MDI Gurgaon conducts Chapter 4 of Gurugram Conversation series on “Corona Crisis: Voices from the Ground”

New Delhi: The coronavirus and the ensuing lockdowns have left an unprecedented and traumatic impact on most of the urban areas in India. Millions of daily wage labourers had to be fed and housed, and those wanting to go back to their villages had to be transported. All this had to be done with a lockdown in place.

To have a discussion on these lines, MDI Gurgaon conducted the first session in the webinar series of Conversations on Gurugram # 4 on the topic “Towards new Social Welfare Architecture of Gurugram: Voices from the Ground”.

The webinar series aims at bringing together stakeholders from the government, civil society, daily wagers, corporates, and other actors of the society on a platform and understand the reasons for working class crisis during corona and avoid its repetition in future.

In the first Webinar of the series the focus was to understand the challenges faced by the daily wage workers, street vendors, domestic helps and other members of the informal economy due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

MDI Director, Prof. Pawan Kumar Singh addressed the speakers and participants of the webinar by sharing an anecdote from his college days for the dignity of workers. He emphasized on the need to respect and grant dignity and equal treatment to the workers of all strata in the society. There exists pertinent need to provide voice to those who are unheard (i.e. Labour, daily wage earners) and this webinar provides an opportunity for the same. Prof. Singh stressed that dignity needs to be provided to Labourers’ for their work.

The power-packed panel incorporated domain experts such as Prof. Dinesh Abrol, Gurgaon Water Forum, Shri. Manodeep Guha, Worker’s Rights Consortium, Shri. Debanjan Chakraborty, National Vice President, Construction Workers Federation of India, Shri. Rajender Singh Saroha, General Secretary, Street Vendor Association Gurugram, and member, CITU, Prof. Maya John, Convenor, Gharelu Kamgar Union (GKU) and Assistant Professor, JMC, University of Delhi. The panelists shared their insights on the problems and best practices adopted during COVID-19.

Shri. Manodeep Guha from Worker Rights Consortium discussed about the plight of workers in the garment industry. He stated that in India, majority of garment industry workers are employed as contractual labors (almost 40%-50% of total) and have no social security cover and ESI coverage. He emphasized that Govt. needs to be sensitive enough to the situation and hold on to democratic structure by developing stronger labour laws.

Shri. Debanjan Chakraborti ji, National Vice President, Construction Workers Federation of India explained the plight of construction workers during the pandemic. He highlighted how the funds collected for welfare of construction labours have remained unused for a long time. He mentioned that the Government need to make interventions to minimize the damage to them by provision of unemployment allowance, etc.

Shri. Rajender Singh Saroha, General Secretary, Street Vendor Association Gurugram, and member, CITU emphasized that there is urgent requirement that government improves on its disaster management techniques during such pandemic situations and also the authorities need to show empathy towards these workers.

Dr. Maya John, Convenor, Gharelu Kamgar Union (GKU) and Assistant Professor, JMC, University of Delhi pointed out the urgent need for regulation of domestic help workers in India. She highlighted that municipalization of workers needs to be taken up.

Prof. Dinesh Abrol from Gurgaon Water Forum provided a holistic view of the daily wage labour and explained how same labour keeps shifting from one type of work to another to ensure that they keep earning for their survival. He also highlighted that the INR 1000 announced by the government for workers has still not reached every family.

The dialogues created in the webinar will be shared with relevant government stakeholders after the completion of the series.

Prof. Shiv S .Tripathi from MDI Gurgaon moderated the webinar supported by a group of faculty, Prof. Rupa Manjari Sinha Ray, Prof. Rohit Prasad, Prof. Sunil Ashra and Prof. Tanuja Sharma.

The three-part webinar series will contribute to the planning of a new welfare architecture for the millennium city (covering NCT of Delhi) going forward. The aim is not just to be better prepared to manage such outbreaks/disruptions in public life but to create a new social welfare architecture for Gurugram where members of the informal economy can get their right to a life of dignity and empowerment. The remaining two more webinar sessions will be held on the 17th and 24th of July, 2020 (Fridays) respectively.