The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an ordinance exempting all establishments, factories, and businesses from the purview of most labour laws for over three years. Laws that would no longer apply include the Minimum Wages Act, Trade Unions Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Factories Act, Contract Labour Act, Payment of Bonus Act, Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, Working Journalists Act, Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act. This ordinance is now pending approval of the central government. In Madhya Pradesh, all provisions, except Section 25 of the Industrial Disputes Act, have been relaxed, working hour has been extended to 12 hours a day, establishments employing less than 50 workers have been excluded from inspection under various labour laws, In industries with less than 100 labourers, exemptions have been given from provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Permanent Order) Act, fixed term employment has been approved, a provision has been made to maintain a single register instead of various registers under labour laws and to file a single return instead of 13 now, under the Factory Act, exemption has been given to factories from inspection for a period of three months. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani has declared that Gujarat is planning to exempt new projects from provisions of labour laws if the unit will work for at least 1,200 days.

Maharashtra has made exemption of section 51, 52, 54, 56 of Factories Act and has allowed extension of working hour upto12 hours a day. Assam government has allowed introduction of fixed term employment in industries, increase in minimum number of workers for implementation of the Factories Act from 10 to 20 (factories run with power) and 20 to 40 (without power). It also has approved increase in minimum number of workers for implementation of Contract Labour Act from 20 to 50 and increase in shift hours from 8 to 12 hours.

Other states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh has also amended the Factories Act since last month and raised the working hours from 8 to 12 hours per day. These changes are nothing but a ploy to transfer the cost and crisis of the pandemic to the working class, preserving the interests and profits of the capitalists and exploiting the corona crisis for fast track implementation of anti-worker labour law reforms, even bypassing the parliament. This will increase job loss, abolish job security, dilute industrial safety and increase industrial accidents and throw a huge majority of workforce out of any legal safety net, and effectively bring back the practice of bonded labour in production. This will push back the gains of working-class struggle for basic rights and dignified job by a hundred years.

 Already the Indian working class is suffering from the corona crisis – job loss, salary cut, crisis of ration, shelter and other facilities, despite the evident fact that they build the wealth of nation. Particularly the crisis of migrant workers and unorganized workers has been severe. In this context, these measures will increase the precarious condition of workers by manifold. MASA demands immediate withdrawal of all ordinances/orders by different state governments that allow anti-workers measures in pretext of COVID-19 crisis.

 MASA demands from the central government and all state governments immediate measure for the protection of workers’ rights and interests in this hour of crisis – secure jobs and full salary for all, universal health and social security, legislation for migrant workers’ rights and facilitation of their going back home free of cost, strong measures for industrial safety etc. We vow to fight for these rights of the workers and call upon all workers, all toiling masses and all democratic sections of society to rise up and fight for these rights. At present we will fight through the courts and virtually by all means possible. As soon as it is responsibly possible, we will move this struggle to the streets.

(Statement issued by MASA, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan) n

 

Today saw an industrial tragedy in Vizhakhapatnam with over 12 dead and thousands injured. This happened following a gas leak in the LG polymers plant in Vizag. Reports are that the plant was sought to be opened with only 30% strength as per the Kovid-3 guidelines. The personnel proved insufficient to run the plant safely and this resulted in a gas leak which led to the deaths and the disease. Coming, as this does, in the middle of the third Covid lockdown, it is putting pressure on the already fragile medical system especially in AP.

Nor was this the only tragedy today. As there is a rush to reopen after the lockdown, there was another gas leak reported in Chhatisgarh in Raigarh and a boiler blast in Neyveli in Tamil Nadu. This clearly shows that safety for workers and for society as a whole is being thrown to the winds in trying to regain the profits lost by industry due to the lockdown.

TUCI commiserates with the families of the dead and the injured. We promise to fight to see that justice is done for those dead and injured. The State Government has announced some compensation. At the same time, the dead and the injured are also entitled to compensation from the company. There have been reports that the company, in Vizag, has been trying to fob off the workers with insurance payments of Rs. 25000 per death and 1000 per month for loss of earnings for the persons injured. TUCI vows to fight any such attempt by the LG company to avoid its liability.

At the same time it is obvious from the three accidents today that industrial establishments are being opened in a hasty manner without adequate care being taken for safety and for health. At the same time, instead of increasing the measures for the health and safety of the workers and of society at large, the Central and various state governments are bent upon removing every vestige of rights for the workers, under the mistaken understanding that any increase in the rights of workers will mean a contraction of industrial growth.

