New Delhi, Aug 8 (FN Agency) The Covid crisis came in India against the backdrop of pre-existing high and rising unemployment, and social assistance and public welfare programmes are imperative to mitigate the impact, a Parliamentary panel has said. Neither state nor the Centre are doing any ‘favour’, but are duty-bound to provide relief. The Standing Committee on Labour, which is chaired by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, recommended another round of income support to the poor.
“The Covid-19 crisis in India has come in the backdrop of pre-existing high and rising unemployment. Therefore, a comprehensive plan and roadmap is required to address the deteriorating condition of employment much aggravated by the pandemic, and widening disparities in the job market in the organised sector,” said the report. As a short term measure, it is imperative to expand the social assistance and public welfare programmes, both in the urban and rural areas, to provide relief and protection to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged strata of the society. “Offering another round of income support to the poor to compensate for loss of jobs incurred due to the two lockdowns imposed would go a long way in mitigating their woes,” the panel said. “Neither the Central Government nor the State Governments or UT administrations are doing any favour in the provision of welfare measures to the people in distress and as they are duty bound to do so, the Committee exhort that the Government should consistently strive to bring in systemic improvements in the implementation of Schemes so that the people in need are truly benefitted,” it said.
With over 90 per cent of workers in India being informal workers, which translates into around 419 million out of a total of 465 million workers, the Committee has also stressed the need to formalise the unorganised sector. It expressed concern over the delay in the development of a comprehensive National Database for the Unorganised Workers (NDUW), despite their earlier recommendations to hasten the process. The NDUW was conceptualised at a cost of Rs 704.01 crore covering an estimated 37 crore Unorganised Workers like Migrants, Construction Workers, Street Vendors, Gig/Platform Workers and others. Talking about the migrant exodus following lockdown enforced due to Covid 19 pandemic during both first and second waves, the report said, while 1.14 crore migrants returned home during the first wave of Covid-19 lockdown, over 5 lakh migrant workers returned during the second wave.
The Committee also pulled up the Labour Ministry for starting a survey of migrant workers two months after the migrant exodus started. “When the entire nation was witnessing a heart-rending sight of lakhs of migrant workers walking back to their native places helplessly without anything to fall back on, the Committee find it surprising that the Ministry waited for as long as two months, until June 2020, to write to the State Governments and that too after goaded by the Supreme Court, to collect the much needed detailed data of the migrant workers. Needless to say, it speaks volumes of the inaction/delayed action on the part of the Ministry at that specific point of never experienced crisis.” The Committee has also urged the government to formulate an employment guarantee scheme for the urban poor on the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.