Covid-19, one of mankind’s worst-hit pandemics, has not only disrupted everyday life but has also redefined the ‘new normal’ and has pushed back future goals.
Many Sustainable Development Goals have been greatly affected mostly SDG 1- No poverty, SDG 2- Zero Hunger, SDG 3- Good health and well-being and most importantly SDG 8- Decent Work and Economic Growth.
It is most important as jobs have been worst hit and work directly and indirectly pertains to the other goals mentioned above. The rich have been able to sustain during tough times but, what about poor labourers and workers?
Let us delve deeper into how SDG 8 has been affected through the work of labourers.
The ongoing recession caused by Covid-19 has been one of the worst economic downfalls since the mid-1990s. Over 76 million people have been infected by the virus worldwide and more than 1.6 million have died (as of now). The lockdown has affected supply chains globally. India’s most recent stimulus package introduced is one of the largest in the world, following the footsteps of the United States and other nations hit hard by the ongoing pandemic. The extended lockdown adds further downside risk to our 5% a year GDP fall in the quarter.
Migrant workers are the worst affected by this abyss. Migrant workers constitute a large part of the informal sector in India.
There are around 60 million interstate migrant population in India (mostly seasonal or short term). Businesses are being shut and companies are going bankrupt, leaving many unemployed- the majority of them being migrant workers, who tend to be more vulnerable. Without jobs, money, and public transportation being shut down, many of them are forced to walk back to their home towns with many dying during the journey.
Under PM Modi, PMJJBY, PMSBY, APY have been implemented pertaining to the poorer sections, supposedly providing insurance cover and affordable annual premiums.
There are also 2 major security plans (formal)- EPFO and ESIC which are similar to the schemes, mainly more towards the organised sector in India. It also covers international workers.
Although there is BPL card, Aayushman card, MNREGA and various other schemes, the question is how many of these schemes are actually accessible to the deprived sections? It is a point of conjecture. There are a lot of instances in which the schemes are misused and provided to the people who don’t fall in the eligibility criteria. Workers are not able to gain tangible access to the money they are promised.
As of May 2020, almost 64% of workers were left with less than Rs 100. Given the lack of legal mandates, they have been left to fend for themselves during a crisis as serious as a pandemic. More can be found here. There are laws that are aimed at informal sectors, covering working conditions and problems of its workers but none of them directly deal with jobless migrant leaving cities.
Steps need to be taken to ease the effect of the pandemic. Rations can be extended, housing and meals provided, advancing and enhancing pension payments, and most importantly, a better framework for social security in the country.
Does it exist? Yes and No.
India has a very basic social security system (mostly scheme based). Only a small % of the rural population and middle classes have gained from this. There are laws that cover bilateral agreements to make sure none of the ex-pats pays double and other minor concessions but what about one of the most basic privileges i.e. social security? The Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, US and other countries have proper social security. Why can’t we?
The proletarian government should have a statute or law-based social security rather than a scheme based that covers every Indian, from migrant worker to business owner. More can be found here and here.
PMJJBY(Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana)
PMSBY(Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana)
APY(Atal Pension Yojana)
BPL(Below Poverty Line)
MNREGA(Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee)
EPFO(Employee Provident Fund Organization)
ESIC(Employees State Insurance)