One of the main, if not the sole, protections of the rights of workers to safety, is the Factories Act. This was already under attack even before the lockdown. Now many state governments like Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra are amending the act to allow 12 hours duty as a norm in place of 8 hours duty. The Gujarat notification also reads that the wages are to be paid at single rate for the whole 12 hours and not at overtime rates. All of these notifications are clearly illegal. They offend the sections of the act, the powers given to states under the act as well as being against various conventions of the ILO which India has signed and endorsed and also some which it has not.

Today the UP Cabinet has taken a decision to suspend all rights of workers under under all labour laws (except the Bonded Labour Act, the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the Building and other Construction Workers Act and laws regarding women and children) for 1000 days. The reasons given for such decision is that industry has slowed down in the lockdown (as it was bound to) and it needs to be helped for some time to be able to recuperate. This is foolish and no reason at all. Firstly, it is tautology to say that industry has slowed down when it was ordered to be locked down by the Government. Secondly, there is nothing to show that curbing workers rights will allow industry to recuperate. History shows otherwise. Workers rights and growth of industry have gone hand in hand. There is no precedent to show that curbing workers rights will allow for a sustained growth of industry. It is clear that the UP cabinet have no constitutional or legal right to pass such an ordinance and certainly not without the assent of the President. Further, it is the workers who have been the worst sufferers in the lockdown. It makes no sense to remove rights like double wages for overtime, PF, ESI, etc and justify it as a measure to encourage industrialisation. Even morally, such a move could never be justified.

This is not even good economics. If workers don’t get proper wages, etc. This will have an effect on the home market. The workers employed by institutions like the PF office and the ESI office will starve. We will go back to the rule of hire and fire which has never been shown to help the growth of industry. It is clear that such a mentality does not even come from a developed capitalist thinking but from a primitive feudal or slave mentality. This is only the result of the UP Government pimping itself to the interests of the big corporates to squeeze the workers.

Similar decisions have been reported to have been taken by the MP Government. The same reasoning applies here also. Similarly for the decisions of several governments like the Karnataka government which was disallowing migrant workers from going back after talking with the builders lobby.

It is clear that the BJP Government at the centre entered into the tactic of lockdown for this pandemic merely as a statement, without any preparation whatsoever. There was no preparation for the workers and the poorer sections of society. Similarly for the lifting of the lockdown. There has been no thought and no plan but only press conferences and statements. The figures of the affected and the deceased keep rising but all that follows is more conferences and further statements. There is no integrated plan to deal with lockdown and with its aftermath like one finds in almost all other countries.

The economy was in no great shape even before the lockdown. The figures for the third quarter (Sept to Dec 2019) already showed the economy was ailing. The government was to attempt to push the burden of this ailment upon the workers and other toilers by means like GST, amendments to labour laws etc. These amendments, ostensibly to consolidate the labour laws, were clearly designed to remove even the meagre protections given to workers and make them into contract and casual workers and push down their wages and living standards. While these attempts were under way, came covid-19. Now the attempt is to push the whole burden of covid-19 upon the backs of the workers by all the means outlined above.

TUCI vows to fight against this attempt by the ruling classes in aid of the big corporates. We will fight such attempts in the courts and in the streets when it is safe and responsible to do so. Till then we will fight then virtually by all means at our disposal. We call upon the working class, the toiling masses and all democratic sections of society to join us in this struggle. n

 

The Workers, toilers, migrant workers, professionals, farmers etc were all facing problems due to the lockdown caused by the Covid pandemic. The Central and State Governments have not done anything to help them. Even though there was an order recognising that workers were entitled to wages during the lockdown and that there should not be any reduction in the workforce during this time, the majority of the establishments did not give wages to the permanent or to the contract and casual workers. Even when there was a huge accumulation of grains in the governments godowns the poor, the toilers, the needy and the migrant workers were not given sufficient provisions in time. Due to this the poor are facing starvation. Especially the migrant workers who have faced tremendous privations and have been forced to go on foot in the hot sun to their states or their districts. During this migration, many have died in accidents.

