Provide emergency wages to unorganised workers: Sonia Gandhi to PM

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide emergency wages as part of a special welfare plan to unorganised sector workers, especially migrant and construction workers, in the wake of loss of work forced by the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a letter sent to the PM on Tuesday, Gandhi suggested that the large unspent part of the ₹49,688 crore cess collected by the welfare boards, constituted under The Building and Other Construction Workers Act, be used for the relief measures.

She also wrote to the chief ministers of Congress-ruled states, urging them to implement measures to assist unorganised sector workers. Other opposition parties and some trade unions too approached the government with request for special relief for the workforce hit by the coronavirus. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and AITUC chief Amar Jeet Kaur sought immediate relief measures for the affected workers.

In her letter, Gandhi said: “The Building and Other Construction Workers Act provides for various welfare measures for workers. The Act also provides for constitution of State Welfare Boards and the constitution of welfare funds. It is reported that the Welfare Boards collected cess amounting to ₹49,688 crore till March 31, 2019. However, only ₹19,379 crore had been spent.”

Stressing that the construction sector is “reeling under the twin blow of demonetisation and GST” and that the Covid-19-related loss of work had prompted migrant workers to return to their homes, while many others were left stranded, Gandhi said, “Considering the extraordinary situation, I request you to consider advising the state building and other construction welfare boards to roll out emergency wage support for the construction workers who are in distress.”

Other countries such as Canada have announced wage subsidy as part of their Covid-19 response measures, she said.

In a separate letter to Congress CMs, Gandhi said the state governments should put in place special assistance plans in their respective states for the vulnerable sections.

She also asked the chief ministers of the Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry to make use of the unspent funds with the state welfare boards to help these workers by providing relief.

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