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Workers to march to Parliament demanding minimum wages, social security, right to housing

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
Thousands of workers belonging to the unorganised sector under the banner of the Working People's Charter will march to the Parliament when the Union Budget is presented, demanding minimum wages, right to housing and social security among other issues.
Several rights groups, like ActionAid and Delhi Rozi Roti Andolan, said the government has failed at least 92 per cent of the workers in the informal sector, who contribute over 60 per cent to the country's GDP, in issues of basic wages, right to housing and social security.
The protestors will submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office, Chief minister of Delhi, Ministries of Labour and Housing and Urban Affairs on Friday.
"Ninety two per cent of the total workers are informal workers (82.43 per cent unorganised and 9.43 per cent in organised sector).
Out of the total informal workers only 11 per cent are regular wage/salaried and 89 per cent are self employed and casual workers," a member said.
Speaking on behalf of the group Ramendra Kumar, senior trade union leader and member of recently constituted Delhi minimum wage committee, said the absence of a rational and national level minimum wage commission for the entire informal sector had reduced the statistics of 92 per cent workers "to slave-like situation".
"According to government of India's own data the contribution of informal sector to GDP in 55 per cent.
"Then why such a raw deal? How can you develop your internal economy when nearly 100 crore people are left with no purchasing power for a better life?" asked a member.
Presenting a detailed charter of demands on behalf of the unorganised workforce, the groups emphasised on the specific steps that the government should take, the most crucial being ensuring minimum wage at par with pay commissions for 4th grade government employees, or Rs 18,000 as monthly floor wage with provision of indexation and to make it statutorily binding.
The groups also put forth a demand for all informal workers to be provided with identity cards (ID) for social security which should be solely based on self-declaration, at least Rs 3,000 as pension or 50 per cent of national minimum wage, health benefits at par with ESIC for the entire working population, women be unconditionally entitled to maternity benefit for nine months (three months before delivery and six months after) at an amount not less than half the minimum wage.
They have also called for strengthening the labour administration so as to meet the demands of India's 460 million strong work force that are estimated as engaged in informal jobs, many of them subjected to exploitative working conditions such as bonded labour.
Kusum of All India Network of Sex Workers asked why sex workers are not considered as workers and raised other questions regarding their identity.
"Beside this, we are treated as criminals and exploited multiple times everyday," she said, adding all the workers irrespective of their nature of employment should be given worker ID cards.
Sandeep Chachra of the ActionAid Association said, "It is difficult to understand why the state is not ready to provide basic social security to the informal sector workers which would cost about 2.5 per cent of the GDP. The Union budget 2019 must make adequate provision of same. Addition to social security, housing for informal workers and hostels for circular migrant workers should be the key agenda for action."

Dipa Sinha of Right to Food Campaign spoke on the emerging debate of Universal Basic Income, and asked why not bring about universal maternity entitlements and increase amount to Rs 16,000 for all pregnant women? "This would be better than some "elusive" Minimum Income Guarantee (proposed by the Congress recently) at the cost of other essential services," she added.

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First Published: Jan 31 2019 | 7:45 PM IST

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