Set up relief package for workers, say unions, rights groups

Pandemic has left millions of households poor, warns statement

Over 60 workers’ rights groups and trade unions on Monday called for a national relief and recovery plan to prevent the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic from being long-lasting for the most disadvantaged groups in the country.

In a joint statement, the groups said: “The impact of the two COVID waves and attendant lockdowns on Indian households and workers cannot be overstated. Even before the devastating second wave, several sources suggest that millions of households became poor, reversing hard-fought gains in poverty reduction.”

They said apart from focusing on vaccination and healthcare, there was an urgent requirement for a national relief and recovery plan to protect life, partially compensate for loss of livelihoods and boost demand for faster overall recovery. The statement said while it welcomed the government’s announcement of additional food for PDS cardholders till November, the food distribution should be expanded to non-PDS cardholders who are vulnerable. It added that a “crisis cash transfer” of ₹3,000 per month for six months and expansion of NREGA work entitlements to 150 days should be implemented.

“It is essential that the Government of India recognise the need for directed, equitable and dignified economic recovery for India’s workers and citizens. We urge it to act urgently, following its constitutional obligations as well as global best practice. If not now, when,” asked the rights’ groups.

Among the 68 signatories were Aajeevika Bureau, the All-India Central Council of Trade Unions, the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, the Right to Food Campaign and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.

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