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Coronavirus lockdown | Workers’ rights group demands employment guarantee for every adult

Migrant workers take a rest during on the way their hometown in Rajasthan, preventive measure to stop spreading of coronavirus during a complete lockdown, this here is scene Ring Road near Basai Darapu in New Delhi on Monday March 30, 2020.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

With the migrant labourers returning home from different parts of the country, a demand has been raised in Rajasthan for giving employment guarantee to every adult for a number of days in view of the workers having been deprived of their livelihood during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), which made a “virtual celebration” of the May Day and its 30th foundation day through online platforms on Friday, said the majority of migrant labourers, who worked in the unorganised sector, were fighting poverty and hunger without any social security. They had not received wages even for the days when they worked.

The huge fair marking the May Day, held every year at the Patiya Square in Bhim town of Rajsamand district, was not organised for the first time in 30 years. The MKSS members recollected the memories of previous fairs when the participants were apprised of their rights and the labour movement gained strength.

MKSS founder and Magsaysay Award recipient Aruna Roy said a provision should be added to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for engaging the labourers on work for a number of days as per their demand. “Every adult in the rural areas needs employment during the present crisis,” she said.

Norti Bai, former Sarpanch of Harmada in Ajmer who has been in the forefront of the right to information campaign, said the COVID-19 pandemic had afforded an opportunity to the workers to unite against discrimination. Ms. Norti Bai is also the president of the Rajasthan Asangathit Mazdoor Union (RAMU).

Formed at Ajmer district’s Jawaja village in 2017, the RAMU — representing the unorganised labourers — was registered by the State government under the Trade Union Act, 1926, in June 2018. The union has established two fronts for rural workers, mainly comprising MGNREGA labourers, and street vendors.

Social activist Nikhil Dey said the present crisis of livelihood had necessitated the enactment of a legislation on the urban employment guarantee, as very limited livelihood opportunities would be available even in the cities after the lifting of lockdown. “Even earlier, the employment scenario was not very encouraging in the cities... It is going to worsen now.”

The participants in the online celebration spoke on the issues of transparency and accountability in the government’s functioning, minimum wages, social security and the efficacy of the public distribution system. Those who addressed the participants included sociologist Satish Deshpande, PUCL’s Kavita Srivastava and feminist activist Kamla Bhasin.

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 7:04:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-lockdown-workers-rights-group-demands-employment-guarantee-for-every-adult/article31491536.ece

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