Covid-19: Workers’ body seeks ₹3.75-lakh-crore emergency relief package for poor households

Our Bureau Pune | Updated on March 24, 2020

Demands free ration, ₹7,000 for each household; wants making of masks, sanitisers to be brought under MGNREGA

The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM) has demanded that the government announce an emergency relief package of ₹7,000 each for poor households in the country for April and May.

The Covid -19 pandemic is likely to affect the informal labour force, agricultural workers, small and marginal farmers, MGNREGA workers, pensioners, widows, the differently bled, slum dwellers, the homeless and other vulnerable communities, it said in a letter the Centre and all State governments.

The NSM, a national platform of workers’ collectives, trade unions, organisations and individuals engaged in public action on MGNREGA, said in a press statement a package of ₹7,000 per household for two months would require a corpus of ₹3.75-lakh crore (1.92 per cent of the GDP).

The Morcha has also demanded that the poor covered under government schemes be supplied with free ration along with cooking oil, pulses, salt, masala and soap for three months (April, May, June) in advance. “Ensure the availability of cooked meals twice daily at least till the end of May. This can be made available at the kitchens used for mid-day meals or as part of peoples’ kitchen schemes in different States,” it suggested.

Advance payment

Additionally, the NSM has demanded the advance payment of three months’ pensions (April, May, June) to each pension holder under the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) and immediate clearance of all pending liabilities of wages and materials to the tune of ₹8,396 crore under MGNREGA.

“Pay all registered MGNREGA workers their full wages during the lockdown period and ensure an immediate transfer of the first instalment of the PM-Kisan scheme. Also, ensure clearance of all pending instalments under the PMAY programme and the SBM programme,” it demanded in its letter.

The group has also suggested that Covid-19-specific requirements, such as the making of masks and sanitisers, can be brought under the admissible works under MGNREGA. This will ensure the functioning of MGNREGA while public works with many workers in close proximity continue to be a health hazard.

The NSM’s demand has been supported by 53 eminent personalities including professors, economists and activists.

Published on March 24, 2020

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