Govt yet to take call on financial aid for workers

Published on Apr 28, 2021 12:43 AM IST

Bengaluru As Karnataka goes into a two-week curfew on Tuesday, a minister in BS Yediyurappa-led state cabinet said it was unlikely that the government will extend any financial assistance to residents who are facing the brunt of a surging second wave of Covid-19 pandemic

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ByHT Correspondent

Bengaluru

As Karnataka goes into a two-week curfew on Tuesday, a minister in BS Yediyurappa-led state cabinet said it was unlikely that the government will extend any financial assistance to residents who are facing the brunt of a surging second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are giving free vaccines. Free rice is being given. We are giving everything. All of us have to take collective responsibility. This is some form of sacrifice. There will be losses but that is how this pandemic is,” K Sudhakar, Karnataka’s health, family welfare and medical education minister told Hindustan Times.

The statement comes even as the opposition Congress in the state has demanded compensation for daily wage earners.

“The Congress party had demanded that 25,000 be debited to the accounts of those hardest hit by the lockdown. These are people who depend on daily wages for livelihoods like carpenters, garment workers, plumbers, those working in gyms and other places. We thought that the government would at least debit 10,000 or 15,000, but nothing so far,” said Ramalinga Reddy, working president of the Congress in Karnataka.

Chief minister Yediyurappa on Monday announced a 14-day closed down, in which all businesses that are not listed as essential will remain closed, and movement of people will be restricted. The government has allowed shops dealing in essential commodities to operate for four hours from 6 am to 10 am.

Soon after the announcement, several industry bodies, including those representing the garment sector, requested the government to allow businesses to operate with the reduced workforce while the curfew is in force.

“In the two months of lockdown last year, all garment workers had to forgo their wages and even lost jobs. Workers are yet to recover from the impact, now all of a sudden only the garment industry has been asked to close down and this is an assault on women workers,”

Prathiba R, the president of the Garments and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) wrote to the chief minister on Tuesday.

The union also said they were yet to hear from the government on compensation for the loss of wages of people working in garment sector. “There are over 500,000 workers dependent on this profession for their livelihood. Of these, 85% are women and nearly 50% of them single-handedly have the responsibilities of their families,” the letter read.

Bengaluru Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) has also requested the state government to allow the garment companies to operate.

“We understand the decision of not allowing garment-making industries to function since the density of the workforce is high and it is very difficult to follow the Covid protocols. We suggest that the garment companies can be allowed to work with a reduced workforce between 30% and 50% and adequate social distancing and appropriate COVID protocols…,” BCIC said in a release soon after the government announced 14-day restrictions in the state on Monday.

BCIC president TR Parasuraman said the industry was fully prepared in adhering to Covid protocol with the appropriate behaviour of people.

“Strict enforcement of Covid appropriate behaviour is a must and law breakers should be strictly dealt with,” said Parasuraman.

“BCIC feels that it is very important that the operating workforce across the nation should be vaccinated on priority to ensure industries are working without any interruption compared to the people working from home to ensure that the economy is not affected due to loss of production,” Parasuraman added.

The lockdown, which the state government prefers to call guidelines to “break the chain of Covid-19 transmission in the state”, has come at a time when Karnataka and its capital Bengaluru in particular have reported a record surge in the number of infections over the last two weeks, indicating the deteriorating health crisis in the state.

Karnataka reported 31830 fresh Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the total number of active infections in the state to 301899. Bengaluru accounted for 17550 new infections, taking the city’s total cases so far to 475525, of which 206223 are active. A total of 180 deaths were reported from the state, including 97 in Bengaluru, taking the death toll in Karnataka and its capital to 14807 and 6002, respectively, according to the health department’s daily bulletin. Positivity rate was at 18.71%, according to the government.

Several other cities, including Delhi, have enforced lockdown to contain the unprecedented surge of Covid-19 cases.

The restrictions have come down hard on the pandemic-hit residents of Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka, who, experts said, were paying the price of the lack of preparedness by the state government that was warned in November last year by the technical advisory committee (TAC) of an imminent and more infectious second wave of Covid-19 infections in February or March.

A member of the TAC said they had made no specific reference to financial assistance as it was a policy matter.

While employees of most multinational corporations (MNCs) and other corporate organisations have been directed to work from home, the same cannot be followed by those employed in sectors like manufacturing and other small units.

The Yediyurappa government has been accused of refraining from using the word ‘lockdown’ to avoid giving any compensation to the workers, an expert said, requesting anonymity.

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