The ongoing recession caused by Covid-19 has been one of the worst economic downfalls since the mid 1990s. Over 4 million people have been infected by the virus worldwide and more than 200,000 have died (as of now). The lockdown has affected supply chains globally. India’s latest stimulus package introduced is one of the largest in the world, following the footsteps of 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 last quarter.
Migrant workers are the most affected by this abyss. They 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- majority of them being migrant workers, who tend to be more vulnerable.
Without jobs, money and with public transportation being shut down, many of them are forced to walk back to their home towns with many dying during the journey. Additional: https://thewire.in/rights/migrant-workers-non-coronavirus-lockdown-deaths
Under PM Modi, PMJJBY(Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana), PMSBY(Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana), APY(Atal pension Yojana) 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 (Employee Provident Fund) and ESIC (Employees State Insurance) which are similar to the schemes, mainly towards organised sector in India. It also covers international workers.
Although there is BPL card, ayushman card, MNREGA and various schemes but how much of these schemes are actually accessible to the deprived sections 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. Almost 64% of workers are left with less than Rs 100 left. Given the lack of legal mandates, they have been left to fend for themselves during a crisis as serious as a pandemic.
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 migrants leaving cities.
What can be done?
Steps need to be taken to ease the affect 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.
Social security in India
Does it exist? Yes and No.
India has a very basic social security system (mostly scheme based). Only a small % of rural population and middle classes have gained from this.
The Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, US and other countries have effective social security. Why are we lagging behind?
The government should have statute or law based social security rather than scheme based that covers every Indian, from migrant worker to business owner.