Amid a skyrocketing unemployment rate, the Students’ Federation of India, Democratic Youth Federation of India, and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions have called for a protest demonstration demanding stable and respectable employment at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on March 22—the eve of Martyrdom Day of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.
The core demands of the youth and workers’ unions include: Right to Work to be made a Fundamental Right, Rs 5,000 as unemployment allowance and implementation of the Bhagat Singh Urban Employment Guarantee Act.
The organisations will submit a memorandum consisting of the 12 demands addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of State for Labour and Employment (Independent Charge) Santosh Kumar Gangwar.
At a press conference held in the national capital on March 19, the organisations called upon students, workers and unemployed youth to participate in the protest demonstration as part of the ‘Employment for All’ campaign launched in February this year.
According to the press note released by the organisations, the Delhi State Committee of CITU, DYFI and SFI “have engaged in the distribution of parchas consisting of demands in all districts of Delhi” following a joint convention organised by them since February 2020. They also engaged in collecting signatures from working people and the unemployed in support of the 12-point charter of demands. Further, public meetings were held across the state with industrial workers, vendors, service sector employees, and students. The organisations noted that they received overwhelming from all concerned sections in these meetings and signature campaigns.
Emphasising that unemployment rates have been skyrocketing under the current government, the release cited the report of the Periodical Labour Force Survey of the Labour Ministry in 2019 which found that the unemployment rate in the country was at the highest in 45 years. Underscoring the failure of the government to provide gainful employment, the organisations cited another study conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Employment of Azim Premji University, in which it was found that between 2011-12 to 2017-18, the country witnessed loss of jobs of around 2.6 million per year.
Criticising the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden announcement of the lockdown, the organisations stated the loss of jobs was “staggering”. It stated, “As per a recent estimate by CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy), 147 lakh jobs were lost in the organised sector alone, of which 95 lakh are graduates and post-graduates. These constitute almost 13% of the total employment market.”
In such a situation, however, the government is cutting down employment and selling public sector undertakings instead of trying to create stable and respectable jobs, as per the organisations.
“The amendments to the Apprentices Act and the launch of the National Apprentice Promotion Scheme are policy interventions that seek to replace stable employment, which more precarious forms,” the release stated, adding that the four Labour Codes and the National Education Policy are are part of the same move to introduce ‘flexible employment relations’ – which has been criticised even by the International Labour Organisation.
In such a situation, CITU, SFI and DYFI has given the call for this protest demonstration demanding policy interventions to create stable and respectable job creation.
The 12-point charter of demands:
1. Declare the Right to Work as a fundamental right. Enact the Bhagat Singh Urban Employment Guarantee Act (B.S.U.E.G.A.) to ensure 200 days of work for all employable people at minimum wage rates. Unemployed persons interested in working but whom the Government fails to provide work under B.S.U.E.G.A. and M.G.N.R.E.G.A. must be given unemployment relief of Rs. 5000 per month.
2. Listing of all youth/workers (domicile and migrant) into super-skilled, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled categories through national and state-level registration to ensure effective implementation of B.S.N.U.E.G.A. Economic package given to the private sector should have a compulsory requirement of the generation of a fixed number of jobs.
3. Announce the minimum wage of Rs 21,000 per month. Link it to the consumer price index.
4. Regularise all employees working on contract in government, authorities, municipalities and private sector, in government welfare schemes (Anganwadi, A.S.H.A., mid-day meal etc.), schools for child labours etc. Ensure minimum wages and social security for them
5. Immediately fill 60 lakh posts lying vacant with central and state governments since 2019. Ensure reservation for S.C., S.T. and O.B.C. sections in these posts. Ensure equal opportunities for women and implementation of Sachhar Committee recommendations while filling these seats.
6. Limit the weekly time limit of work to 35 hours and implement the 4-shift working day. This will help in giving employment to a larger number of people.
7. Regularise nursing and other staff working on contracts in government and private hospitals and nursing homes. Nurses in Delhi should be paid minimum wages of 20,000 rupees per month as per the 2019 judgement of the Delhi High Court.
8. Build clean and secure vending zones to accommodate vendors all over the city. Ensure provisions to stop the harassment of street vendors and extortion by police and municipal officers. Ensure protection to street vendors from big corporate retail chains in terms of friendly markets.
9. A law specifically focused on protecting employees' precarious work conditions engaged in online platforms such as Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, and Uber.
10. Ensure legal provisions regarding wage rate, work hours, weekly holidays, notice pay, healthcare and pension benefits for domestic workers.
11. Legal provisions for ensuring healthcare benefits, pension benefits, life and accident insurance for cycle rickshaw, e-rikshaw, auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers.
12. Ensure free and compulsory education from elementary to university level. Student interns must be paid at least half of the minimum wages as work allowance. Rollback C.B.S.E. exam fees.