NEW DELHI: As the government announced relief packages for amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, experts said the Centre did not address the grave crisis informal workers would face given the scale of economic impact of the measure at this juncture.“The government’s announcement does not address the wage workers who are currently stranded in the destination states without work, savings and earnings.
The government has constructed a package around its existing schemes and has not taken cognisance of the wage workers who are likely to be the most affected. It seems like the central government has largely left this exercise to the states,” said Ravi Srivastava, former chairperson of the Centre for Study of Regional Development, JNU.
“The amount of cash transfers announced is a major disappointment,” said Reetika Khera, associate professor, IIM-Ahmedabad. Aajeevika Bureau, an organisation working with migrant communities, has appealed to the government to provide rations to migrant workers in states where they are stranded. “We need more targeted schemes for migrant workers. For example, the problem of registration of workers in the building and other construction worker welfare fund is a problem. Most of the construction workers are not registered at the point of their employment but back in their source areas. For the welfare fund to be actually accessed by migrants, the scheme need to change substantially,” said Rajiv Khadelwal, founder, Aajeevika Bureau.
The announcement of distribution of free foodgrains was a welcome move, said JNU professor Jayati Ghosh. “However, a lot of the schemes announced were existing ones, for example PM Kisan. The increase of MNREGA wage happens anyway too. Because there is no work and we are talking about complete closure of economic activities, the money should be directly transferred to the accounts of the MNREGA workers,” said Ghosh. “Overall, the package is not going to help with the extreme collapse of activity we have seen.”