The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the center and states to put in place an urban employment program and raise wages as the lockdown during the second wave of Covid-19 resulted in job losses and workers in the informal and disorganized sector “go strong “Impaired and working days under MGNREGA and take action to discourage wage deductions on behalf of the pandemic.
“Advice 2.0: Respecting the Rights of Informal Workers During Second Wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic,” published by the NHRC on Monday, urged states to stand up against Resident Welfare Associations (RWA), which are imposing entry restrictions on domestic workers while they are only such decisions leave to the employer and the domestic help.
Recognizing that the pandemic has endangered women economically and increased their responsibility for unpaid care work, negatively impacting their labor force participation, she called on the government to launch a national labor-sharing campaign to address their burden of unpaid care work reduce.
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Citing Azim Premji University’s State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19, the NHRC said 23 Crore Indians had been pushed into poverty in the last year, and that these were families mainly in the informal sector live on over 50 Crore Indians. Other surveys also showed high unemployment and wage losses among informal sector workers in several countries.
It was found that there are several specific groups of workers in the informal sector, such as crematorium / funeral workers, domestic workers, traditional artisans, gig workers and small businesses, who face additional vulnerabilities in the second wave.
“Crematorium and funeral workers have emerged as frontline workers when dealing with corpses affected by Covid-19. They often work without adequate personal protective equipment. Domestic workers, who are still considered to be potential carriers of the virus, are faced with curbs from movements of RWAs that affect their livelihoods and marginalize them, “the report said.
It also referred to micro-businesses such as tea shops and barbershops that have closed due to lockdowns or customer shortages, and these situations are “evidence of the precariousness” experienced by workers in the informal sector.
Pushing for “Shahari Rojgar Yojna”, it said an urban employment program would help alleviate hardship in urban centers, and it could include jobs like building, maintaining and upgrading civic infrastructure, green jobs like rejuvenating degraded areas and include the purification of bodies of water. Nursing work in day nurseries and retirement homes as well as work in connection with Covid-19 for the production of essential goods such as PPE.
Based on the voices of activists working with the rural population, the NHRC wanted governments to revise MGNREGA daily wages according to the inflation rate and consumer price index and increase working days to 200 days at least by March 31 next year.
“To revive employment for informal workers and the economy during the pandemic, the Union Department of Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises should implement a moratorium on outstanding loans for both interest and EMI components, additional emergency pandemic loans and the extension of the Consider ongoing loan restructuring program beyond June and abolishing the foreclosure penalty imposed by banks on early loan repayment.
It suggested that frontline workers in the informal sectors such as crematorium / funeral workers, plumbing workers, domestic helpers and funeral staff receive PPE. The government should also take steps to register them under a specific Covid-19 or other health insurance system.
State governments should also take steps to register domestic workers in systems such as Rashtriya Swasthya Bhima Yojna.