This blog is inscribed by Aadarsh Kumar Shrivastava.
Every person who puts effort to earn and achieve something is labor. Indian Economics differentiates the meaning of labor and laborers. The laborer is a term used for labor that performs physical work. In India, laborers are the weaker section, and their life and economy are based upon the daily earnings. They earn daily with their physical efforts for two times of food and shelter. The Covid-19 pandemic is a curse for these weaker sections of society. The laborers have faced multiple hardships during the lockdown due to Covid-19. There were 2 options before migrant workers i.e. either they die from starvation or die with SARS-CoV2. Lacking in jobs and money due to the shutdown of factories, industries, manufacturing units, constructions, and other related works forced these daily wage earners to walk towards their hometowns as they were out of foods, savings, etc. Thousands of laborers died in the middle of their way home due to starving from food and resources.
Migrant workers are going to different metropolitan and developed cities in search of work, money, and livelihood and return to home after earning and savings. They mostly belong to rural areas. According to the report of the Centre of Monitoring Indian economy, more than 120 million workers lost their jobs due to lockdown. This pandemic has highlighted the true life of workers and laborers. Even after the 73 years of democratic independence, there are billions of workers in India who don’t have money to eat a week if they do not get work. They are at a higher risk of exploitation in foreign countries because there is a contract based labor system where the laborers are bound to work till completion if they once joined it and their passports, the document is taken by the contractors.
Major problems faced by migrant laborers during the lockdown
1. Food shortage-
Billions of laborers are out of finance due to shutdown and they don’t have money to get food for them.
2. House rents –
They didn’t have money to pay the house rents and they are forced to vacate the houses. The government guidelines for house owners are only in black and white papers but its interpretation was far away from the practical world.
3. No transports –
Due to the lockdown, there were no public transports and these migrant workers started walking and cycling to return to their hometowns and villages to save themselves from starvation.
4. Violation of lockdown –
Due to the compulsory lockdown, there was the enforcement of section 144 Cr.P.C., and police officers had the authority to take action against violators under section 188 I.P.C. During the forced migration of these workers, some people were arrested by the police, some were met with accidents.
Problems faced by local laborers
The only difference between the migrant and local laborers is that the migrant laborers move to other developed cities in search of work whereas the local laborers work in their native town and live in their houses. They equally faced the problems as the migrant workers due to the complete shutdown of works. The workers and helpers were restricted from coming for daily household works. The local workers were not getting works and they too lost their sources of earnings.
In respect of domestic workers, twice the draft was made but not get the assent in houses. The first bill of National Policy for domestic workers was prepared in 2011 and secondly in 2019 for ensuring the payment of wages, security in jobs, and safe working conditions. These tireless efforts made no sense at that time. But at present after seeing the global pandemic it is very much clear that there is a need for specific legislative laws for the domestic workers to maintain and safeguard the rights.
Government Initiatives for workers during the lockdown
Due to the urgent need of changes in the labor policies due to shutdown of woks and to boost up the economy, the state government of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh amended the labor laws for the certain period through ordinances and notifications which contains exemptions from compliance with certain labor laws and issued various guidelines for the safety and security of laborers. Major laws which govern the labors are-
- Factories Act 1948
- The Shops and Commercial Establishment Acts of different states.
- Minimum Wages Act of 1948
- Industrial Dispute Act 1947
The major directives of government for these workers are as follows-
· Relief Camps-
There was the installation of camps for the migrant workers where they are allowed to live and they get food free of cost. They are requested to live there to avoid the spreading of the virus.
· Relief funds –
The relief fund was created by both central and state governments to provide financial help to workers who lost their jobs. The union ministry of finance declared Rs. 1crore 70lakhs for poor’. Fund of Rs 11,092 crores is transferred to states and union territories by the central government through NDRF to manage food and shelter for poor peoples.
· Free food grains to workers-
The central government and state governments under various schemes provide free food grains for 3 months to every laborer or the working-class person who is below the poverty line.
· Door to door services-
To provide relief and to avoid the spread of viruses the government arranges the home delivery of essential foods, goods, and products to maintain social distancing in the market.
· Transport arrangements –
The state governments, NGOs arranged public transports so that these workers can easily reach their homes. According to news and reports, there are more than 200 million people who get benefit from this relief scheme. Not only the interstate workers get benefits but also there were arrangements for migrant workers in foreign countries. The major modes of transports were as follows-
- Buses – More than thousands of buses in every state were used in sending the workers safely to their homes.
- Shramik Special Trains – Special trains in pairs of 15 were started all over the country for workers to reach home safely.
Effects of Covid-19 on Laborers
Due to the shutdown of manufacturing units, productions, constructions, factories, establishments, etc. there is a recession in the market and the prices of things are increasing which ultimately leads to countless effects in the life of labor class. Some of the highlighting ones are as follows-
- Increased child labor due to the growing financial crisis.
- Increase in mental disorders.
- People start committing crimes related to properties and the human body.
- Illegal business and unlawful activities will thrive.
- Forced labor and human trafficking will start due to the rise in the race of promoting economies.
Covid-19 has triggered the global economy and public health issues. The desperation of these laborers to return to their homes will never forgettable. According to reports of the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy the percentage graph for unemployment is raised from 8.4% to 23.4%. The laborers are likely to encounter mental and psychological disorders in the upcoming time due to the unavailability of the source of income, food, shelter, basic amenities, etc. This corona pandemic has made long-lasting impacts on the health issues and overall welfare of the community at large. Now for the sustainable growth of the labor sector, there is a need for the emergence of amended labor laws and policies as already made by certain states.