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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 15 New Delhi March 28, 2020

Socialist Party (India) Demands Immediate Action from the Government to Ensure Social Security for the Common People of the Country During the Lockdown

Saturday 28 March 2020

DOCUMENT

PRESS RELEASE | 26 March 2020

In order to ensure that no person in India goes hungry or faces economic ruin due to the 21-day lockdown announced on Tuesday, it is imperative that the government take immediate, extensive and wide-ranging measures. If effective action is taken in a timely manner, this will not only provide people with the safety net they need to get through the lockdown but will increase the trust the common person places in the higher authorities of the country. Such action will bolster the ability and willingness of Indians to cooperate and comply with all the important measures being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and give us a fighting chance of emerging from this crisis as quickly as possible.

Socialist Party (India), in solidarity with other organisations which have placed similar demands such as the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the Right to Food Campaign, asks that the central government in close cooperation with the state governments and local administrative bodies, take the following steps immediately:

Clear all dues and transfer unemployment wages for the next one month into the accounts of all registered MNREGA workers immediately, and continue doing so for every coming month until the situation in the country normalises and people are able to return to work. Transfer of unemployment wages should not be limited to 100 days as is often the case but should be continued until this crisis has been averted. A similar scheme must be initiated for urban areas as well.

Transfer Rs. 10,000 directly into the Jan-Dhan account of every worker in the unorganised sector immediately, and continue to transfer the amount every month until the workers are able to return to work. Identify workers who may not have bank accounts or any other documents, for example, migrant workers from other districts and states and deliver relief to them as well.

All people should be provided food grains and other essential commodities such as pulses, kerosene, sugar, soap and disinfectants through PDS Fair Price Shops for free. Allocations should be increased by 50% and be uniform across categories. So a minimum of 52.5 kg of grains should be given to every family and 7.5 kg per person for a family of more than 7. These items should be delivered door to door to prevent crowding at ration shops.

Ensure door to door delivery of mid-day meals for all school-going children, and nutritious and freshly-prepared food packets for all children and mothers enrolled in Anganwadis.

Ensure timely payments of government-sponsored pensions such as those given to the elderly and widows. These pensions should be enhanced considerably, as they are already very low, and considering that many of those falling in these groups are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

No employer in the organised or unorganised sector should be allowed to lay-off employees for the period of the lockdown as well as for six months after employees return to work.

To the extent possible all people not able to work during this time should be granted paid leave by their employers for as long as the lockdown continues. Employers who are not able to pay due to shortage of money should promise full compensation of lost wages within a year of their business/service resuming operations.

All landlords should be required to waiver the rents on their properties for the duration of the lockdown.

Food banks/community kitchens should be set up at various locations in cities and towns, especially in low-income neighbourhoods. These should provide free nutritious meals two times a day while ensuring the safety of all beneficiaries through measures facilitating physical distancing and hand washing.

Workers and other people intending to return to their villages should be allowed to do so as they are likely to have a better social support system in their villages. The administration should arrange for transportation in a way which avoids crowding. This problem highlights our flawed model of development which skews population concentration in urban areas. People should be able to get employment where they live. Local economies, education and health care systems should be strengthened in the coming days.

Testing for COVID-19 should be made free of cost without exception and be made available to everyone who needs it without delay.

It should be ensured that all COVID-19 related treatments, consultations, hospital and quarantine stays be absolutely free of cost, whether in public or private hospitals/facilities. This problem highlights the importance of a strong public health care system from primary health care centres and mohalla clinics to the district, state-level hospitals. The government must learn from this and change its policy of relying on a private health care system to cover the entire population. Also COVID-19 is a grim reminder that social security for everyone, especially those who are most disadvantaged, is an imperative for health security for everyone.

Adequate water supply should be ensured in all households of the country so that people are able to wash their hands regularly. This could be done through the use of water tankers in areas where there are are no direct connections.

Take strict action against all discriminatory behaviour based on race, caste, religion and profession being seen around the country right now. People, especially those belonging to the north-eastern and Himalayan regions of the country as well as foreigners are being targeted with racist abuse, and healthcare workers, airline staff and cleaning staff are being threatened by landlords and neighbours. Such behaviour has no place in a civilised society and must be shut down immediately.

The government could consider setting up a COVID-19 relief fund in which all people in secure government and private sector jobs earning more than 50,000 a month, as well as all MLAs and MPs, contribute a month’s salary. Corporate heads, NRIs and other well-off individuals should be encouraged to contribute generously to this fund which can be used to bolster the government’s efforts to ensure the wellbeing of all people at this difficult time.

Pannalal Surana, President, SP(I), Ph: 9423734089, shetipannalal[at]gmail.com

Sandeep Pandey, Vice President, SP(I), Ph: 0522-2355978, ashaashram[at]yahoo.com

Lubna Sarwath, State General Secretary, SP(I) Telangana, Ph: 9963002403, sarwath.lubna[at]gmail.com

Bobby Ramakant, Spokesperson, SP(I), bobbyramakant[at]yahoo.com

Surabhi Agarwal, Spokesperson, SP(I)

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