New Delhi: Multiple rights groups, such as Action Aid and Delhi Rozi Roti Andolan, united under the banner of the Working People’s Charter, announced on Thursday that thousands of workers will march in the Capital on Friday, when the Union Budget is presented in Parliament, to protest against the “anti-worker” policies of the Narendra Modi government.
At a press conference, the groups said the government had failed the workers of the nation on the question of basic wages, right to housing and social security for at least 92% of the workforce, whereas the workers contribute over 60% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Sandeep Chachra of the ActionAid Association said, “It is difficult to understand why the state is not ready to provide basic social security to the workers which would cost about 2.5% of GDP, adding that “the Union Budget needs to take cognisance of the same.”
Dipa Sinha of Right to Food Campaign spoke on emerging debate on Universal Basic Income, and asked why not bring about universal maternity entitlements and increase amount to, say, Rs. 16,000 for all pregnant women? This would be better than some “elusive” Minimum Income Guarantee ( proposed by Congress recently) at the cost of other essential services, she added.
Dharmendra Kumar of FDI Watch pointed out at dislocation of businesses and livelihoods of people due to the economy being driven extensively by Artificial Intelligence, e-commerce. He said the question of social security and, more importantly, the right to housing for all was a question of fundamental rights and needed to be incorporated under Article 21 of the Constitution. The issue of housing was stressed upon alongside migration and the rights of women working in the informal sector.
Kusum, an activist and sex worker from the All India Network of Sex Workers said, “Our demand to be recognised as workers, question of safety. At least make us a part of that ambit. There is no discussion on it.” Sinha added, “There is a lot of work that women do which is not recognized as work, as we can see the participation of women in the labor force has reduced this is extremely alarming.”
The group released a charter of demands on behalf of the unorganised workforce, listing out specific steps that the government should take, the most crucial being, ensuring a minimum monthly wage of Rs. 18,000 with provision of indexation and to make it statutorily binding.
They also demanded Right to Housing as a constitutional and statutory Right, along the lines of Right to Food and Right to Education, as also earmarking 70% land for EWS ( economically weaker sections) for workers’ housing.
The groups also sought ID cards for all informal workers for social security based solely on self-declaration, at least Rs.3,000 as pension or 50% of national minimum wage, health benefits at par with Employees State Insurance for the entire working population, maternity benefits for nine months (three months before delivery and six months after delivery) at an amount not less than half the minimum wage.
A memorandum in this regard has already been submitted to the Labour Ministry alongside the charter of demands, they said.