The 20 lakh crore package announced by the Prime Minister is a farce and there is not direct aid to the workers, toilers, farmers and unorganised workers. Out of this package only 3 lakhs 20 thousand 900 crores are to be spent by the centre. The remaining 16 lakh 60 thousand crores are in the nature of loans and providing liquidity. The UP Cabinet has decided to suspend 38 labour laws leaving only 4. The MP Government has suspended nearly all labour laws for new establishments. The Gujarat and Karnataka Governments have also stated their aim to follow suit. Of course, the UP Government was forced to take back the decision to increase the working hours to 12 hours before the court. The effect of all these changes is that the “hire and fire” system is being introduced and workers are being pushed into slavery. The attack is on the workers wages, the health, their social security and even their dignity. In this manner, the Indian working class is being pushed into colonial British times. Against all these attacks on the working class, considering all these facts, the trade unions all over the country have decided to observe 22nd May 2020 as a day of protest.

The CITU, AITUC, INTUC, HMS, BKS, Shramik Ekta Mahasangh, TUCI, AIUTUC, SEWA, LPF, AICCTU and UTUC are all taking part in this protest. If the anti-worker changes in the labour laws are not taken back we will be forced to further intensify the movement. We request you to accept the demands below to the extent they are applicable to you.

  • Full wages to all workers for the whole period of the lockout
  • Scrap all the anti-worker changes in labour laws including extension of working day to 12 hours
  • Help the migrant workers not only to reach back to their villages but also for rehabilitation and for getting reemployment
  • Give relief of Rs. 10000 to each unorganised sector worker or self employed worker who has got no wages for each month of the lockdown
  • Condemn the “package” of the Central Government which only gives aid to the big corporates and steals from the workers and other toilers.
  • We demand that 5% of the GDP be spent on public health. n

 

Since the past week the Central and various state Government have been issuing various notifications curtailing the rights of workers.  As many as 10 states have issued notifications amending the Factories Act, 1948. Most of these (States like Uttarakhand, Gujarat, HP, MP etc) have been issued using the powers under section 5 of the Factories Act. This is clearly misconceived. The powers under section 5 can only be used in a “public emergency” which has been defined to mean “… a grave emergency whereby the security of India or any part of the territory thereof is threatened, whether by war or external aggression or internal disturbance.” It is clear that this provision for exemption from the provisions of the factories act is only to be used in times of war or civil war or such similar

Some states, like Maharashtra and Goa, have exercised power under section 65 (2) of the Factories Ac. This is closer to the satiation as it exists. This allows relaxations from certain provisions of the act concerning hours of work, weekly off, etc “…to deal with an exceptional press of work”. But here too, the exemption is to be given to the workers, not to the factories. Further, it has to be to deal with an exceptional press of work. This is not the case with the notification of the Government.

Given below is a table showing the changes made in various states

State

Hrs/Day

Total Hrs/ Wk

Overtime

Hrs/ Qtr

Other Changes

Gujrat

12

72

No limit

1. Maximum 6 hrs continuous working and then a break for min 30 mins

2. Female workers not allowed between 7:00 pm to 6:00 am

3. Wages to be paid in proportion of existing wages

Himachal Pradesh

12

72

No limit

Maximum 6 hrs continuous working and then a break for min 30 mins

Valid till 20th July

Punjab

12

60

75

1. Spreadover shall not exceed 13 hrs/day (usual being 10.5 hrs)

2.Wages for additional hours will be twice the ordinary rate paid for 'overtime'

3. Valid for 3 months

Rajasthan

12

72

No Limit

Additional 4 hours per day shall be paid as overtime subject to a 24hr/week limit. Valid for 3 months

Madhya Pradesh

12

72

No limit

Overtime wages paid as per S.59 of the Factories Act.1948. .Valid for 3 months

Haryana

12

    72

No limit

Overtime wages paid as per S.59 of the Factories Act.1948.
Valid till 30th june 2020

Uttarakhand

11

18 (over-time work)

 

1. Two shifts of 11 hrs each in a day with separate set of workers 

2. One hr break between the two shifts

3. Three hours overtime to pe paid as per rules

4.This shall apply only to those factories where permission by administration is given, in view of Covid 19

5.Valid for 3 months

Maharashtra

12

60

115

1. Two shifts of 11 hrs each in a day with separate set of workers

2.Wages for additional hours will be twice the ordinary rate paid for 'overtime'

3. No working shift shall be more than 13hrs including the break

4. No overtime for 7 consecutive days

5. Valid till 30th June

 

Many of the statements in the table above are not mentioned in the notifications themselves but deduced from the law. For example, Punjab has only exempted from the provisions of section 54 (daily duty limit enhanced to 12 hours) and section 56 (daily spreadover extended to 13 hours). From this we can deduce that the weekly limit of overtime of 60 hours remains unchanged. As one can see the notifications are arbitrary and varying. Only the Punjab notification is within the bounds set by section 65 (2). The Maharashtra notification also broadly follows these bounds but is based on the amendments to the Factories Act made by the State in 2016, which are themselves under challenge by various unions.

