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HC seeks Centre, TN govt’s replies on PIL urging aid amid job loss

The Madras high court on Tuesday directed the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to consider representation on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking constitution of a high-level committee to sanction an economic stimulus package for employees who lost their jobs or faced pay cuts due to the Covid-19 lockdown
By Divya Chandrababu, Chennai
PUBLISHED ON APR 28, 2021 12:58 AM IST

The Madras high court on Tuesday directed the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to consider representation on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking constitution of a high-level committee to sanction an economic stimulus package for employees who lost their jobs or faced pay cuts due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The petitioner, S Kalimuthu Mylavan, an advocate, sought the package for employees belonging to the private and unorganised sector, private industrial establishments, private educational institutions and teachers among others. The petitioner argued that the losses suffered during the 2020 lockdown continued this year and has created more uncertainty amid the raging pandemic in the second wave.

The first bench comprising chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy admitted the plea and recorded the submissions of the petitioner. The bench, after hearing the arguments, sought the responses of the Ministry of health and family welfare and Tamil Nadu government on Mylavan’s representation made on April 16 within 12 weeks and disposed off the petition.

The petitioner had sent this representation to the state and Centre on April 16. Since there was no response, he approached the high court.

In his plea, Mylavan argued that the monetary loss incurred by each person in the unorganised sector should make the state government, as well as the central government, constitute a high-level committee to distribute an economic stimulus to (such) persons, similar to ones in developing countries. He also quoted efforts of the US in introducing the Employee Retention Credit and America Rescue Plan which offered financial stimulus.

In his affidavit, the petitioner alleged a 70% increase in the number of people suffering from depression amid fears of contracting the infection along with prolonged uncertainty over finances and employment.

“The financial crisis is continuing in the lives of the citizens as the pandemic is on its second wave,” he said. “Government of various states started implementation of partial lockdown and Tamil Nadu is also on a daily basis announcing stricter lockdown procedures and Standard Operating Procedures, and thus made the private employers in peril in running their factories or schools etc., which in turn have direct implication and effect on the salary of the workforce engaged by the private employers in the state of Tamil Nadu and in the country,” the PIL read.

Stating that the right to livelihood is guaranteed under the Constitution, the petitioner said the state and central governments must compile a list from Employees’ Provident Fund Organization and on war footing, compensate those who incurred monetary losses.

As of April 27, Tamil Nadu reported 15,771 new cases with an active caseload of 1,08,855 -- which is twice more than what the state registered during its peak in 2020. While no lockdown has been announced as of now, strict restrictions are in place such as night curfew and complete shutdown on Sundays to contain the surge.

On Monday, the Madras high court had suggested the government consider imposing a lockdown on May 1 and 2 to ensure the counting of votes for the assembly elections didn’t lead to crowding and a spurt in cases. The court, however, asked the state to take a call by April 28 to ensure people get ample time to plan.

Fearing a repeat of last year’s lockdown, several migrants have been queueing at railway stations across the state to return home.

Last year, the government had provided free ration and cash assistance to ration card holders during the lockdown.

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