That the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on livelihoods, is common knowledge. But what has been the extent of that pain, what are the short terms measures required, and what is the government's action plan? These are the questions that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour discussed.
The panel’s draft report has thrown up some interesting findings. Here’s a look:
Firstly, the parliamentary panel noted that the COVID -19 pandemic has come in the midst of “pre-existing” high and rising unemployment.
Secondly, the panel recommended fiscal measures. Itnoted that the government should explore ways to put money in the hands of informal workers, to support livelihoods. The panel stated that the government should consider another round of income support to compensate for the loss of jobs. The committee recorded that loans extended to street vendors, should be converted into cash grants. Further, the panel sought an additional cess to raise funds for unorganised sectors workers such as drivers, mechanics, gig workers.
Third, the panel has expressed its reservations on data insufficiency and even the quality of data being cited by the government. The panel recorded its unhappiness over employment data being available only for FY18 and FY19, and said that it does not buy the government’s explanation for inordinate delays in publishing data. Interestingly, the government cited the EPF payroll addition, in FY21, to suggest healthy job growth. However, the committee cited a study by Azim Premji University that painted a contrary picture, claiming that half the formal workforce had entered the informal sector. The panel stated that government needs to come up with an “authentic” picture by reconciling such studies with the data.
Fourth, the draft report recommends a hike in the budgetary allocation for MNREGA to support rural incomes. Also says that minimum number of days for providing work should be increased to at least 200 days. The report also recommends a similar employment scheme for the urban poor, observing that they often go unnoticed.
Fifth, on the issue of migrant workers, the draft report is critical of the delay in action by the Centre. The report noted that the Centre swung into action, by coordinating with states only by June of 2020, and that too after being pushed by the top court. The panel also noted that such situations call for government action, without having to wait for the Supreme Court.
And lastly, the panel recorded its disappointment with the National Database for unorganised workers still not seeing the light of Day.
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)
First Published: IST