COVID-19: Centre Urged to Provide Wage Compensation for Migrant Labourers

Migrant workers are among the worst hit due to the stalling of economic activity amidst increasing restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.

New Delhi: With the surging number of COVID-19 cases across the country once again forcing migrant workers to leave to their home towns, the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) has urged the Union government to provide a wage compensation of Rs 7,000 for the next three months to all priority households and migrant workers to help them tide over the unfolding crisis.

In a press statement issued on Wednesday, May 5, SWAN recommended a slew of measures for both state and Central governments to help migrant workers, who are among the worst-hit populace due to the stalling of economic activity in wake of curbs imposed to contain the spread of the virus.

Also read: As COVID-19 Rages, the Road Ahead for Migrant Workers in Himachal Looks Bleak

SWAN was launched by a group of volunteers in 2020 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in India to suggest policy recommendations and to document the experiences of migrant workers. Among its various efforts to help migrant workers, SWAN provides micro cash transfers to the needy.

In order to ensure that migrant workers do not suffer due to hunger, SWAN has urged the government to extend free ration coverage as part of Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to migrant workers as well. As a number of migrant workers do not carry their ration cards with them to the cities where they work and cannot avail the benefits, it has asked the Centre to provide free ration to them by whatever means, failing which they go hungry.

SWAN has also urged the Union labour ministry to issue orders to employers and contractors to pay wages even under lockdowns and curfews.

As the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA) had come to the aid of some migrant workers who returned last year after lockdown, SWAN has urged the government to allocate additional funds for the scheme this time around too and increase the entitlement to 200 days per year per household.  Also, ensure small, sanitised workgroups keeping physical distancing norms, failing which, the government must pay the full wages for the period, it has added.

Also read: Worried By Rising COVID-19 Cases and Job Loss, Migrants Continue to Leave Mumbai

Additionally, as a number of migrant workers are willing to go home, SWAN has urged the Centre to provide travel assistance for stranded migrant workers. In case if they are willing to stay back at the places where they work, SWAN has asked the government to issue orders to landlords to ensure that they do not evict their tenants for their inability to pay rent.

Among other recommendations, it has said labour welfare boards should pay collected cess to all registered construction workers, and to prioritise vaccination of migrant workers returning to their home states.