SC/ST/OBC, Muslims and Women Workers Hit Harder by Covid Lockdown: Survey

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Indian workers sit on carts in the Sadar Bazar area during lockdown in New Delhi. — EPA

The survey jointly conducted by two NGOs noted that Muslim workers had to deal with the communalisation of the pandemic fueled by a section of media’s  anti-Muslim hate campaign.

Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Workers from backward classes, Muslims and women workers perceive a higher degree of uncertainty about their future under the lockdown as compared to the advantaged sections of caste Hindus. The fear that they might not get back their work post pandemic kept haunting these underprivileged groups throughout the lockdown.

These were the findings of a new survey on the impact of lockdown on workers conducted jointly by two NGOs.

Titled “Labouring Lives: Hunger, Precarity and Despair amid Lockdown”, the survey conducted by Centre for Equity Studies in Collaboration with Karwan e Mohabbat, noted that Muslim workers had to deal with the communalisation of the pandemic fueled by a section of media’s  anti-Muslim hate campaign.

The survey of 1,405 workers conducted in nine Hindi speaking states found that 43 % were uncertain about finding work in the post-lockdown situation. “10% of the respondents are in fact sure that they will not get their old job back.”

The study asserts that there is a need for urgent attention in the rural areas, as it was found that the surety of losing work, highest in rural compared to urban and semi urban areas.

It found that the contractual workers and those without contact remained largely unpaid during the lockdown even as the government had asked the companies to ensure that the workers get paid. “Nearly 90 per cent of those working under a contractor were not getting paid. For those not working under a contractor, the figure goes up to 94 percent,” the report says.

The report further says that hunger is all pervasive among all communities cutting across caste but here again Muslims and lower castes were at a disadvantage. “In the case of extreme hunger also, the advantaged caste Hindus are relatively better off than the conditions of OBC/SC/ST or Muslims.”

During the survey, the respondents revealed that they went hungry for at least an entire day during the lockdown. These people belonged to either backward classes or were Muslims.

The study concludes by suggesting revamping of MGNREGA, a rural development program that guarantees labour of 100 days to families in rural areas.

“The 100-day limit per household has to go; work has to be provided on demand without any limit to all adults. And permissible work must include not just agricultural work but also work in rural enterprises and care work.”

It also stresses a need to start an employment program for urban areas on the lines of the New Deal that helped lift the American economy in the 1930s from the Great Depression.

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