May 10, 2020

CITU Calls Upon Frontline Workers to Observe Demands Day on May 14

AS Covid-19 cases increase in the country, there has been an alarming rise in the number of frontline workers getting infected with the deadly virus, mainly due to the lack of safety gears. At least four senior doctors have reportedly died so far due to the novel coronavirus. Nurses and other hospital employees, including sanitation workers at the bottom of the hierarchy, who are more prone to infection are getting infected in large scale. Many hospitals had to be closed.

The worst sufferers are the scheme workers, who are treated as ‘volunteers’ when it comes to the question of wages. Nearly 10 lakh ASHA workers, who are on the field going door-to-door, are among the most exposed to the disease. No safety gears including masks or sanitizers are being provided by the governments. In almost all the states, anganwadi workers and helpers, nearly 26 lakhs of them, are also being sent for door-to-door surveys and monitoring of patients and those who are in quarantine. It is shocking that in contaminated areas and red zones, anganwadi and ASHA workers are sent for surveys and monitoring, without any safety gears. Reports of infection among them are coming from different parts of the country in large scale. A few days ago, four anganwadi workers in Jind district of Haryana and four ASHA workers in Moga district of Punjab tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Deaths of anganwadi and ASHA workers have been reported from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra and, in most cases, they were not even tested for Covid-19. Apart from getting the deadly disease, they and their families are being stigmatised and attacked by local miscreants as “carriers of corona”. Many anganwadi, ASHA workers had to be hospitalised due to such attacks.

Many other categories of workers engaged in the National Health Mission on contract/ piece rate basis – paramedical staff, second ANMs, health volunteers, junior heath assistants, 108 ambulance drivers and nurses, sanitation workers – are bravely fighting the pandemic saving precious lives while risking their own. The worst affected among them are safai karmacharis or sanitation workers. All these workers are continuously working, often 24x7, without even food or minimum rest. What are they getting in return, for risking their own lives to save others’ lives? Most of the workers are scheme workers or in contract, not even getting their salaries (‘honorarium’ as the government calls it) for months. ASHAs are losing their incentives because all the other health-related activities are stopped.

The Modi government has declared with fanfare a Rs 50-lakh insurance package for all those who are engaged in the fight against the coronavirus. However, this insurance does not cover the treatment of Covid-19 or quarantine expenses. Anganwadi workers are not covered under the scheme. In most of the states, ASHA workers and 108 ambulance staffers and sanitation workers are also not covered under the scheme, while in some states like Haryana, the insurance sum is reduced to only Rs 10 lakhs!

Clapping and clanging of utensils and showering flowers may be symbolic respect and appreciation for a few, but will help little the real corona warriors in their fight for life – theirs and of others. India is a country with one of the lowest health sector expenditure of only around 1 per cent of the GDP! Instead of increasing the health budget, Modi-I and II governments were continuously cutting down allocations. Even now, when the whole world is realising the importance of strengthening the public health system and PDS, the Modi government has not even withdrawn the proposal for privatisation of the district hospitals! The Modi government had not even announced a comprehensive health plan to combat this pandemic. Except for Kerala, there is no comprehensive plan to address the pandemic.

Apart from these there are lakhs of workers providing essential services to the people – food, water, electricity, banking, transport and other services, panchayat/municipal sanitation workers, gramin chowkidars and also the police and paramilitary – who are exposing themselves to the disease. Many of them are not given adequate safety gears. Often, they too have been working without food. They too are risking their lives for the society. In various places, the workers and our unions are raising these issues and conducting struggles even within the ongoing restrictions. In Punjab, the ASHA workers’ union protested the attack on them. In Madhya Pradesh, our union observed one-hour strike. In Haryana, anganwadi, ASHA, safai karmachari, gramin chowkidar unions observed Black Day and had one-day hunger strike.

In this situation, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) calls upon all the frontline workers to observe Demands Day on May 14 (Thursday) throughout the country wearing badges/carrying placards with the following demands.

PM, Care Now! Use PM CARES funds immediately for:

1. Safety gears for all frontline workers; PPEs for those who are engaged in containment areas and red zone
2. Frequent, random and free Covid-19 test to all frontline workers
3. Rs 50 lakh insurance cover to all frontline workers covering all deaths on duty; coverage of treatment for Covid-19 for the entire family.
4. Additional incentive of Rs 25,000 per month for all the contract and scheme workers engaged in Covid-19 duty
5. Compensation of minimum Rs 5 lakh for all those who got infected while on duty
6. Free ration/food for the needy
7. Rs 7,500 for all non-taxpaying families
8. Strengthen the public health system; allocate 5 per cent of GDP for health sector; withdraw proposals for privatisation; Enact right to healthcare legislation

We call upon the frontline workers to wear badges/ carry placards on demands while on duty and submit memorandum to district collectors on the above demands.

We appeal to all the other workers/employees and people in general to express solidarity with the frontline workers in all possible ways – by wearing badges/ showing banners/placards, etc., supporting their demands, at their respective doorsteps, workplaces, wherever they are open, offices, etc., distribution of food, masks and other safety gear. Maintain physical distance; extend social solidarity.

Our battle cry –



CITU Denounces Cancellation of Trains for Migrant Workers’ Return

THE Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), in a statement issued on May 6, has condemned the cancellation of trains slated to start from Bangalore for the return of migrant workers, at the instance of the BJP-led state government in Karnataka.

Accordingly the trains were declared withdrawn on May 5 by the principal secretary of the department of revenue, who is also the nodal officer for migrant workers. It is reported that the chief minister has decided to cancel the train services after a meeting with the representatives of the Employers' Association, particularly the real estate developers.

The CITU considers such a move inhuman and cruel. It said that the migrant workers were subjected to unimaginable miseries and hunger, not being paid by most of the employers during the 40 days’ lockdown period. The BJP-led state government did little to give any relief to the majority of them. Instead, it is readily obliging the capitalist lobby which does not want the workers to go back to their home states, the union said.

The CITU said that the entire exercise is also a reflection of utter hypocrisy of the BJP government. The central government, after a lot of pressure, has ultimately agreed to run Shramik Special trains for the return of the migrant workers and after a lot of bungling, it had agreed to bear 85 per cent of the cost of journey. Now, the government of Karnataka, ruled by the same BJP is refusing to send the migrant workers back home, at the dictates of the capitalist lobby. “Isn’t the reluctance and the refusal part of a single exercise?” the CITU questioned.
CITU strongly apprehended the possibility of similar retrograde moves in some other states also and said that it cannot accept such game-plan lying down. It demanded the central government  to get the scheduled train services from Karnataka and not to allow similar cancellation in other states since such return of migrant workers must be construed as part of disaster management under the concerned Act.

The CITU and other trade unions in Karnataka and Bihar have already started protesting such cruel injustice against the migrant workers and have called upon the working class movement in the entire country to unitedly protest against such measures.