Besides this, the UP Government has come out with an ordinance granting blanket exemption to all employers for three years from all labour laws barring a few. The few laws which have been kept are section 5 of the payment of wages act (when wages are to be paid), the workmen’s compensation act, the bonded labour act, the building and other construction workers act (because the government collects huge cess from all builders from this act) and laws relating to women and children.

Firstly such a notification is clearly unconstitutional. The constitution says that “labour welfare” is a subject on the concurrent list. However, if both that Centre and the state make laws on the same subject then the central law will prevail unless the state law has got the assent of the President. Only then will the state law prevail over the central law in that state. The ordinance does not show that any assent of the President has been obtained.

Further, it is clear while reading this ordinance that it has been made after downing two quarters. What is meant by saying that all labour laws are suspended for three years? What will happen to the ESI hospitals in the state? Will they close down? Who will pay the wages of the doctors, nurses and other workers in the ESI hospitals? Managements will not have to pay any contribution for three years. Will there be no law to provide for drinking water and urinals? The Factories Act which provides for this has been suspended. What will happen to my PF which is already accumulated? At what rate will interest be paid on that? This can only be fixed under the Act. If the act is suspended, then how can such rates be fixed? Will workers not have to give 14 days notice to go on strike? What will happen to latecomers? The timings and penalties are all fixed under the Standing Orders Act which is also suspended. What will happen to Judges and staff of labour and industrial courts? Will they have a holiday for three years? If they will continue hearing old cases, what will happen with the result. The award of the Industrial Tribunal only becomes enforceable under the Industrial Disputes Act, which is suspended! It is obvious that none of this has been thought of.

The MP Government has come up with another slightly different approach but which is almost equally idiotic.   The MP Government  has issued a notification purportedly under section 36 B of the Industrial Disputes Act, exempting “such industries” of the state from the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act except for the provisions of Chapter V-A and the sections 25 N, 25O, 25P, 25Q and 25R. The condition for such exemption, as per the notification is that “adequate provision are made by such industries for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes of the workmen employed by them.” Firstly, section 36 B only gives the power to exempt establishments or undertakings carried on by a department of that government. Secondly, such exemption is to be given only when the Government is satisfied that adequate provisions exist for the investigation and settlement of industrial disputes in such establishment. It cannot be given earlier on condition that such machinery will be set up later. Thirdly, the notification again makes no sense. 25P applies only to establishments closed before 1976. This has been continued. On the other hand, the provision for declaring a strike or lock-out illegal will not remain. The provision that prohibits financial aid to illegal strikes and lock-outs is also suspended. That means that anybody can go on strike or lock-out whenever they feel like it. There will be on conciliation, or reference of any matter to any labour court or IT. No provision has been made for if the management does not set up an adequate machinery. This will only lead to anarchy, open street fighting and murders. The whole machinery to enforce any settlement that may be reached will not exist.

Here too. What will happen to the labour officers, labour commissioners,  labour courts and Industrial Tribunals? Since the very law that creates them is suspended, can they continue to function? Will no notice have to be given before effecting any change in service conditions? What about existing awards and settlements? These are binding under section 18, but the provisions of section no more apply!

Further, the industries which were under the MPIR act (as opposed to being under the ID Act) have been removed from the MPIR act. This means that all industries come under the amended ID Act as mentioned above.

The MP Government has gone further and purporting to act under section 5 of the Factories Act (as we mentioned above section 5 is only for situations of war, civil war or such) it has exempted all factories from all sections of the factories except for sections 6 to 8 (which pertain to registering of factories and appointing inspectors), sections 21 to 41H (about safety) and some other provisions of times of work. This is also without any application of mind. This means that there is no need for any urinals or drinking water to be provided.

