The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) on Friday termed the government’s economic package inadequate to tackle the situation arising from COVID–19 and said it includes already running schemes. On Wednesday, AITUC demanded Rs 5 lakh crore-package for the needy to deal with the lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus threat.

The package announced on Thursday, March 26, covers workers, mainly registered construction workers, women holding Jan Dhan accounts, families covered under Ujjawala for free cylinders and farmers, among others. The package is inadequate as much more needs to be done for vast majority of workers who remain excluded, AITUC General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur said in a statement.

In the construction industry, this package would cover only 3.48 crore registered workers out of about 9 crore workers engaged in this industry who remain unregistered, the statement said.

The unregistered workers also need financial help to live and to fight Covid-19, AITUC said noting that about Rs 52,000 crore is available with welfare boards of construction collected through cess. Out of 54 crore workers with almost 90 per cent in the unorganized sector as of now in 2020 (The last figure of 47.4 crore is based on 2010 census), almost 40 crore need to be addressed immediately, the union demanded.

The estimates are that 10 crore and above are migrant workforce in all sectors including in construction, agriculture, factories, among others. They are very hard hit and substantial number of them could not reach their homes as the railways and road transport were abruptly stopped, it added.

There is meagre Rs 500 per month help for Jan Dhan women account holders. Free gas schemes under Ujjawala will cover about 6.5 crore homes but leaves out those who are homeless or migrant workers and are not covered under this scheme, it pointed out. As regards announcement of EPF to 4 lakh established units, only about 4.8 crore workers will be covered, it said.

Earlier, on Monday, the AITUC asked the government to provide financial assistance to compensate businesses and people, particularly daily wagers, during the complete lockdown in view of COVID-19 outbreak. It noted the gloomy situation for several crores of workers who are migrant, contract, casual or daily earners to run their kitchens in the wake of lockdown in more than 75 districts resulting out of COVID- 19 spread, the union said in a statement.

The central trade union pointed out that the address of the Prime Minister was too late and too little without any commitments on the part of the government for a necessary financial package, for necessary steps to be taken to give confidence to the people to allay their fears. It stated, the government should have come out with financial assistance to working people and businesses in case of shut down to ensure job security and safeguard the poor, vulnerable needy sections of the society.

“The migrant labour is worst hit, nothing to fall back upon. The financial package to them for the periods of lockdown is a must. There should be the distribution of food packets and drinking water to all these worst-hit people during the lockdown,” it demanded.

There is no specific help and guidelines for safety and security of those who are running the health services, financial, power, transport, water supply and sanitation services etc. Once again it is proved beyond doubt that it is the government sector and public sector infrastructure and services which come to the rescue of the population of the country in a disastrous situation and that the governments are supposed to increase their budgetary allocations in the social sector spending, it added.

It is deplorable that the testing facilities are not sufficient if the cases start rising, the union alleged. In the case of COVID-19, the major attack comes on the respiratory system and ventilators are life saviours for them but there is a shortage in the country. Those who would be hard hit, not to meet a square meal need financial and food support from the government. All these are the areas Modi government should be seriously acting on, it said.

The AITUC while standing with the frontline workers, employees of all essential services and those in the health sector doing their best for the populace in difficult times, demands from the central government to come out with necessary steps on these issues.

They should also include to spell out allocation of disaster relief funds and medical aid strategy for all, recover NPA funds (bad loans) from corporate, the corporate under their Social responsibility should be made to pay to meet this challenge.

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