Trade unions are painting a grim picture of the state of workers, particularly those in the unorganised sector, due to the lockdown to fight the spread of Covid-19. Most major trade unions have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding direct cash transfer to unorganised workers’ bank accounts.

RSS-backed trade union BMS’s president Saji Narayanan said his organisation has asked Modi to urgently transfer ₹5,000 as income support and wage relief to every worker in the 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 government should declare sufficient budget allocation as a relief to those workers who are not getting wages/ salary especially from the employers who are not able to pay due to shut down,” Narayanan told BusinessLine.

CITU general secretary Tapan Sen accused the Centre of “criminal negligence”. “People are starving and dying. Unorganised workers such as construction workers and truck drivers are left with no subsistence allowance. The Centre should immediately release funds for them,” Sen said.

Mandatory assistance

In a letter to Modi, he urged the government to announce statutorily enforceable measures by the Centre and States, without further delay. “These should, inter alia, include: Protecting the livelihood and earnings of workers by compelling the private business, along with the PSU management to ensure protection of jobs, earnings and social security benefits both for their regular workers as well as the contract and casual workers.; ensure transfer of ₹5,000 for the unorganised/informal sector workers aged up to 25 years and ₹10,000 to those above 25 years on a monthly basis through their bank accounts; increase EPS pensions at the minimum level; also the workers directly affected by coronavirus and forced to stay away from work should be granted paid leave by the employers,” the letter said.

Cash and ration needed

AITUC general secretary Amarjeet Kaur said in a statement that the daily wagers, casual, migrant agriculture workers or hawkers-vendors and domestic workers are losing their livelihood.

“They need immediate financial relief, free ration and free fuel to cook food. Food should be provided from Government-run outlets for destitutes. This requires big economic package from the government. The clean drinking water and sanitationare essential and specially in this pandemic situation,” she said.