During the course of writing this article, a new notification has been brought to our notice that UP also issued a notification like the Gujarat notification for the Factories Act. The main UP ordinance is still awaiting the assent of the President. Many unions including TUCI will be challenging these notifications in the courts. The way that the courts have been responding of late does not leave one with much hope in the courts. However the main question is that this is a clear attempt to put the whole burden upon the working class. This is an attempt to test how strong the working class in India is. It is up to us to show them. We have to use this opportunity to unite the working class of India and come together to fight this menace in any method possible. 

Even before this present covid crisis, the economy was seeing a downturn. Even then the attempt was to put the burden upon the working class. This was to be done through amendments in the labour laws and also through measures like GST, etc. Then came covid. The responses of the Government were clearly without any coherent plan. Now the mess is compounded. Industries have lain closed for months. The crores of workers in this country and their families are starving. Lakhs have walked for hundreds of miles to reach their homes only to find destitution and misery there also. Factories are being restarted with no care for the safety for the workers. See what happened in Vizag, Neyveli and Chhattisgarh? Capitalism has shown that it will not only destroy the workers but also all of humanity. Today is the time for all workers to come together not only to save the lives of workers but to save humanity itself. n


 

 

We are just on the second day of a 21 day enforced lockdown declared by the Government. The Finance Minister has just announced a relief package of Rs. 1.7 lakh crores. At the current rate of exchange this package amounts to $22.7 billion. Compare this with the package of over $2 trillion announced by the USA, or about $ 200 billion announced by UK or even the $ 45 billion announced by Italy (which has an economy much smaller than India).  Even the Canadian Government (where the population is 1% of India and less than most major Indian cities) is rolling out $ 27 billion in subsidies and $55 billion in credit to help those affected by COVID 19.  Keep in mind that India will have many more people affected by the lockdown, firstly because of its vastly larger population and also because there are a far greater proportion of poor who are in need of relief measures. This clearly shows that the relief measures being announced are woefully inadequate.

              Actually even the figure of 1.7 lakh crores is misleading. This includes the amount of Rs.31,000 crores which is already in the fund for benefit of construction workers which the State Governments have been asked to spend for construction workers. This is not a new benefit for construction workers but money which was already provisioned for their benefit.

It also includes Rs. 20 increase in the daily wage of MGNREGA workers. This will only be available to them when they can do the work of MGNREGA, which seems unlikely till the lockdown lasts. There are about 27 crores of MGNREGA workers[i]. Each worker is to benefit by Rs. 2000 in one year (given that he gets the full 100 days of work, which never happens). So 54,000 crores is for the MGNREGA workers. So half of the package – 85,000 crores (31000 crores for construction workers and 54000 crores for MGNREGA workers) is no contribution by the Government at all. In any case, MGNREGA workers were due for a rise in wages, even otherwise. Their rate of wages is among the lowest in the country today.

About 20 crore women who have Jan Dhan accounts will get Rs. 500 per month for 3 months. This amount is too little to provide any real relief. The free  LPG connections to the around 4 crores beneficiaries of the Ujjwala Scheme gives each a benefit of about Rs. 2400 (deferred over about 3 months taking one cylinder per month). About 3 crores senior citizens and widows are to be given Rs. 1000 each. Again not a great amount. Besides this BPL households will get each month 5 Kgs of rice or wheat and iKg of dal free. Rural farmers are to get Rs. 2000 each as direct transfers to their accounts in the first week of April. Besides this the PF contribution for workers (both employers and employees shares) for MSMEs will be paid by the Government for the next three months. Take the best case scenario of a farmer who is a woman having a Jan Dhan account and also a widow. She would then get Rs. 3500 and three free gas cylinders for three months and 5 Kgs of rice or wheat and Ikg of pulse. She would get a further Rs 500 per month and another 5 Kg of rice/wheat and 1Kg of pulses for the next two months. This is too meagre an amount to provide any real relief in todays times. The monthly estimate by the 7th Pay commission for a worker’s family of two parents and two children is 42.75 Kgs of Rice/Wheat and 7.2 Kgs of pulses (dals)[ii]. The cost of just food and cloth for such a family was calculated as Rs. 9300 per month as on 1st January 2016. Today, this would translate to well over Rs. 10000. When you declare a total lockdown, it must be assumed that all opportunities for earning are stopped. People will have to depend solely on savings and aid.

 

The Indian economy before the lockdown was none too healthy. Recent figures had shown that unemployment was at the highest in 45 years[iii]. The GDP growth rate has already fallen to about 4.5% in the third quarter of the current financial year. The stock markets were in a crash mode for almost a year, banks have been turning belly up, the growth in the manufacturing sector was down to around 0.5% in the third quarter. All this shows the ailing health of the Indian economy. The signs were clearly there for the Government or anybody else who wanted to, to read.

