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India: Lift the Lockdown - Demands from Trade Unions, People’s Organizations and NGOs in West Bengal (26 April 2020)

2 May

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Date: 26th April, 2020

In The Interest Of The Working Class, Protect Workers And Lift The Lock Down With Precautions

Demands from Trade Unions, People’s Organizations and NGOs in West Bengal

It has been agreed by experts that large scale transmission in the case of the coronavirus epidemic is inevitable. Complete lockdown can only give us time to prepare for this inevitable eventuality and can also give us some control over the manner in which it spreads geographically. However, the lockdown has come at a huge cost for 93% of our workers and their families who are in the unorganised sector and have neither permanent jobs, nor savings and a social security net to protect them. The conflict now is between livelihoods of the poor, the loss of which is leading to death and suffering by hunger or the loss of lives taken by the coronavirus. Lock down was the time for preparation by Governments and the public health system, and should have been used for data collection on the spread of the disease, surveillance by household visits and preparation of quarantine and treatment facilities. There are conflicting views about how much of this has happened in our state and in the country in general, due to the non-transparency of our Governments. However, there is no doubt that the mass of people in our state can no longer accept blanket lockdown.

The meeting of the PM with the CMs on 27th April 2020 will be discussing these issues and the discussions subsequent to the 27th will also decide the future of the lockdown. In these circumstances, we place the following demands before the PM and our CMs for their consideration in their meeting on the 27th and after that:

1. Instead of complete blanket lockdown after 3rd May, instead adopt strategies to vigorously identify, trace, test, isolate, treat in places where outbreaks can or have occurred.
2. Lock down is not enough, we need testing and quarantine along with it to reduce the epicenter peak and mortality significantly. In particular, data for local preparedness must be generated by testing in districts with and without reported cases. Decisions on relaxation of lock down should be done with other measures in mind - if local data shows over 40% reduction in areas which were earlier hotspots, only after an assessment of the trend of infection through house to house surveillance should lock down be lifted. Lockdown must be lifted only when there is surveillance preparedness, clinical preparedness and quarantine preparedness.
3. In areas where lockdown is continued, a plan to prepare for continuing care with biweekly contact, ensuring supply of food and essentials for all people and quarantine and identification of symptomatic cases must be done.
4. Wherever lockdown is relaxed or lifted, adherence to sanitary habits maintaining personal distancing in workplace as far as practicable should be ensured. Monitoring of these to be done jointly by the trade union bodies and government approved/ appointed bodies.
5. Universal coverage in PDS of all people residing in India , irrespective of where their original place of residence is and whether they have ration cards or not; providing free rations for all for the next six months of 14 kgs food grains per person per month, 1.5 kgs of pulses and 800 gms of cooking oil , along with easy access to vegetables, milk etc. Special provisions should be made for milk for children. Supply of food supplements to people with special needs through PDS.
6. Immediate help to all migrant workers to return to their home states and villages, with proper screening and testing before they return to their villages/home towns. All cases found positive should be quarantined and treated and for the rest, compulsory isolation for 14-21 days should be there in local schools and empty Government buildings. Crowding to be avoided in such facilities and workers should be given food for these 14-21 days by Government.
7. West Bengal Government has declared a onetime aid for workers of Rs.1000 per worker under the Prochesta. This is highly insufficient and most workers are being kept out of this scheme by the manner in which the benefit is being implemented. Instead, we demand announcement of Rs.7000 per household per month for the months of May and June for 80% of households. Such households would include vulnerable and socially discriminated groups like sex workers. The total amount required for this one-time emergency aid is about Rs.26,880 crores (2.4 % of State GDP). Thus, only 14% of the State Government’s total projected budget for 2020-21 could be used for the benefit of 80% of the state’s population. Calculations are given in the box below.
8. Ensure payment of wages for lockdown period for all workers irrespective of the type of work they do and the type of contract that they have. Provide wage subsidy to small and medium scale industries/enterprises to pay such wages.
9. Immediate and huge increase in NREGA works for people returning to rural areas and a similar scheme for urban areas, with regular and prompt payment of wages; gradual reduction in these as and when workers stop demanding work and shift to other occupations when the economy picks up.
10. Since institutional care facilities are now inaccessible, especially for the poor from rural areas, such provision should be made for all people, and especially for those with special needs by the Government.

Endorsements:

1. AIUTUC
2. Aiyni Sahayata-O-Sramik Krishak Kalyan Kendra
3. Association of Bengal Collaborators for Development
4. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
5. Basirhat Thana Itbhata Sramik Karmachari Union
6. Durbar Disha Mahila Grihasramik Samanway Sangothon
7. Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee
8. Gitaldaha Bikas Samiti
9. Hosiery Worker’s Unity Centre
10. Hridaypur Srija
11. Human Life Development & Research Center
12. Human Rights Law Network
13. Islampur Ramkrishnapally Rural Welfare Society
14. Joint Platform of Health
15. Maheswarpur Nabarun Club
16. Malda Sahayogita Samiti
17. Mukto Kantho Mahila Samity
18. Narayan Integrated Development Society
19. Nari o Shishu Kalyan Kendra
20. NTUI
21. Ossonghothitho Khetra Sramik Sangrami Mancha (Struggle Forum for Informal Sector Workers)
22. Pally Samaj Gram Unnayan Samity
23. Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity
24. Project Affected People’s Association
25. Sampurna Nari Kalyan Samity
26. Samsia Rural Health and Economic Development Society
27. SEWA Bharat
28. Shripur Mahila-O-Khadi Unnayan Samity
29. South Kolkata Sannidhya
30. Sramajibi Mahila Samity
31. Sramajibi Samanway Committee
32. Sutanutir Sakhya
33. Swayam
34. TUCI
35. Udayani Social Action Forum
36. Uttar Bangal Chai Mazdoor Adhikar Manch
37. Uttar Dinajpur Sangrami Biri Sramik Union