The hon’ble  Prime Minister is eloquent in his address to Nation today as to what people should do during the period of extended lockdown till 3rd May 2020. But he remained tragically silent on what his Govt is going to do to facilitate the success of the lockdown period and ensure physical and human survival of the poorest section of working people running into several crores.  And the crudest joke that has come to play is that PM appeals the people themselves  to take care of their poorer counterparts while the Ministers will continue to pronounce sermons through electronic media.  Dramatic as well as deceptive indeed ! PM also did not bother to inform the people whether testing will be augmented to required level as advised by experts and also by WHO. Without all these, PM address, while extending the lockdown period, is reduced to only sound bites with little substance.

Till now the Govt announced a relief package statedly for people affected by lockdown of only Rs 1.70 lakh crore.  And  out of this packge for the common people, actual funding by Govt is only Rs 79000 crore (Rs 45000 crore for free ration and Rs  34000 crore  for cash transfer for women and senior citizens) and rest will be managed out of statutory welfare fund for construction workers and other social security funds belonging to workers themselves). Innovative way of packaging ongoing existing schemes and other funds as new post Corona relief package with a deceptive intent.  

And this deceptive game becomes clear when looked into and understood  in the face of a whopping Rs 7.78 lakh crore package announced as concessions/incentive/tax-break for the handful of corporate only a couple of weeks back through the budget and subsequent pronouncements. This is over and above the Rs 5.84 lakh crore patronized default of direct-tax dues from the same community and around Rs 2 lakh crore written-off bank loans in last one year period for them only—a total bonanza of Rs15.62 lakh crore out of the national exchequer built by the people and peoples’ money in the banking system. And in this background, the just demand of the trade unions for a universal income support scheme through cash transfer is being arrogantly ignored although the estimated cost of such income support of Rs 7000/- per month to 80 per cent of 32.72 crore households in country for a period of three months is just around Rs 5.04 lakh crore—around one third of Rs 15.62 lakh crore bonanza to corporate/big business. And whereas the big corporate are being favoured with various tax-breaks, concessions and give-aways, the MSME’s demand for financial support for sustaining their employment and activities is being arrogantly ignored. This is the real face of a democratically elected Govt whose greater concern is for handful of its political donors and not the crores of common populace.  

And now the continuing concern of the people about the Corona Pandemic and the lockdown situation is being further sought to be abused and encashed by the guards of the exploitative neoliberal capitalist order in governance by increasing working hours from eight hours to 12 hours a day, and fast tracking the pro-employer changes in all labour laws to legalise and legitimise all labour law violations by the employers to ensure further bonanza to the corporate/big business by more fiercely extracting blood and sweat of the working people, majority of whom are already in dire strait fighting for their human survival.  Working class cannot accept such a deceptive and fraudulent ploy lying down.

And what has been happening on the ground about implementation of Govt’s own directives/advisories notified by Labour Secretary and Home Secretary and also by Prime Minister in his today’s address about non-termination of employment and full payment of wages in the lockdown period ? The contract workers, casual

workers and in many cases regular workers have been thrown out of employment in thousands in several establishments and several thousands others have not been paid wages for the month of March 2020 in tea gardens, jute mills, IT &ITES sector, various construction projects, including contract/casual workers even in many public sector companies in arrogant violation of Govt directives with the concerned Govts remaining mere onlookers. Crores of Migrant workers working in industries and service sectors have been thrown out of employment and evicted from their residences and thrown under the sky to suffer in hunger with their family members, although Home Ministry’s concrete directives to the contrary. Prime Minister’s address did not bother even to mention these hardships being suffered by the real wealth-creators for the national economy because the philosophy of the ruling polity is to stand along with the exploiting class and not the people at large. CITU condemns such dire inhuman insensitivity of the Govt towards the sufferings of the people.  

CITU deplores and condemns the stealthy move to make pro-employer changes in labour laws through codification and through executive orders or by Ordinance to satisfy the corporate masters. Any unilateral move in that direction without consultation with the trade unions will be opposed and resisted by the workers. Govt must have consultation with all stakeholders including in tripartite forums for its future steps workers are the biggest stakeholders in this regard.  

In such a grave situation CITU reiterates its demands and urge upon that the Govt, instead of distributing sermons through media, must act on the ground and announce statutorily enforceable measures to be directly enforced by the governments at the centre and states, without further delay. These should, inter alia, include:

  1. Urgent step to augment testing arrangement to bring the country to the standard coverage level at par with global average. Ensure adequate  availability of testing kits and centres and also of personal protective gears to meet the increasing requirement
  2. Protecting the livelihood and earnings of workers 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 in the face of ongoing down-sizing and even shut-downs
  3. No unilateral change in labour laws to increase daily working hours and change in working conditions in favour of employers
  4. MSMEs should be granted direct financial support to enable them to sustain employment and activities
  5. Ensure transfer of Rs 5000/- for the unorganized/informal sector workers aged up to 25 years and Rs 10000/- to those above 25 years on a monthly basis through their bank/jan-dhan accounts
  6. Increase in the pension for the EPS pensioners at the minimum level to Rs 6000/-.
  7. Also the workers directly affected by corona virus and forced to stay away from work should be granted paid leave by the employers.
  8. No wage-cut, adjustment of leave etc should be allowed for shut-down or down-sizing
  9. Free rations to informal sector workers with the huge stock of food grains at  Govt-disposal
  10. Strict action against hoarders who utilise the situation leading to price rise of essential commodities including food items, medicines, sanitisers etc
  11. Separate arrangement should be made to supply mid day meal to the residence of the entitled students in view of the temporary closure of the schools. This will also save the jobs of the mid-day-meal workers besides benefiting the students.
  12. Special safety arrangement to be ensured for health-workers including the ASHAs, second ANMS and other scheme workers in the health department, anganwadi employees etc engaged in providing health and other services in different ways; workers in essential services, transport and certain industries functioning during the lockdown with govt permission should also be provided with this special safety arrangements and protective gears
  13. Increase in remuneration of the ASHA and other scheme workers in health services on a monthly basis
  14. Strengthen public sector pharmaceutical production entities for production of raw materials, testing kits and medicines including sanitisers and other implements.

Tapan Sen
General Secretary

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