              In times of recession, it is not the large enterprises which suffer the most. It is the small and medium enterprises which have to bear the brunt, eventually being eaten by the bigger fish. Even more it is the workers in these enterprises who suffer the most. The capitalist can make up his losses just by selling the assets like land, which have appreciated so greatly that he is often left with more than when he started. For the workers – especially the workers in the smaller enterprises and informal sectors, the contract workers, casual workers, self-employed workers, small sellers, small farmers, there is nothing to fall back upon. If the economy is to shut down for a prolonged period of time, it is these workers and farmers who have to be provided for.

            What could be done for such workers and farmers? Let us take the workers first. The Government has to ensure that they will be paid their wages for the full period of the lockdown with assurances that their jobs will be retained. How can this be ensured? In the UK, their Chancellor, Rishi Sunak has announced that the Government would pay 80% of wages to employees (till £ 2500 per month) who were not able to work due to COVID 19 in an attempt to see that their jobs are retained. This cover will be backdated to start fr[iv]om the beginning of March and will last for three months and may be extended if necessary, it was announced. Other measures include help to those unable to pay their rents. After this announcement by the Chancellor two further schemes to help business were announced on Tuesday: a new interest-free Business Interruption Loan Scheme for small and medium-sized firms and a Bank of England finance option for bigger businesses. A support package for self-employed people is also expected soon as already announced by the Government.

The USA already has a robust system of unemployment benefits based on what you have earned in the past 12 months and subject to a minimum of 50% of the average. This is to be extended to those who are unemployed due to COVID 19. At the time of writing this the US Senate has just passed a new bill for $1.7 trillion. This includes $1200 direct aid to all individuals who earn below $75000 per year, $250 billion for further unemployment aid including for self-employed and $300 billion for the airlines industry.

Even in Pakistan, Imran Khan yesterday announced a package of Rs. 1.2 lakh crores to help people affected by COVID-19. This is for a population of 20 crores – less than a sixth of India’s population.

About other countries, the Business Standard Article of 20th March[1] had this to say :

  • Paid reductions in working time/partial unemployment benefits, which compensate workers for hours not worked, are being expanded or simplified in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands
  • The Chinese government has directed employers to not terminate contract of migrant workers in case of illness or containment measures
  • Unemployment insurance benefits have been expanded in several countries, including the United States. In the Philippines, the Social Security Scheme is prepared to give unemployment benefits for up to 60,000 job losses
  • Countries like Italy and Japan are giving financial support and simpler procedures for allowing teleworking
  • Provisions for paid sick leave for self-employed in Ireland, Singapore and South Korea

Source: ILO

In the face of such measures the relief being provided to workers and poor farmers in India is only illusory and a farce! We have to demand.  better and more meaningful support. Such measures can also be easily taken. For instance, India may not offer 80% of the wages to workers, but it can certainly say a lesser percentage, say 50%! It not that, it could offer enterprises which keep their workers and give them full pay a tax sop or a moratorium on taxes as an incentive to keeping the workers. It may not be able to give full relief to the farmers but it can certainly set up a Minimum Support Price and can ensure that it itself buys all farm produce at the minimum support price. This is especially important when the Rabi crop is in the process of harvest and is expected to be a bumper crop. This will, of course lead to the question of stocking such produce but that is not a real problem. The FCI godowns today have more stocks than ever before. An article in the Economic Times of 26th March 2020 based on the statement of the Food Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, says that though the norm is to store 21 million tonnes of food grains we now have over 58.49 million tonnes (30,97 million tonnes of wheat and 27.52 million tonnes of Rice)[2]. There is nothing to stop the Government from directly sending all this food grain to affected people. It has already agreed to give them meagre amounts like 5 Kgs per month for 16 crore families it only comes to less than 1 million tonnes per month. Why is the Government hoarding food grains at a time like this?

