CMIE predicts more job loss, India needs sharp planning

More job losses are predicted as migrants as labourers in India or abroad, particularly in the Gulf, face severe abuses, low pay and severe depression or homesickness. The CMIE survey notes the unemployment rate has shot up to 26.7 percent in rural India and 25.1 percent in urban India as of April 19. A month ago, before the lockdown began, the survey recorded an unemployment rate between 6-8 percent. The Gulf workers are the envy of many. Their plight is not as bright as it is made out to be. Between 2016 and 2019, as per minister of external affairs S Jaishankar’s statement in Parliament, 77,155 complaints were to embassies in six countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain. The highest is in S Arabia – 36 percent. In 2019 alone, 9771 complaints were received. The lot of political brouhaha over many living their homes and walking down thousands of kilometres defying lockdown norms has not been understood by the people. The unsettled workers in supposedly affluent Gulf or ramshackle National Capital Region – Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida; or Mumbai have common problems. They are low paid, live in abysmal conditions, starve, malnourished, and at the receiving end of inhuman treatment. For the reason they migrate is also the reason they take to reverse migration to their villages. Unsatisfied and famished at home they go away and return to have a few morsels of food. The politics of buses is beyond heir comprehension. The buses have been purchased with their money and for them. If one party is providing these why cannot the other party be sympathetic to them to allow a ride home? One commented on social media – for vote they deny a facility to the voter. It pains all. The reasons in the Gulf and in Indian metros are not different. The Gulf workers complain of delayed wages, denial of labour rights and benefits. They are not paid overtime, denied holidays, refused renewal of work permits or issue of exit visas to India and a lack of provision of healthcare. Many complain of living conditions. Surprisingly, casual workers in India, mostly migrants from a few poorest states, have a similar complaint.The workers abroad often are made to cough up for getting the exit visas – that allows them to return to India; and that includes reportedly the white-collar workers. Devious methods are adopted. They are not allowed to change jobs and have to accept exploitative behaviours. At various constructions sites in NCR or elsewhere they are kept under strict observation and mostly not allowed to leave. At both, they are promised some wages and paid less, made to work in extreme weather conditions, labour laws are defied with impunity, 15 to 20 made to share a room and women face the worse. It’s a life of, what the UN recently says, modern neo-slavery. The numbers as per the latest union cabinet meet are eight crore of such migrant workers in India, who are rushing home for the last two months. General secretary of Mankind in Action for Rural Growth, NJ Chhetri, says that thousands of people from Darjeeling migrate to Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru Goa and the Middle East. While working away from home they face severe problems of loneliness, depression despite in some case being paid just wages.  Much urban middle class are critical of these workers and their families walking down the highways. They are not aware that how difficult the working or living conditions are. The government-proposed free food grain or pulses often are not given to them or even to local casual workers. In some of the western UP villages, the common complaint is that the ration shops owned mostly by village muscle men do not give them either the full quota or pulses or the good stuff. Leaving their workplace for no wages and starvation is a compulsion. They are just trying to survive. They are forced to compromise the self-pride that they enjoy at their home. According to the Fifth Annual Employment & Unemployment Report (2015-16), casual labourers represent one-third (33%) of those employed in India. It is the most prevalent form of employment, second only to self-employment.  An NSSO report in 2011 stated that during 1999-2010 the share of contract & casual workers in organized employment rose from 10.5 percent to 25.6 and the percentage of regular employees in organized sector fell from 68.3 percent to 52.4 percent in the same period. The so-called reform has empowered employers. For raking in higher profits the working conditions deteriorated. That is why the recent changes in labour laws, including 12-hour inhuman shift, by six states, have drawn flak from trade unions, including the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, created by ideologue Dattopant Thengadi. It is a critical issue. Post-1991 liberalization, the jobs started shrinking, which is captured by the 2011 employment report. The policy slippages have added to the problems of not only low-skilled labourers but also educated ones. Casualization and denial of benefits have become routine. The legal process is procrastinated. Somehow, the government’s move to help what it has been saying for the last over two decades has not helped the workers. Every reform has meant more denial of the rights. The corona lockdown has added to the woes. Over 3 lakh have registered to be repatriated from the Gulf. Most have lost jobs. This would be a new dimension and social problem in many areas. Indian policy planners have based their economics on the strength of low-cost casual workers. This has played havoc with not only the job scenario but also poverty alleviation issues. Absolute numbers of poor bothered economists like Raja Chelliah to AM Khusro. Despite three decades of liberalization those numbers have gone up and are estimated at 81 percent of the population. The rise of the informal sector is now being realized as the process of hiring through contracts. It has deteriorated conditions for the poor.   Prolonged lockdown implies the worsening of the situation. The household savings ratio has also been steadily on the decline since the 2008 global financial crisis. The post-corona LD, it may be worsening as a number of organizations are tottering. It is also an opportunity to start revival from the villages with new economic planning. Carefully carved out it can have inclusive and faster growth. (picture courtesy: hindustantimes.com)

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