Labour, jobs need care for revival

By Shivaji Sarkar 

Corona has sought some targets. World bodies are crumbling. Poor migrant labourers are suffering. Middle class lives in fear. Opposition parties ruling about half the states are in a quandary. The world economy is getting into minus three percent ‘growth ‘in a year, according to IMF. It is to lose $ 9 trillion. Indian economy like the world is getting into the level of 1991 growth of 1.6 percent. Growth is now projected around 1.9 percent. People sinking into poverty are to phenomenally rise. India’s geriatric and the weaker sections remain most vulnerable without social security and pension, a gift of the market non-economy.RBI Governor S Das announces Rs 1 lakh crore infusion in banks. It is expected to make lending available for industry, housing sector, farmers and micro-lenders. The RBI step will not infuse desired cash. It will not address the poor labourers or informal sector. Micro-economic scenario is grim, it says. The economy is draining out every day. The lockdown (LD) has halted Indian economy, says Das. It is impoverishing every Indian, not businesses alone. One wonders why 726 districts are in LD while 62 are hit and 325 remain untouched. Indian economy, according to Care Ratings, during the LD is losing 80 percent production, taking a hit of Rs 35,000-40,000 crore daily, a cumulative of Rs 6.3 to 7.2 lakh crore (lc)in LD 1. Together in 40 days it is likely to lose Rs 13 to 15 lc – huge hit for a poor nation aspiring to be developed. Different sectors are losing at their level like the tourism sector by at least Rs 5 lakh crore and hit about 4 crore people. Actual national losses may be more than estimated. 

Would it fulfil the dream of $ 5 trillion economy? Instead, it might even in rupee (slips to Rs 76.86 to dollar) terms be a lesser economy than it is in 2019-20. Government revenues are tottering. People are getting into distress. Farmers are losing billions. Floriculturists and vegetable growers have already lost crores.There is brouhaha about US President Donald Trump denying funds to the World Health Organization. The US leaders including former President Barack Obama condemns it. They forget that during the last at least six US presidencies they have been closing the tap of various world bodies, the UN included. The UN chief Antonio Guterres says that it has funds enough to pay a month’s salary. The WTO’s dispute resolution system has been paralyzed by the US tactics. The US wants it to succumb to its dictat. Bilateralism is being pressed by the US, EU and China at the cost of multilateralism. Bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which have many shackles are being forced on poor nations. India is no exception. Somehow India has been resisting in its bid to reenergize multilateralism. Its BRICS initiative has yet to stabilize. China’s belt and road initiative (BRI) has emerged as a parallel. Simultaneously, Trump has made entry of Indian goods to his empire expensive as he imposed severe duties on steel and aluminum to textiles and other simpler items. Instead of any concession, he ushered threats for getting chloroquine covid 19 drugs. Trump is treating India and China with the same stick and also pressurizes India to maintain a distance from China. It is not a kind world. Corona is more a political syndrome than health issue.  Has Indian LD been forced by it? Or simply put is the LD a bigger conspiracy to keep India unstable and poor?  May be or not it has certainly unnerved the entire domestic political moves.The ruling and the opposition appear to be in the same quandary. Both see conspiracies in helpless migrants’ movement. The language used by both surprisingly is the same. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath sees conspiracy in Bareilly, and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thakre sees it in Bandra, Mumbai.In Delhi, On April 15, thousands of poor gather at the Yamuna pushta wondering if they can go back home or get some support. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s gruel kitchen is good propaganda and less reality.There is little empathy for the poor, helpless, hungry migrants locked out of jobs, wages, food or shelter. The elite middle class blames the migrants for bringing bad name to their masters. It’s shocking. Everybody forgets that across the country – Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Kochi, Surat, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Anand Vihar, Ghaziabad, Bareilly – the migrants, and they would number over five crore at the minimum, are in distress. They had been demanding nothing but a train to their home or some wages. The railways played truant with them. Even China gave eight hours before Wuhan (not whole of China) LD. The railways booked tickets till April 13. It issues circulars for running Jansadharan unreserved trains to clear the migrant crowd before suddenly canceling all. The poor, small and medium businesses, the largest employers, need cash support for their survival and revival of the economy. Activity of any sort would need lubricant. The lowest class is the largest buyer. May be Rs 5,000 cash to each of them would be life-saver for not only small but even larger industries. But an “incentive” to large sector has often drained banks and cost the economy. The migrant labourers, cheapest input, socially and politically are being treated as non-entities. Had these people not toiled at less than minimum wages, the real estate and many industries would never have been there. Informal sector suffered the most in 2016 note-ban, and now corona is hitting them hard. The package has to be worked out to help them and save small retailers. As the US and EU are taking the poor nations for granted, the poor are being treated so in their homes. This is despite Prime Minister Narendra giving a call to all to empathize with the poor in his April 14 address.

The factories – legal, illegal, small or big; transport – taxi or truck drivers, rickshaw pullers, coolies, loaders or semi-skilled have added to the GDP. Post-Covid 19, India has to treat the – labour – with care and respect. The reverse migration to villages may change Indian economy. It would take over three months to normalize operations after LD. The nation must not wait any longer and open up with health caution or selected LD.(with courtesy TOI for the image)

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