Where is the money for all this to come from? Barclay’s has estimated that the loss to the Indian economy by just the three week lockdown is of the region of $120 billion. We need not spend as large amounts as the US or European. However, we cannot make worries about fiscal discipline stop us from providing needed aid at a time like this. India is today sitting on the largest foreign exchange reserves in history. India has foreign exchange assets of $ 447.3 billion in total reserves of $481.9[v]. Even if the Government were to increase its aid by ten times, this would not even be half of the foreign exchange reserve. Such an amount could give every worker of the 47 crore workers in our country the minimum wage of Rs. 10000 per month for Three months. Even if not this source, in such a crisis any source could be used. Fiscal discipline cannot guide spending in such a time. Germany’s Angela Merkel has said that they will spend whatever is necessary. Same with other countries. We can capitalise (print the money if necessary though such measures may not become necessary) at such a time of crisis. We can worry about inflation later.

Com Sanjay Singhvi is the General Secretary of TUCI

 

[i] From the MGNREGA website see http://mnregaweb4.nic.in/netnrega/all_lvl_details_dashboard_new.aspx

[ii] See page 65 of the Report of the Seventh Central Pay Commission published here by the Finance Ministry https://www.finmin.nic.in/sites/default/files/7cpc_report_eng.pdf?download=1

[iii] Though the Statistics Secretary, Pravin Srivastava said that the figures were based on a new matrix and new design when the report was released in May 2019, he would not deny that unemployment was at a 45 year high. In any case the Labour Force Participation Rate, which is closely allied confirms that unemployment was at the peak for the past fifty years.

[iv] See the BBC page here for more details https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51982005?xtor=AL-72-%5Bpartner%5D-%5Byahoo.north.america%5D-%5Blink%5D-%5Bnews%5D-%5Bbizdev%5D-%5Bisapi%5D

[v] See https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/india-to-offer-unemployment-benefits-to-workers-affected-by-coronavirus-120031901409_1.html

[vi] See https://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/enough-foodgrains-stock-fci-govt-073916599.html

[vii] According to the Reserve Bank’s weekly supplement of 13th March 2020. See https://m.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewWssExtractdetails.aspx?id=49546

TUCI Press Statement on Corona Virus.

 

 

The New Corona virus has presented society with a fresh challenge. The fact that such a threat is recurring so frequently (like SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012) shows that the ecology of the world is in a crisis caused by human wanton intervention. In the face of the unknown danger of COVID-19 the Government seems to have chosen the strategy of total shutdown. However, it is only being implemented in a half-hearted fashion. Factories and other industrial establishments have not been shutdown in many states. This is absolutely foolhardy and makes a mockery of the shutdown of schools, courts, government offices trains, etc. There is no value in isolation if factories are going to be allowed to function. Some states have called for shutting down factories and industrial establishments but that is also not enough. Workers are not in a position to bear the burden of the shutdown. It is necessary that all workers, including contract workers, casual workers, badlis and the like must be paid their full wages for the whole of the period of the lockdown.

Besides this, the workers, in many places are being made to stay in their residences and are not being allowed to move out of their residences (sometimes by the police force). It is necessary to provide for reaching essential items like food, medicines and sanitation materials to all persons at or near to their place of residence such that they can collect the same while maintaining appropriate social distancing.

At the same time TUCI assures the public at large that its workers who are engaged in essential services like municipal services, hospitals, banks, airlines (for evacuation of our citizens) etc will work diligently and ensure that they will do whatever is possible to help during these times.

To recap our demands of the Central and State Governments:

  1. Wherever it is necessary to impose a shutdown, such a shutdown must include also factories and other industrial establishments.
  2. All workers working in such shutdown establishments must be retained in service, including contract, casual, badli, etc workers.
  3. All such workers must be paid full wages for the full period of shutdown as if they had actually worked during those days.
  4. All workers in other areas which are not shutdown but who are unable to reach the places of work due to the shutdown must be treated as if they are in an area of shutdown.
  5. If the shutdown extends to the end of March, care must be taken to reach the wages of the workers to them immediately.
  6. Provision must be made to reach essential items like food, medicine, sanitation materials to all persons during periods of shutdown.

It is only in this fashion that we will be able to make use of the strategy of shutdown to fight this new menace.  

  • Workers of the world unite as never before to fight COVID 19!
  • The World is for us to win and leave to the next generation. Don’t let the capitalist bosses destroy the world!

 

Sanjay Singhvi

General Secretary

T.U.C.I.

Dt. 23.03.2020.

TRADE UNION CENTRE OF INDIA (TUCI)

C-141, Sainik Nagar, Uttam Nagar, New Delhi – 110059 Contact +91 11 25332343 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Page 1 of 2

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.