Delhi’s Covid-19-hit informal sector demands financial assistanceUpdated: Mar 18, 2020 23:15 IST
New Delhi: People employed in the informal sector are facing the maximum brunt of the economic slowdown triggered by the novel coronavirus. A day after the Uttar Pradesh government announced its decision to pay a fixed amount to labourers who have or might lose their jobs due to the epidemic, labour unions and those working in the unorganised sector in the national capital are demanding similar benefits.
India has so far reported a total 151 cases of Covid-19 with three people succumbing to the infection. Globally, 184,975 have been affected and 7,529 died, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Delhi government had recently ordered shutting down of weekly markets, gyms, cinema halls, etc., and asked people to practice “social distancing” as a precautionary measure to slow down the spread of the contagious disease.
The impact of the epidemic is visible in city’s markets, which wear a deserted look, as well public spaces. The uncertainty among people in the informal sector is palpable. Small traders are reducing the staff strength and daily wagers not getting enough work due to slowdown in the market among others.
Thaneshwar Adigaur, secretary, Delhi Asangathit Nirman Mazdoor Union, said people have either postponed or cancelled new construction and renovation work. He said the state government should step in and ensure some financial help to people working in the informal sector.
Adigaur, who is a member of the Delhi Labour Welfare Board, said, “The Delhi government should provide some fixed financial assistance to daily wagers as they are the worst affected. Last year, there was loss of work due to pollution and recently due to the riots in Delhi and now coronavirus. We are planning to meet the labour minister in this regard and request him to reconstitute the board immediately and pass an order to give financial assistance to daily wagers.”
But officials in the labour department said there is no proposal in this regard. Adigaur said the Delhi Labour Welfare Board and the Delhi construction workers’ welfare board have fund. “The funds is for the welfare of the labourers and it should be used right now. It is an emergency situation and the state government should come out and help its people.”
In Chandhi Chowk, one of Delhi’s biggest wholesale markets, the business is down by 40%. Sanjay Bhargava, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said, “The footfall in the heritage market has come down to 50-60% and the worst affected are the daily wagers involved in loading and unloading of goods.”
Bhola Sharma, 60, a daily wager who works in the market, said, “There is a rumour in the market that it is going to close. There is not enough work these days. I haven’t got any work since morning.”
Rakesh, who is part of the association of daily wagers said, “Daily wagers who work in wholesale markets such as Chandni Chowk and Sadar Bazar don’t have much work. All of them have families to feed. It is difficult for them. The Delhi government should do something for this sector.”
The government’s decision to discontinue weekly markets has left the street vendors with no income to feed their families. Arbind Singh, national coordinator of the National Street Vendors Association of India, said, “It is a direct hit to the livelihood of lakhs of street vendors, who dependent on daily earnings. We are going to take up the issue with the government.”
The government, Singh said, has been doing little to implement the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014. “The Act mandates to conduct a survey of the street vendors and provide them space. In times of crisis, the government should help the vendors,” he added.
“We will discuss this with the chief minister. A decision in this regard will be taken after reviewing the situation,” said Gopal Rai, labour minister, Delhi government.
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday constituted a committee which will submit a report within three days regarding the estimates of the amount to be transferred daily wage labourers who are expected to be hit by the measures taken to curb the spread of Covid-19.