Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus, it is a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS). The first case of coronavirus was recorded in Wuhan city, China. From there, now it spread all over the world. In India, the number of coronavirus cases increases day-by-day. Due to which lots of people lost their lives. So, the government announced nationwide lockdown because still there is no vaccine to fight against coronavirus, we have only some precautions like social distancing, wear a mask, use alcohol-based sanitizer, etc.
The fate of Migrant workers
During the lockdown, all the work came to a halt every section of society is equally affected especially migrant workers. Migrant workers are those peoples who go to cities from their native place to hunt better lives, employment, and works. According to the 2011 census, 45.36 crore people (which is 37% of the Indian population) are migrants. The top reason mentioned by 3 crores of the 14 crore male migrants was work and employment.
As we know that to control the spreading of coronavirus the country is under lockdown all the economic activities are stopped and many of them devoid of money or other means as they were not remunerated by their employers. Now the workers have only two choices: (a)To stay there without any social support, food, pay in the cities, or (b)Walk to the village.
The migrant workers choose to journey on foot due to the widespread closures of vehicles. A large number of workers came out from their houses and starts the journey towards their village through cycle, trucks, trolley, etc. The sad thing is that some people are died during the journey due to road accidents, dehydration, exhaustion, health issues.
After the lockdown government tried to give relief. The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 26th March 2020 announced an economic package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore under the scheme of Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) to help migrant workers, labours, agricultural workers. The relief measures include 5Kg rice, wheat available free for 80 crores of poor people.
The question arises, is there no law for the protection of migrant workers?
Those working in the field of labour welfare have recalled a 1979 law regulating the employment and working conditions of inter-state migrants.
Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act,1976. It applies to every establishment that employs five or more migrant workmen from other states. Also applicable to contractors who employed a similar number of inter-state workmen. It helps the government keep track of the number of workers employed and provides a legal basis for regulation their condition of service. Contractors must provide terms and conditions to the workers based on which they recruiting. These terms include the remuneration payable, hours of work, fixation of wages, and other essential amenities. In no case, shall the wages be lower than what is prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, but experts feel that the lack of serious implementation has led to their rights being ignored.
The COVID–19 packages or Atmanirbhar package announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which free food grain supply to migrant workers for two months, technology system to used enabling migrants to access Public Distribution System(Ration)from any fair price shop in India by 2021 -One Nation One Ration Card, Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC)for Migrant workers/Urban Poor, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme Act(MGNREGS)support to returning migrants. Now I feel that these entire schemes are good for the long term but not for the current situation. One of the India Today economist Anshuman Tiwari said that on government schemes “People are sick they needed medicine but the government gave them vitamin tablet which is good for long term health but not for the current scenario”.
Why such plight of urban workers?
- Constitute a Welfare fund for the working class.
- Employment opportunities in home states.