1st May celebrated as International Labour Day, this year was celebrated at a time when about 400 million employees are at the brink of losing their jobs and thousand migrating back home. This global pandemic holds the power to push millions of informal sector workers to lose their livelihood; says International Labour Organisation. This year laborers around the globe needs support and help than ever before.
International Labour Organisations put India amongst one of the most less equipped countries to deal with the situation. According to them, India is not proficient to tackle with the situation; especially in the best possible way. It does not have sufficient basic services; such as social protection, safety at work, etc.
The pandemic has calamitous effects on earnings and working hours globally. In India, the crisis would wipe out 6.7% working hours in the second quarter of the year 2020. Subsequently in Arab states 8.1%, Europe 7.8%, Asia & Pacific 7.2%.
In India, 90% of the working population works in the informal or unorganized sector. The 40 days complete lockdown a try to flatten the curve, millions of labors are wiped out of their jobs.
Thousands of laborers every year move from villages to cities in the hope to find a better source of livelihood. These categories of laborers usually belong to the poorest section of society. They in most cases work as a daily wage worker. At the end of the day, they have only as much money in which they can fill their stomach for at most a weak.
In this sudden lockdown, these laborers have lost their source of livelihood. They don’t have enough money to fill their bellies; leaving no option but laborers to migrate back to their villages.
Due to the unanticipated halt; no source of transportation these laborers are forced to walk hundreds if not thousands of kilometers on foot. The poignancy incident of 16 labors sheds the light on the plight.
In India, workers are further subdivided into two categories; organized and unorganized. Under the organized section falls the big businesses; those who have formal rights. For their works, they hire laborers from the contractors and these laborers are the unorganized section. The contractor claim to give minimum wage to these laborers but conversely, they don’t do so. Unorganized laborers get bitsy pay and therefore; quality of life is awful.
Destitute of Migrating Labourers
The unorganized sector laborers are one of the most immediate victims of the virus. Due to the high price of rent most of them live in slums. In a small room lives a family of 7-8 peoples; for example in Dharavi, Maharashtra also is known to be the largest slum area of the world. Otherwise a considerable unorganized labor section mushroom in the vacant lands.
A few states of India like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat; have eliminated or diluted about 14 labor laws like ‘minimum wage act’. In a plea to reviving the ever-shrinking economic activities. This will push more states of the country to follow their footprints; unless they want to want to stand out for their laborers’ rights. By such acts, the poor condition of laborers will deteriorate further.
Migrating Labourers’ Jeopardy
SARAS-CoV-2 or the novel coronavirus is a highly infectious virus. It can very easily transmit from one infected person to the other healthy person. The only way to decrease the number of cases is lockdown; which almost the entire world is going through. Social distancing is another important aspect to contain the virus’ spread.
Poor laborers who live in extremely congested spaces; for them practicing social distancing is next to impossible. Their poor living condition with no access to clean drinking water, poor sanitation thus, make them exceedingly prone to the virus.
Within the insecure working conditions, so little income and almost no savings. They don’t have enough money to even fill their bellies 2 times a day. Most of them are malnourished resulting in the poor immune system for fighting with any such an insidious virus as this. No money for medical checkups; though the ruling elite has put much effort to help them with at least food and proper medical attention; but yet thousands suffer in dark, living in dire straits.
Laborers across the country are in a catch-22; on one side if they go out for work (which is though verboten) they’ll die by the virus, and if they don’t they can die of starvation.
What’s’ Important: Life or Livelihood
Due to nationwide lockdown, businesses are going through a very severe loss period. Resulting in putting them at a cross purpose with the government. On one hand, the government is focusing more on minimizing the human loss; whereas the businessmen want their businesses to reopen. If not for making profit but at least cutting off their losses.
In the third phase of lockdown, the government has let the businesses to run but with 33% of the working staff or laborers. But there are a few who are asking the government to practice herd immunity i.e. letting the entire workforce to get back to work; with a hope that in some time they’ll become immune to the virus.
The UK has already experimented herd immunity. The result was disastrous. The number of death spiraled. At last, the government had to reverse the scenario.
The avaricious businessmen who are demanding the government to lift the lockdowns worry about nothing but their profits. India is the fourth largest country of billionaires in the world, yet here the worker’s rights are constantly curtailed.
One universal truth is that, the value of life is always more than materialistic things. We can recover the economy later; but what the time demand is valuing lives irrespective of their income or section.