The three-part webinar series on ‘Towards New Social Welfare Architecture of Gurugram,’ conducted by MDI Gurgaon concluded with a discussion on “Corona Crisis: The Road Ahead”.
The concluding chapter of the webinar series focused on how planning of a new welfare architecture for the millennium city (covering NCT of Delhi) will help local authorities and government to be better prepared for the future crisis.
The subsequent lockdowns imposed due to corona virus outbreak have altered life and left a traumatic impact on most of the urban areas in India. These lockdowns also left thousands of migrant workers stranded with no food. The situation also highlighted the limited availability of cost-efficient rental accommodation to meet the needs of the migrant population in and around NCR.
To understand these challenges and steps to be taken by various authorities in addressing the concerns of the citizens, MDI Gurgaon has been holding a discussion with key stakeholders to deliberate upon the welfare architecture which is woefully inadequate not just in an emergency situation, but even for ‘normal’ times.
After, hosting back to back two webinars on significant topics, MDI Gurgaon concluded the series with third and the last webinar in the series on the topic - Corona Crisis: The Road Ahead”. The panelists included experts such as Mr. Amit Khatri – Deputy Commissioner of Gurugram; Ms. Mukta Naik - Fellow, Centre for Policy Research; Dr. K.R. Shyam Sundar – Professor, HRM Area, XLRI Jamshedpur; Mr. Ashok Saigal - Co-Chairperson, CII MSME Committee& MD & Co-Founder, Frontier Technologies; and Prof. Arun Kumar – Prof. JNU (rtd.), Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor, Institute of Social Sciences.
Mr. Amit Khatri – Deputy Commissioner of Gurugram said, “The crisis saw a tremendous turnout of volunteers – civil defense, citizens and companies. 99% of medical supplies came from corporates. The proactive efforts of citizens have to be applauded.” Planning distress ration tokens as an interim measure was done. 70% of Industrial activities have been resumed in Gurugram. The automotive sector is also picking up. The onslaught of the disease has been controlled – testing is up but cases are down.
Prof. Arun Kumar - Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor, Institute of Social Sciences highlighted that implementation of successful lockdown is difficult due to the huge poverty prevalent in the country. He also discussed the inefficiencies of Central Bank policies. He mentioned about the recovery of economy and demand will take some time and will not be a V-shaped recovery but rather a U-shaped recovery for the economy as neither the demand for discretionary items nor investment will pick up for some time.
Ms. Mukta Naik - Fellow, Centre for Policy Research discussed the plight of daily wage earners in the city of Gurugram and highlighted that most of the workers working in Gurugram are from the outside of the district as well as the state. She also mentioned that workers are excluded from various facilities such as basic civil infrastructure starting from water, electricity to voting rights etc.
Mr. Ashok Saigal - Co-Chairperson, CII MSME Committee & MD & Co-Founder, and Frontier Technologies presented the views of MSME sector, where the impact of the pandemic on the migrant workers & industry was discussed. He highlighted that the city of Gurugram is majorly driven by MSME industries that in turn drives 2-3 major manufacturers in the city. Mr. Saigal talked about the role of MSMEs in rescuing their workers by providing wages for full month including the non- productive period during the onset of lockdown.
Dr. K. R. Shyam Sundar – Professor, HRM Area, XLRI Jamshedpur highlighted that Covid 19 pandemic handling at the level of governance was a public policy disaster because relief measures were hugely inadequate, mis-targetted, ill-conceived and thus did not work. Dr. Shyam Sundar also highlighted how the Covid-19 disaster has been used to tweak labour laws in the country by various state governments. He mentioned that the need of the hour is to have a social dialogue with various stakeholders regarding the changes in labour laws so that there is positive outcome of the changes.
In conclusion, many suggestions were made for Gurugram to be a frontrunner and institute social and welfare measures to overcome the impact of corona crisis.
For Road Ahead, the measures at Macro level include, provision of survival package to marginalized sections, generating rural & urban employment, granting of a living wage, and a provision of better public services which include civil and social services. The measures at micro level include, acceleration of public investment in public services, improving schools & primary health centers and recruitment of staff for these facilities, provision of free ration to returning workers irrespective if they have a card or not, and provision of working capital to unorganized sector & cottage sector. A need to eliminate location-linked social welfare and universalize was expressed. Basic amenities like water, sanitation, housing, transport, food, healthcare that are essential to survive need to be available to everyone and is in line with the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Immediate steps to get the city back on feet include extension of distress PDS with simplified and transparent processes, setting up helplines to deal with grievances and clarifications of processes, Skill mapping and links with employers. A need to reconcile the existing databases and digitally converge them was expressed. Other suggestions for strengthening social welfare included registration for workers under BOCW, unorganized workers acts, labour cards, ESI scheme etc. A system of subsidies for those who cannot afford services can also be worked out in many ways.
In terms of way forward, a need to have a social dialogue with various stakeholders regarding the changes in labour laws was recommended for positive outcome. It was suggested that the minimum wages are to be ensured to the workers and an enumeration is carried out to estimate the no. of migrant workers employed in various sectors. The state should take responsibility for social dialogue and comprehensive & well directed social policy to develop labour laws in a manner that a disciplined work force is available for the businesses.
The webinar ended with an observation from the Prof. Tanuja Sharma that Road Ahead seems divided instead of converging in view of stricter labor laws and reduced welfare measures. We need to dialogue more for more human centric labor policies with a focus on social wages and welfare measures. Due to sudden lockdown for COVID control, working class and migrants have gone through immense pain and trauma and that need to be addressed by instituting welfare policies for food, shelter, security and mobility in addition to education and health for all as mentioned by the experts in the panel.
The third webinar series was coordinated by Prof. Tanuja Sharma and Prof. Sunil Ashra with organizing committee members, Prof. Rohit Prasad, Prof. Rupamanjari Sinha Ray and Prof. Shiv S. Tripathi (Convener).
The panelists shared their insights on the problems and best practices adopted during COVID-19. The dialogues created in the webinars will be shared with relevant government stakeholders.
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