workers as they deal with corpses affected by Covid-19. They are often found working without proper personal protective equipment. Domestic workers, as seen. still potential carriers of the virus, are faced with the movement of RWAs affecting their livelihood and pushing them to the margins, ”the advisory said.
It also referred to micro enterprises such as tea shops and barber shops closing due to lockdowns or lack of customers and these situations were “evidence of the levels of caution” experienced by informal workers in sector.
Pushing for ‘Shahari Rojgar Yojna’, it said an urban employment program would help reduce stress in city centers and it could require activities such as construction, maintenance and upgrading of civic infrastructure, green jobs that include rejuvenation of damaged soils and purification of water bodies, care work on crechs and elderly homes and Covid-19 related work to produce essential commodities such as PPEs.
Sounds like activists working with the rural population, the NHRC wants governments to review the daily wage under MGNREGA in accordance with the inflation rate and Consumer Price Index, in addition to increasing the days of working up to 200 days at least by March 31 of the following year.
“To revive employment for informal workers and the economy during the pandemic, the Ministry of the Union of Medium, Small and Micro Businesses should consider a moratorium on loans remaining both interest and part of the EMI, additional pandemic emergency loans, expanding the ongoing debt restructuring procedure beyond June and eliminating foreclosure penalties imposed by banks on prepayment of loans.
It suggested that frontline workers in informal sectors such as crematorium / burial ground workers, sanitation workers, domestic helpers and mortar workers be provided with PPEs. The government should also take steps for registering them under a specific Covid-19 or other health insurance scheme.
State governments should also take steps to register domestic workers in schemes like Rashtriya Swasthya Bhima Yojna.