Impact Of The 2nd Wave Of The Covid-19 Pandemic On Workers In Bengaluru
As of May 15, 2021, Karnataka had 6,05,494 active COVID-19 cases and had 21,434 COVID-19 deaths. Of these, more than 60% of the active COVID-19 cases i.e. 3,66,791 were in Bengaluru alone. There were 9340 COVID-19 deaths in Bengaluru. Despite having been warned about the second wave, the Central and the State Governments failed to take any steps to contain the same. Instead, the Prime Minister was making declarations in every available occasions and platforms that the Corona has been defeated in India.
From 27th April, 2020, Karnataka imposed a Lockdown which was subsequently extended. Despite enforcing the Lockdown, the Yeddy - BJP led state government did not provide any assistance whatsoever for the working class to protect their food and economic needs.
In this context, AICCTU – Karnataka, in collaboration with the Garment And Textile Workers Union (GATWU) and Domestic Workers Rights Union (DWRU), conducted a study on the impact of the 2nd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on the working class and economically weaker sections to put forth the enormity of the tragedy that has befallen us. We have demanded that the government make necessary policy interventions.
AICCTU demands that immediate steps be taken to ensure health, food security, life and livelihood needs of the workers.
DEMANDS OF LIVELIHOOD ISSUESOF WORKERS DURING PANDEMIC
- COVID-19 compensation packages: Government must declare a COVID-19 Financial Compensation package benefiting all Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, residents of slums (identified, declared or otherwise), contract and casual workers receiving wages below Rs. 15,000/-, domestic workers, street vendors, construction workers, waste-pickers, manual scavengers, Powrakarmikas, garment workers, plantation workers and other sections of the unorganised sector. The package is a must for ensuring dignified life during the lockdown period.
- Protection of Livelihood
- Urban Employment Guaranatee Scheme: Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme in line with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) should be initiated to ensure employment for those in urban areas
- Ensure Job Security: Introducing legislation to make job security a right and abolishing all forms of cotnract and casual labour is of utmost importance under present circumstances.
- Protection of livelihood: Government of Karnataka must take all necessary steps to ensure that no worker is terminated and full payment of wages is made. In line with the Circulars dated May 10, 2021 issued by the Government of Karnataka directing employers not to terminate construction workers, to pay their wages and sanitize their residences, directives should be issued to other industries to ensure the protection of livelihood of workers.
- Transportation for workers and Protection against Police Harassment: Although the Government has permitted certain works to continue, workers are in fact unable to go to workplace due to lack of transportation. There is also no safeguard against police harassment in case they are travelling in private vehicles. Immediate steps need to be taken to ensure provision of transportation and prevent police harassment.
- Payment of wages: It is seen that in a large number of establishments, wages have not been paid for the periods prior to the lockdown and it is unsure if wages will be paid during the lockdown. This has led to complete desperation amongst workers. Necessary orders must be issued directing payment of full wages for the lockdown period irrespective of whether work has been undertaken.
- State as model employer: Where the State is the employer, it must act as a model employer and ensure the fullest protection of rights of its workers including workers in BMRCL and Bengaluru Smart City. The state must ensure payment of wages, healthcare , provision of proper living conditions and non-termination of employment.
- Arrears of wages: Workers in various sectors suffered in the last lockdown as many companies refused to pay salaries. The Labour department must ensure that companies pay the salary or ensure government relief is provided.
- Wages helpline: Labour Department must set up a helpline for workers who are not paid wages and who have complaints in regard to termination. Immediate redressal of the complaints must also be ensured.
- Strengthening of Labour Department: Government must take all necessary steps to strengthen the Labour Department so that it can guarantee immediate remedial action in case of deductions in wages or non-payment of wages.
- Social security: In regard to workers in the unorganized sector, the Karnataka State Unorganised Worker Social Security Board must step up and take responsibility to provide social security. This must not be limited to those registered under the Act.
- Rent, loan and utility waivers
- Rent Waiver: The Government must issue necessary orders directing house-owners not to insist on payment of rent for the lockdown period and a period of two months after the lockdown ends. It must also issue orders to ensure no evictions of any tenant is conducted in this period.
- Loan moratoriums: The Government must issue necessary order directing loan repayment moratorium across the state of Karnataka for the months of April and May. It must be clarified that the said order is applicable to private and public lenders, individuals and institutions.
- Loan waivers: The Government must declare waiving of loans owed by workers to Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), banks and private lenders.
- Interest free loans: At this time of social and economic crisis, the State Government must provide interest-free loans to those in need based on a transparent policy. Loans must be provided with prolonged recovery period, without any requirement of securities, and with minimal documentation required.
- Waivers on utilities: The Government must waive electricity and water bills to provide financial security to its citizens who are suffering at the hands of a pandemic and lockdown.
- Food Security
- Ration kits: The State Government, in coordination with local municipal corporations, must ensure food security by free distribution of ration kits consisting of rice, wheat, ragi, masala, cooking oil, salt, sugar, etc. to suffice for a period of one month. The Government must also implement the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to all persons in PDS shops without insistence on ration cards.
- Indira canteens: At par with the BBMP’s decision to provide food packets at Indira Canteens, steps must be taken to ensure that when households are located far away from the Indira Canteens, they are provided food at their doorstep.
- Community kitchens: Community kitchens should be set up to ensure decentralization of food assistance. Support can be taken from street vendors to run such community kitchens. An example may be drawn from the Kerala model of community kitchens.
Food Help-line: The Government must set up a help-line that caters to food security specifically, and must ensure provision of food in a time-bound manner on receiving any such requests. Publicity must be given to these helplines.
[Here, we have shared only the recommendations on the livelihood issues of workers to mitigate their suffering during the period of pandemic. Read the Full Report in this Link]