Migrant workers mourn neglected by the government. How has the Covid-19 pandemic crisis highlighted the need for social security?
The pandemic crisis in India has had heartbreaking consequences for millions of people in the informal sectors. They were deprived of substantial livelihoods and derailed due to the government’s incompetence to advance valid provisions. Over the past year, we have heard news about migrants’ nemesis and how disastrously they have been affected by the initial outbreak of the pandemic. It provided for the imagination of people, influential policy makers to modify the provisions of existing policies regulated for their assistance.
The exoneration suffered by migrant workers called for economic and social aid policies, which could have rejuvenated their lives in an inspiring way. Policy makers have been extremely pressed to scale up strategies, deciding the fate of the emerging pandemic crisis. While the position of migrant workers retracted slightly during the second wave, it continues to silently hamper their living conditions. To move the conversation forward, we would discuss some of the laws introduced by the government that lacked some important aspects of providing relief.
The 2020 Social Security Code was launched to amplify the effectiveness of helping the informal sector to vent the deadly wrath of the pandemic. However, the implementation of the Code had its drawbacks, as well questioned by many economists across India. The Code was structured around nine regulations, including social security, pensions, and benefits for the informal sectors, fixed-term employees, temporary workers, and so on.
The Code outlook was to manifest a national database for unorganized sector records of all workers made on the online portal. The regulation called for self-certification on these portals when millions of workers are not fully conversant with digital culture and do not have an efficient network connection. The unorganized sector is diverse across depths and borders in India; therefore, the incorporation of the Code would vary too much from state to state. A divisional and equivocal structure could not be administered, creating discrepancies in the law.
Policy has not progressed comprehensively, which brings us down in the grimace informal workers face in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic. According to statistics, the figures would remind the smooth functioning of the unorganized sector, but that does not reveal the underlying reality. Operational activities resumed after the initial lockdown last year, but the workers’ position had deteriorated to irrevocable levels, citing a new concern for the government. While industrial recruitments partly moderated the after-effects, the vast majority were still under the wrath of the pandemic and the policies modified following their upheavals.
A remainder of vulnerable migrant workers; How were their interests subsidized-
India’s economy has often focused on being urban-centric and improving the developments and living standards of colossal cities. In fact, the Labor Code announced by the Minister of Finance of India aimed to extend support for legal protection to the unorganized informal sector and the odd-job economy. In today’s scenario, casual workers in India face an alarming risk of violation of their human and labor rights, their livelihood dignity, the wage gap between urban and rural workers and intolerable vulnerabilities.
There was no better assessment of their hard times than the Covid-19 pandemic when nearly 450 million informal workers succumbed to fear of losing their jobs in a slew of efforts.
However, the Code has fallen behind in conspiring with several elements of social protection, especially in rural areas, which has concentrated the vast majority of informal workers. The slow move towards social security imposed vandalism as threats of survival on the lower class community. Although the Social Security Code has made legal provisions to prioritize the interests of informal workers, it has not drawn attention to the realities prevailing in the sector in India. The laws were designed on the proclaimed strategy and not on the notion of bridging the gap between income and social inequalities.
Why have migrant workers’ requests not yet received a response?
The plight of migrant workers has not been reinvented for nearly a decade. The Supreme Court highlighted the theory on June 29 when it presented an overview of how little has changed. Although the judgment was limited to policy makers’ social security schemes, it caught public attention for a variety of reasons. The registration imposed by the SSC 2020 gave migrant workers the opportunity to be eligible for the schemes. However, as they did not know the technical capacity, the cries went unanswered by the government.
Similar decisions were taken by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, identifying ways to commute their demolition and protect the rights of the entire worker community. Migrants in circulation were designated as the professionally vulnerable community because they aroused the interests of over 60 percent of the population.
With the exception of agriculture, migrant workers are seen as a disadvantaged segment in all sectors. The Covid-19 pandemic reflected itself; how the commonalities between vulnerable informal workers and migrant workers in circulation have exposed loopholes in social security systems. Are their problems limited to economic exhaustion, or are additional vulnerabilities torturing them? Their vulnerabilities did not abate before the lockdown and have worsened since then. While they are eclipsed by work amidst their cultural identity, their position in the community is soured.
Along with job losses, they are lagging behind on several borders, plunging millions of households into poverty. The work does not present cohesion, debt as mitigation measures and pressures associated with low incomes contributing equitably to their final downfall. The government has declared its skill, claiming that adequate relief funds have been provided when large chunks of funds are limited to a few households. The benefits of the much vaunted social protection scheme were nowhere to be found.
Why are social security systems an essential requirement?
Indian migrant workers change jobs frequently and are not limited to an identifiable employer. In such a scenario, a contributory social framework would not be practical as the advisers claimed it as helicopter money or charity. The appalling crisis must have prompted the government’s intuition to incorporate a designed and guaranteed social protection scheme. Important promises have been made in the past, but neither the affliction has been evaded nor the problems lessened. The error misunderstood workers’ proclamations, and the inevitable demands of politicians have grown over time.
In 2009, when the global financial crisis ravaged global economies, the United Nations aligned a demand-boosting proposal at the base of the business cycle, the silver lining of the disaster. He echoed the Social Protection Floor initiative to lift the middle class out of poverty.
According to the ILO, the Advisory Committee’s report underscored the importance of the labor section and how it elevates India’s worthy representation in the world. An alleged story of rising SPF during the crisis from economists is expected to get the green light following the contribution of migrant workers to building India’s infrastructure and industries. Their tireless efforts to develop efficient roads and performance in factories are far overlooked by discordant politicians.
Undoubtedly, even before the crisis, workers were reeling from an arrogant government that voluntarily refused to spend money on their social protection. He demarcated a reverse trend in government spending, as the estimates assessed the underlying distress. Social protection spending was lowest in 2019-2020, at 1.28%.
It is kosher that the government should have redeemed itself by invoking the right to social security rather than by setting up ad hoc schemes. These one-off investments were insufficient and insignificant as a percentage of GDP, and reorganized the strategy within a defined time frame. To put an end to the painful but agitated moments, it would take the awareness of the wrongs and the implementation of the protection, integrating the suggestion 202 of the ILO and aiming to embed it in the Indian Constitution.
Blaming the pandemic for the lack of social protection is another item on the government’s endless list of apologies. Will migrant workers get justice?