With the enforcement of the world’s largest COVID-19 lockdown, trade unions in India raised serious concerns over the plight of Indian women workers, who make up around 90 percent of India’s vast informal sector (470 million people), and who will likely be disproportionately affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.
This compelled the 1.7 million-strong Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to submit a four-point charter of demands to Indian labour Ministers and the Minister of Finance.
SEWA urged the government to take strong steps to ensure that workers’ families are able to meet their basic day-to-day needs and sustain themselves during the lockdown. This includes income support to all families of informal sector workers, directing state governments to release funds from the State Construction Workers Welfare Boards and other welfare boards, 5,000 INR compensation for registered workers, free food-grains through the Public Distribution System and a six-month amortization on repayment of all loans.
SEWA’s demands are in line with those raised by other BWI affiliates across India. As a result, many state governments have now announced relief to construction workers after an appeal was issued by the central government.
On 26 March, the central government announced a compensation package of 1700 Billion INR to help the urban and rural poor deal with COVID-related financial difficulties.
BWI affiliates pledged tighter coordination with the central and state governments to ensure the timely and effective implementation of the said measures.