Livelihood at stake

Cushion economy, society against pandemic fallout

Livelihood at stake

WHILE the economic ramifications of the lockdown ordered in the country to prevent the spread of the coronavirus threatens to cast a long shadow, what is of particular concern is the plight of the daily-wage earners and migrant workers, stuck as they are with business establishments like factories and shops being shut along with the suspension of train and bus services that will prevent their movement to any other area. The shutdown is in place to prevent the community transmission of the disease, while essential services have been left out of its ambit. For people associated with these services, work will continue as also for those in the government and private sectors who are asked to perform their duty from home without any cut in economic benefits. Carriers and goods trains have been exempted to ensure that people are not deprived of bare necessities and government offices have been kept open as they provide a host of services, especially the implementation of social welfare schemes like the PDS, mid-day meals and the MGNREGA, besides disbursing pensions and wages. But there are many in the informal sector who will be deprived of work and income in the absence of any social security scheme.

The Maharashtra Government has directed employers of public and private establishments not to sack their employees, particularly casual or contract workers, or reduce their wages. States like Punjab and Haryana are in for a tough time with the wheat harvesting season approaching. Many states have announced meals at a nominal price and relaxations to lessen the ordeal. The industry has demanded financial concessions because of a shortage of raw material and working capital, making the government mull a stimulus.

As former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pointed out, economic development rests on social harmony. The need is to combat the health crisis without disrupting economic and social cohesion.

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